If I were having coffee I’d invite you to my new favourite haunt, a mysterious cafe in an exotic land of my imagination. We’d have the sun shining down on us, warming our backs with gentle breezes, palm trees above us, and the sweet aroma of flowers too. It would be so hot that we’d have a chilled coconut coffee filled to the brim with large scoops of ice. Or perhaps if the mood takes us we might indulge in one of these cheeky delights: Tequila Mockingbird, a Margaret Atwood, The Sunday Librarian, in The Study with The Lead Pipe, or a Watership Down!
Our iced drink would be decorated with one of those fancy cocktail sticks. The theme of the cafe would be books, and an abundance of titles would be artistically placed everywhere, decorating every nook and cranny, because this week my coffee share post is all about the Cambridge Literary Festival: http://www.cambridgeliteraryfestival.com/
I’m been looking forward to telling you about my recent experience working as a steward at the Cambridge Literary Festival. But before I begin let me fill you in on the first event at the Festival that I attended with my friend. On Friday evening my friend and I had a lovely Thai meal at Thaikun, from the streets of Bangkok, in our very own Cambridge: http://thaikhun.co.uk/
Followed by some Raving Beauties: Hallelujah for 50 ft Women at the Union library!
More about them here: http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/ecs/product/hallelujah-for-50ft-women-186
It was a blast, these ravers have had a beauty of a sell out run at the Edinburgh Festival. Their cabaret of diverse, passionate poetry listed above explores the themes of love, sex, creativity and work. When I say sex I mean it! Some of the titles are kinda in your face (look away if you are easily offended!): Cunts Cocks and Balls -Sally St. Clair, Cunt Artist Boyfriend – Rebecca Smith, Rutting – Arundhathi Subramaniam and a few very female orientated poems such as Women’s Blood – Vicky Feaver, and to my last period – Lucille Clifton. Oh and one for top heavy ladies: the trials and tribulations of a well-endowed woman – Hira A. There were a few men in the audience and I wonder what they made of the Raving Beauties! I’ve mentioned a few of the poems – I think if my memory serves me right they performed 35 altogether, including my favourite: Recognition – Carol Ann Duffy.
After the event my friend mentioned that she’d intended to do an English Literature degree when she was younger and had been persuaded by her then controlling boyfriend to do Law. She seemed to be touched by regret after listening to the talk! But I cheered her up by saying that Law had enabled her to be financially secure career wise. But, it does make you wonder, doesn’t it? How the pathways that we choose can shape your life in an entirely different way. Who knows what she might have done if she’d ignored her then boyfriend and done English Literature. Perhaps she might have become a poor impoverished poet, or been a featured poet in the Raving Beauties!
One can’t help but wonder! I digress. Back to my stewarding duties. It all began on Saturday. In the afternoon I helped out in the Old Divinity School, a wonderful setting for the 2.30 talk by journalists Robert Verkaik and Andrew Hosken: Reflections on the Middle East. The talk was a riveting sharing of their views on the ‘middle east cauldron.’ Robert Verkaik, is the author of Jihdi John: The Making of a Terrorist, (he is the only journalist to have interviewed the ISIS terrorist, thought to be of Arabic origin.)
Andrew Hosken wrote Empire of Fear: Inside The Isalmic State. The event was chaired by Helen Lewis, Editor of the New Statesman.
After that at 4pm I had the opportunity to steward in the Tracy Chevalier, Helen Dunmore & Linda Grant event: Reader, I Married Him.
This talk celebrated the 200th Anniversary of Charlotte Bronte’s birth. The three speakers, Tracy Chevalier, Helen Dunmore and Linda Grant’s short stories were inspired by Jane Eyre, questioning who, how and why we love. Again, another wonderful talk that I was able to tune into gratis via my stewarding role!
