Held in the Valley's secondary school and further education centre, the Festival managed to attract an impressive number of local authors and poets as guests, along with some fifty or so attendees.
The day began with a guest introductions/Q&A panel in the main hall. Led by the splendid Berlie Doherty, we learned a little about the panelists and the sessions they would be leading over the course of the day. At this point I had a slight change of plan as to which session I wanted to attend first, although I suspect I would have enjoyed all of them, had I been able to be in multiple places at once. After that we had half an hour to sign up for our preferred sessions in each of the day's three slots, and grab a welcome cup of coffee (laid on in the dining room along with very tempting biscuits).
My first session, held in the college library where library copies of the authors' books were proudly displayed was a chat and readings with Simon Beckett. Not an author I was aware of before, but I now have a copy of the first book in his current series, which I'm looking forward to reading. Simon told us about his career, how he wrote his first published story (now out of print) written (after much pestering of Barry Hines, the author of Kes, the decline of popularity of his subsequent books and his eventual assignment as a freelance journalist to the Body Farm in Tennessee.
That visit led to a renewed interest in writing novels, and so a new (more popular) series was born. Set in the UK initially, the protagonist doesn't actually visit the Body Farm until trhe third novel. I had to ask if it was a relief to finally get to that point, and then move on beyond it, as with certain other authors I could mention who need to get pesky historical fats dealt with in their series in order to get the meaty business of made-up events back on track.
Immediately after that one hour session, we had a shorter session to lead us into the lunch hour. I picked the session on writing groups, and as we were informed that this was a non-structured session, managed to get a discussion going on how to encourage more critique within my own group. This then led to a lot of comparing and contrasting of how other groups are run, and I ended the session with a multitude of ideas to suggest over dinner with my group next month.
Lunch was well worth the extra fiver we were charged. Homemade soup and freshly baked rolls in the college's main dining hall, with plenty of time to chat as well as to browse the books laid out in the main hall. I also got to chat with Stephen Booth, whose panel I would have gone to had it not clashed with others.
After the lunch break we had another one hour to hour and a half session. This time I'd known from the start which I wanted to attend, and hadn't been tempted away by any of the others on offer. I went to Alan James Brown's workshop on Reading and Writing Picture Books, although we focused mainly on writing, in line with the interests of the majority of participants. At the end of the session, we had the opportunity to write our own picture book narrative. Mine is posted here, and I also got to read it aloud during the session.
In the main hall, the festival was coming to a close with entertainment from a local story teller. At the end of his set we had the drawing of the raffle (with our feedback forms as tickets) and I managed to get a few more of my new books signed.
All in all a thoroughly enjoyable day out, and one which seemed to attract a very good mix of readers as well as writers.
09.30 -- 10.00 Registration and COFFEE
10.00 -- 11.00 Author Introductions and Panel Discussion
11.00 -- 11.30 Session sign-ups and COFFEE
11.30 -- 12.30 CHOICE OF SESSIONS:
Writing into Awareness and Ease with River Woolton;
Stepping int the Past with Berlie Doherty;
Crime novelist Simon Beckett talks about his books;
Author reading and Q&A session with Stephen Booth;
12.30 -- 13.00 CHOICE OF SESSIONS:
Judgement Days -- in a mountaineering life with Tom Richardson;
How to set up, run or refresh a book-group facilitated by Annette Baxter and Hilary Whorral;
Writing group discussion;
Open Mic Session;
A visit to the HVC Community Library;
13.00 -- 14.00 LUNCH
13.30 -- 16.30 Rhyme and Reason bookstall and book swap table
14.00 -- 15.00/15.30 CHOICE OF SESSIONS:
Writing and Reading Picture Books with Alan Brown;
The Floating Man: Building a Collection with Katherine Towers;
Laureates on your Doorstep with Ann Atkinson and River Walton;
First Fiction: THe Cure with Rachel Genn;
15.00 -- 15.30 Telling the story of Story with Matt Laurie
15.30 -- 16.00: Bookstall, book signing and raffle with music from Matt.
I suspect I'll be making individual posts based on each of the sessions I attended at a later date.