The Festival of Writing - Part One

Published by: TonyGetsLost on 29th Mar 2011 | View all blogs by TonyGetsLost

DISCLAIMER: None of this really happened at all. I made everything up - especially the people. And the venue. York isn’t even a real place. Please don’t sue me.)


After spending the last two weeks in Jordan (the country, not the pin-up girl) I’d flown home for the Festival of Writing. This was it - my chance to impress agents with witty tales of derring-do, to storm the gates of Castle Publishing and emerge a rich and successful writer. It was finally within my grasp, all of it: fame and fortune and a side order of hot chicks.

So, I bought bananas from a neo-nazi near Birmingham bus station - like you do. It was a simple misunderstanding; with a mass of muscles and tattoos where his sleeves should have been, a shaved head and kick-yer-face-in boots, I thought he was the most terrifying person I’d ever seen. And he was about to beat the shit out of me. He bawled something incomprehensible at point blank into my face, which my panicked brain interpreted as “You’re gonna die you fuckin’ little turd!” (but which, on reflection, might have been a sales pitch for bananas). I raised my hands in self defence and he slapped a bag of bananas into one of them. It seemed like a good idea to pay him after that.

Unfazed by the attempt on my life I made it to York in high spirits. Ah, York! It’s a magical place, the clear, sparkling river winding past ancient town walls and BLAHBLAHBLAHBLAH. Whatever. I had to quash that writerly instinct within me, that one that sought to constantly narrate my surroundings in lurid prose. No, there was no concentration to spare for creativity at the Festival of Writing. Agents and publishers would be guarding those gates; armed with lethal invective, their razor sharp comments could cut down distracted writers mid stride. Truly, I was going into the belly of the beast. Only the Gods knew if I’d be coming out again.

As my coach surged through town I caught a sign in the window of a pub: 2 meals for £19, it promised. ‘Good Value!’ it added underneath, which was quite obviously a lie.

I caught a local bus to the University. “A writer eh, going to a writing conference?” The bus conductor was in a talkative mood. I felt I’d given him fair warning, and that if he wanted to say anything stupid it was mine for the documenting.

“We get a lot of conferences there,” he told me. “Them Samaritans did one there. They were nice people, them Samaritans.” 

I had to physically restrain myself from doing a face-palm.

I arrived and checked into my room, in the process breaking the door handle. This is why people don’t invite me to their houses. I stripped off and had a shower, delighting in the heat of the water as it removed nine hours of travel on two coaches, one bus, two cars and a unicycle. That’s the last time I hitchhike past a circus. Steam rose and I luxuriated in it, right up until the point where the shower curtain adhered itself to my naked back and bum cheeks. I tried not to think about the last ten users of the shower suffering the same indignity.

At dinner I was reunited with my friends from the Word Cloud whom I’d met last year. At last I could feel comfortable, for here were people who wouldn’t judge me. I opened my bag. “Anyone for a banana?”

I picked a table at random for the Literary Networking event and listened carefully to the instructions. Ten minutes then change - imagine all the agents I could meet in an hour. Though I didn’t have a star on my badge, so I would be staying at this table. This was where it could all happen, I told myself. After a brief awkward silence I encouraged the old dear ext to me to speak first. “Well, my book you see - well, it’s a novel you know - it’s about a young lady, from olden times - well, it’s historical you see. Historical romance. Yes, that’s it. It’s about this young woman, and her sister - only her sister doesn’t come into it until later, because she married a man who... well, her husband, in the beginning was a...” I glanced at my watch. Five minutes gone. The woman continued to ramble at great length and by the time the bell rung to change seats she still hadn’t made any sense. In my head I was no longer referring to her as the ‘old dear’. Four new people dropped into the seats around me. The Old Dear remained motionless. As the room settled down once again, she cleared her throat. “So, I was saying, my book is about a young lady...”

It was the third session before I even got to speak. By that point we were supposed to be discussing literary works of the 19th Century. The oldest book I’ve ever read is Lord of the Rings. I went blank for a few moments, then was struck by a flash of brilliance. “Has anybody read ‘Pride and Prejudice... and Zombies?”

Authonomy Live was a potentially great event, fatally flawed in one way: It’s distinct lack of me. Still, the winning piece included the word penis so I felt I’d been morally represented. Exactly as happened last year, the writers at my table listened intently to every reading. Then they conferred with each other. Then they asked me what it had been about. I gave them the gist and there was much nodding. I made a mental note to suggest a better microphone for next year.