For those of you who might be interesting in volunteering for literary events here’s a brief rundown of what I did while I was stewarding at the Divinity School:
I made sure that everything was in order before the talk began, that the auditorium was clear of rubbish, that the viewers of the previous talk left, (with a little gentle cajoling,) and that the speakers had water and the appropriate number of glasses. Also I had to keep an eye on the heavy door. I had to ensure that it didn’t slam shut with an almighty bang when latecomers came! (The building seemed to echo with the least noise so we were asked to keep disturbance to a minimum!) We helped with organising the queues for the auditorium, and the book signing, and generally tried to get festival goers in the right direction for toilets, etc. Oh, and we smiled a lot!
On Sunday I did it all again! Here’s us stewards posing for this photo opportunity twittered via Kate Kirk, and yours truly!
There’s me second on the right of the photo!
On Sunday morning I was due at the Fitzwilliam museum at 9.30, via a back entrance which was quite hard to find. Luckily I came across another steward who seemed to have a better sense of direction than I had and we found our way into the Goods In! Now that we were tagged, and signed in, we took a large (no I lie, an enormous lift,) into the museum.
I was so lucky! I was stewarding at the Claire Harman: Charlotte Bronte: A life, talk.
I have to say that this talk and the Hallelujah for 50ft. Women were my two favourite events at the Festival this year. Perhaps the Fitzwilliam event was in part due to the venue, my photo doesn’t do it justice, the room was beyond stunning:
But, moreover I was riveted by Claire Harman’s discussion of her acclaimed biography: Charlotte Bronte: A Life. After the talk, audience members were able to enjoy a display of Charlotte Bronte’s personal letters dating from 1845 to her death in 1855. These letters cover the period during which Jane Eyre, Shirley, and Villette were published, as well as her marriage to Arthur Bell Nicholls in 1854. The letters are still available for a short time period (a week, I believe) from today to view. The event was chaired by Tom Gatti, Culture Editor, New Statesman.
In the afternoon it was time for a quick bite to eat and then I was off to the take part in the Children’s programme! Yippee!!!
At 2.30 it was time for some Roman Mysteries and Quests with best selling author Caroline Lawrence in the Union Blue Room. Her novels are mostly set in ancient Rome. To find out more visit Caroline’s website:
I was impressed by Caroline’s ability to get her young audience members to join in at every opportunity, making the event a very fun and interactive experience. In fact, when she mentioned the xylospongia, an implement to clean yourself after you’ve been to the toilet,(in Roman times,) that got more than a few laughs. Toilet humour, always does the biz!! Below she’s grinning holding a xylospongia at the ready!
I managed to have a chat with Caroline and the tech guy, before the talk. Caroline was really lovely, so friendly and nice. And the tech guy was too, he trusted me to be responsible for his expensive piece of tech, I was the microphone lady for Q & A. First time doing this….. think it went ok. I didn’t drop it! Thank goodness. I didn’t mention I’m a bit accident prone! Though, I think the head steward might have guessed when I tripped over the queuing rope barriers. Luckily there was no harm done, just a bruised ego.
At 4pm I was in the Blue Room again this time helping out with Monica Vaughan’s talk on her book, Six. This is the American cover:
A thrilling and chilling sci-fi mystery that tackles controversial topics. Like the sound of this…. As before I wielded the microphone, for Q and A, and afterwards I managed to talk briefly to Monica before I left. Again she was very lovely, and thanked me for my help which was very sweet of her.
Here’s a link to Monica’s website to find out more about her:
and a photo of her at the Festival that I pinched from her twitter account!
I hope you enjoyed finding out more about my stewarding role, perhaps it might inspire you to help out at the next Literary Festival near you. It’s a very worthwhile thing to do, particularly if you are a book worm, or a budding author, (you get free attendance at talks that aren’t sold out, have a chance to chat to authors, particularly in the smaller events.) Of course you do have to get in the spirit of the festival by wearing a free lurid tee-shirt, or perhaps shuffling about in a funny costume, ha ha!!! While you’re stewarding you can listen to talks and generally have the opportunity to meet like minded people. Stewarding gives you a marvellous insight into the workings of event management too. So do have a go. My motto at the moment is try everything at least once!
