Thursday, August 29, 2013

Criminally talented author - Andrew Taylor

Several years back, I spotted a book in the then Ottakar's bookstore in Douglas and thought 'that looks mighty intriguing'. It was an historical novel called The American Boy, it was by an author I'd not heard of - Andrew Taylor - and revolved around the life of a young Edgar Allan Poe. It had a sticker on it saying it was a 'Richard & Judy Book Club choice', so I thought I'd have a dabble.

It was a fantastic read, and I followed that up with Bleeding Heart Square, set in 1930s London, which was arguably even better. When we started thinking about staging a literature festival in the Isle of Man, Andrew was one of those authors I was desperate to have visit the Island. And it didn't take us long to twist his arm - he'll be here at the end of September for Litfest 2013 and he's sure to be one of the festival's major draws.

Andrew will be holding a writing masterclass workshop on the Friday (September 27), during the day (writers, drop us a line at if you'd like to know more...), and then appearing at Peel Cathedral on the Friday night with author Barbara Erskine, where the focus will be on his historical novels.

The following night, he will be appearing at our crime writers' event (with Alan Bradley, author of the Flavia de Luce series), which will take place at the Promenade Suite in the Villa Marina.

Andrew's stock couldn't be much higher right now - fresh off winning his third Crime Writers' Association Historical Dagger Award last month for his latest novel, The Scent of Death, the book has today been announced as one of the six titles selected for the ITV3 Crime Thriller Book Club.

 Tickets will be on sale for Andrew's events very soon (and all other Litfest events, of course). To make sure you don't miss out, visit our website and sign up to our newsletter, or keep an eye on the site itself or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for reading
John Q

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Isle of Man Bank Poetry Trail...

As might be expected, it's starting to get a little busy around Litfest HQ. With the festival just over six weeks away, there's more jobs than there are pairs of hands and it's pretty full-on. But there's one task that we don't have to worry about. One that we're more than happy to leave to someone else...

After the success of last year's collaboration, the Poetry Trail around Douglas is once again being sponsored by the lovely people at Isle of Man Bank (who, let's not forget, are also kindly sponsoring our Schools Day on the Friday of Litfest). In a slight change from last year's set up, the organisers of the trail - the Isle of Man Poetry Society - decided to shake things up a little.

They ran a competition for poets to submit their work for consideration, with the best 20 poems chosen to be placed in the windows of shops, businesses and organisations around Douglas. A cracking idea we agreed. And so the closing date for entries has passed, and now it's time for the judges to deliberate and make their choices for the poems that will be go around the capital a couple of weeks before Litfest starts, remaining in place for a week once the festival is over.

The fantastic news is that the competition attracted a whopping
83 entries. Well, fantastic news for the Poetry Trail, the Poetry Society, Isle of Man Bank as sponsors and Manx Litfest. But for the judges now faced with the unenviable task of whittling those 83 down to just 20, well... good luck folks!

Seriously though, huge thanks to everyone who took the time to submit a piece, to Isle of Man Bank for its much-valued ongoing support, and of course to the judges who are giving their time for what is bound to be an incredibly difficult decision.

Good luck to all entrants - we'll have news of the chosen poems in due course.

Friday, August 9, 2013

If you like a lot of books on your shelves, join our club

A quick post tonight, as the witching hour is approaching and we're busy preparing for tomorrow - day two of the Royal Manx Agricultural Show at Knockaloe. We're with our friends from the Bridge Bookshop in Port Erin and have a stall in one of the main marquees, selling books by authors appearing at this year's festival and tickets to a few events.

The big move today was sending artwork for the first batch of Friends of Manx Litfest membership cards off to our partner printer - Bridson & Horrox - and they should be with us next week, to send out to those very kind book-loving souls who have signed up to be our Friends.

It's a cracking deal - just £15 per person per year, and for that there's a range of benefits, including discounted Litfest tickets, a 10% discount on all purchases at the Bridge Bookshop, an invite to our informal launch event on the evening of Thursday, September 27 (where you get to meet some of the authors) and two free tickets to selected Litfest events.

If you're interested in signing up, drop us a line at and we'll send you a form. Or, if you're around the Royal Show tomorrow, you can drop by and pick up/complete a form. We'll soon have the form and information about the Friends on our website.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A most welcome surprise in the post...

There are certain things guaranteed to put a smile on your face first thing in the morning. Opening some mail from the previous day and finding a cheque for £100 made payable to Manx Litfest and an accompanying note saying 'every little helps!' is right up there with the best of them.

