26 Jun Meet Kate McCormick
Kate McCormick is a former technical writer and manufacturing consultant in the international pharmaceutical industry who ‘gave up the day job’ to write full time, when she isn’t gardening, enjoying the sunshine or spending far too much time on Facebook or Twitter. Writing under the pen name of Elizabeth Ducie, she has published four novels and three collections of short stories. She is also the author of The Business of Writing, a series of books aimed at equipping self-employed writers with the simple tools they need to run their business effectively. She also presents workshops and coaches on the same subject. She took over as Festival Director at the beginning of 2020.
How did you become involved in the Exeter Literary Festival?
As a member of Exeter Writers, I have been aware of ExeLitFest since Cathie Hartigan got involved in the first one. That year, there was a whole day of writer-focussed workshops at the Barnfield Theatre on the last day. I presented a session on Planning and Setting Objectives, from The Business of Writing; and also looked after the Exeter Writers book stall. I also sat in on some of the other sessions, as a member of the audience.
Early in 2019, I was asked if I would help with the fund-raising for the festival. I’d had a bit of experience with that already, and was happy to get involved. As a member of the Steering Group, I was able to see all aspects of organising a major festival, and found the whole process fascinating.
This year, I agreed to take on the role of Festival Director. It is essentially an administrative position, rather than programme related, and one for which I am probably well-suited. Working in the pharmaceutical industry, plus having run my own small business since the early 1990s, I’ve always been involved in administration and paperwork; I’m never happier than when I’m delving into a spreadsheet! As the Festival grows, we are looking at formalising our structure and applying for CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation) status.
You were no stranger to the local literary events though, were you?
I am a founder member of Chudleigh Writers’ Circle and between 2011 and 2019, we ran a one-day Literary Festival as part of the town’s Summer Spectacular, Chudfest. Traditionally, the day was aimed at writers, which workshops and networking events; while the evening was aimed at all readers, with guest speakers. My proudest moment was getting 140 people in a marquee, listening to Kate Adie on the same night that England played (and lost to) Croatia in the semi-final of the World Cup in 2016. But this was a much smaller event than ExeLitFest and we didn’t have to worry about venues, catering etc as that was all provided by the festival organisers. Moving from Chudleigh Literary Festival to ExeLitFest feels like a very big step upwards; but certainly, that’s where my interest in organising literary events started from.
I think these events are important both for writers and for readers. They are a great way for readers to get to meet and chat with their favourite authors, or to learn about books they’d not tried before. And when it comes to non-fiction, it’s also a way for people who are not necessarily readers, but are interested in the subject, to get up to date information. And for writers, they are a way to meet current and potential readers. Few authors make a living from their books alone, and speaking engagements are one of the ways many of them make up their income.
What are you reading at the moment?
I have to say I much prefer fiction to non-fiction. I read mainly in the genres of fantasy, thrillers and crime. I have recently been reading a lot of contemporary crime novels: Damien Boyd, AA Dhand, and Angela Marsons. I am about to switch from writing thrillers set in the international pharmaceutical industry to cosy crime set in Devon, so have just read the whole of the DI Greene series by Faith Martin. But at the moment, I am reading the Shardlake series by C J Sansom. I read the first years ago, but never got around to reading the rest. I’m currently on Dark Fire and am loving the mix of history and crime. It’s amazing how some aspects resonate even today.
When it comes to writing, you’re a great believer in independent publishing…
I’m a fierce defender of indie publishing. I published my first book, my Doctoral Thesis, back in 1978. Since 2011, I have been publishing my own books, and an occasional one for other people, via my own imprint, Chudleigh Phoenix Publications. I’ve taught myself how to produce books that are to the same standard as a traditionally-published one; that’s a pre-requisite for successful indie publication. I’ve made some mistakes along the way; but I’ve learned from them. And last year, I put all those lessons together in The Business of Writing Part 4 Independent Publishing. None of this stuff is particularly difficult – once you know how to do it. My aim is to help other indies be successful as quickly as possible, as painlessly as possible.
The Business of Writing Part 4 – Independent Publishing is available here.