Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Storyville - Women Writers Festival

One of the most exciting things I know is to meet published writers that I like. It’s almost like going to a gig, seeing a band you’re into.

If I could have afforded the money and the time I would have gone to all the talks in the Storyville festival at Pavilion Theatre, but going to three was good enough.

First up was the New Voices session with Emma Henderson, Justine Kilkerr and Emily Mackie. I’d only read Justine’s novel Advice for Strays before (a very unusual novel about depression and imaginary friends), but was very impressed with the other writers as well.

So impressed with Emily Mackie’s And this is true that I had to buy it. The story is about a boy who’s spent basically his whole life travelling round with his writer father in a van, but everything changes when one night the boy kisses his father … You’d think that the incestuous theme would be very disturbing, but he way Emily handles the subject, writing from the boy Nevis’s point of view is fantastic.

When asked how they got published all the debut novelists had similar stories: they’d done and MA in creative writing and met their agents thanks to contacts/events through their universities. Although Emma won a short story competition (yes it’s still worth writing short stories!) and was contacted by an agent because of that.

The second talk I went to was The Music of Chance with Catherine O’Flynn and Lois Walden. Catherine won the Costa book award for her debut What was Lost. She is fascinated by the mundane, and as well as losing people she also writes about the loss of certain aspects of a city. In the end she told us about the long way to getting published. She had fifteen agents completely ignoring her (what’s worse is that she lived in Spain at the time and spent a fortune on posting her manuscripts.) In the end she contacted a small local Birmingham publisher and the rest is history.

Lois also had a long route to publishing. She’s got her background in the music business, but finding an agent wasn’t easier because of it. One agency was interested, but held on to her script for eight months, with nothing happening. In the end it was a friend of a friend who introduced her to an agent … What impressed me with Lois’s writing was that she was very aware of rhythm and her language felt very musical thanks to her musical background.

The last talk I went to was the best. I had a seat in the front row, wriggling nervously on my seat, waiting for Ali Smith to enter the stage … She’s one of the best writers I know. Reading her makes me smile, think and be happy to be alive. There’s something magical about her way with language, the flow and the way every single word fits. I asked her about this. She revealed that seldom did a short story come out in one sitting. She edits and edits and then edits some more. First by page, then by paragraph, then my sentence, then word by word.

Ali was very keen to discuss her writing with the audience and I was surprised that she found it so hard to write short stories, so hard that in fact she once wrote a story called Last, promising herself never to write a short story again … But of course she has. It was also very encouraging to hear that whilst Ali is very disciplined, she’s also very lazy, but is okay with that … To do nothing is also part of writing.

If you’ve followed my blog you know that I’m having a writing block/break at the moment … However something clicked in my brain during the first talk on the Saturday. All of a sudden I had this burning urge to get my notepad out of my handbag and put some words down, and so I did … Since Saturday I’ve written quite a lot, nothing finished and nothing sensible, but at least I’ve put words down, words that form sentences, sentences that forms paragraph, that forms pages …

Also. An agent who has read Replacing Angel says that some aspects of my novel works, other aspects don’t. I’m not hoping too much, but at least we’re going to meet up and have a talk about it soon …

I might submit a working aspect of my novel to Sussex Writers Award. They only want 1500 words, plus a 500 words synopsis. Deadline is 1 Dec.

Another competition coming up is The Writer’s Retreat Competition, organised by Myriad Editions and West Dean College.

1 comment:

  1. I love Ali Smith - would love to have gone but couldn't escape that night. I was lucky enough to go on an Arvon course she taught on a few years back and she really inspired me to keep on writing