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.

What is fiction for? A personal response

By Paige Davis

Ella Berthoud discusses what is fiction for?
Ella Berthoud discusses: “What is fiction for?” Picture: Paige Davis

I have always found the essence of fiction to be something in which you can lose yourself, and take on the life of a character as though it were your own. A way in which you can escape the hardships of your own life, and experience the wonders of someone else’s. Everyone can enjoy fiction in some form, whether it be a fictionalised account of true events, or a story entirely imagined.

Upon walking into the marquee, I knew this would be an inviting debate as humourist writer, John Crace and bibliotherapist Ella Berthoud, gave their opinion on what fiction is for. Although both write in different forms and use fiction as different tools – one for therapy, one as the basis for satire – they both seemed to overall agree with each other, and with me.

When Crace pointed out that “books open themselves to different interpretations and a good book will always welcome and allow this to happen,” I couldn’t help but agree. It made me think that fiction is there to allow different people to create various interpretations and meanings for themselves.

Berthoud certainly provided a new insight into what fiction can be used for. Initially, I’d never heard of a bibliotherapist. I’d never thought of using fiction as a way of calming your mind when in such times of need. There are even books prescribed particularly for for depression. I imagine reading during depression to be an extreme task – it definitely was for me! – but Berthoud believes that: “a book read at the right time, can have healing properties and can be enjoyed.”

Crace, however, suggested fiction was something to be remembered. He recalls reading a ‘Top 100 Books to Read’ list and only recognised a couple of names and authors. I realised that all the authors I’ve heard of, read or studied, are only a small percentage of the authors who have all existed and offered their words to the minds of the public.

The debate was filled with good humour as both authors read excerpts from published works (Crace; Brideshead Abbreviated and Berthoud; The Novel Cure) and provided a personal insight into what the purpose of fiction in doing so. There was a great sense of community within the debate, as members of the audience nodded in agreement with the authors.

It is difficult to define what fiction is for. Surely the fact that novels are there to be read and interpreted in different ways therefore means it’s impossible to define what they’re for? I can however give my say: that fiction is definitely for everyone to enjoy.

Ella Berthoud and John Crace discuss ‘What is fiction for?’

By Emma Gibbs

What is fiction for? For some of us the instant answer might be escapism, relaxation, or even illumination. But for bibliophile Ella Berthoud reading is therapy for life issues. Berthoud boldly believes that prescribing literature can cure almost anything, from a ‘broken leg’ to ‘murderous thoughts’, as she explains in her book The Novel Cure.

John Crace is a feature writer for the Guardian, known for his Digested Reads, in which the great and popular novels of the late 20th and early 21st century are reduced to 700 words or fewer – most recently Kevin Pieterson’s autobiography and Stephen Fry’s latest tome. He is also a celebrated humorist novelist.

Crace and Berthoud opened the talk by asking the big question: “What is fiction for?”. Crace humorously responded that for those in the audience leaving early, the answer is: “We don’t know.”  Continue reading

My favourite book: The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

Kim has volunteered at the festival
Kim has volunteered at the festival

Kim has been volunteering at the festival, and helping out with some of the practicalities: including serving up a delicious lunch of homemade cottage pie. She’s currently reading The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. “It was recommended by a friend and unlike me, I’ve read it on a Kindle. Normally I’m a fan of the old-fashioned book! I’m loving the unusual style of her writing; beautiful evocative words in short-clipped sentences. A bit like the shipping forecast – it gives it such an immediacy.
“I’m only half-way through and I’ve got lots of questions about the plot and waiting for it to unfold. I’m looking forward to seeing how the story pans out!”

Words and picture: Jay Armstrong

Rev Richard Coles and Nina Stibbe

Mark Nina Horatio crop
Nina Stibbe, Rev Richard Coles and Horatio Clare. Picture: Jay Armstrong

By Jay Armstrong

It was a full house (or marquee even) and the crowds were not disappointed. We were treated to an hour of lively and insightful discussion between Rev Richard Coles and Nina Stibbe. Both have recently published books – one a memoir, the other a novel – with surprising similarities of theme.

