Anyone who knows me is aware that I have several jobs at the moment and so finding the time to take a breath and think about books and writing has fallen, sadly, to the bottom of my ‘must’ list.
So it was wonderful to be forced into it – in the friendliest of ways – this weekend. Berwick Literary Festival in my home town is in its third year and I’ve been lucky enough to be part of it since its inception.
On Friday, I held a short story writing class. (I’ve been chewing over the term ‘masterclass’. It feels like a male term to me. Someone kindly told me that my masterclass ‘was indeed masterly’, which was a lovely compliment, but it did feel as if I was being complimented in a male-ish way, rather like being told I’m a good man. Am I wrong, anyone? And is there a gender-neutral way of saying ‘masterclass’?)
Anyway, the short story ‘expert tutorial’ – for want of a better phrase – attracted a very talented group of twelve aspiring writers, who – I hope – all went home with a good head start on a new story and some advice on how to structure and to complete it. Teaching writing is always an inspiring thing to do.
But Saturday was my day for enjoying other authors’
work. It was fascinating to be in conversation with the journalist and
non-fiction writer Andrew Hankinson, hearing how he came to write the
compelling You Could Do Something
Wonderful With Your Life [You Are Raoul Moat].
We discussed why he was drawn to this tragic story and the ethical considerations in using the reams of material collected after Moat’s death. It’s a gripping read – even if we all know the end of the story – and a deep insight into the mind of a man who’s just committed murder. If you want to know what could drive someone to that, then this is the book that examines it.
I went straight from there to hear Shelley Day in
conversation with former Tyne Tees political editor Gerry Foley, who has the
kind of resonant voice and Irish accent I could listen to all day. I knew a
little about Shelley’s novel, The
Confession of Stella Moon, in its making, but Gerry’s insightful questions
and the author’s open and generous answers were truly enriching.
It reminded me why festivals like this are so important. As an author, connecting with readers is vital. As a reader, hearing the processes and the creative practice behind the writing of a novel gives extra depth and meaning to the act of reading.
I feel as if, for an afternoon, I stepped off the treadmill and fed my brain. Remind me to do this more often, won’t you?PS
Thanks to Shelley for sending me this pic of my books in the local bookstore window! Always nice to see!