So in my quest to pack in as many book events as possible in one week, Saturday saw me head down to one of my childhood haunts of Irvine for the annual Tidelines festival. After a lateish night on Friday, I was only here to attend the Pitch and Punt event today. I love these events at book festivals where new writers are given the opportunity to share their work with eager readers and to get some valuable feedback from experts in the field.
Held in the Harbour Arts Centre in Irvine, Tidelines is a great wee local festival with a programme that offers something for everyone; from a creative writing workshop to crime fiction to the excellent Carry On Sleuthing. It is certainly worth taking a wee trip down the coast for this one!
Irvine holds a special place in my heart as a childhood holiday destination and I had to get a few wee snaps of the harbour and beach where we spent many happy days as children.
Events like Pitch and Punt are a fantastic opportunity for new and aspiring writers to present their work to both the public and experts in the field for both the experience of presentation as well as getting feedback from some of the best in the business. Today’s panel of experts consisted of Michael J Malone and Theresa Talbot, two fantastic Scottish Crimewriters; David McLaughlin, writer, tutor and the man behind Francis Gay of the Sunday Post along with Keith Charters, author and Publisher.
Keith opened the event by encouraging participants to have confidence in presenting their work especially in a safe space like today’s event.
Michael then took the audience on a practical NLP relaxation exercise designed to calm those “public speaking” nerves that the majority of us face. He also reminded participants that nerves are OK, they are a sign of being a human being and we should use them as a positive energy to fuel our performance!
First up was writer Fiona Ashley (apologies for any errors in the spelling of names for the participants, these are all my fault!). Fiona has completed her first novel and gave us a reading from this. Wow, what a powerful opening to the event and this is definitely a book that I would love to read. Great feedback from Theresa who encouraged her to trust the readers to engage and not to provide them with too much information.
Leigh Montgomery was next up. Leigh is a Creative writing tutor and also indie published. Her novel looks at past life regression and sounded like a fascinating tale based on some personal experience. Michael gave feedback about the book title and how writers should be clear about what audience they are targetting; is it a memoir, non-fiction or fiction in order for it to be placed in the right context for the reader.
Keith then talked a little bit about publishing. He told how publishers add value to the book to shape it for the market: they have an understanding of what the market is looking for and know how to frame your work in a way in which booksellers understand it. Lend the brand to the author which is important for booksellers; Self-publishing right for some and wrong for others. It can work well for niche work such as poetry. To self-publish you need to have a business mind as well as a creative mind and be willing to take financial risks. Having formal editorial input is essential for objectivity and you need to be aware that you will spend much of your time marketing as opposed to writing. He gave sound advice on approaching publishers – do your research and don’t submit to publishers who do not accept the genre you write in; don’t undervalue what you have written and don’t start off your submission by saying “it needs a lot of work” – publishers will question why you are submitting if it is not ready!
Next up was Sheila Miller who undertook her MLitt following retirement. She gave a reading from “Time Out of Mind” set in a small seaside town not far from Irvine. It had a great sense of Scottish humour and dialect and had the audience laughing. Theresa talked about letting things unfold for the reader and about using visual clues with scene breaks to allow the reader to understand the difference timeframes, without having to do the whole “meanwhile back at the ranch” explanation.
Louise Turner was next and she has two novels published. Today’s reading was from A Blackship into Hades set in 452BC. This was a passionate delivery which had me transfixed even though the genre isn’t one of my preferred. Keith spoke about the dilemma of using recognisable historical characters which can provide readers with a reference point but may also intimidate those unfamiliar with the era. Louise’s own background as an archaeologist gives her writing a credibility and although it may be considered niche, this is not necessarily a negative thing!
Francis Smith followed with a reading from “Over the Edge” which immediately piqued my interest with the subject matter: bullying at work and the impact on mental well-being with an added sense of humour. It felt real to listen to and I’d certainly like to hear more. David fedback that this was a solid piece of writing and a well-written slice of real life with a real sense of relationships between the characters.
John Coughlan then read from Retribution Road; crime fiction set in 1970s Paisley which he described as “so jaggy you need a pair of gloves”. This one nailed it for me, a real gritty reading that left me wanting more! Michael fed back about the strong opening line that drew readers in and also about the synopsis submitted to the panel. It is important for writers not to make their synopsis too busy but to strip it down to the bare necessities.
The final participant up was Margaret Skea. Reading from her historical novel, Katharina: Deliverance. This novel is based on the woman at the side of Martin Luther and Margaret gave a compelling reading which again completely engaged me, even though this is not my preferred genre. Keith fedback on the beautiful presentation with a fabulous balance of historical and more modern language which allows the reader to be transported to the era without making it inaccessible for some.
And so the event came to an end, it overran slightly but to me, it felt that I had been there for a very short time. A great collection of new and aspiring authors, many of whom had never presented their work publicly before. As a reader and a blogger, I was impressed with the quality of submissions and would happily have stayed there longer to listen to more. This is the first time that Tidelines has held such an event and I hope it won’t be the last!
Tidelines runs again tomorrow with some fantastic events and you can get your tickets here. If you can’t make this year, perhaps you would like to sign up to be kept up to date with upcoming events.