That title is something of an exaggeration but over the past week I’ve been to two literary festivals and had a jolly time listening to five very different writers.
First, was poet Wendy Cope at the Stratford Literary Festival.
The best moment was when a woman in the audience kicked off a question by announcing (via the ‘roving mic’): “I really love your poem ‘Mrs Icarus…” Cue groans and gasps from the audience because that was, of course, not written by Wendy Cope but by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy.
Ms Cope took it all in good humour. Apparently, the one she gets most often is, “I really love your poem, ‘When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple’, which, of course, is another one that she didn’t write.*
The same evening, I also saw Ruth Jones, of Gavin & Stacey fame, whose first novel ‘Never Greener’ has just been published. I haven’t started reading it yet but it’s chunky and will, I’m sure, be funny, so I’m looking forward to that.
Newsflash: No, there won’t be a new series of Gavin & Stacey. Or even a Christmas special. I think, judging from her polite-but-slightly-gritted-teeth response to that question in Stratford, Ruth Jones is probably asked that question every day of her life.
I had booked tickets for two events, only because they featured novelist Joanna Cannon (and I have a bit of a girl-crush on her, I think).
However – disaster – she was ill and not able to attend and I contemplated not going at all – but I was glad I did because I saw the hilarious (and irreverent) ‘shock doc’, Adam Kay, author of ‘This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor’ in a sold-out event in the Town Hall (you feel very smug when you have a ticket for a sold-out event, believe me).
For reasons that are, apparently, revealed in the book (I haven’t finished it yet), Kay’s no longer a doctor but is a stand-up comedian and script writer now (Eek! I have just Googled him and discovered that one of his writing credits is ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’! Ah well, we all have our off days). But, anyway, he was hilarious and very entertaining and I’m enjoying the book (although it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted!).
Then, finally, I went to see/listen to novelists Kit de Waal and Joseph Knox talking about their first and (recently published) second novels. Must admit, I hadn’t heard of thriller writer Joseph Knox but he said two very reassuring things:
1. His real name is ‘Knobbs’
2. It took him 8 years to write his first novel.
And something lovely and reassuring about Kit de Waal – she didn’t publish her first novel, My Name is Leon, until she was in her mid-fifties. Hurrah for that.
Ahem, while we’re still on the subjects of festivals, let me just give a little mention to Evesham Festival of Words, where yours truly will be involved in a couple of events in the summer and if you fancy a free trip to the Hay-on-Wye Festival later this month – then, look no further than here.
Those lovely people at Waterstones are running a competition to win A GOLDEN TICKET and a 3-night stay at Hay Festival over the Bank Holiday weekend (Friday 25, Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 May 2018) in a Bedouin Tent. All you have to do to enter, is fill in the on-line form by 18th May and keep your fingers crossed!
Writing Competitions (closing May & June)
The Women’s Prize for Fiction First Chapter Competition 2018 (closing 22nd May 2018)
For the 8th year, Grazia magazine is running a ‘first chapter’ competition, this time in conjunction with ‘Women’s Prize for Fiction’.
They’re looking for ‘new female writing talent’ (sorry, guys). Novelist Paula Hawkins (‘Girl on a Train’) has written the start of a chapter and you need to finish it in 800 – 1000 words.
It’s free to enter and the winner will get a meeting with a senior Penguin Random House editor, a goodie bag and have their chapter published in Grazia. They will also be invited to the awards ceremony on 6 June at Bedford Square Garden, London, to pick up their £1000 prize. All the details are here.
Richard & Judy’s Search for a Bestseller 2018 (closing 14th June 2018)
TV power couple, Judy Finnegan and Richard Madeley (as in, ‘The Richard and Judy Book Club’) have launched their third ‘Search for a Bestseller’ competition in conjunction with WH Smith.
First prize – for an original novel of at least 80,000 words, aimed at adults – is a £30,000 publishing deal with Bonnier Zaffre and advice from literary agency Furniss Lawton.
Previously unpublished and currently un-agented UK writers are invited to submit their entries (10,000-word extract plus a synopsis and short author biography) for consideration.by 14th June 2018 via the entry form on the Richard and Judy Book club website, where full terms and conditions can also be seen.
Good luck if you enter any of the competitions and let me know if you win!
*it’s Warning by Jenny Joseph. But you knew that, of course. (Can you tell I run book quizzes? That won’t be a question in the Evesham Festival Bookworms Quiz Night on 27th June, by the way!).