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Category: Confessions of a First-Time Novelist

  1. Chapter 5: It's getting real now.

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    A couple of days ago I became ridiculously excited when I discovered that my debut novel (not due to be published until February) had become available to pre-order on Waterstones and Wordery online bookshops. There it was, brazen as you like, showing off its ISBN number and everything. Even my name was spelt correctly. I literally (and I actually mean 'literally') jumped around the room for several minutes with joy. Even better, Waterstones (my old employers) had suggested one of my favourite authors, Margaret Atwood, under 'If you like this you might also like...' Pure joy! As is the custom for us modern writers today, I went straight on to social media to inform anyone who was awake of my exciting news and posted a link to one of the bookshops for pre-orders. To my amazement and with deep gratitude, I started to see messages coming in from friends around the world to say they had just pre-ordered! I was and still am truly humbled by the actions of friends, both old and new, showing complete faith in my ability to write a book they might enjoy, before they've read any of it, and without even seeing the finished cover! These people truly have more belief in me than I do myself, and by that I am blown away. They've even paid good money to demonstrate this belief! Thank you, thank you, thank you. Not just for the pre-orders, but also the many messages of support and encouragement. I'm writing this down and posting it on the eternal interweb so that I can remember these feelings when I'm onto book Number 5, published by Faber & Faber (one day...!). I hope I never, ever take these things for granted.
    (...And if anyone out there does want to pre-order, there's a link on my 'Published Works: Books' page!)

  2. Chapter 4: How to organise a Literature Festival

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    A week ago, I was right in the middle of our first ever Bury St Edmunds Literature Festival. Somehow (God knows how!) I found myself on the organising team, spending 6 months planning, fretting, enthusing and generally being exhausted. Here are some lessons I've learned along the way, in case anyone reading this is foolish enough to try organising their own literature festival:
    1. Think big, start small. Start with a list of your dream authors and work downwards. At least one person on that list will say 'yes'. They really will. If they don't, just make your list a little longer.
    2. Get as many different businesses/organisations in your local town enthused as possible and get them to help you where they can. There's a lot of work to do. If they've got any spare cash, get them to give you that too! Publicity, venue hire, author expenses, etc. cost money and you probably can't afford it yourself. Oh, and don't expect to get paid either.
    3. Plan the festival you'd like to go to and include events you wish other festivals had - poetry slams, pop-up book readings in cafes, book-themed pub crawls...anything you can think of that might be fun. The impractical ideas will fall away very quickly but don't discount them until they are impossible!
    4. Be nice to writers!! Look after all the authors who agreed to come. Sure, they're selling their books. Sure it's good for their careers to talk about their work. Sure, their publishers will probably pay their expenses, but without them you'd have no festival at all. Treat them well. Treat them as if you've invited them into your home and you're proud of it. If they've had a great time they will be happy to be invited back.
    5. Last but not least: when you're exhausted, frustrated, sick of lugging books around, fed up at people complaining the event they want to go to is too late/too early/too expensive/too cheap...remember why you agreed to do this in the first place: BECAUSE YOU LOVE BOOKS! Don't forget that, and take some extra vitamins - you'll need the energy!
    Perhaps I'll be involved in next year's festival and perhaps I won't. One thing's for sure, I will continue to dream about being one of those writers on the podium soon, talking about my own work and making people laugh and cry for all the right reasons. So, if you see me at a Literature Festival one day, don't forget No. 4: Be nice to writers!

    BSE Lit Fest

  3. Chapter 3

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    For those who might have missed it: I have managed to not win the Nobel Prize for Literature this year. Some geezer won it for the book of the film about Anthony Hopkins' early life as a butler. (I liked it.) I can now add this accolaid to three others that I've also managed to swerve this year, namely: The Essex Playwrighting competition, The Verity Bargate Award and, I am pleased to announce, I have just discovered that I'm also not longlisted for this year's Bruntwood Prize. After this exceptionally successful run, I am now free to continue working on my second novel. As an added bonus, I will no longer have to spend so much time writing lists of things to spend the various prize moneys on. Shame. I was looking forward to bidding for that inflatable sofa I saw on ebay. It was orange. Still, you can't have everything. Where would you put it?