How to Write a Novel – Lessons Learned from the Cardiff Book Festival

how to write a novelI’ve always wanted to be an author, ever since I was very young and discovered what the word meant, but for some reason, I’ve never thought of it as anything more than an unattainable dream. The Cardiff Book Festival has changed that. There were two workshops, one which focused on how to write a novel, and another on how to get published, which inspired me to see it as something that could be done – a genuine possibility.    Continue reading

Self-Publishing Success & the Launch of Paragraph Press

Joe Evans, succesful writerOn a drizzly autumn evening it was a relief to step inside the Little Man Coffee Company (a quirky, retro and super friendly venue) for a night of entertainment and insight into the world of self-publishing. The highlight of the event was hearing from Joe Evans, successful full time writer (author of the Young Adult Science Fiction series – The Seckry Sequence), who began his career, after being rejected by every agent and publisher in the UK, by self-publishing his first book on Kindle.    Continue reading

Roald Dahl – A Storyteller’s Legacy

Roald DahlBorn in Cardiff, on 13th September 1916, Roald Dahl is most well-known for his books for children. My favourites include Fantastic Mr Fox, The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me, and The BFG. I grew up thoroughly enjoying literature in all its forms, but especially the splendiforous stories and revolting rhymes of Roald Dahl. I am proud to share a birthday with a master storyteller of gargantuan proportions, and have thoroughly enjoyed the recent centenary celebrations… but who was the real Roald Dahl?    Continue reading

Books in a Hospital – Essential Reading

BooksPlus bookshopIt is widely acknowledged that reading is good for your health, that it can help in stressful situations and provide a form of useful escapism. So why doesn’t every hospital have a bookshop? I recently visited BooksPlus, a bookshop located in the main concourse of Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales. Although it is a Christian bookshop, it doesn’t just stock Christian literature. They have a wide variety of products from general fiction and children’s books to cards and puzzle books.    Continue reading

The Art and Awkwardness of Poetry in Performance

Fleur Adcock reading poetry

Having recently attended far too many poetry readings, spoken word events and open mic nights for any normal person, I have begun to notice there are certain ways of doing things, some which work well, and some which don’t work so well. I think it would make an interesting PhD study, but, as I’m a rather impatient person, here’s a slightly more immediate and concise exploration of the art of performing poetry…    Continue reading

What makes a good book ‘good’?

booksWhat are the characteristics that you look for in a book? What makes the difference between a book you just ‘enjoyed’ and a book that, when finished, you immediately want to lend to everyone you know? Here are my top ten features of a good book… Of course, these are highly subjective, so please do comment and let me know what it is that you look for in a book. And I should add that this list really only works with fiction, and I reserve the right to change my mind!    Continue reading

What lies behind the mysterious black veil?

gothic novel - Catherine readingHave you ever read a novel by Jane Austen or Charles Dickens and wondered what kinds of books they were reading at the time? Well there is actually a considerable amount known about the reading habits of some of our most well-loved writers. One source of information is the works themselves, and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, is a fine example. The protagonist, Catherine Moorland, reads gothic novels, a popular genre at the turn of the nineteenth century. Catherine is particularly engrossed with The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe.    Continue reading

Celebrating Culture – Looking to the Future

Coleridge in Wales eventJust as the UK decides to divorce itself from the rest of Europe, the arts and culture scene in Britain has never been more international or multi-cultural. I know many artists and writers are horrified by the way this referendum has turned out, and fearful of yet more funding cuts, but I am sure that, no matter what happens over the coming months, they will continue to create work that shocks us, makes us think and helps us to make sense of the world around us.    Continue reading

Film Review – Jane Austen’s Comedy

Scene from Love and Friendship film

Sir James Martin is Austen’s most foolish caricature

I must admit that although I love Jane Austen and have read all her novels, I hadn’t ever attempted her novella Lady Susan, partly because it is written almost entirely through letters. I’m highly grateful to Radio 4 that I even knew about this film (entitled Love and Friendship) based on the novella, as I haven’t seen any advertisements for it. I spent a long time looking up every cinema within reach of Cardiff and was relieved to discover that it would be shown at Chapter Arts Centre.    Continue reading

The Hay Festival – a celebration of literature or fame?

Comedy store players at Hay Festival

The Comedy Store Players

It has struck me that the Hay Festival seems to be more about politics and ideas than books or literature. Out of the 26 events which I attended (mainly as a steward), only 12 of them could really be classed as having a focus on literature, and several of those were about Shakespeare. It seems much more to be a case of getting celebrities to come along and talk about their one book, which could be on any subject from dogs to politics. I do hope that this trend doesn’t get out of hand, and that the celebrity attraction will be balanced out, next year, with plenty of real literature.    Continue reading

Three Great Authoresses: Brontë, Austen and Eliot

austen eliot bronteCharlotte Brontë, Jane Austen and George Eliot are three of Britain’s greatest women writers, but which one is your favourite? Which one do you think is the greatest? You can add your own vote to the poll at the end of this post.

I attended an event at the Stratford Literature Festival last weekend, with a panel of three biographers. Paula Byrne (The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things), Val Dodd (George Eliot: An Intellectual Life) and Claire Harman (Charlotte Brontë: A Life) each presented the case for their favourite authoress.    Continue reading

The Power of Poetry on Prescription

Emergency PoetDo you read as a form of escapism? Or perhaps you read to calm yourself down at the end of a busy day? Stressed, Unstressed: Classic Poems to Ease the Mind is an anthology of poems selected specifically to help those who are going through tough times (a form of “bibliotherapy”). I attended a fascinating event organised as part of the Stratford Literature Festival, to hear more about this concept. Dr Paula Byrne (academic and founder of ReLit charity), Dr Andrew Schuman (a medical doctor and poet) and Deborah Alma (aka The Emergency Poet) discussed the growing trend in taking literature seriously for its medicinal value in relation to mental health.    Continue reading

Do we take children’s literature seriously?

book for childrenLast night I attended a lecture on this topic, which was organised as part of the Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival. I was unsure what to expect. My own opinion is that all literature should be taken seriously, including books written for children. At the age of ten I was regularly reading adult books and yet as an adult I am happy to re-read the books of my childhood. I even organised a Roald Dahl themed party for my thirtieth birthday. So what’s the problem?    Continue reading

My Top 5 Websites for finding UK Literary Festivals

Stratford literature festivalHave you been inspired to get out there and see what’s going on in the world of literary festivals? Or perhaps, like me, you’re becoming a bit of a lit fest junkie and want more and more… Well, there are literally hundreds of them in the UK alone, and plenty of extra events going on throughout the year. Almost every self-respecting town or city hosts one, and I’m sure you’ll be able to find one near you. But how exactly do you go about discovering these unmissable events? Here are my top 5 useful websites for discovering literary festivals in the UK…    Continue reading