Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Local Literary Festivals

It's said that writing is an isolated pursuit, the life of a writer a lonely one. It doesn't have to be so, as the network of support and opportunity provided by SCBWI proves. It's worth dipping into your local literary festival too, even if you're not up there on the stage promoting your latest work, there will be fellow writers and enthusiasts in the audience. Which is how I found myself representing SCBWI Eastern Region with the lovely Helen Moss at Bishop's Stortford Literary Festival.
Running for the past eight years under the capable stewardship of the school librarian, Rosie Pike, it gathers an eclectic mix of writers from all genres and places in accessible and illuminating talks. Helen and I had plenty of people to chat while we endorsed the power of SCBWI, and it was interesting to hear the experiences of other writers in the Talking Talent slot, a pick and mix of talent, background and age. Alice Audley worked as a journalist and now peruses her independent magazine blogosphere (@AliceAudley) Sara Hirsch is a former UK Slam Poetry champ (@sarsbars89) Hina Belitz a renowned employment lawyer and novel writer (@Hina_Belitz) and Lucy Saxon, of particular interest to SCBWI's, a successful author of YA fantasy novels, the Tellus series.(@Lucy_Saxon)

Lucy's journey is particularly pertinent. Diagnosed with ME at the age of 12, she found herself with a lot of time on her hands and pursued her interest in writing. Completing a novel age 16 in NaNoWrimo she found an agent who was interested and signed a three book deal with Bloomsbury.

So, with apologies to Paul Winspear (former editor of local paper and question master for the evening) who's questions I have nicked, here's a set of familiar investigations and discussion from the Talking Talent slot:

What Inspired you to Write?

The panel agreed its something they have always done, building on vivid imaginations, copying out words from books and writing stories.Hina mentioned the importance of an inspirational teacher, winning a competition taught her that people believed in her ability to write, Lucy cited her illness as a catalyst and the freedom of writing Harry Potter fan fiction.

What does it entail being a full time writer?

All agreed it wasn't what they expected, its hard work and there's a lot more admin for a start, but there was unanimous agreement on the need to lock oneself away for the creative process. Lucy still lives a t home with her parents and hides herself in her room to write. She won't leave the house unless she has to and can write 150,000 words in a month (I know, it's the energy of youth!) Hina is a full time lawyer and mother of two so has very little time, but also has to lock herself away, 'just one interruption and it's gone' She finds she works well in the Cambridge University Library. Sara works in a cafe surrounded by other people, other people doing things helps her focus, and she likes writing on trains.
Alice is used to journalistic pressures and deadlines, so can write fast and sharp at all times and is less precious about her words.

How do you feel about others being involved in your writing?

Lucy 'I love my editor, but she will send me long lists of things she doesn't like, which is soul crushing. I have to set it apart and come back with a more level eye. My books are always too long, I accept that now, but you can argue with your editor in fiction writing.'Hina is dazzled by feedback and the different perspectives on her own work, amazed by how many people there are involved in producing a book.

And the big question - Why do you write?

Lucy 'There's a lot going non in my head and I'd go slightly crazy if I didn't get it out.' Hina feels impelled to write. Sara loves performing 'I'm shy as a person, but performing is different, its something isn't it? I prefer to write the feeling than say it.' Alice feels she's 100% in tune with her brain when she'd writing.

All agree there's a lot of self-conciousness about being a writer. If you love writing, then you are a writer and if failure comes your way, you still write.

So fellow SCBWI's - Keep writing and get out there and investigate your local literature festival, with over 350 across the country, there'll be one near you.

1 comment:

  1. I agree! It was great to spend the evening in such good company and thank you for helping spread the SCBWI word to local writers.