Do pop over to Diana’s blog, Part Time Monster to see all about the weekly Coffee Share post:
All about Weekend Coffee Share :http://parttimemonster.com/weekend-coffee-share/
Link up to the Weekend Coffee share blog by clicking on Diane’s blog, Part Time-Monster, there’s a blue link: https://parttimemonster.com/category/weekly-features/weekend-coffee-share/
Have you ever stewarded before? At a Literary Festival or perhaps another event? Do share your experiences I would love to hear all about them.
Bye for now,
Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx
In case you’re curious to find out more, do visit my links:
Today I’m opening a new door so to speak and having a go at Norm’s Thursday Doors #ThursdayDoors which ‘ is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing it, between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time), by using the blue link-up button on Norm’s blog:
This week Norm is doing a special Anniversary addition with two parts:
Special Anniversary Edition – Church of the Holy Trinity (Part 1) – Toronto and the second part is by his blog buddy Joanne Sisco over at My Life Lived Full. So do pop over to their Norm and Joanne’s blog to find out more.
I’ve been meaning to do this post for ages and I’ve had just the door in mind.
It’s the magnificent entrance door to The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge:
I’ll think that you’ll agree that’s a pretty striking door.
I went there just recently with my eldest daughter to go to see The Death on the Nile Exhibition and indulged in a very fine Chelsea Bun just before the museum visit – in Fitzbillies Cafe, more about that scrumptious delight here:
I’m looking forward to walking through the magical portal of the Fitwilliam Museum again soon http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/– I’m stewarding for one of the Cambridge Literary Festival events there during the Spring Festival this April. I’m looking forward to taking part in this – I’ve never been a steward before – I’ve been to many book festivals but never as a helper. So that should be interesting. The event is ‘A very special event to celebrate the life of feminist trailblazer and literary visionary, Charlotte Brontë who was born 200 years ago this April. Claire Harman joins us to discuss her acclaimed biography, Charlotte Brontë: A Life. Audience members can also enjoy a display of Charlotte Brontë’s personal letters from 1845 to her death in 1855 and cover the period during which Jane Eyre, Shirley and Villette were published, as well as her marriage to Arthur Bell Nicholls in 1854.’
As well as this I’m stewarding at a couple of other events at the Festival so no doubt there will be more about that later on my blog. Do check out the following link to the festival: http://www.cambridgeliteraryfestival.com/
Doors hold such fascinating potential…. In fact I’ve opened a new door just recently on Wattpad. The prologue and the first few chapters of my novel The Curse of Time are now on Wattpad so do click on the links to find out more. Please feel free to comment, add feedback, share, I would really appreciate it.
Bye for now.
I’ve been a busy bee today, trying to catch up on the daily grind… cleaning really is a curse!
Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx
On Saturday 18th April 2015 I heard Cathy Cassidy talk about her new novel Looking-Glass Girl, in the Cambridge Union Blue Room, Cambridge Literary Festival. I was accompanied by my youngest daughter who has read several of the Cathy Cassidy books, so she was happy to come along and hear this much admired author of her childhood. The audience consisted of lots and lots of young girls.
Cathy started off her talk by addressing the youngsters in her audience with the answer to the question that is most often asked by her fans:
What subjects did she like when she was their age?
She did like English but it wasn’t a 100% full on love. She enjoyed writing stories, but wasn’t too keen on spelling or grammar. Such excellent news and hope for all those amongst us who are bad spellers, and weak at grammar.
Cathy’s Route to Writing
After Cathy left school she started off at Art college in Liverpool, and later became an Art Teacher in a Coventry Secondary school. Her old art teacher at her childhood school wasn’t exactly inspiring, in fact he seemed a bit prehistoric. Those old school art classes seemed to be fashioned out of the “time of the dinosaur.” With the topic of teachers fresh in her mind she asked if there were any teachers in the audience who had managed to, “get through the net.” Of course, there was bound to be a teacher who had wriggled through the net, and there was, so she had to be careful. She jokingly said that, “alters what I can say to you.”
