Photo of Ailsa Piper by Nicholas Coghlan (@nickcog)

Ailsa Piper's Guide to the Festival

Masterly memoirist, epistolist, moderator and friend of the festival, Ailsa Piper, reveals how to get the most out of this year's MWF. You can catch Ailsa as she interviews Michael Cunninghamand moderates what promises to be a marvellous discussion with Lauren Groff and Charlotte Wood.

Look, I've been sweating over trying to nominate the three sessions that are my top picks for this year's festival, but it's actually way too hard. I don't want to answer with a glib grab, because I genuinely have clashing 'favorites' in almost every time-slot. So instead, I'm going to write down the three things I'm telling myself as I try to narrow the options.

  1. You do so have the capacity to go to continuous sessions through the day - yes you do, because you can sleep and digest after the festival! - and you absolutely will not regret the energy expended or the financial outlay. The cumulative effect, and the way the sessions inform each other (and your own writing) will add up to way more than the sum of parts, and will resonate for months back at the desk.

  2. Throw in surprises. Don't only go for familiar writers, or favourites. That's too easy. You whine about being in the same echo-chamber on social media, so choose to have yourself shaken up by brilliant minds that have done the long work of scholarship, or who have crafted work from their lived experience - and expose yourself to ideas that might be challenging.

  3. Get along to the night of Ghost Stories! This one is a no-brainer. You can stay awake for it, even if you've been going all day. Just go – and allow yourself to be shivery and entertained and spooked and woken up to the world. Then go and howl at the moon as you walk home through a soft autumn night.

Throw in surprises. Don't only go for familiar writers, or favourites. That's too easy.