The Open Book Festival 2023 takes place from 8 to 10 September and the chock-full programme is diverse, interesting, exciting, and original. This book festival is a highlight of the year, and has grown and evolved since its inception in 2011. MEGAN CHORITZ asked organiser Frankie Murrey (pictured left) some Open Book Festival-related questions, as well as one or two about her own book Everybody Dies, which will be released at the same time as the festival.
The OBF is your teenage baby. When do you start planning for each one, and what are the most challenging things to get right?
Planning for each event starts almost immediately. Post-festival we speak to partners, sponsors and participants to get feedback that can allow us to make improvements to what we do going forward. Following that we start collecting publishing lists and requesting content to get the reading process started.
The OBF has a lot of moving parts to it’s tricky to single out one thing that’s most challenging to get right. It’s really tough making the decisions about who to include, and getting through all the reading is a challenge.
How long ago did you put on your writer’s hat?
I’ve always written, but it was towards the end of 2022 that I signed a contract with Karavan Press. It’s an ongoing surprise to me that I am on this road.
What is the best part of the OBF for you?
Shoo – to choose one is hard.
I love the work that goes into making the programme. The moment when you are holding all of the reading you have done in your mind and you can feel potential conversations happening between the different books.
And then I think a close second is when the festival is actually happening and I see people coming out of events with the power of what they have heard reflected on their faces.
Has your opinion of authors changed since putting your own book of short stories together?
Hmmm. I’m not sure. I’ve always had masses of respect for the work writers – or any creative worker – do. So much of that work allows us to understand the world we find ourselves in, gives us the language to speak about what we experience.
I think I do have a clearer idea of the publishing process now – although mine has been incredibly easy and I’ve been supported every step of the way.
What are you reading at the moment, if you have a single moment to read?
I honestly don’t have time to read right now. The last book I read was either Craig Higginson’s The Ghost of Sam Webster or Nadia Kamies Off Centre and Out of Focus. Both highly recommended.
How do you come up with the themes/panels/participants for the conversations at the OBF?
As we get further and further into the reading of books, different themes start to emerge. And also the creation of events doesn’t take place in a bubble – we are impacted by what is happening in the world around us, and so there are themes that are part of the festival every year.
What are you particularly looking forward to this OBF 2023?
We’re trying a few new things this year so I’m excited to see how people enjoy them – we’re doing a quiz, two self-published author slots and a screening. I’m also really looking forward to reconnecting with some of the people who I only ever see at the festival – writers and audience members.
Tell us what we can expect from your collection of short stories. What are some of the themes, genres, influences. When is it available?
So it’s hard to even call the pieces stories. In some cases they are, but in others it feels more like a gathering of fragments. It’s called Everyone Dies so that is one common theme. The people contained in the book generally feel a sense of disconnection, both from themselves and the world. It’ll be out in time for the Open Book Festival 2023.
What is a memory that sticks from past OBFs?
Another tricky question. I don’t get a chance to attend many sessions during the festival, so most of my memories are of rounding people up for sound check, or running around during an event trying to fix something. One stand-out moment was a fair number of years ago when a video clip was played during an event. The video part played fine, but our frequency for the sound file was hijacked by the church service upstairs resulting in the audience hearing the preacher instead of the sound from the video.
If you can, please give us a tiny teaser, a paragraph or quote from your upcoming book.
This is the bit that will be on the back cover:
“Late at night, I count down from the scar in my memory to where I am now, to where I will one day be. Four months today. In another six years and eight months, no part of you will have touched any part of me. And then I think, I will be fully recovered. Re-covered. Sometimes while I count, I cry. Very briefly. It means nothing.”
What: Open Book Festival 2023
Where and when: The Homecoming Centre from 8 to 10 September 2023