How to Get the Most Out of the EIBF as a New Writer

While the book festival scene can be beyond exciting for a new writer (Look at all those books! There’s the author I love!) it can also be really daunting (LOOK at ALL those books. Those people seem really important…). But there’s no need to be afraid! With the Edinburgh Book Festival kicking off this week, it seems like the perfect time to share a few tips for getting the absolute most out of the book festival experience as a writer who’s just starting out. 

Don’t be scared to go alone

Meeting new people is always a good thing

You’ve booked an event you’re really excited about, you’re in the queue to go into the tent and you see someone else on their own. Say hello, start a conversation about the author you’re seeing. Chances are you might have similar tastes. Meeting new people, possibly a fellow new writer like you, is always a good thing.

Take a notepad

You’re hanging off every word the poet or author is saying on stage. Not only is the reading of their work completely captivating but they are throwing out writing advice like confetti. Scramble into your bag (as quietly as possible!) and get that notepad out. One piece of advice from a writer you admire can give you more encouragement than hundreds of well-meaning friends.

Don’t be scared to ask questions

They'll welcome a question, any question

There is probably nothing scarier for the writer than when the host of the event stands up and says, ‘And now time for questions from the audience’. They’ll welcome a question, any question, rather than watch a silent audience. So be brave and ask one. Try and opt for a more unusual question, one which makes them think or one which shows you have actually read their stuff. And I’m sure you know that ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ is the worst question in the world for writers. Avoid it.

Go to free events

EIBF has a few free events that are well worth your time, including Ten at Ten (short readings some some of the day's featured authors) and the Amnesty Interanational programme. There's also Story Shop, which is the perfect place to hang out for new writers. Every year the Edinburgh City of Literature Trust and the EIBF gives brand new writers (like you!) the chance to read a story out to an audience in the famous Spiegeltent. The writers have to be from or living in the Edinburgh area and for some, it is their first time to read a story to the public. It must be a terrifying experience but a great step forward in a writer’s life. Go and support them, enjoy the stories with a coffee and a bun and if you see the writer afterwards, tell them how much you enjoyed it. It’ll make them so happy.

Hang about instead of scurrying off

So you’re on your own in Charlotte Square Gardens, you’ve been to one paid event and one free event, you’ve bought three books (but wanted six). Enjoy it, relax, read one of your new books, have a cuppa. Tweet about it if that’s your thing. Sharing details about the events you’ve been to or the books you’ve bought is a great way to support and connect with other writers - you never know who might be reading your Tweets and coincidentally sitting right across the gardens...  

Most of all, try not to feel out of place. You’re a writer. Just give it a few years and you could be on stage answering questions from new writers. 

Rebecca Smith

Rebecca Smith, a booklover and creative professional who's making a start in fiction, Tweets at @beckorio, works at BBC Radio Drama and creates podcasts for the fabulous For Books' Sake. You can find some of her fiction anfd features on her website.