Why literary festivals are the perfect place for writers

Chipping Norton Literary Festival Programme Director Charlotte Sabin explores what makes literary festivals so useful for writers, and who we can expect to see at ChipLitFest 2018.

Charlotte Sabin
Charlotte Sabin

This will be my second year as Programme Director for ChipLitFest, and I can already say in two short Festival seasons I’ve got pages of physical and mental notes to myself on how to write, research, craft and fine-tune, how to carve out a niche in the publishing industry and what it means to be a writer on the page and in front of an audience.

Here, we’ve lined up big names from the media and literary world for this year’s Chipping Norton Literary Festival, which runs from 26–29 April.

Who’s coming to Chipping Norton 2018?

BBC Radio 2 stars Jeremy Vine and Liza Tarbuck will both be appearing, as will journalist Robert Peston. Other well-known faces include Terry Waite and Pointless presenter and comedian Richard Osman.

Lionel Shriver will be at the Chipping Norton Theatre on Friday 27 April to talk about her first collection of short stories.

An incredible feast of literary talent including Rachel Joyce, Kit de Waal and Rachel Seiffert will also take to the stage in our brand new dedicated lit-fic venue, joined at other venues in town by talks on Muriel Spark and Barbara Pym, literary heavyweights.

This is a Festival for writing, for the prose that packs a punch.


Why should I attend a literary festival?

For one, you can hear authors reflect, doubt, discuss and debate their own writing and the perilous adventure of a debut or difficult second book, or the non-fiction game-changer from a household name. Every writer is experiencing the same thing, albeit in a plethora of guises.

Listening to authors argue out their favourite lines, worst habits and go-to new-reads makes me feel like there’s a fantastic club that I need to be part of, so I go home and pick up a pen.

An event I always get hugely excited about, our New Voices panel, will welcome the incredible new talent of Guy Gunaratne, Sarah Franklin and Mahsuda Snaith.

– Charlotte Sabin

What’s the theme?

Health and food are key topics for ChipLitFest this year. Doctors discussing their works will include Joseph Jebelli on the search for a cure for Alzheimer’s, Stephen Westaby on the life of a heart surgeon and comedian and commentator Adam Kay on his experiences as an NHS medic.

Some fictional nourishment comes from lively discussions on food in literature with the author of Dinner with Dickens.

The popular Afternoon Tea slot in the Town Hall features Guardian writers Lucy Mangan and Laura Freeman, whose extraordinary The Reading Cure documents how books helped her recover from illness. This is perfectly suited to anyone interested in Therapeutic Writing.

An event I always get hugely excited about, our New Voices panel — previously home to PWA’s very own Jo Cannon — will welcome the incredible new talent of Guy Gunaratne, Sarah Franklin and Mahsuda Snaith this year.

After all, this is where our starry line-up of exceptional talent, all set for bestseller lists, started out  — in trial and error.

As part of ChipLit, it’s a pleasure to be involved in a festival that lives and breathes new writing.

– Charlotte Sabin

What other things will I learn?

To offer unrivalled industry insight, literary agent Jo Unwin and publicist Camilla Elworthy will also join us to tell the story of how this year’s hottest debut novel, Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce, went from initial idea to seven-publisher auction. A perfect precursor for Find Your Writing Voice or Beginners’ Fiction, perhaps.

In the past, surrounding myself with literary festivals has been perfect punctuation to the year, and we’re very lucky to have some really fantastic ones around the country that mean you’re never too far from inspiration.

Now, as part of ChipLit, it’s a pleasure to be involved in a festival that lives and breathes new writing, with debuts and big-hitters alike treated in equal measure, all receiving an equal split of our profit-share scheme.

This is a festival for writers: it’s a whole weekend of words, the very best – authors interviewing their own favourite authors and filmmakers, artists, researchers, historians, bird-watchers, poets, neuroscientists and chefs sharing their talent and incredible love of books.

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Meet your Guest author

Charlotte Sabin

Charlotte Sabin

Charlotte is a writer and editor from Chipping Norton, and joined the Committee as ChipLitFest Programme Director having volunteered at the 2016 Festival. Having taught English in South-East Asia and devised curricula for language schools, Charlotte is an active advocate for creative arts and education, acting as content writer for Field Notes and on other digital platforms. Her writing has been published in The Bookseller and on Gadgette.

She is part of the team in Author Liaison for Port Eliot Festival, and in 2015 took on the role of Assistant Producer for online literary festival BritCrime. She has also coordinated online coverage for North Cornwall Book Festival. Her independently curated projects range from folk music archiving to community arts and have achieved national recognition.

She has lectured at Falmouth University on social media and digital writing and will soon be tutoring at the MET Film School, London on digital storytelling.

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