Seek to Truly Engage

Tuesday, April 30, 2019
By: 
Maryanne Vagg Interviewed by Christy Collins

The Festival Toolkit

CC: How long have you been involved with running literary events?

MV: I have been running literary events for more than ten years and have started and run two festivals – one for three years and the most recent, the Word for Word Non-fiction Festival in Geelong for the past five years.  I recently changed jobs to  work in a different field with a marketing focus but I am still curating and delivering panel discussions and key note presentations on topical issues.

CC: What do you most enjoy about your work?

MV: The most rewarding aspect of this kind of work is the sense that you are creating, through your programming, an opportunity for people to connect and discuss books, reading and ideas. At the end of a successful event, one of the best feelings is to watch someone turn to the person next to them – even better if they are a stranger – and strike up a conversation.  It is also a buzz to see how a program comes together on the day and you see how panellists, speakers and audiences interact when for months the program has only been alive inside your head.

CC: What are festivals looking for when they program writers?

MV: In many ways that is a difficult question to answer as festival programmers have differing aspirations and objectives depending on the theme/direction of their festival.  However I would say some of the things that every director and programmer looks for are writers who want to truly engage with their audiences (and are not just on stage hoping to sell copies of their own book).  Writers who are supportive of the festival through their own marketing channels and who take the time to understand a little of the programmers theme/ideas around the topic they are speaking to.

CC: What can writers reasonably expect to get out of participating in a writers’ festival?

MV:  A potential new audience for their work (and book sales!) An opportunity to experience how readers are interacting with their writing. A chance to meet peers and other authors from other backgrounds and levels of experience. And hopefully a good time!

CC: What do you hope participants will get out of the course?

MV: I hope the participants will walk away at the end of the day with a toolkit of information and resources to help them to further market and promote their work through festivals and literary events. From pitching to programmers to understanding what it takes to be a great facilitator, we will cover a range of topics and undertake some hands-on activities to assist participants to be the ‘best guest’ at a writers festival.

About Maryanne Vagg

Maryanne Vagg has spent more than a decade working in the public library sector in senior cultural and public programming roles both in Geelong and prior to that, with Gold Coast Libraries.  Maryanne developed and delivered Literati, the Gold Coast’s first literary festival and ran it successfully for three years prior to relocating to Geelong and working with the Geelong Regional Library Corporation, where she developed and expanded a broad range of high-profile and community responsive public programs. 

Five years ago she created Geelong’s first major literary festival, the unique Word for Word Non-fiction Festival which she programmed and directed.