(AND Another Library Talk)
Well, it’s in the window of the Sutton Coldfield branch. What an honour to be rubbing elbows with Nick Hornby, Maeve Binchy and Colm Toibin’s Booker-shortlisted novel, Brooklyn, a novel I thoroughly enjoyed.
As in so many occasions in life, luck plays a major role: Brooklyn is one of those beautifully written miniatures which convey deep emotions with the lightest touch, but alas for Toibin, that year it happened that he was up against the vast and colourful canvas of Hilary Mantel’s magnificent Wolf Hall.
My most recent gift of luck was when I found out about the new publisher, Transita at just the right time in their short history. A few months later, and it would have been too late for The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society, so I’ll always be grateful to them for their quixotic venture into the cut-throat world of publishing.
I can usually recognise and welcome good fortune when it knocks on my door – the real challenge though, is managing to remain satisfied with what can quickly be regarded as merely the first instalment , in line with the adage, ‘Much wants More.’
My real test came with the runaway success of the novel with an even more quirky title than mine: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. I was reluctant to read it, as I often find that novels which have received a huge amount of hype turn out to be a disappointment. In fact, I did enjoy it, but I felt that it didn’t quite live up to all its rave reviews. Praises that were heaped on that book, matched many of those in reviews of my own novel, and I struggled to ignore the whispers of the green eyed monster – why should Marina Lewycka have received the full lorry load of luck?
When I realised that she was the object of an interview on Radio 4, I was quite prepared to dislike her, but she seemed to have had the same struggles towards publication as I did, and came across as such a nice woman, and was so genuinely enjoying her good fortune that all my resentments evaporated, and I was able to feel happy for her.
OK, so I haven’t been able to give up my day job, but there have been numerous pleasures in becoming a ‘published novelist’ that I am still enjoying. One of the best of these is being invited to visit reading and/or writing groups to talk about my books. Last Friday I was at Weoley Castle Library in a cosy meeting room with every chair taken and a beautiful, working ‘blind’ dog at the feet of its young owner. As usual, I probably talked too much and didn’t give enough time for questions, but everyone (except the golden retriever) seemed to be interested, and several bought copies of both my books, after one had announced that Paper Lanterns
would make a good Christmas present.
What a clever idea – it would make a great Christmas present and a warming good read in this icy weather!! Maybe I’ll produce a Christmas postcard from this photo - it looks suitably festive. If anyone wants to order a copy of Paper Lanterns (or The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society) from this site before 24th December, I’d be happy to enclose a card with it. Just let me know, via the ‘Contact Me’ page above.
BY THE WAY - CLARISSA’S INTERVIEW, featuring my tiny contribution, (see the post below for more info) WILL BE SHOWN AT 10.00 IN THE MORNING ON SUNDAY 5TH DECEMBER.
(The first programme of the series starts tomorrow and features June Brown (Dot from Eastenders)
No, not that one! – though there might be some connection between the TV programme my children used to love, and this weekend’s event at Jury’s Hotel in Swindon.
I drove down yesterday morning in welcome sunshine and managed to follow the directions I was given, supplemented by the time I spent on Google Maps trying to make sure if I did happen to find my way through this unfamiliar town to something called The Magic Roundabout , I wouldn’t spend the rest of the day circling round and round, trying to decide which exit to take.
I admit, it’s a very tenuous link, but this photo of the piles of random books at the Bookcrossing Unconvention evokes the constant movement of books as they themselves go round and round, from place to place and hand to hand. If you haven’t yet discovered the amazing world of Bookcrossers, >click here!
My invitation to attend the Unconvention as one of the author-speakers happened in a roundabout way. It started with my Cover Design Challenge.(Here’s the final one of 6 posts in this category) Each of the 150 entrants received an email acknowledgement from me, often with a comment about their choice of cover. I discovered that one of these came from Holland, a country which I feel an affinity with, as I am one-eighth Dutch myself.
When I found that Isabella was a Bookcrosser and was organising the international Convention in Amsterdam this year, I sent her a copy of Paper Lanterns, hoping that it would then be sent out on a journey to other Bookcrossers.
