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!