Coles’ memoir, Fathomless Riches, is a book that “takes you to places other clergy memoir doesn’t stray” while Nina’s novel Man At The Helm was written out of fury at “10 years of my mother’s loneliness” following the divorce from Nina’s father. They both tell a story of being born into money and privilege before their lives changed as British manufacturing floundered in the 60s. They were left “humiliated and embarrassed” because with this reduction in wealth, came a reduction in their father’s status which reflected on whole family.

The discussion ranged from Richard’s grandfather’s hidden adulteries to Nina’s father’s elderly coming out, around which the main concern was: “But he’s part of the Montgomery scrabble club!”. The conversation was candid, and Richard said that in being honest in his memoir, he had been accused on Twitter of just “TMI Vicar”. Coles’ mother, however, appeared less scandalised: her take was “Oh darling, [it’s] charming, except where garish.”  Continue reading

My favourite book: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Laid back coffee
Rosie Hoppe, owner of Laid Back Coffee Co

All weekend we’re asking people at the festival to share their current favourite books with us. Here Anna Cathenka talks to Rosie Hoppe, owner of Laid Back Coffee Co – who says her favourite book is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

She also says she has had a great day at the festival – and we can personally vouch that her coffee is fantastic.

The fiction of Murray and Haig

Tiffany Murray and Matt Haig
Tiffany Murray and Matt Haig onstage. Picture: Annie Harrison

By Annie Harrison

What happens when you give two authors an hour to sit on stage in big armchairs and talk? Firstly they rearrange the furniture! And secondly, in Patrick Gale’s words, it gives the audience a chance to “eavesdrop” on an uncensored, unscripted chat that leads them right into the depths of human nature.

Tiffany Murray and Matt Haig read from their books, chatted about childhood, life and writing. Reading from Diamond Star Halo, Tiffany Murray recalled her childhood growing up by a record studio used by Queen which fed into her story of rockstars and romance. Matt Haig read his new novel, The Humans, about a Cambridge mathematics professor who was not all as human as he seems; delving into the elements of what it is to be a human in this world through the eyes of aliens.

So that’s what happens when you let authors talk for an hour, and eventually someone has to stop them!

My favourite book: Louisa Young on Frenchman’s Creek

Rev. Richard Coles
Louisa Young with her copy of Frenchman’s Creek

We ask readers and writers about their favourite books. Louisa Young, author of My Dear I Wanted to Tell You and The Heroes’ Welcome shares her current favourite. In fact, Louisa had her choice with her, and produced it to order. She’d found it yesterday on a shelf of secondhand books for sale at the festival.

“I have a different favourite book everyday. Today it’s Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier. It was great to pick up a book by a Cornish author here, secondhand, in Cornwall. It’s beautifully written.”

Words and picture: Aysha Bryant

Interview: Jill Murphy on the Worst Witch

By Emma Gibbs

Jill Murphy is best known for The Worst Witch stories that follow the misadventures of Mildred Hubble at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. The books were an instant success when they were first released 40 years ago and still remain hugely popular today. Murphy, an author and illustrator, went on to win the 1995 Smarties Book Prize in the 0-5 years category for her story, The Last Noo-noo. She is also famous for The Large Family picture books. She currently lives in Cornwall.

Ahead of The North Cornwall Book Festival, which Murphy will be attending for a children’s workshop on the 26th October, I talked to Jill to discuss her life as a writer…

Why did you decide to write children’s fiction?

“I have always done it, and could read and write from a very early age,” she said. “There was really no alternative.”

I asked about the incredible realisation that she could both write and draw well at such a young age. She “didn’t see it as a talent,” she said, but as a way to entertain herself. And as for her artistry skills, she explained she was often told she could “draw her way out of trouble” in school.  Continue reading

My favourite book: Kayla the Pottery Fairy and Hairy McClary

Ivy and Elsie
Ivy and Elsie: young readers at the North Cornwall Book Festival

This weekend we’re asking festival-goers to talk to us about their favourite books. Here are what Elsie, age five and Ivy, age three most enjoy.

Elsie: “My favourite book is Kayla the Pottery Fairy. It’s scary with goblins. But it’s OK as the fairies win in the end.”

Ivy: “My favourite book is Hairy McClary. Because it’s got dogs in it.”

Words and picture by Jay Armstrong