That wasn’t the end of it. I was delighted to get an email from Isabella, asking if I would consider giving an author talk. As a Bookcrosser myself, I receive the on-line newsletter and was aware of the event, but I certainly wouldn’t have put myself forward, so it was really nice to be invited.(Although I’m not (yet) an active member, I do have a Bookcrosser name: Paraglider)
Bookcrossers are friendly and welcoming people, and it was lovely to see so many familiar faces. I was also pleased to see my fellow ex-Transita author, Adrienne Dines, though it was a pity that I arrived too late to hear her speech – as well as being a superb writer,she also has a well-deserved reputation as a highly entertaining speaker.
On the subject of entertaining speakers, an extra bonus of that event for me was the author-talk by Jasper Fforde, which was made even livelier by the presence in the audience of so many enthusiastic readers of his novels. I really liked the way he explained his approach to writing – deliberate subversion of the expected, and his preference for ‘the path less taken’.
There was no photo of Jasper on his website, but though I found this one via Google, I have to say it doesn’t do him justice. From the what he has said about his books, I guess he’d happy to be represented by this dodo on a scooter from the cover of ‘The Eyre Affair’, the first of a series featuring Thursday Next.
I’ll take his advice and not try to describe what it’s about, and just say, ‘Read it.’
It was a shame that he hadn’t bought any copes of his books, as I’d definitely been tempted to buy one on the spot.
Come to think of it – a Dodo on a scooter wouldn’t have looked out of place on the original Magic Roundabout.
I love the act of writing fiction and poetry, but can never be quite sure which of the two I enjoy most, as they each have their own rewards and frustrations. One of the unexpected pleasures of becoming a published novelist is the way that it’s led me to giving occasional talks to readers and other writers about my own writing experiences, and being invited to attend other ‘writerly’ events.
Event Number One was at Selly Oak Library, as you can see from this picture.
I’d just given a talk about my writing, an enjoyable way of spending a Monday morning.
For those of you who don’t know Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield (my home) is in the far north of edge of the city,
while Selly Oak is ten miles away on the south side.
On Wednesday evening, it was back to Selly Oak again, this time giving a talk to 30 members of Open Circle, a Ladies Group who meet once a month at the Methodist hall – an attentive and generous audience. In my previous post I wrote about my visit to Castle Vale, where I met a flourishing Reading Group, most of whom had recently read my first published novel, The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society, and it was wonderful to have an opportunity to hear their comments about the characters and the story-line and to answer their questions.
Meeting a new group of people who know nothing about me and my writing is equally rewarding – especially when I know that 75-year old Agnes Borrowdale, and all the other characters from that first novel, will be introduced to a new set of readers. It’s nearly five years since that book was published and I find it strange how I can still be so attached to these invented characters, especially as I now have the cast of Paper Lanterns alive in my head.
I’m lucky enough to still find interest and enjoyment in my job with Adult Education after nearly 30 years, and I’m sure that this is partly because of my career as a writer. As I’ve explained above, it’s not only the writing itself, but also what I call ‘writerly stuff’. Starting Novel Press, my own publishing venture, is a recent addition to those activities, and on Friday afternoon I’d been invited to attend a meeting for local publishers, organised by Jonathan Davidson of Writing West Midlands, at The Custard Factory.
I often feel that I don’t merit the title of ‘publisher’, since mine is still the only product of Novel Press, so I find it very encouraging when Jonathan and other experienced people ‘in the know’ take my publishing venture seriously. Alan Mahar of Tindal Street Press reminded me that when they started up ten years ago, the lottery funding for the arts was in a much better state than in this difficult financial climate. So maybe I should feel at least a little bit proud of what I’ve accomplished so far.
That was a nice feeling to take away with me on my journey down to Sussex for the weekend. I felt particularly lucky to be there on Saturday, enjoying a quiet morning in brilliant sunshine with my mother, strolling up a country lane to an ancient church which I’d hadn’t been near for decades! Click here to read more about the history of this building, and why the windows appear to have no glass!
One of my sisters lives nearby and she encouraged me to go to Seaford in the afternoon, our nearest beach.
It was almost hot in the sunshine and out of the sharp wind, but even in the shelter of the wall it wasn’t nearly warm enough
for me to venture into the sea – my sister is more hardy than I am, as you can see from this picture.
The brilliant white of the cliffs behind the beach and the bright blue green of the sea
almost convinced me that summer was still with us, but the wind gave a different message.
This might not have been her last swim of the season,
but for me it definitely seemed like the last day of summer.
I had a wonderful morning last Thursday, talking to a lively group of enthusiastic readers. I never know quite what to expect when visiting different reading and writing groups, though one thing I can be pretty sure of is that it won’t be boring. Not for me, anyway!
