By Camille Mofidi
An international gathering of women writers, a stunning city in Basilicata and fabulous Italian food—what’s not to love about the Women’s Fiction Festival?
Camille here with your European perspective, reporting on our most recent author event! At the end of September, my colleague Sandra Lonchamp and I attended the XIVth edition of the Women’s Fiction Festival in Italy.
What is the Woman’s Fiction Festival?
This is a conference for authors, Italian as well as international. All presentations and discussion panels are simultaneously translated in English and Italian, as speakers come from all over the world: Italy, the UK, Germany, Austria, France, Canada, and the USA, among many other countries. This literary festival is a unique conference in Europe dedicated to women’s fiction, with a four-day program for authors to learn more about the craft of writing fiction; the book market; the new landscape of both traditional and self-publishing. And it takes place in the gorgeous Sassi di Matera, a Unesco World Heritage site and European Capital of Culture in 2019.
Over four days various panels showcased Italian and international agents, publishers, authors and industry experts. Topics were as diverse as one could imagine, and included women’s fiction in France and in Germany, mergers in Italian publishing, self-publishing in Europe and audiobooks. The afternoons were dedicated to 1:1 sessions in the “Ask a Pro” corner where authors could book meetings with agents, screenwriters and industry experts (ebook, audiobook, self-publishing). Authors had some great question, focusing mainly on promotion with Kobo, the Walmart-Kobo partnership, and audiobooks.
Orna Ross from the Alliance of Independent Authors (UK) gave a truly inspiring talk, stating that now is the absolute best time to be a writer in the digital world, as the curating power of the publishers is diminishing, and book publishing is now much more democratic. She described 7 steps for self-publishing a book—editing, cover, design, formatting, distribution, marketing and promotion, and urged authors to strive for excellence in their journies towards independence.
Right after this engaging talk, the Digital Rising panel—where I was sitting, along with literary agent Silvia Meucci, St Martin’s Editorial Director Monique Patterson and Storytel’s Marco Ragaini—discussed the impact of new technologies in writing and publishing. Audiobooks were the hot topic for all publishers, agents and retailers. The key discussion of this panel was the comparison with ebooks and the question of which genres performed best in each format in Europe. Spoiler alert: nonfiction’s got a new chance with audiobooks!
Translation was also widely discussed as several translators and interpreters were present. A panel dedicated to this theme gathered author and translator Beatrice Masini; Bompiani publishing director and translator Lori Hetherington; Athina Papa from Language+ Literary Translations and myself. We discussed how literary translation differs from technical translation. It is far more creative—a literary translator’s job is rendering what authors had on their minds in their own language. Requirements for effective translation were also addressed, and each translator described their how their respective organizations worked.
Kobo Writing Life ran an Open Pitch session during the festival. Authors were invited to send their synopses in advance if they wanted to pitch it to our jury in order to win a promotion for their manuscript to be published on the platform. Fifteen authors participated in this event, with very promising manuscripts. After some long discussion, the jury decided to grant the award to Patrizia Bianco for her historical novel set in Matera—a story of Italian immigration to Ukraine during Communism in the 60s. We also decided to give a special prize to the youngest author attending the Festival, Martina Ricci, a 14-year-old author who pitched her fantasy trilogy with incredible enthusiasm and maturity.
Another highlight was meeting Lynne Kutsukake, author of The Translation of Love, Kobo Emerging Writer Prize 2017 and Canada-Japan Literary Awards winner. She was finishing a book tour organized by her Italian publisher and her tour was finishing with a talk in Matera. The Translation of Love is a vibrant book about the American occupation in Japan after WWII. Lynne Kutsukake’s talk was so inspiring that authors in the audience waited in a long line to meet her and have her book signed.
Last but not least, Sandra hosted a fantastic discussion panel with authors Cecile Bertod and Raffaela Poggi, and literary agent Maria Paola Romeo, about an endlessly fascinating topic: The secret to becoming a successful author: sales and marketing.
As two of the savviest romance authors in Italy, Cecil Bertod and Raffaela Poggi shared some great advice on how they promote their books to Italian readers. Both are very active on their author websites and on social media and are great examples of what Orna Ross had earlier described as authors with a self-publishing mindset.
I could not end this post without mentioning food since—to my humble palate—Italy has the finest cuisine in the world! The festival’s organizers made sure to entertain their participants during our stay in Matera. For the record, Sandra and I tried our best to make orecchiette, the ear-shaped pasta by Italian nonnas who press their thumbs into the dough to hand shape each individually. Spoiler alert: we failed at producing nicely-shaped orecchiette, but we were lucky enough to taste some of the best ones in a typical southern dish with rapini. You should definitely try these if you happen to attend WFF in Matera next year!
And the obligatory “after”: Orecchiette con le cime di rapa, a must-have in southern Italy.
Alla prossima, Matera! See you next year!
Camille Mofidi runs the Kobo Writing Life team in Europe. Whether it’s answering author questions about the dashboard, or helping authors promote their books, Camille and Sandra are there to help authors make their publishing journey a success.
She has an MA in publishing from ESCP in Paris and her favourite book is Romain Gary’s La Promesse de l’Aube.
She loves the variety of working with Kobo: from communication to editorial activities, data analysis to project management and meeting with authors and speaking at conferences—it’s everything a book nerd could dream of!