By Beate Boeker
The seventh Women’s Fiction Festival (WFF) took place in Matera, Italy, from Sept. 23rd to Sept. 26th, 2010. Matera is located in the south, roughly where you’d expect the Achilles heel in the boot-like shape of Italy. The meetings are held in the historical Sassi district, a town set like a honeycomb into stone, remarkable enough to be elected as an Unesco world heritage site.
“The WFF is the only international writer’s conference in the world,” says Elizabeth Jennings, founder and director of the WFF and romance writer. About eighty people from the US, the UK, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands attended the 7th WFF (for a full list of all international agents and editors present, refer to the WFF website, www.womensfictionfestival.com).
During the festival, agents pitch their customer’s manuscripts to publishers from several European countries, editors network beyond the stressed scope of the Frankfurt fair, and debut authors rub shoulders with the professionals of the industry. The presentations and panels offer information about the state of the industry in several countries, about new trends in the publishing business, and about the craft of writing. As every presentation is simultaneously translated (via headphones), you don’t need to speak Italian to profit from the WFF. For pitches, there are also interpreters at hand. If you get an agent or editor from another country interested, they ask you to get the first three chapters and the synopsis translated . . . so ultimately, you might end up selling your first novel to another country than your own.
However, to fully enjoy the evening program, a good knowledge of Italian helps. This year, the entertainment covered amongst others a Vampire play, walks through the historical city, and a staged murder solved during dinner. The focus of the WFF is on networking, and the schedule allows plenty of time for personal meetings, Italian food, and special inspiration from the many church bells. You might have to get used to the late Italian hours and somewhat erratic schedule changes (“If it rains, the fireworks will start at 7 p.m., if not, at 08.30 p.m.”), but the same flexibility also works for you if you spontaneously decide to pitch your novel to yet another agent.
In Europe, where writing conferences are as rare as watering holes in the Sahara, and where the chances to meet non-harassed editors and agents are almost zero, the WFF offers an unique opportunity to learn, to network, and to develop. Writers in Europe, if you wish to get out of your isolation, mark the date of the WFF 2011 in your calendar.
Beate Boeker has published two romance novels with Avalon Books. She is German but opted to write in English in order to make use of the excellent writer’s education opportunities in the US. Learn more about Beate at www.happybooks.de.