Giving talks about my writing is second only to the pleasure I have when I’m at my desk creating characters in a novel, or finding the words to express my thoughts and feelings in a poem. This has been one of the unexpected benefits of finding a publisher for The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society nearly five years ago (October 2005). I’d already had a small collection of poems published (Single Travellers, Flarestack, 2004) but I was amazed by the difference in people’s reactions when they heard I was now a published novelist. Suddenly, I was being invited to give talks to reading and writing groups and a range of other organisations - I’m still receiving requests for these types of events.
I feel so lucky!
Thursday’s visit was particularly enjoyable for me, as most of the group had only recently read the Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society and were keen to give me their comments and ask me questions. It was wonderful to know that this novel is still being appreciated by readers, especially those who know and love Birmingham, and liked the positive image of the Brummies in the book. Here’s a link to Sheila Arthur’s reviews of the book and her reflections on the event on the Active Arts website, and her own blog.
After introducing the ideas behind my new novel, Paper Lanterns, I read a few extracts, which gives me the opportunity to present the voices of different characters, something that I love doing. It reminds me of how I felt when I was part of the poetry ensemble, Late Shift, reciting in front of audiences at Literary Festivals across the country – a skill that I acquired to my great delight, in my early fifties, after experiencing painful self-consciousness in front of groups of strangers for most of my early life. What a gift that was – as you can see in : “ How I didn’t get Stage-Fright “
I always have a box of my books in the boot of my car – not because I have any expectations that people will want to buy a copy of one or other of my novels, but as part of my ‘Just-in-Case’ approach to life. So I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who were happy to hand me some cash in exchange for a copy of Paper Lanterns. There was even a huge display board with information about me and my books, and including a copy of the Sunday Mercury article about the Chinese letters. Thank you for arranging this display, Lesley!
Funnily enough, when I browsed the headlines from the daily on-line Bookseller, I came across a link to an encouraging article that seemed particularly relevant to me in my guise as Novel Press: Re-inventing Book Marketing, by Dave Weich, who tells his readers,
“In the next ten years, book marketing will radically reinvent itself.”
And guess what? His closing paragraph states,
“Word-of-mouth will always drive book sales…”
I was pondering the impact of place names yesterday afternoon as I drove down the M5 to Worcester for a writers’ networking event, organised by Jonathan Davidson, Chief Executive of Writing West Midlands. When I first moved to Sutton Coldfield with my family, more than thirty years ago, the county of our address was Warwickshire, a name with a rural and picturesque ring to it, but soon after that, it was changed to West Midlands, which conjures up a distinctly urban and industrial landscape.
It was only quite recently that I fully realised that the term, ‘West Midlands’ has two meanings:
(1) the West Midlands metropolitan county,
(2) The West Midlands region which encompasses many rural shires, from Staffordshire to Herefordshire.
A meeting room had been booked in The Guesten (a beautifully restored Queen Anne House) in the grounds of Worcester Cathedral – a lovely setting. Jonathan introduced the proceedings by asking everyone to give a brief account of themselves as writers. I felt very privileged to have been invited to give a short presentation about my own writing and my publishing experiences to the 20 or more other writers present, many of whom were published authors and poets with decades of experience themselves.
After a brief welcome by Peter Spalton, who had helped organise the event, I was interested to learn more about Apples and Snakes, a national organisation which promotes the spoken word and describes itself as Poetry with Bite.
The presenter was Bohdan Piasecki, Programme Coordinator for the West Midlands, based at The Drum, in Birmingham. For me, the highlight of the afternoon was Bohdan’s response to a request for a demonstration of ‘performance poetry’ by delivering a poem of his own.
After a short pause, he announced that he’d try out a brand new piece that hadn’t yet been tested. It was brilliant. The silence that followed his performance spoke volumes – it took me a while to step out of the space he’d created, back into the reality of the present. My only complaint is that I haven’t got a paper version, or better still, a video clip, so that I can see and hear it over again.
As for my own talk, I enjoyed myself enormously. Somehow, when I’m addressing an audience of writers, I come away with renewed energy, and today was no exception. Talking to a group of readers produces a similar effect, but there’s something about sharing the experience with other writers that gives me an extra boost, especially when I’m explaining how and why I started Novel Press.
Yesterday’s event made me focus on my achievement in transforming a manuscript into hundreds of copies of a beautiful and totally professional paperback book, a good proportion of which have already been sold – and are still steadily making their way across the UK and around the world. Who knows what the future will hold for Novel Press?
