Diary of a Hay Festival Steward – Days 1 and 2

hay festival flagsThere’s something unique about the Hay Festival, apart from its size and global reputation; it is such a mish-mash of culture, politics, literature, comedy and even some music – all concentrated down into something quite intense. I stewarded last year and found the experience addictive – the thrill of waiting for the next event to start, wondering how full it will be, discovering new authors you’ve never heard of… So here I am again, stewarding, camping and breathing in the literary air of Hay.    Continue reading

Reflections on Edward Thomas 100 & National Poetry Writing Month

Glyn Edwards poet

Glyn Edwards

National Poetry Writing Month is over at last, and it seems like only yesterday that I was cosied up on the sofa listening to the autumn storms, thinking April seemed a long way off. It was back in October that I began to plan a series of events for #EdwardThomas100, to mark the centenary of the World War One poet, and to make Cardiff University’s incredible archive collections more visible to the public. It’s been an exciting few months, and it’s hard to believe it’s all over, so here are some reflections on the experience…    Continue reading

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

letter boxWhen was the last time you received a handwritten letter? With developments in technology and social media, the fact that we can now communicate, instantly, with someone on the other side of the globe, it seems that letters will soon become no more than a distant memory, along with typewriters and telegrams. But I am convinced that we will be missing out on something significant, something valuable, something that provides us with a form of communication that is quite unique, but which also helps us to remember… Continue reading

Two Roads, Two Poets: The Friendship of Edward Thomas and Robert Frost

Edward ThomasThe first thing that struck me about Edward Thomas, when I began to research his life and work, was his close bond with the American poet Robert Frost. Frost’s famous poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ was actually written for Edward Thomas, during a period of indecision. It was 1915, and Frost himself had returned to the US, whilst Thomas was intending to follow him there. But the First World War was still raging, and Thomas’s conscience held him back. He did not want to enlist but, as he explained in a letter to his friend, “hardly a day passes without my thinking I should.”    Continue reading

Book Review: Now All Roads Lead to France – The Last Years of Edward Thomas by Matthew Hollis

Now all roads lead to FranceMost biographies begin at the beginning. Not this one. This one reads more like a novel – and the last few years in the life of much-loved poet Edward Thomas certainly provide an engaging plot. Hollis begins his tale with an introduction to Harold Munro’s Poetry Bookshop, which opened in London in 1913, providing a unique hub around which the poets of the day gathered… But Edward Thomas is not yet a poet at this stage in the story; he is a stressed poetry reviewer, churning out travel books and reviews, struggling to make ends meet…    Continue reading

Death Writing and Poetry: An Interview with Christina Thatcher

Christina ThatcherChristina Thatcher is a poet and creative writing tutor from the US. She moved to the UK in 2009 after winning the prestigious Marshall Scholarship (studying MAs at Cardiff and York). She is currently working on a PhD at Cardiff University, and her debut poetry collection, More than you were, will be published by Parthian in May. I met her through Roath Writers, the community writing group which she has been running since 2012.    Continue reading

Edward Thomas 100: Celebrating A Poetic Legacy

Edward Thomas I recently discovered that Cardiff University holds a unique collection of rare books and manuscripts. Amidst this literary treasure trove, there sits a shelf or two of unassuming boxes, containing the Edward Thomas archive – a set of objects, original manuscripts, letters, notebooks and other material relating to this popular poet. And it just so happens that it’s exactly one hundred years since Edward Thomas was killed, at the Battle of Arras in April 1917…    Continue reading

Climate Change Fiction and Celtic Legends: An Interview with Author David Thorpe

David ThorpeI recently came across a rather unusual book: Stormteller by David Thorpe. The premise intrigued me – the combination of two seemingly divergent themes: the Celtic legends of the Mabinogion and the issue of climate change. In fact, it’s been classed as part of a new genre called ‘cli-fi’, which stands for ‘climate fiction’ (fiction which “imagines the past, present, and future effects of climate change”). The opening is surreal, as the ancient characters of Ceridwen and her son (Afagddu) attempt to re-tell their own stories and re-direct their fate through the lives of three young people living in modern day Mid-Wales…    Continue reading

Christmas at Bullerby and other Swedish Children’s Stories

bullerbyMy family have always celebrated Christmas the Swedish way, on Christmas Eve, because  my Grandma on one side of the family was Swedish. One of my favourite books as a child was Astrid Lindgren’s beautifully illustrated Christmas at Bullerby. It was first published in Britain in 1964.      Continue reading

Pre-Raphaelite Women: Poetry in Response to Art

La Ghirlandata by Rossetti

La Ghirlandata by Rossetti

I have always been attracted to the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, and intrigued by the lives of the women who modelled for their paintings. Muse by Dawn Marie Kresan is a collection which focuses on these women, particularly on Elizabeth Siddall, who was actually a poet and artist in her own right. Bethany Rivers’ pamphlet Off the wall also takes much of its inspiration from artwork, and contains some poems on similar themes to those explored in Kresan’s book.   Continue reading

Books, Wine, Coffee and Events: An Interview with Publisher Hazel Cushion

Hazel CushionHazel Cushion launched Accent Press from her spare bedroom in 2003. It has since become an award-winning independent publisher, publishing a wide range of fiction and non-fiction. This year saw the launch of two additional businesses – Octavo (a self-publishing company which assists authors who want to go it alone) and Octavo’s (a bookshop, café, wine bar and event venue in Cardiff Bay). I met up with Hazel in the bookshop, to find out more about these new ventures.    Continue reading

Book Gift Ideas for Christmas

christmas book giftsThis year has been a fantastic year for books, and if you have family or friends who love reading, there’s no better Christmas gift. But there’s so much choice out there – I mean, you could literally spend days browsing the shelves and still not make a decision. Of course, many local bookshops and some chain stores have knowledgeable staff who are keen to recommend something, but in case you need a few ideas, here are some suggestions for the perfect literary gift…    Continue reading

How to Get Your Novel Published – Lessons Learned from the Cardiff Book Festival

novelsLast month I attended a workshop organised by Cardiff Book Festival on how to get published. We heard from Hazel Cushion (founder and managing director of Accent Press) and Richard Davies (director of Parthian), who each provided a fascinating insight into the publishing world. We also heard from Gary Raymond (author of novel For Those Who Come After) about his personal experience of publication. Each of them brought a different perspective and gave us some practical advice.    Continue reading

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