The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Top 10 writers festivals around the globe — February 23, 2014

Top 10 writers festivals around the globe


What makes a great writer’s festival?

Regardless of size, location or theme, a great writer’s festival provokes discussion and debate, encourages creativity and reflection, and showcases inspiring writers and thinkers. It celebrates its local literary culture while also facilitating discussions of global importance. And most importantly, it’s fun. Here are a few of the world’s best to add to your bucket list.

1) Jaipur Literary Festival (India)

The air I breathe is filled with words – Mahasweta Devi 

The Greatest Literary Show on Earth – or so its organizers call it. And when you’re sitting in a huge tent surrounded by a very vocal audience of Indians and travellers from all around the world, it’s hard to deny that the Jaipur Literary Festival is one of the most vibrant. Founded by charismatic British author Will Dalrymple, this festival blends music and fun alongside thought-provoking and lively debate.

January each year –

2) Digital Writers’ Festival (everywhere) 

Are we live? –  Sam Twyford-Moore

Aimed at connecting emerging writers around the world to talk about their writing lives, the Digital Writers’ Festival is an innovative online event that takes place in real time via Twitter and Google Hangouts. The extensive program overcomes time zone challenges to present international discussions that are experimental, challenging and informative.

February each year –

3) The Bookworm International Literary Festival, Beijing (China) 

I’m told that laughter is the highest wisdom of the human race.  – Li Er

At once cosy and a bit chaotic, Beijing’s Bookworm bookstore hosts several exciting weeks of bilingual literary events and fascinating discussions about the Asia region. The lantern-lit on-site café is a great place to order a cup of tea (or wine) and strike up a conversation with ex-pats and Chinese students alike.

March each year –

4) PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature (USA) 

The creative act requires not only freedom but also this assumption of freedom. –  Salman Rushdie

Aligned with PEN, a social justice organisation giving voice to writers around the world who have been silenced, this impressively diverse festival is one of the most important on the global literary calendar. Each year World Voices features an impressive selection of challenging and thought-provoking events across New York City to inspire discussion, reflection and debate.

April to May each year –

5) Etonnant Voyageurs, St Malo (France) 

And this brings us back to literature’s ability to relate the world. – Michele le Bris  

Etonnant Voyageurs (‘Amazing Travellers’) has taken the idea of a festival of travel writing and stretched it to become an exploration of world literature in French. Set in a historic city on the beautiful Brittany coast, the festival of mostly-free events attracts a lively international roster and throws down some challenging sessions. It also offers exhibitions of French graphic novels, a film festival, and a huge book market. Allez!

February or March each year –

melb-writersMelbourne Writers Festival

6 ) International  Literary Festival  of  Paraty (FLIP), Brazil 

Fiction transforms memory and imagination into language – Milton Hatoum

Throughout its five-day duration FLIP holds, amazingly, over 200 events, including debates, shows, exhibitions, workshops, film screenings and school presentations. The main events are presented in unique round-table style, making it an engaging experience for writers and the audience alike. The enthusiasm of Paraty’s residents adds to the good vibes surrounding this unique festival.

July to August each year –

7) Edinburgh International Book Festival (Scotland) 

Thank you for your excellent questions. – JK Rowling

It’s hard to go past the oldest and largest literary festival in the world. Year after year, the Edinburgh International Book Festival attracts the biggest names in writing for serious literary discussions. The Festival takes place in an elegant tent city in Charlotte Square Gardens and its on-site bookstore is astounding, with separate shops for grown-ups and children.

(And a bonus festival tip: be sure to pop into the Book Fringe at Word Power bookstore, part of the Edinburgh Fringe, bringing writers and activists together for lively readings and discussions.)

August each year –

8) Book Passage Travel Writers & Photographers Conference, San Francisco (USA)   

Here’s how I lost my voice and found my vision – Don George 

Part-conference, part festival, this four-day intensive is the destination for aspiring travel writers. Chaired by legendary travel writer Don George, the weekend features talks, workshops and industry networking events. It’s an illuminating and informative weekend but most of all, as you would expect from a killer lineup of travel writers, a conference filled with good parties and remarkable stories from the road.

August each year –

9) Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (Indonesia)

Books opened the world to me. –  Ahmad Fuadi

Sunny days, balmy nights, open-air venues and lush tropical views make Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in Bali one of the world’s most appealing literary destinations. Long-table lunches and sundowner cocktail events make this festival highly sociable, and if the fun gets too much there are plenty of places to escape for a quiet swim, relaxing pedicure or a spot of peaceful yoga.

