ChipLitFest – A Report

Andrew, wondering why I wasn't there...

I’ve been to the first ever Chipping Norton Literary Festival today and it was very good! And ‘buzzing’! (There’s still another day – tomorrow – if you can make it there!)

Although, I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t book tickets for Andrew Motion! Why, why, why, didn’t I?

“Because you’ve already seen him?” my ‘other half’ suggested. “But I HAVEN’T! Ever!” I replied. I think, when I was booking the tickets, I had a moment of madness and confused Andrew Motion with Carol Ann Duffy (who I have seen – about five times). Poo!

Anyway… to the festival.

I went to a brilliant ‘life writing’ workshop run by Arvon tutor Carole Angier . For one of the exercises, we had to write about a memorable or ‘traumatic’ event from our childhood  – either from the p.o.v of the child we were then or, reflectively, looking back from an adult’s point of view.

I read mine out (it wasn’t particularly ‘traumatic’ but it was quite memorable) and THEN (this was weird), Carole Angier asked everyone, for the next exercise, to write a ‘biographical piece’ – about ME! (Based on the incident I’d just read out).

I didn’t mind, because none of them knew me from Adam (Eve?) and therefore anything they wrote would have to be mostly made up (if my best friend had been asked to do it, I might have been a bit more sensitive!). But one woman completely refused to do it. She said she couldn’t do it with me sitting there behind her and she thought it was  ‘intrusive’. And Carole Angier said that all biography or autobiography was, to an extent, intrusive and likely to hurt or upset someone – so what you are going to do?!

It was very thought-provoking and I was intrigued by the pieces that were read out (all rather sheepishly and with apologies to me beforehand!). Let’s just say, I think that was my fifteen minutes of fame!

Nicola Morgan (the self-proclaimed ‘Crabbit Old Bat’), recently blogged about ‘caring for authors at events’  – which you can read here.

I would like to add my own ‘slant’ on this, based on today: Caring for Audiences At Events (aimed at writers and festival organisers):

  1. Don’t plan events back-to-back without allowing a ‘gap’ for audience members to race from one to the next. Most of us do not have access to time travel.
  2. Make sure your venues are big enough for the numbers you have booked. Cramped hot rooms are not conducive to listening or learning, neither is almost sitting on the speaker’s lap (as I did in the Louise Harwood talk on agents, publishers and writers. She was a lovely lady but our knees were almost touching, which was a little …odd).
  3. Female Writers   – as you stand at the front, please don’t fiddle with your hair, pull up your tights or lean forward in a low-cut top while talking about ‘equipment’ (even if you do mean ‘macs and pcs’).
  4. Female Writers – don’t allude to ‘friends’ in the audience and then giggle as you make ‘in- jokes’ and hint at naughty stories – without telling us the REST!
  5. Festival Organisers: please email me next time Andrew Motion is appearing, remind me that I have NOT seen him speak – ever –  and INSIST that I book tickets.
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One Response to ChipLitFest – A Report

  1. juliathorley says:

    I heard Andrew Motion as part of the Oundle Lit Fest a couple of years ago. At the end, he stayed around not just to sign his books,but also to talk to anyone who wanted a word. He was a proper gent. Wilf Self was similarly gracious, which was a pleasant surprise because I’d expected him to be a bit grumpy and aloof.

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