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Meet Karen Huxtable

Meet Karen Huxtable

As Senior Supervisor at Exeter Library, Karen Huxtable, has not just been involved with hosting events for the last two Exeter Literary Festivals, but was all ready for the library to be one of the main venues for 2020. With the library closed to the public at present and plans for the Festival scaling back from a full event this year, she remains very positive about what the future holds.

Karen, you are no stranger to organising events.

I was part of the committee for the Exetreme Imagination writing festival for Children in Exeter for several years. I also organise the programme of events including author talks, live screenings and children’s events at Exeter Library, including art, theatre and technology with FabLab Devon.

Working for Libraries Unlimited during the lockdown has been inspiring, to see how staff have adjusted to working from home and providing online resources. This includes our popular author events, story times and Bounce and Rhymes, together with new ideas. I think that the Exeter Literary Festival may look different than it has. But we may reach a wider audience if we do use digital technology as other festivals are doing.

I know I should be talking to you about ExeLitFest, but with the library in mind as well, what are the secrets of putting together a good programme?

I use our Devon Libraries marketing calendar to pick out the key events throughout the year like The Summer Reading Challenge, Fun Palaces and Libraries Week. We also work with partners such as Exeter City Council, Theatre Alibi and other arts organisations in the city. Crime fiction is very popular and we spoke to several publishers to put a panel together last year at the festival. It was a mix of established and debut authors. Also, with children’s event we look at popular authors and who we think will appeal to a wide audience. I also get approached by publishers to put on events; this year we had Jill Mansell and friends. We try to have something for everyone; we have a very diverse audience.

You’ve already alluded to it, and I suspect I can guess your personal highlight of ExeLitFest last year…

Interviewing my first author panel! It was a crime panel with Martin Waites, C.L Taylor, Clare Empson and Katerina Diamond. It was such fun!

Festivals are a great opportunity to listen to authors talk about their writing, life and also their books. I have picked up so many tips over the years and there are so many to choose from. There’s something for everyone not matter what you are interested in.

I went to the Greenway Festival last year at Greenway house and this was lovely, a great setting. I went to see Sophie Hannah talking about Agatha Christie which was really special at Agatha Christie’s home.

It’s not just the events though, you also blog about what you read and recommend – what are you recommending at the moment?

I have been reading Like a House on Fire by Caroline Hulse for my blog. Two other titles I would recommend during the lockdown are The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and, because I love cookbooks, I have been enjoying The Quick Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer.

Really I want to recommend that Devon readers take full advantage of the services that the libraries have to offer. You can use our Facebook page and our Twitter to see what we are doing in the lockdown. The online services include links to ebooks and audiobooks that you can borrow for free with a Devon Libraries card – you can even download them to an app on your phone. The website tells you how you can apply for a library card online.

For more information, visit the Devon Libraries website.