Now, this is the point in which Cathy Cassidy really switched on my listening ears, and I reckon, my daughters too, and no doubt the rest of the audience too. She said her favourite thing to do at school was daydreaming! She had been an “enthusiastic” daydreamer who got caught. Now she had devised a way not to get caught whilst daydreaming and had three daydreaming tips which she would like to share with us. Unfortunately she said that she couldn’t pass these tips on just now. There was a teacher present! So, she encouraged the youngsters in the audience to email her to get these daydreaming tips. What a lovely thought, daydreaming tips, maybe we should all have a copy of these! Cathy is a no. 1 advocate of day dreaming. She would love nothing better than for “daydreaming lessons” to be part of the classroom curriculum! In her opinion daydreaming is “never wasted.” After all, she gets paid to do it. What a lucky woman, just imagine all the fabulous places she has been to, touring, promoting her books, Beijing, Singapore, Poland, France, these were just a few of the places that she mentioned that she has been to.
She started off her writing career in Scotland. At the time she had teenagers at home who would make a lot of noise, playing musical instruments, so she resorted to writing in a shed in her garden. It was her own personal writer’s retreat. We should all have one of these, though in my case it isn’t my teenage daughters who make such a noise, it tends to be my husband! He is a teenager at heart, he always has his music up full blast or is playing one of his many guitars. I think he secretly likes it when I’m not around then he can make as much racket as he wants! Digressing a bit, oops, back to Cathy. Now Cathy has moved to Merseyside, she has an indoor writing area but she still remembers that shed with great fondness.
150th Anniversary of Alice in Wonderland
It is the 150th Anniversary of Alice in Wonderland. So not altogether surprising that Cathy the previously crowned queen of teen was approached to write a Alice themed book. She was desperate to do this “lovely challenge,” being that she had always been inspired by the Alice in Wonderland story which she had read at the age of nine. The Alice story is “like a fairy story,” which Cathy identifies with, though “perhaps Alice is braver than I.” It has this quality about it that makes it feel, “like it has always been there.” At thirteen she returned to the story again and her response was a little different, she seemed to notice a “dark, sinister,” aspect that she had overlooked when she was younger. She liked the idea of “time being really important.” I do too! Time plays a bit part in my writing too! John Tenniel’s original illustrations of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland grabbed her attention, particularly Alice’s sticky out skirt, and her wavy hair. Alice developed into quite a style icon for Cathy. It is a look that Cathy really likes and one that she still models today.
Cathy’s Childhood Reading
Cathy spent her childhood going to three different libraries a week. If you consider that she could get six library books per library that’s a lot of books! It became such a compulsion that her mother resorted to hiding Cathy’s books.
Cathy’s Favourite Book as a Child
Cathy’s favourite book as a child was Watership Down by Richard Adams. She remembers one occasion in which the coolest boy in her school came up to her and asked, “What you reading?” She had been really worried what his response would be when he saw the book, but to her surprise he said,”Watership Down is the best book.”
Cathy’s Favourite Character in her books.
Her favourite series was The Chocolate Box Girls and her favourite character in this series is Honey. Cathy likes how full on and interesting she is.
How She Started Off Her Writing Career
Cathy started off her writing career by sending stories to Jackie magazine. She sent off hundreds of stories and at the age of sixteen she received a nice rejection letter. Ironically she ended up at an interview for an Office Junior job at Jackie magazine, and became Fiction Editor.
Cathy’s publisher wanted her to write a dark and a little bit scary story, not a re-telling of the classic Alice in Wonderland story, so she came up with Alice’s Looking-Glass Girl. In the novel there is a themed party in which everything that could go wrong does go wrong. Her Alice in Looking-Glass Girl is a year 8 pupil. The novel explores jealousy, friendship problems, and bullying. The bully Savvy, intrigues Alice so much that Alice feels compelled to go to Savvy’s Alice themed party even though this is most probably asking for a shed load of trouble! I like the sound of a bully intriguing you, that’s an interesting way to go.