October each year –

And of course…

10) Melbourne Writers Festival (Australia)! 

Meaning lies in the magic of the coincidence that you should come across work at just the right time. – Tavi Gevinson

I’m proud to be a part of a writer’s festival that holds its own alongside the world’s biggest, best and brightest literary events. Melbourne Writers Festival is the literary festive season to Melbourne’s busy annual calendar of writing events. Whether you like your writer’s festivals to be intensely thought-provoking or wildly fun – or perhaps a both at the same time – we have you covered.

August each year –

Subscribe to The Fetch in your city for reminders about the festivals and other related events throughout the year.

About our contributor // Lisa Dempster is the Director of the Melbourne Writers Festival. She travels widely in search of literary and other adventures. Follow her on Twitter via @lisadempster.

Image credit: Melbourne Writers Festival and sloeginfizz.

How to hustle your way into conferences for free — December 27, 2013

How to hustle your way into conferences for free


Conferences can be expensive – especially if your work isn’t covering the ticket. That doesn’t mean you should miss out some of the networking and learning opportunities. In this guide, we will share our favorite hacks to attend conferences for free.


This is the most rewarding and arguably easiest way to get free entry. You get direct experience and useful connections, even at the smaller conferences. Even better: organizers, and other volunteers, can give you behind-the-scenes advice about the best speakers or private events.

The amount of time you spend helping the organizers depends on the cost of the initial ticket and whether they cover additional expenses.

You may miss out on learning opportunities though. As Thursday Bram noted:

“You may have a much harder time attending the parts of the conference you’re interested in because you may not have a lot of freedom in setting your own schedule.”

Many conferences offer online recordings of sessions for those that were unable to attend for those that don’t want to miss anything.

If you’re interested in volunteering and there’s no formal information present on the website, reach out to conference organizers directly (if you can’t find their details, check them out on LinkedIn on Twitter) and pitch them your involvement.

Borrow a badge

Writer Sarah Lacy borrowed a speaker’s badge for the Web 2.0 conference from Marc Andreessen. She wrote about it in Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good, the book she talked about at this Mixergy interview. (More tips from Mixergy here.)

We don’t advocate this technique but it can work. Many badges aren’t checked at smaller conferences, especially on the second day.

[Editor’s note: someone recently told me they even mocked up their own badge using Photoshop, which they used to successfully gain entry to a large annual conference. Obviously this isn’t ethical but it does shine light on the lengths people will go to!]


Usually, I just set up a Google Alert for the name of the conference and the phrase, “free ticket”. I seem to get most of the contests and giveaways that way. (More on 6 Ways to Attend Awesome Conferences for Free.)

This is not a guaranteed-to-work strategy but your odds are increased for smaller events or ones where the organizers are doing a lot of giveaways.

[Editor’s note: we have done ticket giveaways on The Fetch and a lot of these are been on a first-come, first-serve basis. So speediness is your friend here.]

Review for a publication

Sometimes you can get free entry if you agree to review a conference for a high profile blog or publication. It creates a win/win situation, as they get to increase their exposure and credibility. The media get preferred seats, access to the speakers one-on-one and invites to special events.

An alternative is preview the conference in the lead up to it. This is when organizers are looking to do publicity and get the word out there to pump up ticket sales. You can always interview a speaker or write about what this year’s event will hold in exchange for a pass on the day.

Become an affiliate

Many conferences have affiliate programs that will pay you a percentage of the ticket price for each ticket sold via a referral link. Technically, this isn’t a free but it can be a useful way to get reimbursed for the costs.

Offer to help before the conference

Organizers often need help in the lead-up to the conference. This is different from volunteering as it frees you up to attend all sessions and networking opportunities. We recommend contacting an organizer 2-3 months before the conference and ask if you can trade services.


Crowdfunding is when you ask your audience to cover the costs of attendance. Those that do this often promise that they will report on the conference in return for financial support. Alternately, some people host sales to raise funds.

This can be risky. It can be perceived as begging and impact on your credibility. Some conference organizers actively discourage people to raise money this way.


This one is relevant for the entrepreneurs out there… for tech- or startup-related conferences, another way to get into conferences is to demo your product. These can range from competitive pitches like Launch Festival and TechCrunch Disrupt where the winner gets funded, to gender-specific ones like Women 2.0.