The kind-hearted soul who sent the cheque and note asked to remain anonymous, so we can't divulge any details, but it is a most welcome donation towards the costs of putting on Litfest 2013.

Fast forward to tonight, and we're looking at the first typed up, day-by-day draft schedule for the festival weekend of September 26-29. Much of it we've already thrashed out with those involved, but there are still several aspects to be finalised and some venue issues to sort out.

There have been emails today from visiting guests with information about their flights/airports, and so our spreadsheet of authors/poets/performers continues to be filled out as each part of the festival planning slots into place.

We're also turning our eye to the schools day on the Friday of Litfest (September 27). We have a team of authors and poets ready to go out around schools (25 at last count) to deliver a host of talks, readings and workshops and we're about to launch into the job of marrying the authors and poets up with the schools. Last year most of our team visited three schools each during the day - it will most likely be a similar situation again this year.

Our other eye is well and truly focused on the Royal Manx Agricultural Show at Knockaloe this coming Friday and Saturday (August 9/10). We'll be there with our partner bookseller, Bridge Bookshop in Port Erin, and as with the Southern Show a couple of weeks ago, we'll have tickets to some events on sale and books by Litfest authors.

If you're in the west over the weekend, feel free to pop in and talk books. We'll happily indulge you.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Lingua Franca joins the Litfest sponsors' team again!

Our trip to the north of the Island on Saturday morning was to meet the lovely Franca Fritz, whose translation business Lingua Franca sponsored our talk on The Hobbit by Colin Duriez last year.

Franca was keen to support us again and we're thrilled to announce that Lingua Franca will this year be sponsoring the talk by historical author Victoria Lamb, who you may also know under her real name Jane Holland, under which she writes poetry and literary fiction.

For Victoria (pictured below) it's a return to the place she called home for many years - her mother was the prolific bestselling romance author Sheila Holland, who was best known for writing as Charlotte Lamb. The family lived at Crogga on Old Castletown Road until Sheila passed away in 2000.

Pic by Anna Rybacka
Victoria's most recent novel is Witchfall (published last month), the second in her young adult Tudor series, which picks up the story started in Witchstruck, which earlier this year was named Young Adult Romantic Novel of the Year by the Romantic Novelists' Association.
 So a huge Litfest thank you to Franca, who, alongside husband Heinrich, has translated well over 200 books - indeed she took a break from meeting a novel translation deadline to discuss Litfest over a brew. Franca has also translated for companies, museums, media outlets and sports organisations, including FIFA, UEFA and America's Cup. Among the long list of novelists she has translated for are Ethan Hawke and Faye Kellerman.

Be sure to check back here and on our website for details of Victoria's schedule over Litfest weekend (September 26-29).

Friday, August 2, 2013

A peek behind the curtain...

As of yesterday, there are just eight weeks to go until Manx Litfest 2013 rumbles into action. We've a rather cool line-up of authors and poets taking part, some visiting from across the waters, and others who live on this fair isle.   

Manx Litfest author Matt Haig
We're conscious that we've not been updating this blog anywhere near as often as we ought to be. Slapped wrists for that. Time is a factor, as is the ease of firing snippets of news and info out via social media. But not everyone bothers with Facebook and Twitter.

In order to do a Frankenstein and breathe new live into this blog, we'll be updating on a regular basis (daily, where possible) in the run-up to the festival weekend of September 26-29. We'll use this blog to provide an insight into what goes on behind the scenes as the Litfest committee collectively goes grey from stress and nails are bitten down to the quick.

Today has so far seen a meeting with an IOM-based author regarding potential for launching the print version of his novel during Litfest weekend (it's already out as an e-book), speaking with a potential sponsor (and arranging to meet them tomorrow morning) and developing an idea to give as many Isle of Man authors as possible a platform during this year's festival.

From here on in the planning does get pretty much full on. Plans have developed at a good pace over the last six months, but this is where the screws start to turn and we're conscious of deadlines looming for specific elements of the festival - programme design and sign-off, finalising travel and accommodation for our visiting writers, devising the questions for our Book Fanatics' Quiz Night, making sure there is enough PG Tips teabags at Litfest HQ (seriously, we ran out the other night. You couldn't make this stuff up).

Tonight, it's all about emails. Hundreds of the blighters to send. Well, tens at least. Tune in tomorrow for the latest Litfest shenanigans.

Now, go read a book. Everyone. Yes, that includes you.