|Image: Lizzy Siddal|
And so, the madness is over for another year. Edinburgh is slowly returning to normality as all 250+ venues go back to what they did before—sell, display or hire out. Temporary venues disappear (goodbye Udderbelly) and backrooms and shops turn their attention back to quieter afternoons. Charlotte Square has emptied of readers and authors; the RBS tent, Scottish power tent, Peppers Theatre, yurt and all will shortly be dismantled. Very soon, the Square will return to being nothing more than a patch of grass; Edinburgh is being handed back to the residents.
So what of the writer? Once the magic created by the existence of the tented village and the boards is gone, where do they go once the tourists and readers all return to their lives? To answer that I can only tell you where I go, and that is back to the page.
My office has become a tip since the 14th August. It’s barely been used other than to dump clothes, books, papers, notepads and ticket stubs. It badly needed a tidy, which I took care of last night, but after that short flurry only one thing remains: to sit down and use the last two and half weeks to my advantage and begin to write, write all the way through to August 2011.
With that in mind, one of the things I’ve been doing as I immersed myself in this year’s book festival is to plan out what I want to achieve and where I want to go over the next 12 months. This “plan” is now complete and I’ve taken a few risks, been bold and slimmed down on my priorities. I know where I want to go more clearly than ever before.
First, though, I want to review the kind of book festival I had. I want to look back at the things that blew me away and what I took out of it to put into my next year of work. I want to look at it more closely now it’s over just to see if I can pinpoint the reasons I now feel so elated, motivated, charged and exhausted.
There were so many highlights this year but the absolute tip-top ones would have to be:
- Seamus Heaney – a spellbinding hour of the most wonderful poetry that I will never forget
- Jackie Kay – such a lovely and inspiring woman and a credit to Scotland
- Kevin Barry & Simon van Booy – inspiring in both the short written form and in the art of giving a reading
- Alan Spence – having seen him perform and then buying two of his books, his style spoke to me loudest among all the poets I saw this year
- Joyce Carol Oates – just to be in her presence…
- Candia McWilliam – getting the chance to speak with her 121 was an absolute pleasure
- AudioBoo interview with Book Fest – a great opportunity that also proved a lot to myself
- Social networking- embraced with eagerness yet only feels as though a door has been pushed open slightly. The benefits from this are still being felt
There were so many other highlights, in fact, that I feel I should remember more. Looking back through my diary as I write, Philip Pullman’s discussion about religion was fascinating as was Allan Brown’s talk about The Wicker Man. There was US Correspondent, Gary Younge, the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy with an amazing reading, Bill Clegg’s memiors, Louise Rennison’s kisses, Alan Bissett and Lars Husum reading under fighter jets and fireworks, Ian Rankin’s Tweets, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize Giving, AC Grayling’s lecture, Roy Hattersley slating Blair and Mandelson, Garry Trudeau’s remarkable insight via cartoons, Alexander McCall-Smith losing the plot at his own jokes, Gillian Galbraith, Craig Robertson and Mark Billingham’s crime fiction, Antonia Fraser laughing at Rankin’s jokes, Vidal Sassoon laughing at Ian Rankin’s hair, Don Paterson and his poetry, and of course, Donald S Murray and Will Self talking about their love of St. Kilda.
As you can tell, it was an extremely memorable book festival.
There were a couple of cancellations that had to be made due to personal circumstances (myself and the authors) but nothing that did anything to dull my enthusiasm. Any opportunity to meet new people and get involved with something I took. There were no lowlights of which to speak.
Did it boost my confidence?
Just being around so many wonderful writers and hearing them talk about their work is enough to motivate any writer, but I have got so much more out of meeting my contemporaries and sharing perspectives, stories and experiences this year that I feel as though, yes, I am going in the right direction and yes, I have a support network there when I need it.
This year I embraced social networking that the book festival has begun to incorporate and it led to so many wonderful networking opportunities and experiences.
Did it change my outlook on my writing?
The social networking angle has definitely changed things. I’m going to invest in a smart phone and this will allow me to continue to promote myself and my work on a more professional and instant manner. It will also allow me to keep closer to contacts made and to continue pushing myself out there in avenues I never even thought of until 14th August.
This year’s book festival has also helped me shape my GDR for the next year in that I am going to focus on the things that really matter to me. I am sticking to those forms that I get the most out of and that I enjoy doing.
To what extent did it influence the development of my 2010/11 GDR?
