For anyone reading the title of this post and wondering if I’ve been to a festival of crime lately, I should clarify.
CrimeFest is a crime writing festival, not a place to learn how to pick locks, assume a new identity, etc. Although I’d probably go to that, too. I tried to teach myself to pick locks while researching The Guilty Wife, and failed miserably. It’s much harder than the YouTube videos make it seem.
Anyway. Back to CrimeFest. Now in its ninth year, this Bristol-based festival sees hundreds of writers, aspiring authors and avid crime fiction readers gathering to talk about everything from serial killers to the supernatural (and plenty in between).
I attended this 4-day festival with absolutely no idea what to expect, but by the end of it I’d learned a lot – about writing, about reading, and about the crime writing community in general. Read on for my killer revelations.
10 things I learned at CrimeFest 2017
1. Bring a bigger bag. With wheels.
The moment I arrived at CrimeFest 2017, I was handed a canvas bag that seemed suspiciously heavy. When I looked inside, there was a programme, some bookmarks, and a stack of crime books. Now that’s my kind of goody bag!
Throughout the festival, there were opportunities to buy even more books, and have them signed by the authors after their panels. Although I usually pride myself on packing light, this is one event where I’d recommend bringing a big bag. Preferably one with wheels, so you don’t give yourself a neck injury by hauling it across the city.
2. Crime is a serious business
I knew that there were people obsessed with books like Harry Potter (guilty) and Twilight (also, embarrassingly, guilty), but I didn’t know the same level of fandom existed within crime fiction.
OK, maybe not exactly the same. I mean, no one was dressed up as Hannibal Lecter or anything, but there were plenty of fans who had travelled from far and wide to hear their favourite authors speaking about all things criminal.
Oh yeah, and the panels started at 9am. Now that takes serious dedication.
3. It’s also a friendly business
Apart from a few people I’d tweeted with once or twice, when I arrived I knew no-one which, for an introvert like me, is frankly terrifying.
More terrifying, weirdly, than the fact that the strangers I was with were all obsessed with crime.
But everyone at CrimeFest 2017 was so unbelievably friendly, and by the end of the first panel, I’d already made a new friend. I met authors I admire, publicists, bloggers, fellow almost-published writers and plenty of others who just love crime thrillers, like I do.
I never expected crime to be so friendly, but it turns out the writers with the darkest minds might actually be the friendliest!
4. I am not as well-read as I once thought
I have a confession to make. In addition to the lock-picking and Twilight bombshells I’ve already dropped in this post.
I’ve never actually read any Agatha Christie. Or The Silence of the Lambs. Or anything by John Grisham.
I know, I know.
Before CrimeFest 2017, I thought I was well-read. Turns out, while other crime lovers were filling their teenage years with Christie and Doyle, I was working my way through the Sweet Valley High collection. I must now make up for a lot of lost time. Which brings me to…
5. I will never get through my reading list
Not only are there countless old classics I need to educate myself on now, but I also discovered a bunch of new (and new to me) authors whose works I’m desperate to get to know.
On top of that, the panellists shared their own favourite books, so now I have about 100 new titles sitting on my kindle and will probably have to live off peanut butter on toast for a month.
Worth it, obviously.
6. Bristol will never get old
Every time I visit Bristol, I fall more deeply in love with the city.
I can’t put my finger on what captivates me when I’m there – maybe it’s the fabulous food, or the waterways, or the beautiful green spaces, or the fascinating history.
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Whatever it is, I was excited to learn that CrimeFest took place at the Bristol Marriott Royal, because I’ll use any excuse to visit one of my favourite cities.
7. You will need to take a break
The CrimeFest schedule is hectic.
There are panels running from 9am to 6pm (without any official breaks), and the events continue well into the evening.
It’s impossible to attend the whole of the festival without taking a break, which is why it’s such a good thing that it’s hosted in Bristol! I spent an hour or so in Bristol Aquarium on the Friday, which was probably the best way I can possibly imagine to spend a lunch break. And on Saturday, I took a stroll to the SS Great Britain to learn about the history of ship building.
Although it’s a shame to miss any of the CrimeFest panels, it’s really just a great excuse to explore one of the best cities in Britain.
8. There’s no right way to write
One of the most interesting – and comforting – things I learned from the panels I attended at CrimeFest 2017 was that every author seems to have their own process when they’re writing.
There is no one way – and certainly no right way – to write a novel.
Which is great, because that means there’s no wrong way and I can try to trust that my collection of scribbled-on scraps of paper will actually come together to form a legible story for my second book. Right?
9. All writers grapple with similar things
Speaking of my insecurities, they were helped a great deal by learning that many writers (if not all) go through similar struggles.
Themes like not knowing exactly how your story will come together in the end, or troublesome characters who stray from the path you created for them, came up time and time again at CrimeFest.
I’m just going to cling to that, because right now I have some troublesome characters who seem to be ignoring the path entirely. But at least I know I’m in good company.
10. CrimeFest is addictive
And finally, one of the biggest learnings from CrimeFest is that the festival is a LOT of fun.
I laughed a lot, I made new friends, I met Twitter friends in real life, I learned loads, and I got to explore more of Bristol.
It was a pretty epic weekend, and I’m already excited for CrimeFest 2018.
Who’s coming with me?
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