Tips for a Fabulous Festival of Writing

For those who may not know the Nomad Novelists met at the Festival of Writing (FOW) over the past two years!  Myself and Crime Thriller Girl have been to both years, and are attending this year too, but all of us have been to one FOW, and many have been to other related writing events.  Bearing all this in mind we decided to compile a blog of top five tips for making your festival as fabulous as possible!

Desperate for tip to beat the slush pile!

First up is CTG:

Crime Thriller Girl’s top five tips for FoW fabulous-ness 

  • Notebook and pen: in fact, lots of pens – you’re bound to be writing down loads of useful tips and it’d be dreadful if your pen ran out of ink halfway through the event.
  • Fabulous Shoes: or if you’re a bloke, fabulous socks/tie/other item. Two reasons for this: (1) great shoes always make you feel more confident (2) It can be a bit daunting if you’re a festival virgin, having great shoes will be a great ice breaker when you’re talking to new people.
  • Festival Programme: sounds obvious, but don’t forget to print it out (or download it onto your iPad/other electronic device).
  • Breath Mints: you’re probably going to be drinking a lot of coffee (late nights, early mornings!) so it’s a good idea to have some mints handy for use before your 1-2-1s. After all, you don’t want to breath coffee-breath all over your dream agent do you?
  • A Sense of Adventure: okay, so this isn’t exactly a ‘thing to bring’ but it’s vital none the less. The festival is about meeting new people, learning new stuff and getting feedback. It’ll be knackering (in a good way) and at times perhaps a bit overwhelming. But that’s okay, it’s normal, and by having a sense of adventure – speaking to those people you’ve not met before, asking a presenter a question, having a drink with that agent – you’ll have the most fabulous and worthwhile festival experience.

And now a few words from Jock:

Mighty Jock’s Festival of Writing Top Tips

  • ‘Be prepared’ – Pencil, paper, piece of string, two clean hankies and a safety pin; 20p in case of an emergency.  Ok, so maybe not as prepared as a Boy Scout but, pens, paper etc. maybe some business cards if you fancy that and COPIES OF YOUR SUBMISSION!!! One of mine didn’t get there last time and fortunately I was able to whip another out and still receive excellent feedback.
  •  ‘Have fun’ – I imagine that very few agents sit at the gala dinner looking for the most serious and dedicated writers that they can see – the people who just won’t even consider that glass of wine as they are WAY too serious about writing and the people who are shooting off to bed at 19:30 (that 7:30pm for you civilians) so they can be utterly prepared to take it in the following morning. I have one thing to say to that – ball bags!  The festival is a great chance to cut loose and meet people, relax and mix, chat and really enjoy being around other people who love books and writing. So have a glass of wine and enjoy it – if your book is good enough they’ll take you on anyway, being devoid of fun is not a prerequisite – If the people you have sat with get up and head off to bed, then also get up, grab your wine and wonder over to another table – Crikey, I’ll be there! Big bald guy, dressed as a 50’s gangster – come join me! I consider it a personal responsibility to ensure the bar is manned until at least closing time and I wasn’t alone in my mission last year!!
  • ‘Roll with the punches’ – Not all feedback is going to be good – fact! So if you get bad feedback then suck it up, cupcake! Hehe just kidding, but go speak to people and look for the good in it – don’t spend the rest of the weekend wallowing in the bad (and don’t run to the toilets crying! That’s like, really, like, highschool, ya know) – focus on the good, recognise the bad, discuss it with your new friends and develop a strategy to get passed this obstacle. You paid hundreds of ££££s for this, so don’t let it get you down, make it build you up (or some such motivational sentiment)
  • ‘Mix it up’ – Mix with people damn you!! Even if they look unsavoury and downright frightening. I got past those feelings and met the Nomads (A dodgy looking bunch, I assure you – but hearts of pure gold and some of my closest friends now).  Don’t be afraid to speak to people, just walk up to them cold and say ‘Hey, mind if I join in?’ and they’ll go ‘sure, what stuff do you write?’ and then BOOM! You get to spend the next 3-4 hours boring them with every detail of your work in progress………… ok, but up to the last bit, I was right! Chat, talk, relax, smile and make some friends.
  • ‘Pass the Vino’ – This is probably the most important tip of them all – Each table at the gala dinner has wine on it – if you are not going to drink it then look for me (big, bald, kinda loud, dressed as a gangster and surrounded by the nomads (gorgeous chicks in 50s attire and Flick) and pass it over! Jeez you’ve paid for it so you surely must feel better if it goes to a good cause. In fact, better still, grab a bottle and come over and we’ll share it 😉 case of an emergency.

Natalie’s tips for a fun and fabulous festival:

  • Pack your gumption – don’t be afraid to talk to people!  Even if it looks like an established group get in there.  The standard opening line of the weekend is ‘what do you write’, or if you spot a red dot, previous years indicators of agents and authors/book doctors, ‘what do you do’.  Please don’t shy away, everyone is really lovely and friendly.  If you’re not enjoying the group you’re with rotate to another!  It’s amazing how you’ll start talking to people, just start talking.
  • Food – the food in the evening is amazing!  But as a fussy eater, the sandwiches at lunch, for the past two years, have been really ‘interesting’ mixes of foods and I haven’t eaten much.  This year I plan to take some crisps and cereal bars so I can eat properly.  If you are a fussy eater do bear this in mind.  Caffeine, I don’t drink tea or coffee either, I know I’m a serious weirdo, but it’s worth packing some pop/energy drinks to get your kick somehow – late nights and early mornings, you need something, especially for the drive home!  Both years I’ve stopped on the A1 for fresh air to get me through the drive.
  • Prepare – I’ll be taking my elevator pitch, and business cards.  Both are excellent to be armed with; your elevator pitch saves you sounding like a bumbling fool who doesn’t know their work let alone has the ability to make someone else understand, and business cards save you having to write your details out over and over again.  Mine simply have my name, my blog, my Facebook, and email.  They’re really funky and from Moo.
  • That’s my chair – maybe not the words to say in your 1-2-1, but the person before you isn’t guaranteed to move. Your time will fly, and you need every second.  Be polite, but be firm.  Not everyone will be yielding and you won’t get any extra time because the person before you didn’t move.
  • Chance – you can connect with agents and authors at the most random moments.  Last year there was a very rowdy table, and everyone was talking about them the next day, bet you can’t guess who it was ;o)  But, I got approached by a couple of agents the next day asking us who we were and how they wished they’d been with us. Another opportunity randomly presented itself when I was getting a book signed by an established author and she asked what I wrote and directed me to her partner who was an editor and gave me his details when I delivered my elevator pitch.  But, and this is a big but, don’t take the mick. They need respect too.  I remember, and if I remember correctly CTG was with me at dinner that fateful, and engraved permanently in my mind, evening, when an eager budding author bound up to an agent in the middle of his meal – literally eating – and started to pitch his work.  Even when the agent said, politely, it wasn’t his genre, the author persisted.  The agent asked to get back to his dinner, but the author persisted.  And the agent had to be a little rude to get the guy to go away.  It was amusing and cringe worthy at the same time.  It taught both of us a lot.  They will be receptive and if they’re on your table will happily chat, but be appropriate.

We can’t wait to meet you all, and enjoy a fabulously successful FOW.  Find us on twitter @NomadNovelists and remember the hashtag for the festival is #FOW12 it’s fabulous to keep an eye on so you can get in the festival spirit.