Some pictures are from Pixabay. Others are created in Book Brush using Pixabay images. Many thanks to Sarah Archibald for the Festival related photos.
Many thanks to my guests from the Association of Christian Writers for supplying their fab author photos and book cover pictures. Naturally I took my own pictures (though will credit Adrian Symes for my author photo. It is tricky doing that one yourself!).
Last year, I went to the Festival thanks to Zoom but it was lovely to be there in person this time, my first “big” writing event since before lockdown.
It was especially nice to meet people I met for the first time last year on Zoom or via Facebook and to catch up with a significant number of writing friends from the Association of Christian Writers.
It was lovely to meet others for the first time and I had lovely conversations with some. You never know where such conversations might lead. Many years ago, when I was starting out as a writer, I was at my first writing conference on the Isle of Wight. I was very nervous, knew nobody in the industry, but I was befriended by other writers, one of whom was Gill James, who later became my publisher at Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books. Neither Gill nor I could have known that at the time.
The writing journey is not static. Going to events opens up other possibilities, even if they take a while to come to fruition. And besides advertising books and the joys of reading is always a worthwhile thing to do and that is precisely what the Brechin/Angus Book Festival is about – to celebrate books.
My Author Activities During the Festival
I ran a workshop on flash fiction writing here and gave a talk on The Ups and Downs of Becoming an Author. My journey to where I am now has been far from straight-forward and I encountered some sharks on the way.
The good thing about that? I can flag up some things to look out for to other writers so they, hopefully, don’t get taken in by the charlatans out there. Sadly every industry has them and I do wonder if publishing has more than its fair share, given all writers have dreams of being published. Dreams are ripe fodder for the potential con merchant and it pays to be aware.
I prepared a mini booklet giving my social media links, a taster of what my talks were about, and a flash story and I will definitely do all of this again. Good advertising. All I needed was time to do it and a colour printer. I also gave out postcards with details about my books and business cards.
I also took pens with Tripping the Flash Fantastic on as giveaways. One thing I’ve learned from going to events is a good giveaway works wonders. Neither do you have to spend too much on these things. Pens are always useful (and you can bulk buy these for other events, reducing the unit cost).
Something with your contact details on is a must. I’ve often found after an event my ebook sales go up precisely because people have taken my cards and leaflet – and I was pleased to say that happened again after this. It is a question of making it easy for people to find out what you do and where they can find out more.
There was a wide range of other talks and workshops over the weekend, covering writing journeys, histories/mysteries and fairy tales, crime, picture book fun, ghosts and gallows, narrative non-fiction and a wealth of other topics. Pretty much whatever you wrote or are interested in writing, there was someone here talking about it!
Getting There in a Covid World
This event meant I took the longest trip by train I’ve made to date. From Southampton Airport Parkway to Dundee (where I was staying with the lovely Wendy H Jones) via London (Waterloo and then King’s Cross), the journey took about 8.5 hours. I didn’t think that was too bad given the distance and I have to say I was very impressed with the LNER trains.
It was the first time I’d used London North Eastern Railway and the trains were spotless with charging points at every seat. You could even order coffee etc using an app on your phone and the QR code on the back of the seat in front of you if you wanted. I didn’t. I was two rows behind where the on-board catering service was so I did get up for my much needed tea and fruit cake!
LNER require passengers to wear masks at all times unless you are eating or drinking of course. Most people observed this. I was also impressed that there were frequent litter collections by the LNER staff. That makes such a difference as the on-board bins can get very full on a lengthy train journey. Scots Rail are also pretty good at this as my other half and I have found out over many years of taking scenic train journeys when we’re north of the Border.
As well as getting plenty of writing done en-route via my phone and the wonderful Evernote app, there was also plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. I would say the stretch between Newcastle and the Borders was particularly stunning. I also loved crossing the Tay into Dundee. Splendid views.
