Festival fever (What does a writer do all day? Part three)

In the final instalment of my ‘what does writer do all day’ blog I’m going to finish off describing my busiest month of the year so far.

I started week three with another appearance in the Literature Festival, this time in Shiney Row library. The crowd was a little bit smaller than the one at the Glass Centre but I was up against the ‘Knit and Natter’ group that was happening at the same time, I was always going to come off second best. That said, it was another great session with loads of good questions and even a visitor from Canada. I assume that she came over especially to see me. The session ran over the hour and we could easily have stayed for another sixty minutes.

For the rest of the week I had a bit of breathing space and added the finishing touches to my presentation for the Self Publishing workshop. I’d received notification that the workshop had sold out which was both exciting and scary as I knew I had a lot of people relying me on delivering something worthwhile.

The workshop was at Holmeside Coffee, home of our writer’s group and the best coffee in Sunderland. Joe Collins who runs the place always goes out of his way to help us and once again he went over and above to make sure that everything was just right.

I’ve done loads of presentations over the years and have learned to have various back up plans for when things go wrong so I wasn’t nervous going into it. I’d seen the attendee list and had a rough idea of who everybody was. There were a few friendly faces including popular local author Jo Burns who made a special effort to get there.

A trend I’ve noticed throughout the festival is the random person who hasn’t booked turning up and dominating the event. I had one of my own and I guess I should be grateful that I had someone willing to gatecrash a sold out event. Turned out not to be too much of an issue apart from one poor lad having to sit on a high stool all night.

A number of years ago I had an interview which involved a Powerpoint presentation and despite thinking I had checked everything, on the day I realised I hadn’t checked the sound as the scrolling graphics were accompanied with a car crash noise to match the car crash of an interview. I’ve never been 100% confident with using Powerpoint since then and always expect something to go wrong. And it did.

Once I finally got my MacBook to work with the projector, with a lot of help from Joe, I was ready and everything seemed fine. That was until I got to my first screenshot. What had looked perfect on my laptop did not translate very well when projected onto the big screen and people could barely see it. This meant a lot of improvisation and the careful notes I’d made beforehand went out of the window a little bit.

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I felt that I spent a little too long on the practical side of self-publishing rather than the theory but there were a lot of questions and discussions amongst the group which I think I managed to answer so overall I would say it went very well. I did catch my friend Lisa staring blankly out of the window at one point but I’m sure she was just thinking about how lucky she was to be at such an event.

The informal feedback I got was very positive and I hope that was matched with the formal feedback.

I’m not sure if it was the adrenalin from doing the event or me over-analysing what didn’t go so well but I barely slept on the Thursday night. This meant that I was going to a grumpy soul at the Putting Southwick On The Map meeting on Friday morning if I didn’t sort myself out.

Another dry day meant I could walk over to the uni and Greggs’ fine ‘coffee and a sandwich for two quid’ deal allowed me to have a very pleasant breakfast by the river. It was slightly spoiled by a dog jumping up on the bench and knocking my cup over but I’ll tackle inconsiderate dog owners in another blog.

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The Southwick meeting went well, as they always do and I headed home for a nap before a well earned couple of pints on the night.

With my appearances at the festival over I could kick back a little bit. I wrote a couple of blogs, caught up on some admin, including invoices so I actually made some money, and focused again on the main part of my job, my writing.

I finished my third novel a while back and despite having self published my previous two, I have decided to look for an agent and have begun the submissions process. There could be a whole blog on that process alone but I found the time to fire off  a couple of submissions to carefully chosen agents.

The screenwriting workshop I had planned to go to was cancelled but the week finished with a fantastic writing masterclass with Rob Young, writer in residence at Sunderland university. Funny, engaging and down to earth, he pitched his presentation at just the right level and I think everybody in the room was enthused as they left the room.

The last weekend of the month was dominated by my visit to Oktoberfest in Newcastle. I’d had to cancel a couple of workshops I was going to attend so I could go to this and the most positive thing I can say is that I got a blog out of it.

The month finally drew to a close with Halloween. And a book launch.

Horror isn’t really my thing and I don’t get involved with Halloween but some time ago I was given the opportunity to contribute to an anthology about Sunderland myths and legends. I rewrote the legend of The Cauld Lad of Hylton Castle and there are various other tales by talented members of Holmeside Writers as well as students from the uni and Sunderland College. I’ve read a few of them. Ray Hopkins delayed his novel about whales and Eastern European gangsters to write about the Victoria Hall disaster. Tom Smith gained the nickname ‘Beamish’ due to the amount of research he did into the Lambton Worm and Iain Rowan wrote something about horses and fighting so very similar to Newcastle after a derby match.

The launch was held in my favourite pub, The Ship Isis so when the full on spooky stuff started, I slipped off to the bar to enjoy a couple of pints.

It’s been an odd month as I haven’t done a lot of writing but I hope this series of blogs has given you an insight into what life as a full time writer entails.

It might not be as romantic as some imagined and all the beer and free food probably explains why I’ve gained two stone since I started doing this full time but it has to be better than doing a ‘proper job’.


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