As I was driving into Oxfordshire this morning, heading for the Chipping Norton Literary Festival (exciting!), they played one of my favourite songs on the radio – Jessie by Joshua Kadison (OK, I know it’s a bit cheesy and Joshua really could do with a haircut but it’s in my top ten, so there!).
One of the lines (ahem, not that I know them all off by heart, or anything..) is “Jessie, you can always sell any dream to me.”
And it made me think: as much as I love literary festivals, that’s precisely what they’re doing: selling dreams.
Now, of course, lots of ‘readers’ (as opposed to ‘reader-writers’), attend festivals, to hear their favourite authors speak and to meet them at the obligatory post-talk book signing. I’ve done that too, dozens of times and that’s all fair enough. That’s not really what I mean. Literary festivals appeal to writers too (most festivals offer writing workshops these days) and that’s where the ‘selling dreams’ bit comes in.
I went to two workshops today: ‘Creating Tension’ and ‘Write Great Dialogue’. I’ll tell you more about them in my next post (see what I did there?!).
They were good, I enjoyed them and learned something, as I always do. They were well attended too – probably 20 people in each – and when we did some 5 minute writing exercises, people (mostly men, I noticed!) were clamouring to read out their work.
The writer-tutors were gushing and enthusiastic in their praise. “Fantastic!” “Brilliant! “Really well done!”
Those writers – or wannabe writers – probably went home feeling ten feet tall and the writer-authors were also probably pretty pleased with themselves at the end of the session. After all, they’d been admired, they’d sat at the front of the class, delivering their words of wisdom and the subtext was, “Follow our advice and you, too, could be published authors like us.”
Everyone felt good. A win-win situation.
But as I sat there, I couldn’t help but imagine all the wannabe writers who hadn’t taken the day off to enjoy themselves at a festival. Who were, at that very moment, sitting at their computers, or in front of a notepad, actually writing, the hard way. The way it really is: alone, with no-one on the sidelines, cheering you on. And for longer than five minutes…
PS: In case you were wondering, the winner of my Poldark book giveaway was Sherri Turner.