On the hugely supportive #writingcommunity.

After a week of book panels, I came home exhausted but bouyant. It was wonderful to mix with actual humans like it was the ‘old world’ again, to meet new readers and old, to work alongside authors and reunite with loyal bloggers, and to see some fantastic festivals full swing once more, with people milling about, books exchanging hands, conversation passionate. I did a panel with Karen Sullivan, Will Carver and Sarah Sultoon at Newark Book Festival, in their gorgeous town hall on the market square, for a receptive audience who looked just as happy as I felt to be doing this again. Then it was onto Repton Literary Festival for two panels, one in Repton School’s beautiful 450-year-old library, with stained glass windows and dark wood everywhere, and one in the huge school theatre.

There, I did a couple of panels with crime writer Caroline England, and one with the Queen of Cornish, Liz Fenwick. In between these, conversation got around to the writing community in general, and how supportive it is. One audience member had asked if there was competition between authors, since books were competing for attention, advertising and sales. We all agreed that the answer, in general – of course there will always be the exception – was no. That writers truly support one another. They do. Caroline said that when she was first going to a major crime festival, and nervous, I’d told her, ‘Look for me, I’ll always chat.’ I’d forgotten this. But I will. Always.

Liz said that she likes particularly to support debut novels, and will make time to read and share reviews of those. ‘We all know how hard it is, starting out as a new author,’ she said. ‘So I like to help in any way I can.’ Similarly, I try and support indie and smaller publishers. If I receive an ARC (Advance Review Copy) from one of them, I’ll put that nearer to the top of my reading pile. I make time for emerging writers who ask me questions at festivals such as these, remembering well what it’s like to be desperate for that elusive book deal. There is room for everyone in the writing community and most authors I’ve met are very welcoming. As I said to Caroline, if you see me at an event, I’m super down to earth and will always make time to chat to you.

I saw a recent post on Twitter about people feeling uncomfortable attending literary events – the tweeter had insisted that they shouldn’t, that she hadn’t read all the ‘classics’ and was often just there to gush. I loved this. That’s what it should be about. Passion. Love of books. I hate the snobbery that can often be wrapped up in all things literary. Coming from a working class background, I sometimes feel out of place, like I shouldn’t be on a platform with these well-educated and successful authors. Then I have a strong a word with myself. I deserve it as much as anyone else. So, remember – authors get anxious too. I feel sick before every panel I do. Thank God then that the writing community is as supportive as it is. That most authors leave the ladder down for those behind them.

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