So what’s the connection between Rhubarb Crumble and getting published? The first clue is: The Custard Factory. I guess that won’t help much unless you’re familiar with Birmingham’s revolutionary new arts and media quarter, opposite the Coach Station in Digbeth.
For me, the relevance of that former factory building, is the fact that it’s the home of Radio Rhubarb – of which the jewel in its crown is The Crumble, a weekly broadcast presented by the multi-talented Jan Watts
I was delighted when she invited me to be interviewed on The Crumble. She’d already emailed me the link to her programme so I knew she’s a highly competent and enthusiastic presenter.
The last time I visited the Custard Factory was several years ago (It was when I handed over the complete manuscript of The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society to Luke Brown of Tindall Street Press – although they eventually rejected that novel, it was through them, in a roundabout way, that I found a different publisher.
Yesterday, as I approached the entrance to the Custard Factory, the narrow street seemed even more colourful than before, and I don’t remember ever having seen this amazing sculpture of a giant Green Man. (You can get an impression of the scale from the man at the bottom of this picture, on the left of the green wall.)
Here’s Jan in the studio (affectionately called The Fish Bowl – as you can see from the photo above) with Kip, the calm and very efficient producer.
After an amusing pre-recorded poem about Ants (or Aunts), I was fascinated to hear Steve Ball,
Associate Director (Learning & Participation) of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, talking to Jan about his work, which he describes as “the best job in Birmingham” and he made it sound as though that could be true.
You can listen to Steve and the rest of hour-long programme by following the link. If you can’t spare a whole hour, you can click the right-hand arrow below the bar, until the orange strip is about an inch along (just above the ‘r’ in ‘player’ in the sentence: ‘Open in popout player’.) Here,
you can listen to me reading an extract from The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society. After that, Jan asks me about getting published that first time, and what happened with my next book, Paper Lanterns. I mentioned the cache of real-life love letters
(see the Sunday Mercury article)
and I read the heart-breaking letter from the young Chinese woman. You can also hear me reading the prologue to Paper Lanterns, which is set in Sutton Coldfield in 1971. This is one of the three significant periods in the novel.
You can read an extract from the middle section of the book, in which I’ve used these letters to invent a whole new storyline, in the on-line magazine, Cairns Media.
If you’d like to read the first extract published by the same on-line magazine, you can see it here.
One of the benefits of writing a book, and better still, of getting published, is the way it opens doors to lots of other writerly activities, such as giving talks, running workshops, and attending Literary Festivals as a performer, as well as being a member of the audience. Another enjoyable aspect of being a writer (with or without being published) is making friends with other writers.
Last Thursday I was able to combine a visit to my writing friend, Crysse Morrison, with an opportunity to be one of eight castaways in an event listed in the Frome Festival Programme as Desert Island Reads. Crysse herself had to step in at the last minute to take the place of a performer who was unable to attend. You can read more about the event on her blog.
I’d left my own camera in her house so thanks are due to Crysse’s camera and to Wendy, one of the festival organisers, who took this picture, which features, from left to right:
Me, Kevan Manwaring,Keely Beresford,
Crysse, David Johnson, Philip de Glanville and Adrian Tinniswood
Desert Island Reads was described as “eight local celebrities share a favourite literary extract and tell us why they chose it.” I felt a bit of a fraud as I was neither “local”, not a “celebrity” but no one seemed to notice. When Crysse had first invited me to take part, I’d thought about including some real-life letters, because of the role that real-life letters had played in my novel Paper Lanterns, but it was proving quite difficult to find something that not only had inspired me in the past, but still lived up to the memories of it.
After searching my bookshelves I found an edition of the letters and poems of John Keats and was relieved to find that the he could still work his magic on me. I’ll quote some of the extracts that I read in a future post. Take a look at the on-line programme for the ten-day Festival and you’ll be amazed by the wide variety of all the events.
Crysse was heavily involved in the organisation of several events, but she’d booked tickets for us both so that she could relax with me for the evening at ‘Cabaret Sans Frontiers’, a totally surreal and highly entertaining event –
and here I quote from her own blog: “the eccentric energy of Cabaret sans Frontieres, this year offering its macabre and madcap medley from a ship bound for ‘the edge of the edge of possibilities, and beyond.’ “
Here are a few more photos of the music
and strange exhibits that we were encouraged to inspect during the interval, such as this ’spider’ appearing to rest on the top of a cabinet, to whom I offered a sip of my white wine spritzer.
