Thursday, 18 August 2016

My first time... at Harrogate by Tara Lyons

As I write this, a week has passed since the Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, but it feels more like a month. It was my first experience of Harrogate, and any kind of book festival, and I’ve had a major comedown from the amazing event. I booked up late, only securing a B&B in April (most people attending had booked the previous year as soon as the dates were announced), and now I’m so glad that my ‘fear of missing out’ bug kicked me up the butt just in time.

As a very new author, I was feeling quite daunted as the day to travel to Yorkshire approached. However, I pulled on my big girl pants and had a good talking to myself – this was a great opportunity to meet other authors, bloggers, publishers, publicists and people I’d spoken to online for over a year.

If I’m honest, I think I embraced the experience more as a reader than an author, because once I was there my nerves took over on more than one occasion. But I don’t think it altered my experience at all. The festival is overflowing with new and established authors, crime fiction fans, bloggers etc. – all happy to chat about their writing journey, love of books and everything else in between.

And I’ll admit, I had a huge fangirl moment when Martina Cole high-fived me over our shared love of Ireland and Clonakilty black pudding.

I think the truth of it is, at Harrogate it doesn’t matter what you do or your reason for being there because your passion for crime fiction means you’ll always find someone to talk too – trust me, the bar is always heaving and the conversation is always flowing. So, if you’re worried about going alone, please don’t! The whole weekend had a very chilled and relaxed atmosphere, with people happy to pose for photos, sign books and share a bottle of wine!
After booking my B&B it was clear I couldn’t afford to attend all the events on offer, so I carefully chose a few I didn’t want to miss. Despite the heat of the room (and I’m not complaining about the awesome weather we had), they were very interesting, well-structured conversations, with a chance for audience participation at the end. There’s nothing like hearing a successful author share their lows and highs to get the creative juices pumping – and yes, I have been at the laptop with an array of ideas since coming home. I came away from Harrogate feeling very inspired – and not just about crime fiction! Thanks to a very passionate blogger, I’m excited about quite a few things (but if I told you now, I’d have to kill you… but watch this space). I hope by time next year’s festival comes around – and yes, I have booked my room already – I’ll feel more confident as a writer, not just a reader.

There’s an author North versus South football match to enjoy, a chalked outline of a dead body on the
ground, a huge WHSmith tent – that not only sells books but holds book signings too, deck chairs and a beer tent, the word ‘read’ in enormous cardboard letters that make you feel like you’re being welcomed to the book equivalent of Glastonbury and much, much more.

I have only just skimmed the surface about my time at Harrogate because I think if I launched into it fully you’d be scrolling down your screen for quite some time. But I’ll end on this – if you love crime fiction, be it because you’re a writer, a reader, a publisher, a blogger, a publicist or anything in between, then treat yourself to Harrogate 2017. The enjoyable atmosphere is contagious and I haven’t laughed that much in a long time. I met some wonderful people, was asked to signed a copy of my paperback (that was an “OMG, is this real?” moment for me) and had the opportunity to talk to authors about their writing experiences and get some valuable tips and advice. I didn’t buy a rover pass for the day/weekend, but many people did, some dined with authors and publicists while others soaked up the sun… Harrogate is what you make it, but it’s definitely a book festival not to be missed.

Oh, FYI… this year, I stayed at the Baytree House, which is about 20 minutes from The Old Swan Hotel (the hub of the festival). It’s a beautiful B&B, reasonably priced with a fab breakfast and lovely staff.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Harrogate, please just give me a shout, I’m more than happy to have a chat about my first time...

5 comments:

Chris Longmuir said...

It sounds like you had a great time. I haven't been to Harrogate for the past 3 years, preferring to go to Crimefest in Bristol instead. It's quite big, but not as big as Harrogate where you can easily lose people, so the chance of networking is greater at Crimefest and it has a homelier atmosphere.

Tara Lyons said...

That's interesting to hear, Chris. I know CrimeFest is very popular also, and I'd love to attend one year. A lot of people said Harrogate was the best - but I suppose, as it was during the event, they would.

Penny Dolan said...

What an enthusiastic account. Sounds a lot of fun! I missed the Crime Fest this year as I was away elsewhere but very glad to know it was so enjoyable for you. Attending such events by yourself can mean the solitary writing bit of your mind is open to all sorts of new ideas, especially if the general mood is friendly. Harder when you have best friends with you, perhaps? Must mention that there's a Harrogate History Festival too, between 29th & 23rd October, which is all about historical fiction. (This date is the start of half-term, which can be a good time or not, depending on family circumstances.) Also I'm lucky enough, living quite close by, to be able to take the day ticket option - which is a cheering thought when Edinburgh BookFest is on and I'm not there.

Umberto Tosi said...

I haven't been to Harrogate or Crime Fest, but I can relate to your vivid account of being a first-time author/attendee to this sort of thing - terrifying and electrifying at the same time. Sounds like you had a great time. Thanks for having us along.

Tara Lyons said...

I'm glad you all enjoyed reading it. Half term is definitely not a good time for me, but I'm hoping to work something out and attended more festivals etc next year.