About the co-ed bathroom in the Roger Kirk Centre, I have only one thing to say. Sorry! I mean that. Maggie and Barbara, thank-you for understanding. In my defence I’d like point out that thing does look exactly like a urinal. I only hope no-one was scarred for life (as I nearly was when the motion activated red-hot water sprinkler came on).

That night there was drinking and merriment as I moved amongst the tables, searching for anyone with the power to alter the course of my life. Time after time I sought out influential agents, screwed my courage to the sticking point, sat down next to them and asked them one burning question; “Would you like a banana?” 

At one point I became entangled in a fierce debate on the subject of my genre. “I absolutely disagree,” said the gentleman opposite me. “It’s a genre with a very high degree of literary talent. To call those books boring  shows a total lack of appreciation for writing of any kind of quality.” 

I conceded that my point may have been a tad disrespectful, and glanced down at the man’s name badge. “Well, we can chat tomorrow,” I told him, “I’ve got a one-to-one with you.” 
His eyes rolled.

Saturday morning came far too soon... (to be continued)



  • Kiki
    by Kiki 7 years ago
    LOL, hysterical :)
  • Charlie
    by Charlie 7 years ago
    I so missed the feeling of having tea in my nose... An all-round experience then: From a deadly encounter with edible loot via an attack by a shower curtain all the way to ensuring low expectations from your 1-2-1; I can't wait for part two. Just let me finish my cup of tea first...
  • Andrew James
    by Andrew James 7 years ago
    Up until now, I had the feeling that the memory of someone approaching me and offering me a banana was a red wine induced hallucination. I'm not sure, but I think I'm delighted to find out that it might have actually happened.

    This is a cliff hanger. What's next?
  • Autumn
    by Autumn 7 years ago
    This would win Authonomy!!!!!!!! Please enter it next year? :) x
  • Mcallan
    by Mcallan 7 years ago
    Brilliant Tony!
  • John Taylor
    by John Taylor 7 years ago
    Your bananas, Tony. Or, you're bananas, Tony. No, it isn't you: it's the rest of us who are bananas. Next time I pick up a historical novel with a dark, handsome banana-seller with an extraordinarily long tongue, I'll know she's been speed dating at York.
  • SKF
    by SKF 7 years ago
    Yes pretty good, but you forgot the word scrotum and didn't offer me a banana!!
  • TonyGetsLost
    by TonyGetsLost 7 years ago
    Thanks for all the comments guys! Be careful though, or next year I'll have to book a double room so I can fit my ego into it. And as I said at the start, none of this happened. So anyone who remembers bananas for any reason is just plain wrong. I mean really, as if that would happen? SKF - Go on then, I'll send you a banana. I've been sitting on the last few just in case... Mm. Sticky.
  • Debi
    by Debi 7 years ago
    I thought it was all true except for the Literary Networking, which was 5 mins per table, not ten. So there weren't any bananas then? Are we talking collective hallucination here?
  • Barb
    by Barb 7 years ago
    Apologies in advance...

    Had we all gone bananas?
  • TonyGetsLost
    by TonyGetsLost 7 years ago
    They were Allegorical Bananas. Remarkably similar to European Bananas, except they're allowed to bend more. But since we're getting under the skin of it all, it was my fruit. I mean, fault. See, I wasn't peeling very well...
  • Barb
    by Barb 7 years ago
    Careful or this banana business will start losing its a-peel.
  • Harry
    by Harry 7 years ago
    Did anyone actually enjoy that literary networking, or did it seem a bit forced? I'm not sure about it, meself.
  • Autumn
    by Autumn 7 years ago
    I didn't find the lit networking fulfilled its aim at all. My experience was similar to everyone I spoke to in that it wasn't long enough at each table - but the biggest problem was that is was impossible to hear everyone on the table in that noise! There was only time for 3 people on my first table to talk about their books - and their 'elevators' were somewhat stuck between floors...

    When I moved to the next table there were 3 agents there and they said they didn't want 'to be told' to talk about movies. Again, it was too noisy to talk across the table anyway and as I was the only person to move onto their table they all looked at me expectantly... I cringed inwardly as my brain froze and I simply couldn't bring myself to talk about the only movie adaptation that sprang to mind: The Wizard of Oz?????? WHERE did that come from?!