Goodreads Synopsis of Looking-Glass Girl
To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland, a compelling modern-day re-imagining of Alice’s story by every girl’s favourite author, Cathy Cassidy. Alice is thrilled when Savannah invites her to a Wonderland-themed sleepover; she’s wanted to join this circle of friends for so long. Finally, she’s fitting in. But an accident suddenly changes everything and Alice is rushed to hospital. As her friends and family rally round, a mystery begins to unravel. Was Alice pushed, and why – who would want to hurt her? Can her loved ones – and the gorgeous boy who doesn’t want to leave her side – help Alice survive? Looking-Glass Girl is the stunning new book from Cathy Cassidy, an unforgettable tale of friendship and love from one of the UK’s best-loved authors. Cathy Cassidy is Puffin’s top-selling author for girls. She was an art teacher, a magazine editor and an agony aunt before becoming a full-time writer. She has worked at Shout magazine and previously at Jackie, the magazine named after Jacqueline Wilson. Cathy tours extensively around the UK – meeting over 10,000 young readers in 2012. She has twice won the prestigious ‘Queen of Teen’ award. Cathy lives with her husband, two teenage children, two dogs, two cats and a rabbit.
Cathy’s Writing Process
Cathy doesn’t tend to plan much, she uses methods that work best for a “visual person like me,” such as drawing, creating a collage of the “world of characters,” as well as the daydreaming method to come up with her characters. The story plays out like a “movie that runs through my mind.” She writes directly onto her laptop. I don’t plot much either Cathy so with you on that one!
The Inspiring Force
Her father was the inspiring force behind her writing. He repaired cars but he was a big believer in dreaming. He supported and believed in Cathy. We all need someone like this to inspire and guide us.
Her Daizy Star books are based on herself, and the covers and illustrations are done by Cathy.
A Bit of a Secret
There were lots of girls with the name Catherine in her class in school. So nowadays she likes to steal cool interesting names at her book signings. What a great idea! So next time Cathy asks you to sign her book, you’ll know that she’s up to mischief!
Such An Inspiring Talk
It was an amazingly inspiring talk. I really enjoyed it. I thought Cathy was a wonderful speaker. I’ve always been enthralled by the fantasy element in the Alice in Wonderland story. Cathy delivered a “you believe in you,” talk and a remember to daydream message that are so incredibly important. As we left the talk my daughter and I talked about daydreaming, she said that she liked to doodle in the margins of her workbooks but not all her teachers appreciated this creative artistry! That’s a shame as she is a visual person too, who likes creative pastimes such as photography, art, textiles, and writing.These childlike daydreaming qualities are often forgotten when we become adults but these attributes are the ones that allow us to explore our creative side fully. I shall have to doodle again! So next time you find yourself daydreaming, allow yourself to drift off, you never know where it might take you.
Cathy’s Blogzine: http://cathycassidydreamcatcher.blogspot.co.uk/
In this Blogzine there are lots of opportunities for young readers to contribute, and to write reviews of her books.
A very interesting About Me page: http://www.cathycassidy.com/me
Her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cathycassidyauthor
150th Anniversary of Alice in Wonderland: http://lewiscarrollresources.net/2015/
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On Sunday 19th April 2015 I arrived in time for the Cambridge Literary Festival Publishing in the Digital Age talk in The Cambridge Union Blue Room. Luckily I just managed to catch my bus by a hair’s whisker or else I would have been late. There were two speakers, Rachel Colbert, of Headline Press, and Mary-Ann Harrington, from Tinder Press. Tinder Press was launched two years ago in 2013 as Headline’s literary imprint, “a place where classy, intelligent writing could thrive.” Mary-Ann enthusiastically has managed to acquire lots of lovely authors for this fairly new imprint, including Mary O’Farrell, their launch title author of Instructions for a Heatwave, Helen Walsh, author of The Lemon Grove, and Eowyn Ivey debut author of Snow Child, to name but a few. “Snow Child became an international bestseller. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize 2013, and Eowyn won the International Author of the Year category at the 2012 National Book Awards.”
Headline is a long-established publishing house, having been around since 1986, so Rachel asked Mary-Ann why had they chosen these troubled times to start a new imprint?
