Attending a crime writing festival could kick-start your career
Festivals focusing on crime fiction are becoming increasingly popular, and are a must for any writer who wants to understand this popular genre. In this article, Mo Harber-Lamond runs down his top 5 crime writing festivals, and why it might be a good idea to attend.
Writing Crime Fiction1 July 2019
- Broaden your palette of techniques
- Master suspense and add intrigue to your plotlines and characterisation
- Explore a new genre and assess your potential
Festivals. That word brings to mind sun, mud, huge outdoor music stages and weekends of revelry. Often forgotten, though, are the festivals that are about more than music, and there’s a massive range of themes out there to choose from, including food, art and even beer. The ones that interest us the most, though, are literary festivals, and crime writing festivals have become particularly popular over the past few years. Those looking to break into the crime fiction writing scene or immerse themselves in the genre could do a lot worse than going to a couple.
Price: £180, day passes are also available
Location: Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel
Date: 17-20 May 2018
This annual convention has been running since 2008 and has become one of the biggest crime fiction events in Europe, featuring as one of the highlights on the international crime fiction calendar. Dubbed one of ‘the best crime writing festivals around the world’ in The Guardian and one of ‘the 50 Best Festivals’ in The Independent, the atmosphere is friendly, informal and inclusive – it’s a real celebration of the genre. Featured guest authors for 2018 include Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver, and 2018 CWA Dagger Award winner Mari Hannah.
Alongside the drinks, comedy and debate, you can expect to see discussions and interviews with bestselling crime writers.
Price: £220 for the weekend, day tickets also available
Location: Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, Yorkshire
Date: 19-22 July 2018
Held in Harrogate, this festival is the biggest of its kind in Europe, and with last year’s attendance of over 16,000 you’re guaranteed to find something or someone you’ll like. Being the largest gathering of crime fiction fans also means you’ll be meeting some interesting and often important people. Over the weekend, writers, publishers and agents alike spend time listening, reading and networking in the Old Swan Hotel. For a budding writer, this is a great opportunity to meet people who could help you realise your dreams.
Alongside the drinks, comedy and debate, you can expect to see discussions and interviews with bestselling crime writers, where they will talk about their work and answer people’s questions. While the full lineup hasn’t been announced, ‘America’s favourite storyteller’ John Grisham has been confirmed for a live interview with Programming Chair of the festival, Lee Child. With those names on the bill, it’s not hard to imagine the rest will be just as impressive.
The festival is made up of a number of individual events including talks, workshops and creative activities for children.
Price: Events are sold individually
Location: Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
Date: 26-29 April 2018
Spawned from the founder’s passion for literary festivals, ChipLitFest is Clare Mackintosh’s labour of love. The festival is made up of a number of individual events including talks, workshops and creative activities for children. While not strictly a crime writing festival, Joseph Knox will be discussing his crime debut and its follow up, along with other literary names such as Ayisha Malik (a guest author on our Edit Your Novel The Professional Way course), Lionel Shriver and Jeremy Vine.
Date: 21-23 September 2018
The programme for 2018 hasn’t been announced yet, but you can expect to see a variety of genre’s best-loved authors – last year’s festival included talks by Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Ragnar Jónasson, amongst others. Crime writing masterclasses also offer a chance to hone your skills and meet other aspiring crime fiction writers.
If 2017’s roster is anything to go by, there’s no doubt that this is one to keep an eye on.
Price: £40, first 50 tickets £10
Location: Morecambe Winter Gardens
Date: 29-30 September 2018
Just a week after Bloody Scotland is Morecambe & Vice, a lighthearted and surprisingly secretive crime writing festival. The lineup for this year is being held tightly under wraps as of February 2018, but if 2017’s roster is anything to go by – which included Sophie Hannah, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Sarah Ward – there’s no doubt that this is one to keep an eye on. To add to the fun, there will also be a murder-mystery event on Friday 28th for those who really want to get involved in the action.
You’ll be in your element, discussing things you’ve never thought of before with people you’d never expect to have met.
Why should you go to a crime writing festival?
You’ve just read about some of our favourites, and a quick internet search will bring up dozens more, but why should you go to any of them?
Immerse yourself in writing culture
Often it’s hard for writers to find other writers to chat to on a casual basis, and it’s never good when something you love begins to seem like work. Literary festivals give writers and readers alike a chance to discuss their passion freely with those that understand them. You’ll be in your element, discussing things you’ve never thought of before with people you’d never expect to have met.
There’s nothing like hearing an author read their own work, is there? Have a look through the featured speakers on a number of festival websites, and you’re bound to find a writer you enjoy or admire. Perhaps hearing them read will make you see their story in a new light. Readings are often followed by Q&As, so you’ve also got a chance to find out how the writer makes their story work.
It’s worth going along just to hear a reading or two, but there’s a good chance you’ll meet someone who could help you out.
Anyone trying to ‘make it’ in the literary world knows you’ve got to meet the right people, and these festivals are where they congregate. It’s worth going along just to hear a reading or two, but there’s a good chance you’ll meet someone who could help you out. Well, when the wine is flowing…
Advice and tips
Live discussions are the absolute best way of quickly gaining knowledge about writing, and a staple of almost all literary festivals are Q&A sessions and panel talks with well-known authors. If you’ve got a burning question about how to devise the perfect plot twist, or techniques to make your criminal mastermind truly evil, these sessions are the perfect chance for you to get some answers
Most of all, festivals are places to enjoy yourself. Everyone’s out and about, having a drink and talking about the things they love. What could be better than that? If you’re a writer and you’ve never been to a literary festival, you owe it to yourself to spend a weekend at one. Otherwise, you’ll never know what you’ve been missing.