Unlike last year I am not trying to bed down for the entire festival… but here are some bitesize clips from some of my festival experience.
Documenting the Past: Neema Shah (Kololo Hill) in conversation with Catherine Menon
Here is an author who proves you CAN come to writing after/during a career, you can write if you haven’t chosen an academic route into it, you can write a book and still work full time (many authors prove this) and you can get a book published (via Agent) within 5 years! Not only that but this first novel was also shortlisted for several prizes.
It was a fascinating conversation both in terms of the book itself and the writing process.
Set in Uganda in 1972, Kololo Hill (shortlisted for the Bath Novel Award and the First Novel Prize) tells the story of one family’s escape. From the green hilltops of Kampala, to the terraced houses of London, Neema Shah’s debut explores what it means to leave your home behind, what it takes to start again, and the lengths some will go to protect their loved ones. © Stay-at-Home! Festival
‘[An] incredible debut’ Stylist
‘Shah is excellent on the theme of home . . . an absorbing storyteller’ Daily Mail
***ONE OF TELEGRAPH’S BEST NOVELS OF 2021***
‘Supple, artful, skilful storytelling – it takes an immediate grip on the reader’s imagination and doesn’t let go’ HILARY MANTEL
The Scene of the Crime: William Shaw, Rebecca Wait and Nina Allan
This panel was a great discussion between several crime writers looking at how their work addresses similar themes and how it is approached differently. I enjoyed the discussion over various planning (or not) approaches, hearing about research and how their novels developed.
The brilliant third book in the DS Alexandra Cupidi investigations.
‘If you’re not a fan yet, why not?’ VAL MCDERMID
‘A superb storyteller’ PETER MAY
With meticulously realised characters and a brooding setting, Grave’s End confronts the crisis in housing, environmentalism, historic cases of abuse and the protection given to badgers by the law.
A gripping, tender novel about fathers and sons from the highly acclaimed author
A Guardian crime and thriller book of the year 2020
‘This is a beautifully realised novel, touching on the fallibility of memory and the unknowability of families, and gripping in its intensity. Outstanding’ Mail on Sunday
‘ A spectacular novel’ Spectator
THE BEWITCHING NEW NOVEL FROM THE AWARD-WINNING GUARDIAN FRESH VOICES AUTHOR
‘A fantastic book’ Andrew O’Hagan
‘Wholly original – worthy of a modern Grimm’ Andrew Caldecott, author of Rotherweird
‘A masterful and multi-layered haunted toyshop of a novel’ Tony White, author of The Fountain in the Forest
Are You a Leaf or a Tree?
This was an intriguing title for a workshop, that was enough for me to sign up! Amanda White will be known to many of you as the founder of THE DAILY HAIKU, a group which now has over 5800 members. This was a fun creative writing workshop and not only did I produce two haiku but I found lots of surprises writing themselves into my notebook too.
Turns out I’m a leaf from a Canadian Red Maple tree, who knew!
Amanda also posts daily writing prompts on the festival’s INSTAGRAM.
Hidden Gems from Novel Research
One aspect I love about writing is research. One thing I love about Literary Festivals (and the list of loves is long), is discovering new-to-me authors but equally exciting is finding one you admire or have read on the bill! To hear they’re writing a sequel?! How much could my heart take! I was super excited even before this panel started.
I was enthralled by: Kerry Postle’s insight into what is hidden, the historical information Ali Bacon provided us on early photography and the woman behind it all, Heather Child’s delve into Quantum physics and Jean Burnett’s exploration of quirky historical facts.
The programme suggested we would be sure to learn something new and I certainly did – about 4 pages worth. This was a fun session where each Bristol novelist offered us three gems from their research.
In the Blink of an Eye is a reimagining of the life of the Scottish painter David Octavius Hill from the moment of his encounter with Robert Adamson, a pioneer in the use of calotypes – pictures made by the light of the sun – until the day when his great Disruption Painting is unveiled.
In the words of competition judge Nick Bellorini, “These are exquisitely rendered tales which reveal their truths with all the delicate resonance of the art they celebrate.” © Linen Press
WHAT IF YOUR LIFE HAD AN ‘UNDO’ BUTTON?
‘Brilliantly twisty, thought-provoking stuff – such enjoyable reading’ Jenny Colgan
‘A moving time-slip romance . . . The Undoing of Arlo Knott is a triumph’ Guardian
Inspired by a heartbreaking true story, this stunning and evocative novel is perfect for fans of The Sapphire Widow , Beneath a Burning Sky and The Emerald Affair .
I would have loved the workshop with Jen Hadfield, but I had another workshop to attend. I did manage to hotfoot it across to S@HLF in time to see Rachel Bower and Jay Whittaker. Rachel’s readings at last year’s S@HLF were amazing and I was looking forward to hearing more.
Two Poets: Rachel Bower and Jay Whittaker
A great event where we were not only gifted with readings from these two talented poets but also a generous and wonderful Q&A.
Rachel Bower is an award-winning writer based in Sheffield. She is the author of Moon Milk (Valley Press, 2018) and a non-fiction book on literary letters (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). Her poems and stories have been widely published, including in Anthropocene, The London Magazine, Magma, New Welsh Reader and Stand. Rachel won The London Magazine Short Story Prize 2019/20 and the W&A Short Story Competition. She edited the Verse Matters anthology (Valley Press, 2017) with Helen Mort and she is currently editing an anthology with Simon Armitage (Faber & Faber). Her new poetry collection, These Mothers of Gods, will be published by Fly on the Wall Press in July 2021.
Jay Whittaker is an Edinburgh-based poet. Her second poetry collection, Sweet Anaesthetist, was published by Cinnamon Press in September 2020. Her debut collection, Wristwatch, was Scottish Poetry Book of the Year 2018 in the Saltire Society Literary Awards. Both Jay’s books are accessible poetry collections on the themes of resilience, grief, living with cancer, family secrets, and LGBT+ lives (including her own). She prioritised her writing after her personal annus horribilis, during which her civil partner died and she started cancer treatment. Her poems are included in the 404 Ink anthology We were always here: a queer words anthology and in the new Bloodaxe anthology, Staying Human.
This S@HLF Jpeg says it all…
Wednesday was so busy I had to rewrite my schedule on a large post it (the almost A5 ones) and cover over the scribble on my diary page. It meant that this wondrous reading was the only part of the S@HLF I managed to get to. It was a great programme of events I missed out on but it brings me joy to know thousands of others didn’t!
Look out For Week 1 – Part 2 COMING SOON!