by Paula Rawsthorne
In August Bryony Pearce blogged on The Edge about the need to ‘switch off to switch back on’. I couldn’t agree more, sometimes you need to allow your brain to switch off to give it time to brew ideas in your subconscious. However sometimes, when I’ve been writing for long periods , or I’m frustrated over some plot point I can’t work out, what I really need to do is go to a literary event and be switched on.
It may seem counter intuitive to attend an evening of book talk when you need a mental break from writing but, in fact, it can be a great way to get reenergised and excited about tackling your own work. It reminds you why you love writing. It often readjusts your mind set and can change a problem that was driving you insane into a challenge that you won’t let defeat you.
Just being in a room full of people who love similar books means that straight away you feel solidarity. Then listening to a writer that you admire talking about their writing process and struggles with their own work makes you feel reassured. Q&A sessions at the end of an author talk can throw up all kinds of inspiring insights and can remind you of the triumphs and pitfalls of writing.
If you live in London the hardest decision must be deciding what event to attend as the choice is so wide; however, we don’t do so badly here in Nottingham and I’d bet that most cities in the UK have a lively literary scene. Although in some cities you may have to be quite proactive about finding out what’s going on, it’s easy to get yourself on the appropriate mailing lists to be kept up to date with events.
Library services often run programmes of inexpensive literary events throughout the year. The other weekend I went to a fabulous ‘Readers’ Day’ run by Notts Libraries. The venue was packed with people who loved books and we were treated to talks from, amongst others, the immensely talented William Ivory (Made in Dagenham, Burton and Taylor.) Bernardine Evariso who gave a wonderful reading from Mr Loverman and the very entertaining and lovely Dorothy Koomson (The Ice Cream Girls). I also went to a talk by a librarian who was so passionate about crime fiction that he could take us on a tour around the UK based of where fictional detectives lived. It was fascinating. During the day people got to discuss ‘Bad Writing’, ‘Researching Historical Fiction’ and whether life is too short to reread a novel? Everyone had a great time.
The other week I went along to see a writer friend, Andy Kells, run his ‘creating your hero’ workshop for primary aged children. I found myself completely absorbed in the process along with the little kids (and their parents).
Every summer I go to a fantastic local festival in Lowdham (this year I was lucky enough to do an author event there). I got to listen to Simon Mayo discuss his radio career and his new novel ‘Itch’, I felt queasy listening to a crime writer (whose love of gory detail was a bit too much for me). On a whim I went to a talk by Gordon Stainforth, a mountaineer, writer and first assistant director on Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’! As I sat in the village hall it became apparent that the numerous older men in the audience were also hard bitten mountaineers, each with fantastic stories to tell, all here to see one of their own. It made me think that you never know what incredible stories the stranger sitting next to you may have.
Nottingham had its very first ‘Festival of Words’ this year which took place all over the county. The array of author talks, workshops, discussions and ‘literary street tours’ got the city buzzing about books .
Being at an event with people who write or simply love reading is like drinking a few cans of an energy drink. You remember why you love creating stories so much and why you need to get on with it
Which brings me to today when I’ll be travelling to Winchester University for the 6th Annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference. As you’d expect, the conference is significantly more expensive than local literary events however, it’s worth every penny. The jam packed weekend includes (amongst many other events) a keynote speech by Malorie Blackman and Catherine Rayner. I’ll get to learn from an expert how to navigate Social Media (boy, do I need that) and I’ll have a whole day intensive on how to make the most out of a book tour. There’ll be fascinating panels of industry professionals and a mass book launch party celebrating all the books published by SCBWI members this year (so I’ll be there with Blood Tracks). Best of all I get to spend time with writer friends I haven’t seen for ages and meet loads of other SCBWI members who are always a friendly lot. If it’s anything like previous SCBWI conferences I know that I’ll return home exhausted but inspired to get on with creating my stories.
So what gets you reinvigorated about writing? What events have you been to, as a reader or writer, that have left you buzzing?
Paula Rawsthorne is the author of the multi award winning ‘The Truth About Celia Frost’. Her second novel ‘Blood Tracks’ was published by Usborne in June 2013 and has been shortlisted for several book awards.