For Mary-Ann it felt like “the logical next step,” they felt “hungry to do more,” and books such as Snow Child were out there waiting to be discovered and to be successful in terms of sales. She wanted to create a small imprint of ten to twelve titles in which world of mouth would drive both debut authors and established authors success. These authors would then be given the prestige that Literary authors deserve. This small focus meant that these titles could become “reading group fiction,” or “word of mouth fiction,” and could be delivered into the right hands. There would be continuing support for these authors. A strategy was developed to find the perfect readers and advocates of these books, ensuring that this prestigious literature was placed into the right hands. The focus was on keeping it “special,” “small,” “diverse,” and “building up relationships.” With this strategy in place books could be issued to the booksellers, bloggers, and writers to endorse them. “Trust” was the key.
Rachel asked about opportunities for new writers given that the number of independent book retailers had now fallen drastically to less than one thousand shops.
Mary-Ann began by saying that yes it is a difficult marketplace. There are challenges, and threats but there are also opportunities. The high street chains are troubled so launching debuts is a difficult task. Booksellers have to think of new and exciting initiatives to generate interest. Tinder Press is passionate about championing new writers such as Sarah Leipciger debut author of The Mountain Can Wait.
Rachel continued to discuss this topic, she suggested that debut authors do have an advantage in some ways.
Mary-Ann was quick to agree, new authors are seen as “promising,” and intriguing, therefore they get a fair amount of publicity and attention. Readers love nothing better than finding new authors.
Next Rachel explored the rise of Digital Books.
Mary-Ann argued that for an established literary author e-books are a good method to generate sales. With debut literary fiction the book needs to be seen, reviewed, and recommended so the traditional publishing route is better. She mentioned “the importance of a book as a physical object.” Yet that doesn’t mean that Mary-Ann isn’t aware of the current trends in self-publishing. On the contrary she mentioned that she, ” is very interested in self-publishing.” She suggested that authors taking the self-publishing route should put energy into their marketing, to make as much of an impact as possible.If they are successful it can pay off and they can be signed by major publishers. Again, it’s about creating relationships, and making sure that your material, the book itself, the cover, your social media presence is of the highest quality. Next, they talked about kindle. The focus centred firmly on hard work, creating an amazing profile, blog, and making sure that your on-line marketing strategy is first class.
Rachel had a tip for those who intend to publish to e-books. In traditional publishing there might be some empty blank pages in the opening pages of a physical book before the story begins. With e-books this is unnecessary, so make sure that you don’t have a lot of empty pages at the beginning of your e-book, start straight into the story, put any other pages at the back of the book.
For a successful self published book to be picked up by a traditional publishing house it would have had to have sold in the region of 50,000 plus copies. That’s a lot of books! Of course they do keep an eye on the progress of self-published books. It is worth trying as many agencies as possible when looking to publish your book. Explore many avenues to get your work read, write short stories, and flash fiction, these are all an excellent idea. If you’re going directly to a publisher make sure that they know that you are confident in your intention, and that you wish to bypass the lengthy process to get your books straight into the publisher’s hands. Mary added that without an agent publishing is extremely hard, you must put time and energy into it. “Persistence” is the key.
Rachel felt that YA and Children’s literature is a growing area so possibly the market is not quite so saturated. Again check guidelines when submitting to publishers, agents, and follow them very carefully. Do not give them any excuse to ignore your submission, which will most probably be the case if you make mistakes.
Mary-Ann mentioned that Tinder Press is an imprint which publishes “international” books, an example which she cited is an Australian novel: Stephanie Bishop’s UK debut, The Other Side Of The World. This is a beautifully written literary novel. Novels such as these provoke the word “love” to readily come into the conversation when she pitches these kind of books in-house. These special books thrive with writer’s endorsements, and there is a “reproduction effect” as each reader experiences a powerful, personal response when reading the book, which is then reproduced over and over again.
Next the topic moved on to new writers and the Submissions process
Mary-Ann is one of three editors at Tinder Press. They look for a publishing model that is full of enthusiasm. There must be a strong narrative hook to provoke an emotive response. Though, sometimes a quieter novel might come along that still captures the editor’s attention because it is so wonderfully written or is a bit different. They look for books with engaging stories that leave you with a “strong feeling,” that you “want to share,” they might have “a strong international flavour.” Tinder Press wants their readers to be challenged.