The next morning, before I set off for Sussex to visit my mother for the weekend, Crysse insisted on taking me to an amazing exhibition featuring the intricate, imaginative, and brilliantly bizarre constructions and sketches of Ralph Steadman.
If you’re anywhere near Frome, make sure you take a look.
There were no signs anywhere asking people not to take photos of the exhibits, so I’m hoping that no one will object to these.
On my return from Sussex
I was greeted by the sight of multiple copies of The Birmingham Sunday Mercury that Gardening Husband had bought for me to use as marketing material for my novel, Paper Lanterns.
I’d been told that it would be published today, and I was delighted with the double page spread, giving the story of the cache of real life letters that inspired the middle section of the book.
Here’s a photo of the man on the receiving end of the love letters from two different women,
and here’s the young Chinese girl, with a small selection of the letters behind her. It’s fascinating stuff, and anyone who’s read the book is likely to enjoy seeing the originals of the letters that I have adapted for the novel.
It’s been a good week for yet more book-related activities after the excitement at Winchester Writers Conference last weekend:
1)SOMETHING NICE, but not unexpected: I received an email from the Lamma-zine reviewer of Paper Lanterns, John Cairns, with a link to his own e-zine, Cairns Media. He’d previously asked if he could quote an excerpt from my novel there, and here it is, complete with some of his own pictures to illustrate the scene from Paper Lanterns when Ann arrives at the ferry pier on Lamma island.
If you’ve read it already, you might like to see the photos, and if you haven’t, you’ll get a flavour of the book and the accuracy of my descriptions when writing the novel.
2) SOMETHING NICE AND TOTALLY UNEXPECTED: I solved the mystery of how Tammy from Tennessee had come across a brief description of my novel, Paper Lanterns. You might not find anything extraordinary about this until you think of the thousands of novels published each year, many with the weight of a huge marketing machine behind them, and then consider the fact that Novel Press is a frail new-born, with Paper Lanterns as its only product so far, and nothing behind it at all except my efforts, and the good wishes of my small group of fellow writers.
The only way I could think of that might have led Tammy to my book, would have been the lovely review from the excellent Rhaposdy in Books, with its large following of readers, most of whom are also Americans.But no,Tammy had arrived there through sheer happenstance (as I’ll explain in a later post). Until this week, I was too involved in discussing the most convenient way of getting the ten copies safely to her home in Tennessee, and it was only when I heard that the package had arrived,(two days after being picked up by the carriers, DHL) and the copies distributed to the other members of her group, that I thought of asking her how she’d come across it in the first place.
3) SOMETHING NICE that had been planned a couple of months ago: an ‘author’s talk’ that I gave on Thursday morning at Erdington library. Last month I was talking to a writing group there. This time, it was a reading group. One member who had read and enjoyed Paper Lanterns, commented on her perception of the way that novels these days are presented to the reading public. She felt that the we, the readers are being manipulated by the needs of the publishing world to produce sure best-sellers, and that many of the books that are promoted in bookshops have been written with an eye on an imaginary camera, as if they were packaging their stories in a way that would easily convert to film scripts.
I was glad to hear her views, as they seem to accord to those of Jonathan Davidson of Writing West Midlands in his article ‘New Ways of Publishing’ in which he expresses the hope that “poor writing won’t be quite so often foisted upon us in an attempt to get a return on investment or to distort our reading tastes for purely commercial gain.”
And now for the fifth and final question in my Virtual Treasure Hunt. Congratulations to everyone who’s already emailed me the correct answers to the first four questions (It’s still not too late to find the answers – you can start here, and then find the links back to the earlier questions)
(a)What is the fourth statement about Writing a Book that I won’t immediately want to contradict?
AND,(HINT) if you’ve found the right page, you’ll also be able to tell me the answer to this, linked, question
(b)Which author re-wrote one of his novels 30 years after its publication?
The first five people to ‘contact me’ with the correct five answers will win a copy of either The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society, or my latest novel, Paper Lanterns:
Woops!! I missed my first blog birthday!
I only realised that after what should have been an occasion for celebration on 10th May this year, so now I’m drawing attention to my ONE HUNDREDTH BLOG POST. This seems like a good time to launch my VIRTUAL TREASURE HUNT.
ALL the ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS can be found somewhere on this blogsite.
