Why you should go to a literary festival

I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. I can easily devour a book in two sittings and when I’m not reading books, I’m reading reviews of books I might like read. Despite this, until I got involved in the Margate Bookie, I had never been to a literary festival.

I’m not exactly sure why. The festivals I had heard of were all miles away and I travelled enough for work without spending weekends on the motorway too. That’s a poor excuse; my reticence probably had more to do with my suspicion that lit fests were aimed at people who read the classics, not mainstream modern fiction.

Since getting involved with the Bookie (in 2015, above) I have learned a lot about how lit fests work, especially the smaller, more community-based events. I have met loads of people I have things in common with, attended several other festivals and have discovered authors I love.

So, if you’re thinking the Bookie isn’t for you, allow me to tell you why you should come along:

Be inspired

The Bookie line-up is a mix of established authors, rising literary stars and breakout local talent. Published writers sit alongside those who are working hard to perfect their first manuscript. They have a wealth of experience and are generally very happy to share it. Most readings are followed by a question and answer session which generates all sorts of helpful tips and advice – and not just about writing.

Discover your new favourite author

The best bit of advice I can offer anyone going to a lit fest is to pick a session you’re not sure about. Some of the talks will leap off the page and appeal to you immediately. Others might not grab you in the same way but you should go to at least one of them. One of my favourite Bookie experiences has been seeing the poet Salena Godden perform. The way poetry was taught at my school put me off it for life – or so I thought. Salena was electric and her poems were a million miles from the set texts of A-Level English. She’s back at the Bookie this year and I will be there with bells on.

Encourage the children in your life

Research has shown that children who enjoy reading and spend time reading for pleasure have better reading and writing skills, a broader vocabulary, and an increased general knowledge. One way you can encourage your children to read more is to ensure they see you reading. It doesn’t matter if it’s a newspaper or magazine, a romantic novel, detective mystery, or a collection of short stories. You’ll find a range of books available from The Margate Bookshop pop-up that will be open for the duration of the Bookie, and the festival has several children’s events.

Meet people

Authors talk about writing being a solitary pursuit, but in fact, many of us are spending more and more time on our own. A literary festival on your doorstep is a great opportunity to meet people – people who, like you, enjoy reading. Last year well over half the Bookie audience came from Thanet so the chances of meeting folk you will see again and can easily keep in touch with is pretty high.

So, have I convinced you? Grab your tickets here, you won’t be disappointed.

Gemma Pettman

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