English writer Patrick Gale recognized a problem in the ever-growing book festival market and has stepped up to fix it.
Gale, who published his first books, The Aerodynamics of Pork and Ease, in 1985, recently spoke on how the format of most book festivals is directly at odds with the many introverted authors and readers who would like to attend them. The problem is not the concept, but the rushed and crowded execution. Gale recently wrote for The Guardian:
“…all too often the rushed experience is part of a longer tour; you arrive in Tresoddit Parva just in time to glimpse an author you’ve always admired before you’re ushered before an audience to talk and sign books before catching a train to St Wallop.”
This is concerning, both because many authors are expected to attend many festivals to promote any book they put out, and because it leaves anxious fans unable to attend. Gale further explained:
Most novelists are at the shy end of the spectrum – sly watchers of life rather than noisy graspers of it – and many of us have had to overcome that and develop a performative persona behind which the sly watcher can continue to lurk. Never mind learning how to tweet – when I talk to writing students now, I urge them to act, or at least get some training in handling an audience.
Gale also walks the walk: he’s started a new festival in an attempt to mitigate these issues. The festival itself will be a lot smaller (yay! less interacting with people), with overlapping events kept at a minimum, so that the attendees ‘aspire to see almost everything.’ Authors are encouraged to stay for the duration of the festival, so that there is more opportunity to connect with other authors, as opposed to simply signing books and then leaving.
Perhaps though, the most important feature Gale offers is “an abundance of homemade cake.” Sign me up.