Writing is a solitary occupation and so, for that matter, is reading. Fairs, festivals and conventions are a must for book lovers on all sides. Who is your favorite author? Imagine the thrill of seeing them speak in real life or even meeting them! How exciting be in the same room with well-published, celebrated authors who are giving a talk and discussing topics that are your interest or are new to you! Ideas, politics, history, non-fiction, fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, romance...there is a festival for everyone somewhere in the world. For writers, its a chance to meet fans and promote their work more widely, as well as met other authors in an ordinarily lonely job!
Attending a literary fair is likely to be budget dependent, so you might want to check out festivals in your home city or country before going further afield. However mixing a holiday (Bali, anyone? Berlin?) would be a great way to do it. During the pandemic, many festivals re heading online so you can now attend some of the major international events from the comfort of your room.
WHAT IS A LITERARY FAIR?
A plethora of topics (science, music, philosophy, culture, sports, war, cooking, cars, comedy, art, gardening, politics, fishing, law, environment, travel, business, psychology, …you name it) are represented here. A writers’ festival is where people from all walks of life and authors from various genres come together to share their passions. Writing is a solitary venture; likewise, reading is an individual pursuit, so to have a venue that invites both makes for compelling conversations.
Although these literary fairs are technically about books, they aren’t just about books. Other than an assembly of book lovers and getting your favorite piece signed by its author, readers and writers alike assemble to have a spirited exchange. These festivals aren’t exclusive to authors and avid readers alone. Even if you’ve read only a single book which inspired you, it’s highly likely there’s a writers’ festival somewhere that aligns with your interest.
Festivals can all be quite different; the larger ones will have dozens of famous authors where you can get all your favourite books signed. There are others where you might have the opportunity to meet the authors 1-on-1, or be in the audience of a panel, or doing something more interactive. Many also have writers workshops, and all are great for authors and writers to meet others. Even more importantly, book agents and publishers often attend the major festival, so it might be a great time to work on that pitch!
Importantly, a festival is your opportunity to support the book industry and the hard working writers who keep you endlessly entertained and enthralled.
WHAT ELSE TO EXPECT IN BOOK FESTIVALS?
Attendees will hear tips about how to write a book and learn tricks of the trade from experts in the publishing industry. You’d also get to hear books being read by their authors and listen to discussions with writers about issues brought up in their books (or debates between authors about contradicting opinions shared in their works).
If you’re lucky, you will get to see an illustrator explain their art, or hear a biographer’s difficulties in interpreting personal diaries, or even watch a celebrity chef prepare a special dish while telling anecdotes about the making of their latest recipe book.
While all these good stuff are going on, festival organizers provide beverages and food to ensure participants and patrons are well-fuelled for their sessions.
Attend and support local/regional literary fairs near you. A mix of genres in a crowd of talented wordsmiths, festivals are happening in towns and cities across the country –and across the globe. The opportunity to appear before readers is very helpful to any writer’s career. The readers’ passionate interest in what authors have to say allows for ideas to surface and flourish AND allows for them to be better understood.
WHAT ABOUT DURING THE PANDEMIC?
During the pandemic many festivals have headed online, but this means they are cheaper and easier to get to! Keep an eye out for our next blog where we will list the good festivals coming up this year. In the meantime, here is a short list of the bigger international shows.
· Miami Book Fair (the largest & oldest literary festival in the US, started 1984
· Jaipur Literature Festival (in India; considered the world's largest literary event)
· Calabash Festival (in Jamaica)
· Literature Festival at Sea (Cunard's Queen Mary 2 hosts a 7-night transatlantic from Southampton, Britain to New York)
· Port Harcourt Book Festival (Africa)
· Norwegian Festival of Literature (in the Scandinavian countries since 1996)
· Festivaletteratura (in Italy, since 1997)
· Lucknow Literary Festival (in India, international fair held annually since 2013)
· Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (Dubai, UAE)
· Galle Literary Festival (Sri Lanka)
· George Town Literary Festival (Malaysia)
· Hong Kong International Literary Festival (China)
· Islamabad Literature Festival (Pakistan)
· Jakarta International Literary Festival (Indonesia)
· Bali Readers and Writers Festival (Indonesia)
· Karachi Literature Festival (Pakistan)
· Nepal Literature Festival
· Shanghai International Literary Festival (China)
· The Jerusalem International Writers Festival
· Cúirt International Festival of Literature (Ireland)
· Edinburgh International Book Festival (Scotland)
· Harrogate International Festivals (Yorkshire, England)
· Istanbul Tanpınar Literature Festival (Turkey)
· Prague Writers' Festival (Czech Republic)
· Sarajevo Poetry Days ( Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina)