Preview: Bath Festival, various venues, Bath

Reading in Bath is encouraged
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The Independent Culture

Jacqueline Wilson is one of the authors heading to Bath for the 11th annual Literary Festival. The children's novelist will discuss her latest book, Candyfloss, and her previous work. Others attending include Margaret Atwood, presenting The Tent, a collection of short stories; Barbara Trapido, Maggie Gee and Jane Gardam, who will investigate how fiction "is fed by the emotional intricacies of family and domestic relationships"; Alexander McCall Smith, discussing his detective novels; William Boyd, talking about his novel Brazzaville Beach, the festival's chosen Big Read; Joanna Trollope, discussing new novel Second Honeymoon; and Helen Oyeyemi, who wrote The Icarus Girl during her A-levels.

There are workshops on writing the first paragraph of your fiction, freelance journalism for beginners, a poetry slam contest for children, and an appearance by Aisle 16, the UK's only poetry boy band. A fiction workshop, run by Trapido, challenges the audience to write a short story in one hour. Thetheme, chosen by the festival's artistic director Sarah LeFanu, is "Home and Abroad".

"It seemed to me that our relationship with the rest of the world, in that we can no longer see ourselves in isolation, especially since the Iraq war, is reflected in contemporary writing," LeFanu says. "We also have more foreign writers coming than ever before - including the Croatian novelist Dubravka Ugresic [author of The Ministry of Pain, long-listed for this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize]."

What is a literary festival's main purpose? "People come to hear a favourite author - it brings a book alive - while writers like to meet their readers. It is a chance for them to get out from sitting in a lonely room, with nothing but a computer."

But it's often nerve-racking for writers to talk about their books, says LeFanu: "It is one thing to write a book, quite another to find yourself on a stage discussing it."

4 to 12 March (01225 463362;