Wednesday 22 October 2014

Two Literary Festivals In One Week

Last week I visited the Guildford Book Festival.  The previous weekend I had been at the Parisot Literary Festival (see previous blog post).   I was interested to see how the two festivals would compare.  The Guildford Book Festival was in its 25th Year and the Parisot Literary Festival is just starting out.  The other main difference was that the events at the Parisot Literary Festival were free, but at the Guildford Book Festival there was a modest charge.   

The first session I went to was a workshop on The Perfect Manuscript.   It was run by Alysoun Owen, editor of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook.  The main messages I took away were the need to encapsulate my manuscript in three sentences, which I’ve now done and not to send it out until it is ready – I’m wondering if my manuscript will ever be ready!  Alysoun also spoke about the importance of joining a writer’s group, entering writing competitions and self-promotion via a blog and Twitter.

On the Friday evening I went to hear Kate Mosse talk about her latest novel, The Taxidermist’s Daughter.   It is a gothic thriller so a different genre from her books in the Languedoc Trilogy:- Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel.  She explained that the idea for The Taxidermist’s Daughter had probably been bubbling away in her head for 35 years.  It is a story inspired by place, the village of Fishbourne in West Sussex.  It is set in 1912 over a short timeframe of four days.  One of the things she said that resonated with me was that all writers are learning all of the time.

If I had had the time there were other authors I would have liked to have heard, Andrew Marr, Reverend Richard Coles, Sophie Hannah to name but a few.  Ah well there’s always next year!

I enjoyed both festivals.  The fact that The Guildford Book Festival is set over a whole week is a plus, but I liked the intimacy of the Parisot Literary Festival.   I feel lucky to have been able to attend two literary festivals in one week.

Saturday 18 October 2014

The Parisot Literary Festival 10 - 12 October

There is something inspiring listening to authors talk about their writing process and read passages from their novels.  This was the second Parisot Literary Festival and it didn’t disappoint. 

Fellow Parisot Writing Group member Vanessa Couchman was first on.  There were no signs of nerves as she gave us an engaging talk on how she wrote her debut novel, The House at Zaronza and how she got her publishing contract with Crooked Cat.  The passages she chose to read were moving and, I thought, encapsulated the essence her novel.  

In the afternoon Amanda Hodgkinson talked about her second novel, Spilt Milk and her novella (10,000 word story) Tin Town which appears in Grand Central, a collection of stories by bestselling authors.  Amanda read the opening extract from Spilt Milk and the prose was lyrical.  She confessed to having written the opening scene last and I wonder how many other authors do this.

Piu Marie Eatwell finished off Saturday’s session with a talk about her book, They Eat Horses, Don’t They? 

The author dinner in the evening proved popular.  I was lucky to be on Amanda Hodgkinson’s table and it was nice to chat in a relaxed setting. 

On Sunday morning there was a cookery demonstration by Robin Ellis.  Robin played heart throb, Ross Poldark, in the 1970s series Poldark, based on the novels by Winston Graham.  I spent many Sunday evenings as a child watching Poldark with my Mum so I was excited to meet Robin.   Robin has Type 2 Diabetes so changed the way he eats and set about writing healthy living cook books.  The food he cooked us was delicious – pumpkin soup and salmon fishcakes.

In the afternoon former civil servant, Clive Ponting, gave a talk on how the origins and impact of World War One.  His talk was hugely popular and the library was packed. 

Tracey Warr concluded the festival with a talk on her two books, Almodis and Viking Hostage. I liked her mantra of “write what you don’t know.”  Her novels are set in the 11th century so I guess this explains her thinking!  She explained the importance of setting in her writing and how she likes to visit a place in order to be able to write about it in a compelling way.  

The Parisot Literary Festival is a bilingual event organised by a small Anglo-French group of book lovers.  In addition to the author readings I went to, there were readings being given by six French authors too.  I enjoyed the event and was amazed to think that all this was happening in a small village in rural SW France.  I can’t wait for next year!  

With Robin Ellis!

Thursday 9 October 2014

The Parisot Writing Group (PWG)

The PWG met for its first session of the season on Monday when we looked at the importance of theme in writing.  At Amanda Hodgkinson’s writing workshop earlier in the year, she had said to the group how important “theme” was.  Over the summer I asked the group to write a 300 word piece on one of the themes listed below:- 


On Monday we read out what we had written.  It was obvious from everyone's writing what the theme was, although in most cases, the theme itself wasn’t mentioned.  I found it a liberating exercise and chose to write a piece of life writing, which I don’t normally do.  One member commented that in thinking about theme she was able to write without worrying about a structure of beginning, middle and end – the writing just flowed naturally.

Here is my piece:-

My mobile phone shakes into life.  As I take the call I feel numb with disbelief.  She was meant to be coming home tomorrow.  Do I get in the car and drive or will I be too late?  As I listen to the prognosis I twist the ring I always wear on my middle finger, a thin band with a group of three small diamonds, her engagement ring.  She had given it to me ten years ago.  I had refused, but she had insisted, her hand enclosing the ring in mine.  Try it on she had urged.  It had fitted my middle finger perfectly.  She had been ill then too, but she had pulled through.  I had offered to give the ring back, but she had wanted me to keep it, to treasure it like she had done.  It is precious to me and I wear it always.  I feel I’ve let her down.  I should be there as the life seeps out of her, but I know I’m too late.   

We finished off the session with a look at titles where we listed the unique selling point of our book/work in progress and the genre and then asked everyone in the group to come up with an appropriate title.  This was harder than I envisaged!

This weekend it is the Parisot Literary Festival and we’re looking forward to hearing fellow member Vanessa Couchman read extracts from her book The House at Zaronza.  The Parisot Literary Festival was a popular event last year and this year there is another great line-up of authors.