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Festival Contacto

Leonor Ferrão presents her view on the Festival Contacto 2019. This text was prepared to be published in 2020, but as Festival Contacto did not occur in 2020 but will happen in 2021, it is being published now!

Last year I went to the Contacto Festival, organized by Imaginauta, as a visitor, as I came the year before and loved it. Not only it was a fun and relaxed event, with lots of activities to entertain my nerdy self, I was also surprised to be invited to a talk with a group of other fantasy writers. See, I love to write and have several completed novels, but I’ve never tried to enter the publishing world (except for some short stories here and there).

After lunch, I sat down with a group of people, both old friends, people I knew from the Internet, famous writers, and new people whose faces I’ve never seen before. We started the talk with a little presentation by each participant, which included our name and our current project. And that’s when my heart came up to my throat and started beating there.

One of the reasons I’ve never adventured myself in the world of publishing, it’s because I am embarrassed (I lack a better word) to present my stories. I feel shy, it’s not the fear of rejection or bad critique, it’s something I can’t explain. So, as everyone spoke about their experiences on writing and their on-going projects, I was amazed at what I was learning about everyone in the room, but at the same time I was shaking like crazy and had to hide my hands under my lap.

Then, something came to my mind. This is not the first time I was doing something like this, why was I afraid? Since 2009 I have been participating non-stop in the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and since 2012 I have been a Municipal Liaison, a person responsible for organizing writing events (both in person and on-line), and in those events we always share, while writing furiously and eating snacks, all about our shared passion of writing. And this was not that different, I tried to tell myself.

One thing that was also interesting in that Talk was all the writers talking about their experiences on publishing, from traditional publishing, to self-publish, with some passing through vanity publishing. This helped to have a perspective on how the publishing market is working in Portugal, as well as both the good and the bad experiences the writers had.

When my turn came, I presented my project (which was finished this year and sent to a contest). I was shaking, I was very nervous, and I think people noticed, but they were all too nice to care. I was amazed when my idea was received with compliments and interest, especially when that also came from a writer that I grew up reading. Then, we divided ourselves into groups and talked about our experiences and projects in more detail, and since it was a smaller group, I felt a bit more comfortable.

This was a small event, but it had a big impact on me. Not only do I love sharing perspectives with other writers – and I absolutely adore to hear the experiences they had –, but this was the final motivation I needed to finish my story. It might not be the best, it might not be perfect, but this small Talk was everything I really needed to write the final chapters, to make it feel again that it was worth it.

I really think that it’s important to have this kind of events where people share their experiences on writing, not only to give each other support, but to learn about the publishing market (and how to avoid traps like vanity publishers).

I know, through Instagram, that a lot of young writers are organizing this kind of events on-line, especially during the pandemic, where they gather on Zoom calls to talk and write. I’ve never participated in those calls, but I’ve been participating a lot, especially during these past months, in the NaNoWriMo community, mostly active on Discord.

In my opinion, it’s important for writers to find a community to share their love, experiences, fears and knowledge. That’s what I’ve found in the past eleven years in the NaNoWriMo community.

Stay tuned for my next article, as I will talk about this massive event and how we live it in Portugal.

By Leonor Ferrão

Leonor Ferrão was born on November 20, 1992, in Lisbon, and has a bachelor degree in Art Conservation and Restoration.

Writer and illustrator, she’s the author of the best-selling book ‘Amor à Primeira Assinatura’. Her short stories are published in several anthologies, such as ‘Talentos Fantásticos 2009’ and ‘2019 Steampunk Almanac’; some of her work is available at Fantasy & Co platform. She also illustrated books and magazines, as the anthology ‘Por Mundos Divergentes’, and ‘Lusitânia’. Leonor was also the director and co-creator of ‘Nanozine’, an independent fanzine which aimed to publish and promote Portuguese authors.

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