One of the pure joys of being a reader is that you can escape into a magical world inside your head, with colourful characters, exciting situations, and the thrill of the journey. Both fiction and fact can be inspiring and educational, and I personally think that if you ever stop learning, you stop living, no matter how young or old you are.
A love of reading is a common hobby for authors, especially one that stemmed from childhood, and an author’s mind is at its best when faced with an idea that they know they have to explore. There’s the need for creation and explanation, experimentation with words, and the process of turning the inkling into a fully-fledged story. However, there is a flip-side; it’s also a very lonely process, one that only another writer could understand.
Many people who write have a tendency to be reclusive and, for them, writing can be the perfect career. The loneliness is tolerated simply because we all recognise that we have the most wonderful job in the world. But you’d think that the chance to get out and about, to meet people and drag yourself from the comfort zone of the desk, would be a reprieve. I can only speak from my own experience, but, as a shy person, I have found it one of the hardest parts of my career.
However, it’s an important part of the trade, more so now than ever before. It’s important to network in any career, but in writing it’s a necessity, as nowadays self-promotion is essential. Gone are the days where almost every writer had an agent to manage their career, arranging meetings and greetings. We have to do a large amount of our own marketing and publicity, and the internet is a wonderful tool in that respect.
A few writers I know prefer not to attend events, relying solely on the internet and the help their publishers give them, and of course that’s okay too, but I find that meeting people – even if they’ve been Facebook ‘friends’ for years – lets you see another facet to their personalities, something that would be impossible to convey through the internet. Over the past few years I’ve made some lovely friends – both readers and writers – through meeting this way, and it’s opened up my once non-existent social life.
With every event I’ve been to over the years, I’ve gone with trepidation, worried that I’ll make an idiot of myself somehow – I’m good at that – but there isn’t a single one I’ve attended that hasn’t left me buzzing from the experience. So if you’re struggling at the thought of putting yourself out there in front of people you don’t know, muster up some courage and try it; you may come away feeling the same – and with new contacts too.
There are plenty of events you can attend, just do a Google search. The biggest up-coming one in the UK, the Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, is running between the 18th and 21st of July this year. The annual event takes place in the beautiful spa town of Harrogate, not too far from the Yorkshire Dales, and it’s one that happily tenders to both readers and writers of the genre alike. There are multiple events, talks and signings available, and if those don’t interest you, then relaxing and laughing in the company of great minds is pleasure enough.
These functions don’t have to be expensive; the availability of budget hotels make travelling less daunting, and you don’t have to attend every talk, just the ones that will benefit you most. If you need a crutch, take a like-minded friend; I always take my two sons when I travel – not only do we get a night away, which makes up for our lack of holidays, but just knowing that they’re beside me gives me confidence.
As I mentioned, the crime festival in Harrogate is the next one for me, and after the brilliant experience of last year’s, I can’t wait. Writers and readers, I hope to see you there, or at another some day, and I’m certain that you will benefit as much as I will from being there.