Romantic Novelists' Association

The Inaugural Edinburgh Women’s Fiction Festival 2023: October 6-7

12 September 2023

Four women standing together with champagne to celebrate creating the Edinburgh Women's Fiction FestivalThis is the year I scheduled to self-publish The Girl Who Fled the Picture, a book which graduated from the RNA New Writer Scheme. I knew mastering all the skills to achieve this goal to a professional standard was going to be a huge challenge, so no need to make the year more complicated right? The trouble is someone approached us with a great idea and my friends and I are bad at saying no and good at getting things done!

Alison Belsham, Kristin Pedroja and I have been running Edinburgh Writers’ Forum, a monthly event offering professional development for writers, since 2019. We three are passionate believers in the importance of commercial fiction (Alison is a published crime writer and Kristin and I write contemporary and historical romance). When Jenny Colgan came to speak to our writers, she was incensed by the lack of festival opportunities for romantic fiction authors when there is so much for other genres. It is a subject close to our hearts. So, when Olivia Kekewich, the assistant manager of Edinburgh Bookshop, asked if we’d like to collaborate in setting up a romance-centred festival here in Edinburgh, we jumped at the chance. The Edinburgh Women’s Fiction Festival was conceived.

Honestly, this has not been straightforward. The administration in sorting out our charity status was daunting and don’t even ask about how long it took to get a bank account. We scoured Edinburgh until we found a suitable and accessible venue. We are determined that this will be a festival to welcome everyone. We found sponsors to cover some of our costs. Next came the most important task – to invite the authors. Olivia has all the publishing contacts, and she manages the programme. In our opinion she has totally aced it! The hardest task was having to say no to many of the authors we would have liked to have. Without external funding we have kept it small this year, only a Friday evening and all day Saturday, from 6th-7th October. We were determined from the outset to represent the breadth of fiction within the genre. That plan includes digital first authors. The festival should represent love stories of every kind. Our ambition was to have some famous names but also some debuts. Now what we need is for lots of you to come and tell your friends to come too. We’d like to make the festival bigger next year.

The team is so delighted with our event venue. A very pretty church with (padded) seating for 250, just a short bus journey or a half hour walk from central Edinburgh. It even has a dedicated room where we will offer workshops for writers at every stage of their writing career. Angela Jackson (Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year winner) will teach ‘First Steps into Commercial Fiction’. LBA agent Amanda Preston and United Agents’ Amy Mitchell will give advice on ‘The Submission Package and an Insight into Foreign Rights’. Then, Simon and Schuster’s Sara-Jade Virtue will shine a light on the industry with ‘An Introduction into the Publishing Process’.

Our social hub in McLarens on the Corner is directly opposite and will house the beautiful  author green room and our very own festival bar serving romance-themed cocktails.

Please follow the link below to see our full programme details. We have a mixture of conversations and author panels, half featuring historical fiction and half contemporary romance. Our list of participants includes writers you love already and authors you are going to fall in love with soon: Anya Bergman, Jenny Colgan, Jackie Fraser, Mike Gayle, Niamh Hargan, Catherine Hokin, Milly Johnson, Nina Kaye, Lily Lindon, Sara Sheridan, Kim Sherwood, Karen Swan, Stacey Thomas and Eva Verde.

And did we mention how fabulous Edinburgh is? If you need some inspiration for your next novel, Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world.

The organising task is far from over. We want everything to be perfect for you. Tickets are on sale now. We are gathering a small army of volunteers to help things run smoothly. The merchandise will be assembled. Lanyards, wristbands, bookmarks, tote bags. Goody bags for patrons and authors. Olivia’s next mammoth task is book ordering. All the featured authors of course, and each author has been asked to name a favourite book which will also be in the pop-up bookshop. Mine is Fingersmith by Sara Waters, Alison chose The Vintners Luck by Elizabeth Knox and Kristin has gone for Nora Ephron’s Heartburn. Olivia’s choice of her all-time favourite is The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary but she runs the website and reserves the right to fall for something new before October. We will also feature the work of Dorothy Dunnett to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of her birth with Duckworth Books. Can you imagine how exciting this bookshop will be? All the books we love in the one place.

And yes, to answer the question I posed at the beginning. Somewhere in the corner of the bookshop will be a small pile of The Girl Who Fled the Picture by Jane Anderson. By some miracle it comes out on 21st August.