Massively. I now know of brand things I can do to market and promote myself and I also feel confident enough to go through with them. Not being able to read at the Story Shop was a downer before the start but some of the compensations have more than made up for it.
Were there any unexpected events?
Meeting Candia McWilliam was amazing. She sat down next to me at the Carol Ann Duffy event and we chatted for a while. She was as lovely in person as she was when I saw her at both her 2009 and 2010 events.
The Audioboo interview with the book festival was a great opportunity that I simply could not pass up. It was a bit of a test being told to talk in an interesting manner about the festival for 4 minutes while being recorded and timed, but apart from an abundance of “eh’s” I think I did pretty well.
There have been many unexpected benefits from the social networking angle I’ve got involved with. The book festival has started to embrace this side of things and I think I’ve been quite lucky to have been there when they do. Obviously the interview was cracking but I’ve realised how many benefits from simple exposure to book sales and the opening up of further opportunities that is to be had.
Did I get all from it I set out to before it began?
I got more. I wasn’t expecting as much this year but immersing myself in it and following up on every opportunity and contact has helped me get so much more out of it I thought could be possible. I have met so many wonderful people this year it’s impossible to know the full immediate benefits that could come from them.
Was I disappointed with any aspect that I never expected?
How can I possibly be disappointed? I never spent as much time as planned due to family circumstances on the middle weekend but that’s the way it goes. That’s life. The rest more than made up for it.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt more positive about my writing after a book festival than I do this year.
Time then, to reveal my Goals, Dreams and Resolutions Plan for 2010/11. For the next year this is what I’ll be working to, with these goals in mind I hope to achieve the dreams. The resolutions, I’m afraid, are too personal to publish this year.
- Complete and submit all partially completed manuscripts
- Greener is the Grass
- Baccara Burning
- Blood Ties
- Get at least one novel/novella published
- Write one new full-length novel
- Publish a new chapbook
- Read 42 novels
List three positive, active steps to take on each goal to ensure it is achieved.
Complete and submit all partially completed manuscripts
• Stop wasting dedicated writing time
• Develop ways to remain focussed
• Set realistic timescales
Get at least one novel/novella published
• Keep in mind all I have learned
• Ensure manuscripts are polished to a high standard
• Target publishers more effectively
Write one new full-length novel
• Be more open and decisive with ideas
• Try to ‘explore and explode’ ideas
• Sit down and write!
Publish a new chapbook
• Follow through previous ideas
• Brainstorm ideas more often
• Try out new forms of poetry
Read 42 novels
• Set aside specific reading time
• Carry a book with me at all times
• Get into a routine
What Other Things Do I Need To Ask Of Myself To Achieve These Goals?
How will I structure next year to support my writing?
Read more, write more and continue to keep a balance with family/life more. Not much restructuring therefore required, but I need to focus on the time I do have more.
Where do I need to ease up on myself?
Can’t do it all at once.
What steps do I need to take on the technical front to achieve these goals?
• Invest in an iPhone
• Potential to invest in Mac Mini
• Develop podcasting and other social media routes
What new and unique marketing arenas will I enter this year to promote myself and my work?
• Promotion to book fairs
- To win a writing competition
- To have all of my completed manuscripts picked up
List three positive, active steps to transform each dream into a goal.
To win a writing competition
• Enter as many competitions as possible (fiction/poetry)
• Write entries specifically for the competition
• Hone my craft
To have all of my completed manuscripts picked up
• Complete all partially completed manuscripts
• Improve quality and targeting of publishers
• Research and target agents better before submitting
Where do I want to be with my writing in the long-term?
I want to be regularly publishing fiction.
I want to be recognised by my peers.
How can I change/compromise on the non-supportive elements in my life?
Cut out negative and non-supporting aspects from my writing life.
Try and get across that I also need support in this endeavour.
What will make me refer to myself, first and foremost, as a “writer”?
I already do, but having more fiction published in paying markets will help.
Promote myself more and take any opportunities that arise.
With what new type of writing will I experiment with in the coming year?
None (at the moment), though I am going to look into undertaking more writing courses.
What new non-writing interests do I wish to add to my life this year?
None (at the moment).
What overall changes do I need to make in my life to achieve ALL of my life goals?
- Not allow writing to encroach on my family time and vice versa but to integrate it instead.
- Move further outside my comfort zone and put myself in more challenging situations.
- Network in positive areas as much as possible and be more confident about doing it.
- Maximise output – Maximise visibility.
- Think big – Think positive.
That’s all for today—peace and out!