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Inside the mind of the Aye Write! programmer

​On the first of October each year I stand outside the front door of Glasgow’s beautiful Mitchell Library filled with a mix of excitement, anticipation and fear as I start the process of putting together the Aye Write! Programme.

As I log back into my computer and have a look at my ‘Festival Ideas’ folder, I open a couple of brand new documents – an excel spreadsheet and a word doc – and look at the hundreds of empty cells and ominously white screen!

Sometime in October, I’ll start to meet with Scottish publishers – I try to see everyone from the big players like Canongate and Birlinn who I know will have catalogues bursting with interesting authors through the mid-sized publishers such as Saraband and Luath Press who consistently impress with their lists to the smaller, more boutique publishers such at Scotland Street Press who often provide those unexpected festival jewels.

I’ll then pack my bags and laptop in November and head to London to tour the publishing houses there. Again, I’ll try to mix seeing the huge international names like Random House and Harpercollins with independent publishers like Profile, Faber and Bloomsbury ever on the lookout for an interesting and diverse range of books and authors.

By the time December brings a chill to the air, I will have had somewhere in the region of 400 authors pitched and I can then start to assemble the enormous jigsaw that is the Aye Write! programme. I have help making my selections from the Festival Manager, the team of knowledgeable Librarians at the Mitchell and the Programme Advisory Group made up of Authors, Journalists, Academics and Publishing Industry Representatives.

There is then a flurry of activity as the deadline of having the programme complete before Christmas looms large and I juggle author availability, venue diaries, publishing schedules, and budgets to build the perfectly formed programme of my dreams.

Along the way there will be celebrations and disappointments, lucky breaks and missed opportunities, literary heroes bagged and others lost (hopefully to return some other year). Anniversaries will be marked, topical news stories discussed, scientific discoveries explained and extraordinary lives celebrated. There will be prize-winning novels, bloodthirsty thrillers, evocative poetry collections and short stories that linger.

And then, it is done. Apart from, of course the last-minute additions that appear every year, just as we are going to press and the designer has to re-set the entire programme to make space with minutes to spare…

And then, it is done.

Bob McDevitt
Aye Write! Programmer

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