Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Derbyshire Literature Festival - a good run of events this year

So, what have I been up to (apart from day-jobbery) for the last couple of weeks? Well, the Derbyshire Literature Festival has been on with events up and down the County for people to attend. At the previous Lit Fest two years ago I didn't go to anything; this time I went to four events - 3 of which were writing related.
Event number one was a morning on the basics of Japanese Bookbinding and I came away from that session with one medium and two small books that I'd made and enough enthusiasm to immediately head for a craft shop and get paper and card supplies to make some more for presents for people. I think they'd make nice photo albums so I'm going to try it out as a Father's Day gift and see how we go from there!

Event number two was a two hour 'Plot Your Novel' session with Louise Doughty (novelist and journalist). The most helpful aspect was when she got us to encapsulate our novels (completed or planned) by having us finish the sentance "This novel is about..." But we had to do it twice - once for plot and once for theme - which gave us a blurb by the end and was handy for determining whether there was enough of a story there. In the second half, Louise spoke about the problems she had with the structure of her latest novel (Whatever you love) and how she eventually sorted things out. It took over two years and she wrote numerous drafts, and from what I overhead at the event what most people took from that was that even published, successful authors don't hit the mark first time every time. Sometimes they fumble too. It was a good event.

Event number three was a presentation 'From Finland to Bagend' by members of the Ironville & Codnor Park Myth & Magic Tolkien Reading and Language Fellowship (all school children) whose love for Tolkien's work really came through in the hard work they put in to researching the place of The Hobbit as an integral part of Tolkien's mythology. (It's not all about The Lord of the Rings). It was great to see schoolchildren so engaged with reading and I just hope that more students get involved with the Fellowship. (And that more get involved with their public libraries as well and join reading groups and such.)

Event number four was a busy day in Bakewell (why, yes, there was pudding, now that you ask!) entitled 'Reading and Writing from the Archives with Sara Sheridan' and it was split into three parts. Part one was 'Ask the Archivist' and we had staff from the County Archive telling us about the resources that were available to the public at the Archive and online. They'd also brought along a broad sample of resources for us to look at and I found the County Asylum records of female patients from the 1800s fascinating. (Most of the conditions were mania or melancholia.)

Part two was the first of two talks by Sara - and this was about narrative drive - how to keep things jogging along and avoid boring your reader/ making them put your book down. One of the things that she said was that modern culture is more visual than in the past and so one of the things that *might* help is to storyboard your short story/ book to see whether there are any areas where nothing is happening. Then, obviously, you need to think whether nothing needs to happen (there is room for introspection and reflection in novels that you don't always have time for in visual media) or, is the lack of something going on and indication that you've missed something? That you need to ramp up your narrative drive and get the ball rolling again?

I think I will try this with a short story first and see how that goes. The reason being that, Sara read four pages from one of her books and then went through each board for the action points in those four pages and it came to 15 storyboard boxes! So I'll try it with the 32 page short story before I try it on the 400 page novel!

She also recommended Robert McKee's 'Story' for some useful hints on ramping up the narrative drive and if I can find the notebook with the chapter information in I'll add it here later.
Then we broke for lunch and Chum #1 and I headed off into the town for a pasty (Lamb & Rosemary for me, and Steak for her) before swinging by one of the Original Bakewell Pudding shops and picking up a couple of individual puddings and a large one. Yumm. I had a disturbing moment when I got back to the event and took the lid off my Latte to find that not only had the server put a Latte in my cup but a tea bag as well. It wasn't an unpleasant taste initially, just unusual, but it got progressively worse so I'm putting the initial 'Hmm, not bad' down to the novelty factor rather than it actually tasting ok. (Seriously kids, don't try that at home.)

Part three, Sara did her author talk and explained how her love of history and objects came into being; how she researches for her books and the glee experienced when you come across new documents no-one's looked at before. She read from her post-WWII mystery 'Brighton Belle' which I'm looking forward to reading (it's in the TBR pile but I have moved it to the top). She reads very well but I have to say the best reading she did on that day was of another writer's poem about being a writer. It highlighted why poetry is wonderful when read aloud by someone who really engages with the words and throws themselves into it. Again, as with the chapter in Robert McKee's 'Story', when I find the reference I wrote down I'll put it on here.

And that was the last event I went to. Well worth it; I had a lovely time this year and if there are any Literature Festivals in your County/ area then it's always worth having a look at the brochure and seeing if there's anyone you want to go and see/ listen to or any workshops you want to take part in.
Next stop, Theakston's Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate in July.

Not dead yet...

Did absence make the heart grow fonder?
Easter, a conference, a death in the family, a holiday, and day-jobbery work work work have all conspired to make Merry a very dull Hobbit. :-(

But I am back, hopefully with a little more frequency, now that day-jobbery is calming down a little more (although we'll be packing up a library for the summer and then unpacking it again later so it's not all ease and grapes on the veranda! Boo!)

How goes it all with you? Busy, busy or lying in a hammock under a sweet smelling tree whilst being fanned by a housedroid waving a huge feather fan?