The Association of Christian Writers Contingent
Now some of you will know I’m the Membership Secretary of ACW whose motto is to equip, encourage, and inspire (whether we write specifically Christian material or not). It was lovely to see a good contingent represented and to meet up in person.
Those attending from ACW were Wendy H Jones, Tony Collins, Maressa Mortimer, Heather Flack, Sheila Robinson (who writes as S.C. Skillman), Ruth Leigh, and Caroline Johnston. The eighth member of the ACW “band” was of course me. Between us we covered, in terms of genre:-
Crime – Wendy H. Jones
Children’s Fiction – Wendy H. Jones
Young Adult Fiction – Wendy H Jones and Maressa Mortimer
Women’s Fiction/Christian Fiction – Maressa Mortimer
Paranormal – S.C. Skillman (aka Sheila Robinson). Her book on Paranormal Warwickshire is an intriguing read.
Christian Chicklit – Caroline Johnston
Memoir – Tony Collins
Tony shared an extract from his forthcoming book during his talk, They’ll Never Read That: How to Make Mistakes in Publishing. Tony is an agent and publisher as well as an author.
Going to events like this is also a great opportunity to find out from the authors directly not just what they already have out there but what is coming up.
Historical Fiction – Heather Flack
Chicklit/Women’s Fiction/Humour – Ruth Leigh
Short Stories/Flash Fiction – Allison Symes
Book Signing Event
We also held a separate book signing session on the Friday, which was at Barnabas Bookshop (which is part of Dundee City Church. Many thanks to Wendy H Jones for organising this. It was so nice to be inside a book shop again.
The Brechin/Angus Book Festival
This was organised by Sarah Archibald and there were events such as a book hunt going on which was aimed at children. I hope they found the books and had fun doing so. The event also led to an appearance in the press – in this case, The Angus Courier. See the link.
The last time I sat for a group photo was at school!
As well as the author talks and workshops, there was on the Sunday afternoon tea with the authors. That session was a ticketed only event but it was popular (and with the authors too. I’ve yet to meet any writer who has knowingly turned down tea or coffee and I am definitely not the exception!).
For the tea, a booklet had been produced with extracts from stories provided by the authors. I provided two mini-flash tales both told in the form of acrostics. There was a separate booklet from Scottish crime writer, Chris Longmuir. A book called Celebration was given out at the Festival too as this was part of the celebrations for Book Week Scotland.
The programme for the Festival gave brief author bios for everyone taking part and a head and shoulders shot.
It was great fun to take part in the Festival. The Northern Hotel, Brechin, where the event took place, was warm and welcoming.
I am so glad I went. It was phenomenally useful experience presenting my work in person to a live audience though having carried out Zoom talks this year also proved to be wonderful preparation. But when you are talking directly to someone, you can tailor your thoughts to their needs and I found this particularly useful for my flash fiction workshop as one attendee was specifically looking for different ways to trigger story ideas. My workshop does cover a lot of that but it also meant I could add in other ideas tailored to that individual.
It was like having a one-to-one conversation and I do hope the attendee found that useful. Will I do this kind of thing again? Oh yes. The preparation for this made me think about (a) what I do and how to get that across to people and (b) think of things other writers and readers are likely to find most interesting. How writers find ideas for their stories is a popular topic no matter what is written.
The work that goes on behind the scenes for events like this is phenomenal and I know that was appreciated by every writer who went. I’d urge you if you get the chance to get along to an event, especially if you know any of the writers personally, do go. It is a great way to show support and the problem every writer has now is encouraging people to get back to going to events as a matter of course.
I think there is still a lethargy about going out which will not go away any time soon but holding events like the Brechin/Angus Book Festival flags up the fact life is slowly returning to normal. So supporting events is also supporting that idea.
I’ll be back in Scotland next March for something very special indeed but I hope to write about that nearer the time. Meantime I was pleased to go to Brechin and I hope I will be back there in due course too.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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