Welcome Back Bookfests! Happenings across the Globe

Literary Festivals and Contemporary Book Culture by Millicent Weber

A Little Back Story

Like most performing arts, literary and book festivals are slowly returning in a new, hybrid format that includes both live in-situ and remote online audiences. As one of my favourite indulgences, hearing authors read and talk about their work is something I find captivating, inspiring and uplifting. I am not alone in this experience, as a good deal of qualitative and mixed method research projects are beginning to unearth and demonstrate similar outcomes, not least of which is Dr Millicent Weber’s multi-site ethnography of various events in Australia, USA, UK and beyond.

While Millicent Weber’s (2018) book emerged in the couple of years pre-pandemic, the insights remain valid and can certainly still inform event planners and researchers alike, going forward. They did, in fact, help to inspire and inform my own mixed methods ethnography of audience experiences at the Ninth Belfast Book Festival, 2019. Here are a few extracts from my dissertation – I found the project exciting and enjoyable and hope that comes across! Firstly, where did book and literary festivals spring from?

“…While book signings have been part of author promotion for decades, the consumption of literary festivals operates on a much more expanded level, with their diverse programmes and a more interactive dynamic between audiences and presenters.  This world of Literary and Book Festivals displays both cultural and commercial aspects, and is linked to an upsurge in reading groups, to the recent expansion of the Independent Book Shop industry, and with the tendency towards arts promotion through the festival model, globally…”

What are book festivals for? For authors…

“…Authors spend a good deal of time on tour when promoting a new release and as such are becoming more and more like musicians and others in the performing arts. Book sales and book signings have become ubiquitous features of all events that form literary festivals…”

And for book lovers, it’s…

“…the informative, inspirational and pleasurable qualities of event experiences, feeling combinations of being ‘fired up’ and ‘spellbound’… It was also clear that the Festival provides many patrons with opportunities to connect socially and to share celebrations with family and friends…”

Ultimately…

“…Literary festivals are open for business: for authors to engage with their audiences; for aspirational audiences who desire personal growth and wellbeing; for organisations with plans for social engagement; and for marketers who seek to help consumers fulfil their needs, hopes and dreams…”

Here is a little potted summary of the project findings:

  • motivations and experiences were described by audience members across three emergent categories:
  • Cognitive-cultural (knowledge, empowerment and literary activism);
  • Emotional (inspiration, feelings, passions, hero worship and author charisma);
  • Social (connecting and sharing resonant atmospheres in ritualised, liminal spaces of escape).

(click here or on the image below to view my presentation on the design, findings, insights and recommendations).

What’s happening around the world?

Finally, book and literary festivals are thriving again as Dream Vacation Magazine has listed the Top 25 literary festivals worth a visit – I’m choosing Berlin next, travel permitting… what’s your choice?

Happy Reading

Commission for Short Story – Northern Ireland Office Brussels

Delighted to hear this news from author Paul McVeigh and other NI writers. Check out more at http://www.paulmcveighwriter.com

The Good Son

The Quarter Hour Summer

I was commissioned bythe Northern Ireland office inBrussels towrite athreeminutestory for their Summer Postcard Series.There’s many other great stories from N Ireland’s finest writers.

You can watch me reading it by clicking here.

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Four strategies to tackle writer’s block (and crack time management too).

‘Getting started, keeping going, getting started again — in art and in life, it seems to me this is the essential rhythm not only of achievement but of survival Seamus Heaney

Many bloggers hit a writing road block now and again. I can certainly identify with that. While I tend towards spontaneous, occasional bursts of inspiration to get a post underway, I have lately come to realise the value of a planned approach to blogging, to writing, and to content creation. This strategy can even be applied more broadly to work and life on a daily basis.

For my part, the origin of my writer’s block lies in the realm of cognitive freeze and a sense of overwhelm – those days when you have so much to do, or so many ideas clamouring for attention, that you don’t know where to start, so you distract yourself with anything and everything bar the task in hand. Or you sit and stare at the wall, out the window, or the blank screen or page, or bury your head in your hands.

As our sage poet Seamus Heaney reflects in his wise and wonderful words in the introduction, this is indeed a common challenge, where the key to it all is getting started, and re-started, over and over again. While procrastination is ubiquitous, and tends towards a self-feeding dynamic, it can be overcome, with a little self-training and an awareness of the need for balance between work and play.

So I’ve done some research on how to tackle procrastination, artists’, writers’, creative and general life action block, get the activity, the work, the words flowing again, and grow new momentum-building habits.

To get the work flowing again and overcome overwhelm, it’s a balancing act between time out to play, relax and recharge, interspersed with planned work stints or sprints.

Schedule, schedule, schedule, repeat.

Schedule in the play times as well as the work times.

Ensure there are some physical activities in the mix to burn the energy, boost the serotonin and grow the brain.

We often think ourselves into and out of taking action, so with this insight, I’ve cobbled together a few resources and motivators that are helping me beat the block and I want to share them.

Four strategies for getting started, keeping going, and getting started again

1. Freewriting

This technique is essentially a kind of raw, fast expressive outpouring of thoughts and feelings as they come to you. Sometimes the content isn’t even consciously thought until you see it written on the page and reading over these notes can be revealing as well as full of ideas for further writing. The practice of Freewriting  came to me by way of author and motivator Orna Ross whose website is a treasure trove of inspirational resources for writers.

2. Journaling prompts

The internet is awash with sites full of journaling ideas and prompts. Some are geared towards self-healing, anxiety management, health and fitness, all manner of life activities. For writers and artists, journaling is an all round source of motivation, idea generation and creativity sparkler. Here is just one site: called Develop Good Habits, I have found their posts helpful for habit growing tips, one of which is, of course, regular journaling. 

3. A walk in the woods (or any other natural space)

On the Creative Live blog, Hannah Brookes Olsen explains how nature refreshes the body-mind. It’s not just the time out, but the space and environment in which to idle, to induce an almost meditative state within the more natural tones and rhythms of nature. My experience is that you switch into a different mode and gain a calmness which allows ideas and memories to sift and sort themselves, with the most important or promising developing a clarity of focus that points the way forward. In addition, the physical restoration can only be good for the creativity muscle.

4. Time Management Tools

Since I started to produce strategic marketing plans and content for small businesses and freelancers, I quickly realised the necessity for forward planning to stay on top of a complex of work and personal responsibilities. My search for a workable solution led me to the website and resources of time management guru Laura Vanderkam. First and foremost, we must track what we are doing now with time, and only then can we hone in on spots and openings that can be developed into more fulfilling activity. Of course, planning ahead is crucial but again, remember to schedule in some R&R time too.

So Keep Going Guys, and Have Fun too!

NOTE: I have no affiliation with any sites mentioned or linked. These are just resources that I have found helpful going forward in my life and work. 

Citations:

Grammarist on writer’s block:

https://grammarist.com/usage/writers-block/

Image:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leonid_Pasternak_-_The_Passion_of_creation.jpg

Seamus Heaney quote:

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/01/19/seamus-heaney-commencement/

Round Ireland with an iPhone: Wildflowers of Seahill

A few days ago I had occasion to take a walk along a lovely lane in Seahill, County Down. To say the wildflowers are in their prime fails to do justice to the enchanting display.

Everywhere you turn there’s another beauty to beguile you. Then the sea, lapping along a gentle rocky shore, completes the spell. Before that day, I had not even known about the place and a return home by train via the quaint little station sealed the deal on a remarkable and memorable day trip.

Bangor next, I think.

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