Gladstone Library Retreat: Day Nine

Salley Vickers 2nd collection of short stories

Salley Vickers 2nd collection of short stories

Over lunch with my Norwegian novelist friend we discussed our progress yesterday morning – this post is late because of an event at the library last night (more on this below). We always do this when we hook up in the Gladstone restaurant Food for Thought, which, incidentally, serves spanking gorgeous grub: breakfast, lunch, afternoon cream tea, supper. Did I say I might need to diet after this stay?

Victoria (not a very Norwegian sounding name, I know …) asked what had been the best thing about my morning. I said: ‘Scrapping everything I wrote in the library last night.’ She laughed and asked if I was serious. Of course I was. It meant that this morning I was able to begin a new, relevant scene and, boy, did I enjoy writing it. I’d known last night that most of what I was writing was cobblers but for some inexplicable reason was unable to stop. It was background information and added nothing to the story. Perhaps the writing down means that I know it better? But quite honestly the reader doesn’t need to. It was boring. Good riddance.

We agreed that writing is an odd job – for many reasons more than just this – in that you can feel overjoyed about chucking away hours of labour. And we agreed that we love it.

I have a sense of an ending (thanks Mr Barnes) to my stay and the need to spend as much time as possible in my favourite place in the library – the gallery of the Theology Reading Room, but I wrote over 1,000 ‘good’ words yesterday and I took a few hours out to catch up with my sister. We headed to a spa, so yet another indulgence.

And last night the library hosted the very splendid Salley Vickers for ‘An Evening with …’. I heard Salley speak at GladFest last September so knew we were in for a treat. She spoke about her seven novels and how they have informed her latest collection of short stories, The Boy Who Could See Death, the enduring significance of old stories and why it’s always good to pinch them (‘you don’t have to think of a plot’) and how she doesn’t plan her writing, at all. I’m not familiar with Salley’s work but will purchase a copy of The Cleaner of Chartres before I leave. Inspirational on many levels, I learnt a lot. Victoria and I had the pleasure of Salley’s company over wine in the reading room once the audience had gone home too. We talked Edinburgh (the festival), travelling and the eye-watering cost of London property! Oslo is much cheaper, apparently.

My time is running out here, so I’m off to the library now.

North Wales’ Best Kept Literary Secret?

Edinburgh-Aug 2014 115Of late, I’ve been a bad blogger, irregular and erratic with my posts. However, I’ve had some splendid guests and I hope you’ve enjoyed their wisdom. This month I’m busy with literary festivals and here I’m going to talk about a new(ish) festival in Wales in a library that more should know about.

First off, why such a slack blogger? Summer is the trickiest season for me, when the Gingers are off school. Mornings are work time and afternoons are fun time, but this puts a time squeeze on work-related activity – I even have to curb my social media addiction. Gasp, horror. I’ve been scribbling away on my latest novel – a story of love, faith, forgiveness, and bats set in a Welsh seaside town – and I’ve also done a fair whack of editing jobs – three in total. One was for Sarah Rayner. Sarah has written and published a fantastic e-book, Making Friends with Anxiety, and it is perfect for any of you who are prone to an over-whelming sense of panic, or a mild sense, to be honest. It’s beautifully written – like chatting with a mate – and is full of brilliant tips and advice. And this summer I had to prepare a workshop for a literary festival, GladFest.

Edinburgh-Aug 2014 106I travelled up to my home stomping ground – North Wales – at the weekend, with the boys in tow to take part in the festival.  2014 is only the second year GladFest has been running at the stupendously gorgeous Gladstone Library, but, boy, you’d never know it. What a brilliant festival. A dazzling array of well-respected authors at the top of the game (and me). Authors like Salley Vickers and Stephen May – his debut TAG is one of my all-time favourite books. He was there to talk about his latest, the fantastic Wake Up Happy Every Day. There was a menu of workshops to attend and the festival was very well-attended. This was also down to the wonderful organisation and publicity, and the hard work put in by all the staff at the library. Everyone was made to feel so welcome. Gladstone’s is a unique place; a residential library that connects a wide range of writers and thinkers, runs courses and events and is a haven for creative thinking and reflection.

My workshop, Spit & Polish, was all about the vital art of self-editing your MS. It was a sell-out and if I say I was taken aback by this you should imagine me lying on the floor of the library fanning myself. I was nervous but the reception was great and the feedback better than I could ever have hoped for.

Gorgeous festival bag & programme

Gorgeous festival bag & programme

Festivals are great for authors and readers alike. They connect one to the other and though a disadvantage of working at a festival is that you don’t get a chance to see and do as much as you’d like, there are many, many advantages. You meet readers and potential readers, you meet new authors and others known to you, the exchange of ideas and creative energy at a festival like GladFest is nigh on priceless. So, if you’re reader or writer and you live in the North West do find out about the range of events held at the library. Scratch that. Wherever you live check out the Gladstone Library. I’m taking some time out and working up there for a couple of weeks next year, and I cannot wait.

Next stop on the festival tour is Richmond Boots and Books. I’m talking at the library on 22nd, 7pm, about Public Battles, Private Wars. What’s not to like about a festival with a name like that!

 

I’m finishing with another photo of the library and the great man himself, simply because I can!Edinburgh-Aug 2014 116