When submitting Mary-Ann suggests that the most important consideration to bear in mind is the “kernel of the book.” This is so important. The author should be able to tell their story in a couple of sentences that are so memorable that the editor will sit up and take notice and ultimately the reader will want to go on this fictional journey. It is also helpful if editors are able to see that the submitting author has a social media presence. Long established authors don’t necessarily have to, but new writers are encouraged to do so. To be a member of a writer’s group, or to have successfully taken part in writing competitions, anything along these lines will give the editor a sense of the writers capabilities. But, don’t rely on this alone, first and foremost it is the book itself that will drive the editor’s decision whether to accept it.
New authors are given excellent advice from the in-house Tinder publicist about building good relationships. This community of support is very important. Mary-Ann recommended looking at the way that successful authors conduct their social media, use some of these as a model to get ideas.
In March Tinder had an open submission for two weeks from unagented authors. This is now closed. Their publicist did such a good job in publicising the event that they received a whopping 2,000 submissions. They anticipate that they will find an author from this process. When submissions are open, they hope that the successful author will have all the necessary skills to be accepted straight away. Though Mary-Ann did say that if they find an author with promise they would be prepared to mentor that author.
A member of the audience asked if they take submissions from non-fiction writers.
They may take one submission from a non-fiction writer, they would be interested in memoir.
So, what did I think about Publishing in The Digital Age?
I’m so glad I went to the talk. I discovered lots of new exciting Literary Fiction, and also I gained some insight into the workings of the submissions process. It was well worth it. If you’re interested in books and/or writing I’d highly recommend attending a Literary Festival, it is inspiring and so much fun.
How many of us would classify ourselves as normal? Is there even such a thing? If there is do we even want to be normal?
Lisa Williamson’s talk at the Cambridge Literary Festival on Saturday 18th April 2015 was held in the Cambridge Union Blue Room. The proceedings were kicked off in very ebullient style by James Dawson, YA author, of several novels including: Say Her Name, Hollow Pike, Cruel Summer, and This Book is Gay. James eloquently set about reminding us that this talk wasn’t about himself but was in fact about Lisa Williamson, the debut author of The Art of Being Normal.
Lisa began her talk by reading the first chapter of her very well received YA novel: The Art of Being Normal. This chapter only consisted of one paragraph and three short lines, but that’s all she needed to capture the audience’s attention:
“One afternoon, when I was eight years old, my class was told to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Miss Box went round the class, asking each one of us to stand up and share what we had written. Zachary Olsen wanted to play in the Premier League. Lexi Taylor wanted to be an actress. Henry Beaumont planned on being Prime Minister. Simon Allen wanted to be Harry Potter, so badly that the previous term he had scratched a lightning bolt on to his forehead with a pair of craft scissors.
But I didn’t want to be any of these things.
This is what I wrote:
I want to be a girl.”
She went on to tell the audience about David, the fourteen year old boy in her novel who is going through puberty. Puberty is difficult enough if you are happy in your body, but if you are a boy who wants to be a girl can you even begin to imagine how difficult that must be? David befriends a new boy called Leo. They form an unlikely friendship. Leo is a bit rough around the edges, and his background is different from David’s, Leo lives in a council estate. This novel is principally about Transgender but it is also a novel about friendship. It sounds to me as if The Art of Being Normal would appeal to a wide range of young YA enthusiasts, and older people like myself who love to read YA, and appreciate a good story about friendship.
Lisa Williamson is not Transgender so how did she come to write about Transgender issues? She is an actress, acting under the name Lisa Cassidy, you may have seen her in the John Lewis commercial, playing Monty the penguin. Of course acting in this particular commercial didn’t inspire her to write about Transgender, this happened quite by chance. She worked a variety of temporary office jobs until she found herself temping in the NHS Tavistock, in the Gender Identity Department. This job was a lucky strike. She typed up notes about Transgender kids, and enjoyed it so much that she decided to work full time in this role. Through this process Lisa began to realise that Transgender kids are “normal,” that they are “just regular kids,” who are unrepresented in YA literature. This lack of representation is remarkable considering the fact that they are “more common than red hair,” as James Dawson puts it. Lisa was nervous about her workplace reaction, and didn’t tell them at the time that she was writing a book about Transgender.