Some of the social impact geared conferences, like TED, Skoll World Forum or The Feast, have fellowships that will sponsor your ticket. Make sure you check out the application processes well in advance.

The Fetch Ambassador Program

We also run a local City Ambassador Program, where we send people to report on cool events. It’s a smart way to build your personal portfolio, reach speakers and organizers, and connect with other people in the community. Click here to learn more.

About our contributor // Jade Craven is a blogger and social marketing specialist. Follow her on Twitter @jadecraven.

Image credit: Web Directions South 2012

Making the most of conferences: the rule for forming real connections — November 25, 2013

Making the most of conferences: the rule for forming real connections


I nervously grinned at the security guard, my scarf casually covering my not-VIP-enough-for-this-building conference pass. Charm was unnecessary, though; I was floating through the highly-patrolled doorway on the arm of the event’s star speaker. No one would have dared to question her. She was, and still is, my lifelong hero. I’d run into her for the first time on the sidewalk two minutes earlier. Then, just like that, she’d insisted on bringing me to her talk, one that low-level attendees weren’t invited to. It was a talk, I suspected, that might change my life. (I was right.)

Here’s the takeaway: lovely things can happen at conferences, if you’re prepared to make them happen. And doing so is deceptively simple.

The Ultimate Conference Rule: Everyone is Awesome

There are lots of rules for making the most of conferences. They often involve business cards, highlighted agendas, and a color-coded lists of objectives. And they often lose sight of a crucial point: that conferences are made of people. This human-centered focus led me to The Ultimate Conference Rule. Which is, simply, that everyone is awesome. (Don’t forget the corollary, which indicates that you are also awesome.) There are great reasons for you to know that person in front of you, even if they’re not immediately apparent. The Rule has changed my life in more ways than I can count.

How the rule works

If everyone is awesome, including you, then you have nothing to fear from hurling yourself over the sometimes-scary cliff of random new encounters, even if you’re silently yelling “Nooooo! I’m kind of an introvert!” on the way down. (Believe me, I know how that feels.) Here’s how it works: Step 1: Assume that each new person you meet, or bump into, or accidentally spill coffee on, is wonderful. You just have to figure out why. Step 2: Smile, say hi, introduce yourself, and shake their hand. Step 3: Dig in. Ask them questions. Listen. Tell them what you’re up to. Offer to help. If you know something cool about them, mention it and find out more.

The effects of the rule

Since I started approaching people based on the Rule, long before I identified it as such, the following things have happened: Jerri, who’d been on my radar for a while, coincidentally sat behind me at a Startingbloc keynote. I said “Hi! Aren’t you Jerri?” We became instant friends. We were also business partners for two years, which taught me a ton. As the lights dimmed at The Feast, I traded business cards with Danny, a super-talented designer. We turned out to have so much in common that I refer to him as my long-lost twin. After a DEMAN panel, I asked a legendary bassist and producer for his thoughts about creating a life around music. Later, he dared me to sing in front of a room full of people. Terrified, I did. We’re now working together. On the way to a talk at the Skoll World Forum, I started chatting with a kind-looking gentleman to my right on the sidewalk. He turned out to be the incredible filmmaker Taghi Amirani, who has inspired me more than he knows. And that’s just a sampling. The best part? Putting yourself out there can help others become more comfortable doing the same. My friend Sara told me that our first impromptu conversation, after a keynote, helped her get over her natural shyness and eagerly connect with new people. What if we all did that for each other at conferences?

How to make the rule easier to follow

Do your research. Read the bios. Make a note of people who already hold interest for you on paper, remember them, and be open to finding them. Be aware. Put your phone down. Look around. See who you’re naturally drawn to. Smile. A lot. Don’t get discouraged. Some people aren’t at their most awesome all the time. If you have a sub-par interaction, chalk it up to a bad day on that person’s part and don’t sweat it.

Making the rule your own

Remember my hero from the opening story? When I saw her on the sidewalk, my bumbling opening line was literally “Hi! You are my hero. Can I… um, give you a hug?” I knew enough about her to believe that she’d be receptive to that, and I also really like hugging people. That may not be your style. Although the Rule does naturally involve leaving your comfort zone, you don’t have to be a crazy extrovert to use it. You can be quiet, quippy, serious, whatever – just be unabashedly yourself, and remember that you and every other person have something to offer each other. Keep that in mind. Now, go discover the awesome.

About our contributor // Mailande Moran is a musician, writer, and media consultant. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and hear her music on Facebook.

Image credit

%d bloggers like this: