Literary Lover’s Lockdown Lowdown

By Megan Thomas

I’d like to start off by apologising for that alliteration-attack – a previous editor had to provide an alliteration limit on my submissions, because, well, four is quite a lot, admittedly (there was also a ban on the words “hotspot” and “iconic”, because it was a travel-writing gig and just about every other landmark was an iconic hotspot). Times are weird and germ-y right now, and everyone has been dealing with things slightly differently, although hopefully with the general mantra of “stay the fuck at home”. I’m not going to offer my opinion on any of it, because I’m relatively sick of non-expert opinions on the matter, to be perfectly frank. 

Instead, I’m going to give you some literary recommendations to ensure you don’t murder your co-habitors in their sleep or spike their drinks with hand-sanitiser (just kidding, strictly no wasting allowed). 

  1. Attend Online Literary Events 

Literary events and festivals are a massive part of author, publisher and bookseller revenue – and the next few months were meant to be bubbling over with booky activities, including a plethora of launches, London Book Fair (and the associated London Book and Screen Week and the CAMEO Awards),  as well as the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which I blogged about last year. 

However, a number of online alternatives have been taking place, from live Instagram interviews to full-blown online festivals. I’m currently working on the Lockdown LitFest, which is made up of a pro bono team all working to support authors during this time of uncertainty. And, of course, giving everyone something to do at home! 

We’ve just published an interview with crime-superstar Peter James, who I haven’t actually read because my dreams are stressful enough without bringing crime novels into the mix, but I won’t pretend I’m not tempted after listening to him speak so enthusiastically and openly about his work. There’s so much more to come, including an interview with Afra Atiq, who I had intended to see at The London Book Fair, and you can stay informed by subscribing to the newsletter. 

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  1. Create – apply for grants, submit your writing

Lockdown is really tapping into everyone’s creativity, and once the banana bread phase passes I suspect we are all about two days away from finger-painting and making paper mache animals from empty baked bean cans (everyone did that as children, right? My mom threw away the pink elephant I so graciously made as a pen-holder recently and it’s a bit of a sore spot). This is also the prime time to be really investing in your creative side-hustle – whether it is writing a novel, developing an online platform, or illustrating a children’s book.

The Print Future’s Award is an absolutely wonderful initiative run by The Printing Charity, which offers up to £1500 to people looking to either start or develop their career in the print industry. I was so fortunate to be one of the recipients in 2018, and I cannot recommend the entire organisation strongly enough. They were meant to be closing applications in February, but they have decided to stay open due to the circumstances and are encouraging people to approach the grant as a means to participate in remote learning, online courses, etc. to upskill before things start to gradually return to “normal”. 

There are a number of really wonderful publications that are still accepting writing, and this is a great time to do some writing as well as sending it into the world. Personally, I have submitted and been published by Palm Sized Press – an indie flash fiction publisher who makes really beautifully illustrated anthologies. They also pay for your contribution. They have monthly prompts on their website, if you just want to write without submission, and the printed books feature listings of publications who accept submissions, what they pay and where to find them. 

  1. Read – obviously 

If you haven’t picked it up – this blog is all about book reviews and literary recommendations. So, I would heartily recommend that you use this time to read whatever you enjoy – this is no time to be forcing yourself to read things you don’t like because it seems like the only time you’re likely to do it. If you would like a recommendation, why not look through the “LOOKING FOR SOMETHING SPECIFIC?” section of this page – it categorises what I’ve read and reviewed into general fiction, poetry or nonfiction, as well as narrowing it down to memoirs or feminism.

Here are some gems:

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