Hi everyone. Mandie here. So, after returning home from my second visit to the Theakston Crime Festival tired and happy, I decided to share my thoughts on the festivals and the community that I see at them. Don’t worry, it’s nothing bad, but despite outward appearances (yes I know I am a gobby nutter at these things before you say anything) I am more of a people watcher than a joiner in … Believe it or not, I am generally happy to sit and watch the world go by, as an observer more than a participant.
Just under 3 years ago my sister, Jen, (she of the Med’s Book Reviews) asked me if I would like to go to Bloody Scotland, having gone there for the first time herself. After listening to her talk about not just the event but the lovely location of Stirling, I thought why not. Now most of you will know that I only do guest reviews on Jen’s blog and even that started by accident when she nagged (sorry persuaded) me to write a review for a book I had just read to fill a gap she had in her schedule. But despite feeling a complete fraud in going there, I rocked up with her, ready and willing but not really knowing what to expect.
I was totally blown away. Not just by Stirling – I love Scotland so will happily find any excuse to return – but by the bloggers and the authors that I met there. Quite a few of them knew Jen by then, but they were all happy to accept her older, and completely nuts, sister too. After Bloody Scotland, I was soon to be found skulking round Hull Noir, Crimefest in Bristol, Theakston Crime Festival in Harrogate, Bute Noir and then back to Stirling last year with several other book launches and Orenda Roadshows thrown in for good measure. Each time the authors and bloggers accepted me and made me feel welcome, to the point of me feeling brave enough to actually volunteer for the odd blog tour myself rather than going via Jen.
This year I have added Newcastle Noir to the list of events, and next year, who knows, I may try some others … After all there are so many, and one day I would really love to get to Iceland Noir.
Anyhoo I digress … I have seen posts about people feeling left out at these events, or they worry that the book community can be a bit exclusionary or cliquey if you don’t really know people, but for me I have not found that at all. Maybe it’s because I am not really in the thick of it, or maybe it’s because I have a thick skin. Either way my advice to the nervous and the anxious is this. Don’t let anything put you off going to these events. They are fab. Tiring, but so rewarding. And when you do pluck up the courage to attend, don’t just go to the big draw events with the headline authors. Go to the quizzes and the podcasts as they are an absolute hoot, and you get to see the authors in a whole different light.
I have met authors who I would never have thought possible, bloggers who are an absolute scream, visited places I never thought I would, and even been introduced to books that I probably would never have considered reading in the past. Plus I have some really fab signed books, some with some really funny inscriptions (including boobs from the fabulous Louise Beech, several calling me awkward Mandie, and one referring to flies farting).
And don’t be put off by the size of an event either. You can do as much or as little as you want at any of them. Some offer weekend or day passes, but most will offer individual tickets too so you can pick the events or panels you really want to go to. In all cases, what you will find is that everyone attending is a complete book nerd, just like you, and eventually you will get over the shock of walking around the corner somewhere and almost literally bumping into your favourite author.
So, I have to say thank you to Jen (well I have to, she is my sister), Anne Cater, Tracy Fenton, Noelle Holten (a real live author friend … I am now part of her official event cheer squad), Kim Nash, Sarah Hardy, Jill Burkinshaw and Rachel Gilbey for allowing me to review awesome books on their blog tours, and to Karen Sullivan and all her fabulous authors at Orenda Books, who I love, and who are always happy to say hi and stop to talk to me. (If you haven’t checked out any of their books you really should).
There are also some fantastic bloggers who make these events so much more enjoyable, and some who have me in stitches half the time including Emma Welton, Sharon Bairden, Emma Mitchell, Abbie Rutherford, Mary Picken, Joy Kluver, Vicki Goldman, Jacob Collins, Meggy Roussel, Jo Robertson and, last but not least, blogger turned author, Abbie Osborne, who loves me for my poodle head. You guys make me want to attend the events, so you have no one to blame but yourselves that I will be skulking around them for the foreseeable.
Be brave. It’s completely worth it.