Essex Book Festival Writers Day

Here are my ramblings from the day. It is well worth checking out the Book Festival website.

I turned up and registered which was a good start. Then I stood at the edge of the coffee and chat area wondering what the heck I was doing there. I’m not a writer. I’m a a fraud. I should just sneak out more. At this point you can probably guess that I was rather anxious and totally out of my comfort zone.

During the initial briefing one of the organizers (Andrew) praised everyone here for giving themselves permission to be called a writer for the day. As cheesy and simple as that sounds it had an almost immediate impact on my self confidence. There must have been 80-100 people there which was in itself quite intimidating. The day was to be divided in to four workshops and the four groups (as denoted by a coloured sticker on the welcome pack) would cycle through them. I’m with them so far.
Social Media
The first workshop for me was the obligatory social media one. I love social media. I have crap social skills but if I try really hard I can manage not to get too many death threats when I chat online. I also don’t get as many of those fearful looks as people back away (or I just can’t see them). The most interesting part of this for me was to see how little some people interact online. I also hadn’t appreciated the SEO impact of linking a Google + account to a blog.
Getting Published
This section was a basic interview on the different routes to market and the different roles the author plays in the routes. In basic terms – self publishing seems like a lot of work with total creative control at every step but is offset by the sheer volume of extra work required. Apparently publishers don’t just sit there on their backsides doing bugger all.
I failed this section. Talking to complete strangers in an unstructured and uncontrolled environment was a step too far for me. Knowing the ARU campus well I escaped outside and sat eating my lunch by the river watching the ducks. Although I’m there most days I do forget how relaxing it can be out there. I then wandered back in and wrote a couple of hundred words before the next session.
How To Get An Agent
This section could have been titled How To Be Professional About Your Career. It sounds obvious but it is like most things deceptively simple. The cover letter in particular is more important than most of the room (including me) realized even though it is obvious when you think of it.
Is There A Book In You?
I really liked the idea of having an author persona to allow the less gregarious to function at events. This workshop was less how-to than the other ones and more about how to get your head in the right place to write as effectively as you can. I found it quite inspirational and I’ll be looking at my routines this week.
The Bookshop
There was a stand from an independent book seller there. I couldn’t resist buying a book from The Red Lion bookshop well worth supporting so I decided to buy a book by the last speaker Dr Baverstock. I then cheekily found her in one of the rooms and asked if she’d mind autographing it for me. She smiled and was really keen to sign it (it may have been part of her author persona from above). I’ll be reading that tonight.
The Wrap-up
The four panelists answered questions and made some insightful comments. The two main points were to read more and write more. Not just the things you know but to step outside your comfort zone and broaden your horizons.
Heading Home
I walked home with a spring in my step and some interesting ideas noted down. It was a really enjoyable day that is typical of the great events the organizers of the Essex Book Festival have continued to provide, well done to all of them.

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