Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Reading aloud

It's the Bath Literary Festival at the moment, and last night I went to see Rose Tremain, Helen Dunmore and Jane Gardam being interviewed by Sara Davies (Radio 4) at the Guildhall. Wow and wow again. What a stellar line-up - all so inspiring to listen to, and absolutely fascinating when talking about their research methods, and how ideas come to them. During the intro, Sara Davies pointed out that two of them had won the Orange prize, one shortlisted, two had won the Whitbread, one shortlisted, two had been shortlisted for the Booker... between them, they'd been on every major literary award list. I think that calls for another wow actually.

Jane Gardam made everyone laugh with her tip for budding authors: "Never - NEVER - set a scene on a train. Somebody will always write in and tell you that actually, the 5.15 from Manchester doesn't go to York, and you can't change at Carlisle for the Glasgow train or whatever..." And they all had different views on research - Helen Dunmore says she needs to know absolutely everything before she starts, so that it's like being able to walk around a room in darkness and know exactly where everything is. Rose Tremain disagreed slightly - saying she likes to have a fifth of her 'room' visible but prefers to leave the rest for her imagination to fill in. She made a good point about how you have to draw a line with research because if people feel as if they're reading a text book, you've killed your novel...
Lots of discussion about short stories v novels too. Rose Tremain said she loves it when she gets a new novel she knows she's going to enjoy because it's like curling up with the most wonderful companion who's always there for you to turn to whenever you want. But a good short story should pierce you, Helen Dunmore added. It should be perfectly constructed, every word in the right place, a jewel. (I'm paraphrasing all of this, my memory is hopeless.) All extremely inspiring anyway.

Anyway, I had an event of my own today, although not quite the glamour and glitter of the diamond-chandelier-decked Guildhall. I went to talk to a junior school not far from here, just a half-hour assembly talk as part of their World Book Day week celebrations. "How many children will it be?" I asked the teacher on the phone yesterday. "250," she said. Gulp. All at once! They were great though - laughed in all the right places, got excited about writing stories and had loads of questions. And it did feel quite something to be speaking to so many children at once and the room being absolutely dead quiet, all eyes upon me... Well, most of the time, anyway....

10 comments:

wontletlifedefineme said...

The reading sounds wonderful! You probably inspired a lot of children to start writing their own stories now.

I know research is different for a thesis, but I need to know everything too before I start. Other people just read up on things while they're writing their thesis, but I need all the info in my head before I can write it down. How do you write? Do you already know all the details before you write a book?

liz fenwick said...

250!!!! Wow.

Thanks for sharing about their research methods. i find it fascinating how different writers work!
lx

Debs said...

The festival sounds wonderful, and thank you for the interesting info.

I'm so impressed that you spoke to 250 children, how brave.

claire p said...

Hens reunited isn't about chikens then! Looks good, another one for the list.
I don't research before I start. I'm a 'get it out of your head and worry about the deatails in the second draft' kinda girl.
I suppose I got enough research when doing my degree. Now I just want to get to the fun but. Which might explain why I haven't been published yet humm...
250 children! I'd run screaming in the opposite direction! Well done.

JJ Beattie said...

How wonderful for you to experience both sides of the experience. I am imagining that junior school with a chandelier and Radio 4 recording you all.

Lucy Diamond said...

Wontletlifedefineme - cheers! I hope so. I hope they feel that being an author is within their grasp when they see someone like me who's just a normal mum, no airs and graces etc. Research-wise, I am constantly finding things out as I go; the story evolves and changes so much as I write, it would be impossible for me to get all my research done at the beginning before writing a single word.

Liz - I know! It was a sea of faces!

Debs - pleasure! And re the 250 children, I have built up to that gradually, having talked to much smaller groups in the past and increased numbers slowly. There's no way I could have done a big audience like that a few years ago, it's definitely taken me a while to get there!

Claire - no, not a chicken in sight! :) (Apart from me, scared nobody will buy it of course!)

Lucy Diamond said...

Oops - sorry JJ, manage to leave you off my comments there! Yes, it was funny to experience both sides, quite inspiring to do it that way round as well, watching the experts first... No chandeliers at mine though sadly, just a big draughty school hall with rows and rows of children sitting cross-legged!

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