Lisa didn’t use a real Transgender person’s story rather she assimilated various stories and came up with the character of David. Her writing process started with fleshing out the characters rather than focussing on the workings of the plot. James Dawson remarked that the gruff Leo was his “favourite” character!
Lisa is fascinated with “abandoned places,” and the “bleak seaside,” and this shows in the choice of some of the locations in The Art of Being Normal.
Without a doubt it has been an amazing experience for this debut author. From listening to her talk one gets the sense of her feeling responsible for the welfare of the Transgender community. She received a message from one reader who said, that I: ” Don’t feel like I need to hide away anymore.” How wonderful to have had that kind of a positive impact on a young person. She hopes that the book will “change your perception,” and that the “book will speak for itself.”
Of course considering the fact that she is not Transgender herself there were bound to be cries of: “What right does she have to write about this?” But James Dawson argued quite rightly that yes you, “Have to write about characters that are not you.” Who wants to read about themselves? Nobody!
Lisa Williamson’s book was published on the 1st January, so soon after all the excitement of the Christmas festivities. In fact it was such a stressful time that Lisa felt like her eyebrows were falling out, to which James Dawson quipped, that she “can put her eyebrows back on now!”
What about a second book? Somehow this is difficult, the second book is “hell,” there are many pressures, currently she is working on idea six or seven. James Dawson was quick to support her with the encouraging words, ‘Take your time, its fine.” By the time you get to the third book you can relax. No doubt by then, I reckon, Lisa’s eyebrows will have completely recovered their former glory.
An audience member asked about the impact of social media on Transgender kids. Overall both Lisa Williamson and James Dawson seemed to feel that social media is a positive force, and a brilliant resource. This kind of on-line help wasn’t available to young gay men when James Dawson was growing up. Now there is a wealth of on-line resources for authors to connect with and support each other, and for kids to get the help and advice that they need on all sorts of LBGT issues.
Lisa has chosen YA as a means of expression because she loves YA, she believes that YA allows the author to be right there, “pushing boundaries, exploring.” I agree. YA literature showcases a time when everything is fresh and new, but also a time when life is filled with many difficult decisions and issues for the young people she is writing about.
Would the novel have been such a success if it had not been about Transgender issues? Of course the Transgender was a hook, a definite way to get attention, people are fascinated by the unusual, the “unlikely gang,” as James Dawson puts it. There haven’t been many books on this topic, it is so unrepresented, this is also true of LBGT in general.
Lisa’s Williamson’s talk was thoroughly illuminating. I attended with my two teenage daughters, both of whom enjoyed it very much. At the end we went off to buy a copy of the book, and wondered what to ask Lisa Williamson to write at the book signing. Should we ask her to write all our individual names, or ask her to address it to the Mallon family? That sounded a bit ridiculous Addams family like, so we ended up giggling in YA fashion in the signing queue, and opted for all our names to be added individually. Lisa signed the book with a flourish, and in her black pen she highlighted the word normal in a black rectangular box. Some of us might prefer not to be thought of as “normal,” we might like to be a bit special and unique, but some amongst us are just longing to be “normal” as we can and to fit in. We are all a little different, and deserve to be respected for who we are, regardless of our sexual orientation, gender, transgender, race and religion, and long may it remain so.
About the author (via Goodreads)
Lisa was born in Nottingham in 1980. She spent most of her childhood drawing, daydreaming and making up stories in her head (but never getting round to writing them down). As a teenager she was bitten by the acting bug and at 19 moved to London to study drama at university.
Following graduation, Lisa adopted the stage name of Lisa Cassidy and spent several happy and chaotic years occasionally getting paid to pretend to be other people. Between acting roles she worked as an office temp and started making up stories all over again, only this time she had a go at writing them down.
Lisa lives near Hampstead Heath with her boyfriend Matt, where she is lucky enough to split her time between writing and acting. In her spare time she reads a lot of books, continues to daydream and eats way too much ice cream.