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If you’ve reached a bit of a hiatus with your writing – or even if you’re firing on all cylinders – there are lots of ways of keeping the literary flame alight, whilst contributing to your writing community► Contact the organisers six months in advance; there may be an application process.► Look the part. Find out if there is a dress code and stick to it. Make sure your shoes are smart and clean; your hair neat and tied back.► Be reliable. Organisers are perpetually harassed. Make sure you are on time, and perform your tasks quickly and efficiently. And be prepared to go the extra mile.► Stay in touch. Write to the organisers to say thank youand offer future involvement. Follow their social media. If they remember you they will be more open to your suggestions.SPREAD THE LOVEuse your approach letter as a way of judging your fit for the team.Generally, organisers are looking for people who are knowledgeable – within reason. If you read widely that’s a definite asset, as is a literature degree. But far more important are reliability, cheerfulness and willingness to help. No one likes a volunteer who spends all their time hob-nobbing in the Green Room and sulks when asked to check on the state of the ladies loos. Duties vary hugely, from serving tea to managing a roving mic during a Q&A event.Ways to expandVolunteering needn’t mean simply following instructions (though of course you must do this). If you have an idea for an event, some organisers are open to suggestions, particularly if they see a way of supporting local writers. The first Dead Women Poets Society event resulted from a pitch by a group of undergraduate students (see p73). Get in touch at least six months before the festival takes place – that’s how far ahead the programme is planned.And once you’ve learned the ropes by volunteering, you could start your own festival. The inspiration for Felixstowe Book Festival came when Reid was driving home fromCambridge Word Fest and thought Felixstowe deserved one of its own. But be warned: orchestrating a festival is incredibly hard work. The vast majority rely on commercial sponsorship, plus funding from sources such as Arts Council England and local councils,as well as universities and publishers.‘It will take over your life,’ warns Reid. And Mortimer says that passion is absolutely vital. ‘You need to have something driving you.’ For both, the key motivation was the desire to nurture a local community of artists and introduce readersto writers they might not otherwise encounter. Mortimer says that most people don’t know the names of the independent presses in their own region. But since the first Iron Press festival won the Best Event Tyneside category in the Journal Culture Awards 2014 his press and the writers he publishes have gained greater visibility.’ ❐EMILY OWENSFESTIVAL VOLUNTEERINGLarge or small, most festivals depend on volunteers. ‘The festivalliterally can’t happen without them,’ says Meg Reidof Felixstowe Book Festival. ‘We are all volunteers, includingme!’ Wearing special badges or t-shirts, they are the face of the festival. ‘Their knowledge and attitude are crucial,’ says Peter Mortimer of Iron Press and its eponymous festival. Rebecca Wilkie of the Durham Book Festival agrees: ‘That energy, and enthusiasm, can be contagious!’.And though festival volunteering is a good addition to your CV, it’s not necessarilyall work. As well as selling tickets, answering questions and stacking chairs, there’s a chance to network, talk to top authors and industry professionals, and sit in on events free of charge.How do I do it?Most festivals recruit volunteers via their website or socialmedia, so make sure you’re on the mailing lists of your local festivals. Literary Festivals UK ( offers a comprehensive list. With bigger festivals there may be an application form; Durham Book Festival gets between 60 and 100 applications to narrow downto 40 committed and excited volunteers. Other festivals willTOP TIPSPlease send suggestions for this slot, or a description of something you’ve tried, to magazines are labours of love. But all the love in the world doesn’t pay for paper, ink, website hosting – let alone contributing writers. To keep a litmag going, someone needs to flash the cash.Some established magazines have a patron behind them – a university, a millionaire, an Arts Council grant. But most haveno such stability. Subscribers are the patrons of most litmags. True, many of us buy theodd single issue to suss out a magazine’s aesthetic slant before submitting, and every littlebit helps. But a subscription guarantees help for a wholeyear.If you’re worried aboutshowing favouritism, why not subscribe on a rotating basis? Pick one or two litmags to support (in addition to mslexia, of course, not instead of), then choose a different two the next year. Or request a subscription as a gift – or give one to a writerfriend. Editors want to print good work, you want your work printed, and subscribing to your favourite publications will enable this beautiful relationship to continue!And please know, if the price of a subscription goes up, it’s need, not greed, that pushes up prices. Postage costs are rising, paper costs are soaring, internet access and a good site means forking out for plugins and extra server space.Subscribers mean survival. ❐14 Mar/Apr/May 2017 mslexiaTRIBAL LOYALTY TAKE OUT A SUBSCRIPTIONPHOTO: HAY FESTIVAL

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