North Cornwall Book Festival 2014: catch-up with all our coverage

We published lots of blogposts over the weekend: catch up with them all here

Interviews

Reports on talks, sessions and workshops

Personal responses and creative writing

My favourite book: festival-goers and authors share their favourite volume

Our brilliant festival team was: Jay Armstrong, Sarah Purnell, Annie Harrison, Anna Cathenka, Aysha Bryant, Shannan Sterne, Sarah Cave, Emma Gibbs, Paige Davis and David Brady. Thanks also to Sorrel Watson for her interview.

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Festival finale: Louisa Young interviewed by Patrick Gale

Jay Armstrong and Sarah Purnell respond to the festival’s final event, in which Patrick Gale talked to Louisa Young. Here Jay reports on the session, and Sarah responds to its content.

It is the last session of the North Cornwall Book Festival. Patrick Gale and Louisa Young meet to talk about her Costa nominated novel, My Dear I Wanted to Tell You, set at the time of the First World War. Young’s extraordinary research into early maxillofacial surgery was sparked by a surprising link to her grandmother, a sculptor, who helped make the casts from which faces were surgically reconstructed.

Describing techniques that were as innovative as they were crude, we were given an insight into the treatment of soldiers wounded in trench warfare. Young talked passionately about how she used character to explore how we the reader would react to disfigurement, trauma and loss. We were at once fascinated and appalled by what these traumatised young men went through; it was a timely reminder in the lead up to Remembrance Sunday.

There are some interesting similarities between Gale’s upcoming new novel A Place Called Winter and My Dear I Wanted To Tell You in terms of the weaving of family history into the story, and the attempts of characters to rescue each other in trying circumstances.

My Dear is the first of two published books – its sequel is The Heroes’ Welcome – and Young is currently writing the third in the series. She explained that the hero’s coming of age coincides with the outbreak of the Second World War: it promises to be another heartrending portrayal of the impact of war on both on those who fought and those who were left with the enduring trauma of conflict.

Sarah Purnell writes

As a writer, I am forever fascinated by another writer’s process. Or, at least, hearing them answer the question: where does it come from?

And what is it? The characters. The plot. The setting. The inspiration.

Louisa Young’s current series of novels is historical fiction, and it’s clear that she has done her research, giving us a potted history of maxillofacial surgery. It’s fascinating. And I think the story of her grandmother being involved in the actual workings of the early practice of it shows a passionate personal connection, but also that we all seem to have a story-granny.

There’s usually that one person in a family that has a spectacular story to tell. Something that sounds like it must be fiction, but it isn’t. It is, however, a great point of inspiration.

It’s not an instant process. Young reminds us that stories need more than one idea, and they need to be shelved inside of our minds and carried around to grow. I suppose, rather crudely, it’s like a birthing.

John Crace on sketch writers – the pirates of the papers

By Sarah Purnell

I’m early. I sit near the back of the boat at first, but then a wave of courage and I find myself second row from the front. We’re at sea, I think. The canvas slaps in the wind, someone manoeuvres around the central mast for a better view, they remove their jacket because it’s warm. Tropical, even. The rest of the crew slowly assembles and the Guardian’s political sketch writer John Crace stands up to the helm. He is a jolly roger.

“I’m here to talk about people that are dishonest for a living,” he says, referring to the politicians he reports on daily. This feels like this is the crux of what sketch writing as good as Crace’s achieves. Politicians don’t lie. But they don’t tell the truth. And that can leave people in shark-infested water when it comes to trying to interpret it.

Sketch writers are the pirates of the papers: “the rogue element that can’t be controlled”. Crace explains that sometimes it’s difficult to write the daily sketch, and then sometimes government figures almost write the sketches for him.

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In pictures: John Betjeman walk around Trebetherick

Yesterday, Aysha Bryant went for a walk around Trebetherick celebrating the late Poet Laureate John Betjeman’s love for the village and this area of North Cornwall. You can read her blogpost about the experience here. Below you’ll find some pictures she took on her travels.

Aysha Bryant at St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick, North Cornwall
St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick, North Cornwall
St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick
Aysha Bryant at St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick, North Cornwall
ohn Betjeman's grave at St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick
John Betjeman’s grave at St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick. Picture: Aysha Bryant

Poem: On Finding the Library in a Stranger’s House

The team from the Falmouth’s School of Writing and Journalism have been camped out in Trefelix, the beautiful Arts & Crafts house at the centre of the festival. We’ve been working in the house’s library, which is a lovely family room with ceiling-to-floor shelves filled with family reading. After spending Saturday working amongst the books, Anna wrote a poem reflecting on that experience.

By Anna Cathenka

Unfamiliar shelves in unfamiliar rooms
draw my attention in the quiet hours.
I pick up, browse backs
passing pint to left hand, a book
fits where a cigarette is lacked.
These wrinkled, well-loved worlds
who are untold to me. And then,
winking from across the room
an old friend, A Modern Herbal,
echo of my childhood. So sudden
the well-known spines appear
amongst the strangers; Wyndham,
Chatwin, sixties Pan Books
of Neville Shute, C.S. Lewis,
The Silmarillion, nineties
Bill Bryson (this one signed)
Wild Swans, Stieg Larsson,
Hemingway,
Harry Potter, Terry Pratchett,
faded Frank Herberts. My pint,
back in my right –
now more a quarter-pint –
sinks wistfully as I wonder:
“a house with books is never
without friends.”

 

John Betjeman walk around Trebetherick

Betjeman walk
The North Cornwall coast from Trebetherick. Picture: Aysha Bryant

By Aysha Bryant

‘Too many people in the modern world view poetry as a luxury, not a necessity like petrol. But to me it’s the oil of life.’- Sir John Betjeman

Off I went, on a walk about the late Poet Laureate John Betjeman. Although originally from London, Betjeman spent many holidays in Trebetherick, North Cornwall and later moved here with his family. It was in this village that Betjeman became a part of the community – as we visited people’s homes on the walk, they welcomed us with open arms.

Everybody was so eager to tell us stories about John’s life and their connections to him, in fact,that the walk took longer than expected. We sat down in each house and listened to the history and memories surrounding this poet.  Continue reading

The Novel Cure: a literary prescription to ease your woes

The Novel Cure
The Novel Cure: Sarah receives her literary prescription. Picture: Sarah Purnell

By Sarah Purnell

I am led into a small, red room – a dramatic setting for my Bibiliotherapy session with Ella Berthoud, who is dressed in a long, sweeping tunic in a shimmering green; I can’t help but feel like there might be some sorcery afoot.

Settled on a scarlet throw, we begin.

One thing that amazes me is the way Berthoud seems able to pull almost any book out of her head and talk about it. She’s a human library.

We talk about my current reading habits and I tell her about the pile of YA fiction by my bed at home. To best describe my relationship with books I show her my tattoo of Edgar Allan Poe. I tell her how reluctant I’ve been to read contemporary fiction. I tell her about my dad. His current health problems. How it scares me.

I’m surprised how easily I find it to talk to her.

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