THE TREASURE HUNT will have at least THREE PARTS, and some of these will contain more than one question. The first FIVE READERS who come up with the correct answers to ALL THE QUESTIONS will receive a FREE copy of either Paper Lanterns OR The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society
PLEASE USE the ‘Contact Me’ page to give me your answers. In this way, I’ll be the only person to see your answers .
PART ONE: A single question to start with.
1) What is the title of the post in which this picture appears, and what is the name of the cat? (HINT: Notice the archives on the right: June is the month for strawberies!)
Look out for PART TWO of the TREASURE HUNT in my next post
Meanwhile, I want to tell you what I was doing this afternoon. One thing I enjoy (almost) as much as hearing other writers talk about their work, is giving talks and readings to groups of other writers myself. There’s nothing that develops a taste for self-promotion quite as much as having a novel published. I won’t go as far as saying I was a shrinking violet before The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society was published in October 2005, but I’ve definitely acquired a taste for it since then. (you might guess that from this photo of my first book launch!)
So there I was in the new community room in Erdington library, being introduced to a lovely group of local writers, led by Jan Watts. I’d already met some of these writers at a talk I gave last year, in a cramped corner behind the bookshelves in the library itself. What a wonderful resource this room is!
Although I also enjoy talking to reading groups (or, to be honest, to anyone who’ll listen to me) there’s a particular stimulation in the questions asked by fellow writers. Just as I learn from listening to what more experienced authors have to say, I know that many aspiring writers may be looking for some practical tips and encouragement from me. I have to take extra care with my answers because I want to be honest about my own experiences, both good and bad, without saying something that might leave people feeling disheartened about their own endeavours.
I can’t deny that it’s a tough old world out there for writers (look at my post on rejection letters!)but we all need something to aim at, and there’s more than one way of getting your work into print.
The most important thing for me, is the satisfaction I get from the writing itself - playing around with the words until they are conveying exactly what I want them to do. (This doesn’t happen every time, but when it does, it’s definitely its own reward.)
I have to admit that I experienced a twinge of annoyance and a dollop of disappointment last Saturday morning at the Spring Thing Literature event, organised by the Birmingham Book Festival. But before I tell you why I felt like that, I have to make it clear that those feelings were quickly replaced by enjoyment and I was grateful that the organisers had kept some last-minute information close to their chest.
I’d been looking forward to hearing Helen Dunmore giving a talk about her latest novel and prize-winning poetry, and it wasn’t until I’d seated myself in the large auditorium of the Birmingham Conservatoire that I found out that she was unable to attend, and two other novelists would be taking her place. I had a lot on my plate that weekend (a long drive down to South Wales that evening, followed by an even longer drive to East Sussex the next day) and if I’d been informed beforehand, I’d have chosen to miss that first session – so I’m now grateful to the organisers, because I’d have missed hearing Judith Allnatt (The Poet’s Wife) and Clare Clark Savage Lands) in Conversation with each other, expertly led by Jonathan Davidson of Writing West Midlands .
It was fascinating to hear both authors explain what had inspired them to write their historical novels and compare the particular logistical problems they encountered and how they resolved them. They make a very good combination for a session like this.
When they were talking about their research methods, I particularly enjoyed Judith’s description of the process of accumulating information almost randomly, following whatever paths presented themselves, immersing herself in her chosen period almost randomly until she ‘knew’ it so thoroughly she didn’t need to think about it – it had become a part of her. The analogy of growing a crystal in her school lab was something I understood at the time, but couldn’t explain it clearly now!
The next session was also excellent: a Panel Discussion, again chaired by Jonathan, with three more novelists, Aifric Campbell ,(The Loss Adjustor) Samantha Harvey (The Wilderness), and Amanda Smyth (Black Rock).
The only difficulty for me was to resist the temptation of buying all three of those novels to add to my To-be-Read mountain.
Stuart Maconie’s books sounded amusing informative and I felt that his latest, Adventures on the High Teas, (wandering through Middle England) would make an ideal present but at that time my mind couldn’t come up with the exact person to give it to.
The day itself was a satisfying feast, with just enough down-time between each of the five sessions and plenty of opportunity to chat to other readers and writers over coffee and lunch. I was sorry that I had to leave early, missing Carol-Ann Duffy’s session at the end, and only allowing myself a brief taste of Jo Bell
and another last-minute stand-in,
Oh! and I mustn’t forget to do my share of eavesdropping on July 1st!