    I think it was too prescriptive - perhaps let us chat amongst ourselves next year, but ring a bell or something and invite us to move places?
  • Gels
    by Gels 7 years ago
    That was a great read, Tony! fab...was this literary networking actually like a speed dating for writers, was there a bell and everything? great stuff...
  • TonyGetsLost
    by TonyGetsLost 7 years ago
    Cheers guys! Literary Networking... in a fit of drunken pomposity on Saturday night I actually told Nikki I'd work out a solution and send it to her! Proof if anyone needs it that this writer is even more full of shit than most... Seriously though, I WILL send her something. I keep playing around with ideas of how to make it work. It really needs to be 1) productive, and b) fun. Smooth transitions between tables and an algorithm that assures maximum interchange of people. I mean, it's not that it wasn't fun, but I think quite a few people didn't get a lot out of it. I learnt quite a lot about one lady's book, several time sin fact :0)
  • Kate Allan
    by Kate Allan 7 years ago
    ha ha ha I look forward to the next installment.
    Meself, I'm still not sure about the literary networking but it is just supposed to be an ice-breaker.
  • Debi
    by Debi 7 years ago
    I think it is a fun kind of ice breaker, but we all ignored being told what to talk about and just introduced ourselves to whoever sat down next to us. That was ok and it also meant we didn't have to struggle to talk to everyone on the table. Maybe fewer people on each table would work better and use more tables. Say 4 per table?
  • Barb
    by Barb 7 years ago
    Random idea: what if every second person on a table are the ones that move. Each time you speak to the person on your left, and have a discussion with them for ten minutes?

    BTW: the concept was good, and I spoke to a lot more people than I might have. Just needs a bit of refining.
  • Flickimp
    by Flickimp 7 years ago
    A tremendously exciting read Tony!
    Enjoy your cheese...
  • Gerilyn
    by Gerilyn 7 years ago
    Thanks Tony- I feel like I was there now..I even have a strange after taste of bananas too..oh and a picture in my head of a shower curtain embossed on your behind.
  • TonyGetsLost
    by TonyGetsLost 7 years ago
    Thanks again for all your comments folks! Now guess what - Parte the Seconde hath just been released, upon this very website. Please feel free to check it out (it's in the blogs of course) - or not! It features less fruit that this one.
  • Kiki
    by Kiki 7 years ago
    The literary networking would have been a better idea if: a) We had longer to talk. b) We had two agents / agent & publisher / agent & book doctor at each table. I didn't get to speak until the third change (honest!) and by that time our poor agent seemed slightly peeved. Poor David Headley lol. Best of it was, he told me that he didn't particularly take on fantasy, ahem. Some people were so nervous they waffled which took up the whole five minutes! Others bought their ego instead of their personality. I'm not sure about it either. It didn't work for me.
    Tony, you were hysterical! I loved just sitting and laughing at the Tony & Jock show :)
  • TonyGetsLost
    by TonyGetsLost 7 years ago
    Cheers Kiki! In fairness, it was all Jock; I'm typically a very shy, almost mouse-like kind of person. There is a formula for 100% perfect one to one but it's not realistic with what there is to work with in York. Ideally there would be groups of chairs, three to a group, arranged in a huge circle. One of the three (pref. an agent, published writer etc.) stays put - the other two are either a '1' or a '2'. At the change, 1's go left and 2's go right. This means everyone meets entirely new people each time, can chat and be heard and is unlikely to be able to dominate a conversation - or if they do, it'll only affect one person per rotation. No-one will meet twice until they've circled the entire room! But in York there are the huge table which need to be in place for dinner and of course there's never enough agents to go around... I'm still working on the solution to this one!
  • TonyGetsLost
    by TonyGetsLost 7 years ago
    Oh, and by the way - PART THREE of this eye-catching and highly contentious account has just been released! It's in BLOGS (as it's a blog) but don't be fooled - it is a masterpiece in ridiculous bullshit, truly worthy of being a sequel to this dubious tripe! ENJOY at your own risk ladies and gents!
    I love you all
  • MarkR
    by MarkR 7 years ago
    Tony, catching up with this and laughing my head off. Is it a potassium overdose? Off to read Part 2.
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