You'll Never Forget Your First Time - the Debut Authors Festival

One of the best events of the first edition of the festival was the Unpublished Writers Jam Session, an opportunity for budding young writers to read their unpublished work in front of an expert panel.

Article by Anna Battista | 15 Jun 2006
They are everywhere. Just look around, go into bookshops, leaf through magazines and papers, turn on the radio or switch on the TV: there are hundreds of new books, written by young and hip authors, up-and-coming literary starlets who are too often over-hyped by the media. But in this Babel of new authors and titles how do you identify the strongest voices, the ones-to-watch, how do you get to know the writers who will be truly important? The Debut Authors Festival might be a good place to start. Now in its second edition, the festival, which runs from the 16th to the 18th of June at the Traverse Theatre, will feature readings by new authors from a wide range of backgrounds as well as talks by experts from the world of publishing.

Publicist and festival director Pru Rowlandson first conceived of such an event while working at Canongate and looking for a way to promote new authors. The idea came to fruition after talking to the Traverse Theatre, which itself specialises in promoting new theatrical writing. The result was a fantastic success. "Last year's festival was a very positive experience," Pru remembers. "There were lots of writers, but above all there were lots of people from different backgrounds, from book lovers and book groups to young people studying creative writing."

One of the best events of the first edition of the festival was the Unpublished Writers Jam Session, an opportunity for budding young writers to read their unpublished work in front of an expert panel. "It was a very encouraging event. There were lots of agents and editors in the audience and the atmosphere was great with lots of manuscripts being exchanged," Pru says. "I'm sure all the writers who took part in the session went back to work on their manuscripts with renewed enthusiasm." The next edition of the Jam Session promises to be even better than last year's, with agents and publishers coming up from London to participate.

The final event of the festival, "The Business of Publishing and Selling a Book", will feature highly influential book trade experts such as Derek Johns, agent with Britain's oldest literary agency, AP Watt.

If you feel a bit shy about reading your work aloud during the Jam Session, you can always attend the various readings. Themes will include authors on trying to break away from the places they grew up (with Doug Johnstone, Gautam Malkani and Nicola Monaghan); authors who drew the inspiration for their novels from the British landscape (with Richard Benson, Horatio Clare, Helen Farish and Craig Taylor); and authors inspired by lives lived on the fringes of society (with Clare Allan, Alexander Masters, Alison Miller and Ray Robinson). There will also be events on writing humorous, funny and witty books (featuring Christopher Cairns, Jon Canter, Jane Harris and Glen Neath) and on adventure and travel stories (John Bennett, Alice Greenway and James Scudamore).

"I'm looking forward to meeting all these exciting authors, in particular, Alexander Masters, the author of 'Stuart – A Life Backwards', because I think he's absolutely phenomenal and his work is brilliant on many different levels," says Pru, "but I'm also looking forward to the new edition of the Jam Session, as I'm sure it will be encouraging and fascinating and the advice given by the judges will be invaluable." Pru also has some top tips for all the aspiring writers out there: "Every publisher and agent gets hundreds and hundreds of manuscripts a year, so, in order to get a publishing deal, you really must have done something that shines out. I think that drawing from your life experiences to write fiction and non-fiction can be really good and inspiring, as some of the books from the authors who will be at the festival prove."

Remember, the more you read, the more you become able to identify a strong voice in the world of literature and the more you'll be able to criticise the voice in your own writing. In the meantime, whether you are a passionate reader or an obsessive writer, remember that the Debut Authors Festival has something in store for you.
Debut Authors Festival, Friday 16th Ð Sunday 18th June, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.;