10 things I learned at Harrogate

People who follow me on Twitter will no doubt have noticed the recent tweets about the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Festival, which was held this weekend at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate (where Agatha Christie was discovered after famously going missing in 1926) . I attended it once before in 2009, but this time was very different for me as I approached it in a slightly different way, this time knowing a bit more about what to expect. I still can’t believe how many fabulous people I met – authors, readers, reviewers, agents, publishers – all of whom were amazingly nice people, and who firmly confirmed my belief that crime writers are just *the best* gang to be a part of. My hope is that one day I’ll be able to reply to the standard question ‘So, are you a writer?’ with ‘Yes, my first book has just been published, actually.’ One day…

In the meantime, here are 10 random things that I learned:

  1. You will never manage to talk to everyone and do everything and you will come back and read others’ accounts and wonder if you attended the same festival. This is normal.
  2. You will regret not talking to people that you wanted to as much as you are pleased to have met the ones you did. The people you follow and enjoy chatting to on twitter really are as much (if not more) fun in real life.  Don’t be scared of your idols. They will be more than happy to chat.
  3. Do the Saturday night quiz. It’s a great laugh and you will not be as bad as you think (it is hard though!)
  4. Don’t try to attend all the talks and panel sessions. You just won’t. Your brain can’t cope and it’s very hot in there. Plus you will mainly be outside in the garden chatting and drinking.
  5. However, you must also take time out from the drinking. Go to the Turkish Baths. Very good for a hangover. Or go to Betty’s Tea Rooms. Preferably do both.
  6. Back to the drinking though – book early and stay in the Old Swan if your mission is to stay very, very late at the bar. Also pop down to The Old Bell for a pint if you get sick of all the book talk 😉
  7. Listen to advice from those who’ve been where you are now. John Connolly said that a bigger and better idea will always come to you as you write, but never stop writing your current piece – if you don’t finish, and you keep doing this, you will *never* finish anything. Antonio Hill told me to write every day but have the weekends off – you need discipline but you also need a break. The consensus amongst most authors is: just write it. The first draft is meant to be shit. It’s the re-writing that will turn it into a novel. Don’t rush. There will be plenty of time for deadlines when you find a publisher.
  8. Make sure you attend the most talked about panel of the weekend (ok, you need the benefit of hindsight for this, but I am very glad to have been at the eBook talk, now affectionately known as ‘Tossergate’. You can read about it here and here). All I can describe it as is ‘cringe-worthy’.
  9. Go to the book signings. I was delighted when after the Luther panel, I bought Neil Cross’ ‘Holloway Falls’ (as I already had ‘The Calling’) and he told me that this is his favourite of his own books and that the main character was the pre-cursor to Luther. It was also a massive highlight to meet Michael Smiley and ask him what the hell the ending of Kill List was all about (he just laughed and said ‘everyone asks that’  and signed my book from ‘Benny & Gal’.  I am still none the wiser.)
  10. Take a massive suitcase. You will come back with more books and Harrogate souvenirs than ever thought possible.

And finally (Ok, this is #11 but it needs it’s own section…) – make sure you buy a raffle ticket at the box office… I bought a strip of 5, and to my extreme disbelief, I won a terrific prize… Imagine the surreal moment as I had my number called out, then had to make my way to the stage (from the back of the room) past hundreds of people at tightly squashed tables, all of whom were staring at me and clapping excitedly as my face glowed like a belisha beacon, while Val McDermid and Mark Billingham ‘gently’ harassed me from the stage to ‘hurry up’… and when I got there I found out that I will be featured as a character in a Peter James novel! Oh. My. God! I also won a huge box of books and a gorgeous hamper from Theakstons… and as a result of all this, one of my favourite crime authors, Peter James – the first person I followed on twitter – is now following me back and has tweeted me several times. I am still in shock.

So now it’s time to up my game and get my novel finished. This weekend really made me realise that all authors have been where I am, and the reason they are published now is that they never gave up. It also made me realise more than ever that I want to be part of their gang 🙂

Roll on Theakstons Crime 2013.

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4 thoughts on “10 things I learned at Harrogate

  1. Oh my – I’m sooo envious! I’ve been following the Crime Fest vicariously through Rebecca Bradley’s blog and I’m really said I missed it. It sounds great.

    What a wonderful prize – to be a character in a Peter James novel. He’s one of my faves too and get this – the first writer I followed on Twitter! We have a lot in common.

    I’m going to bookmark your tips and take them with me next year. Maybe we’ll meet up in Bettys? Thanks for sharing:-)

  2. It was my first time this year and I had a great time. I think your “10 random things” are spot on!

    Well done on your win… What a prize! 🙂

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