Celebrations of a Stay-At-Home Writer by Avantika

Yesterday, being the 1st day of Chinese New Year was also Valentine’s Day. For a long time, like a lot of people, I planned my holidays, trips to see relatives and parties around the days when these festivals such as these occur. I looked for cheap flights, offers for cut-price accommodation and, where possible, travel to nearby places. In the years since I started to write full-time, I have come to realise that my holidays no longer coincide with these religious festivals. Instead, I keep an eye out for festivals of a different kind – festivals within the publishing industry. For instance, last year, I planned my holiday after the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. That Diwali was around that time was an afterthought.

What, then, makes something like a literary festival become more important than a religious or cultural one? What goes on in these festivals? What benefit does an author derive from these festivals? For this story, I thought I’d share with you some of what I’ve learnt from the few literary festivals I’ve attended.

  1. During one of the first workshops I attended, the facilitator gave us twenty minutes to write a short story. Then, every one of us – there were only six of us there – was told to read our stories out loud. When we finished, the facilitator asked us to delete the opening paragraph of our story and start with the 2nd one. Although it hurt to do this, because I’d spent so much time composing the paragraph, I did as I was told. As I read the story again, I realised that the facilitator was correct – the effect of the story was phenomenal as I went straight to the point and the story began immediately.
  2. From the workshops, I made many few friends – writer friends – who understood when I said, “This is the 7th draft of the novel.” They did not come back with, “Oh, I’m so tired of hearing this. Will you ever sell your book? Will you ever make money?” I felt so comfortable talking with them. One particular writer said to me, “You submit your book when you are ready. Not before that. Even if it takes years, hang in there.”
  3. During another festival, I met a celebrity author from Australia. She was gracious enough to ask about my work. I told her that I had found a publisher interested in my work and hoped it would be published within the year. Ever so gently, she touched my hand and said, “Dear, you’ll have to be more patient than that. The publishing industry will take much longer than a year to publish a book.”
  4. I went to a book-signing session. As part of the crowd, I listened to the author speak, give advice and, eventually, I bought the book. Like all others, I stood in line and when I came face-to-face with the author, I gave my name. She looked up at me and said, “Oh, it’s you.” I was a little surprised. I asked her, “How do you know me?” She was about to answer my question, then smiled and changed her mind. She said, “Oh, no. It’s O.K. Sorry.” At that moment, I knew the answer to my question: she had heard about a nasty incident I had with someone who has hated me for years. This person’s very public condemnation of me and my work resulted in publicity I didn’t need to pay a cent for. I smiled at the author and told her not to worry. I was pleased that, at the very least, she already knew of me.
  5. Unlike some of my writer friends, I am not very good at public speaking. I am, therefore, very reluctant to read out any of my own stories. However, I once took up the challenge and introduced another author at a literary festival. A friend of mine, who had seen me read my work before, said to me, “I cannot believe that was you. It’s like two different people. Where did you get all that confidence from?” Clearly, I will need to brush up on my public speaking skills before I can attempt to read out any of my stories.
If you’ve attended literary festivals and workshops, what have you learnt? What would you like to know?

Here are some the interesting festivals, books fairs and events coming up this year. Feel free to add any festivals that you feel might be of use to readers.

April 2010
19th of April to 21st of April 2010 - London
The London Book Fair is advertised as the ‘global marketplace for rights negotiation and the sale and distribution of content across print, audio, TV film and digital channels.’

May 2010
The Asia House – Festival of Asian Literature – London
From 5th of May to 27th of May 2010, this festival is held with ‘talks, discussions and debates throughout May.’ Writers from all over Asia will converge to cover topics relating to many countries in Asia from Malaysia and China to Pakistan and India.

August 2010
Edinburgh International Book Festival – Edinburgh
From 14th of August to 30th of August 2010
An inspiring literary festival, the world's largest public celebration of the written word, right in the heart of Edinburgh: hundreds of author events, debates and workshops packed into 17 extraordinary days each August.

October 2010
Frankfurt Book Fair 2010
10th of October to 16th of October 2010
This event is touted as one of the largest literary festivals in the world and the most important in the publishing diary.

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival
10th of October to 16th of October 2010
While this seems to be the ‘baby’ of the festivals, in the past few years, it has gained much exposure and is very popular amongst people in the literary world.

If you attend any of these festivals, or have attended festivals in the past, do let me know what your experience was. Have fun!


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