Friday, 7 August 2015

Novelists at literary festivals

Marcia once gave a talk at the Porlock Literary Festival and a reader who lives on Exmoor emailed me earlier this week telling me, amongst other things, that she had attended that festival.

Marcia at the Porlock Literary Festival.
Ways With Words is the annual literary festival held here at Dartington and they have only just packed up and disappeared for another year. Anyway, thinking about that email and the WWW festival made me ponder on the value of such festivals. It’s fine for people who are in the public eye – or want to be – but they are rarely professional novelists who write for a living. Indeed I am tempted to say that they sell books because of who they are rather than because of what the books are. Which is great, I have no problem with that.

Ways With Words. This tent is where Waterstones have speakers' bok available for signing.
The entrance to the Great Hall is to the right.
From the creative novelist’s point of view, attending a festival is rather like being a hermit crab pulled out of its shell: the feeling of exposure is immense. All the creative novelists I have met are people who work alone and who put a huge amount of themselves in their books. Having done that they see no point in talking about themselves – they would far rather that the books did that on their behalf. In any event, such novelists have only one story to tell: how they became novelists. This means that there is no point in them attending any festival more than once: the same people come year after year.

Time for a litle somethng.
They can’t really talk about the books they have written as can a politician or an historian. It may seem odd but once a book is done and dusted it is almost forgotten and to try to talk about them is almost impossible. I remember Marcia and I were in Rumour in Totnes some years ago when a slight acquaintance came up.

‘I have wanted to ask this for a long time,’ she said. ‘What happened to Claudia in the end?’

‘Who?’ asked Marcia.

‘You know, Claudia Maynard.’

‘Sorry, I don’t know anyone called Claudia Maynard.’

At which point, mercifully, said acquaintance's friend, who had been paying their bill, bustled up and whisked a very puzzled reader away.

It is said that one person can know no more than a hundred and twenty other people properly. For this reason most military organisations break their forces down into units of that size – in my day an infantry company would have somewhere about that figure – and in some big commercial operations they too arrange to divide the workforce into groups of about that number under a manager. I am not quite sure how many characters Marcia has created but there are a lot more than that: probably about eight hundred. It is hardly surprising that she forgets some of them with a decent prompt. Now, if that reader had asked, ‘I’ve often wondered about Claudia Maynard in The Dipper. What happened to her in the end?’ it would have made the right connection for Marcia – although I very much doubt whether she would know just what did happen to Claudia. It could be, of course, that Claudia will suddenly appear at Marcia’s shoulder and tell her.

I know we have dropped the weekly blog dog but there are times when I receive a few dog pictures I feel really should be shared so here are three. These guys belong to Denise Connolly. She lovingly calls them "the three hooligans".

This is Dakota. He will be five years old the end of October. We adopted him when he was 3 months old. He was rescued from a high kill shelter in Tennessee and brought with 34 other puppies to our local shelter, a NO KILL shelter, that I support with a few large checks every year and I do fund raising for them also. Dakota is a border/aussie/great pyrenees mix. A BIG baby!

This is Teddy. He's about 3 years old. We adopted him when he was 6-7 months old. He was in a high kill shelter in Kentucky and rescued by the Danbury Connecticut Animal Welfare Society. He's a aussie/spaniel mix.
Super smart boy!

And our third dog, adopted this past May, is Scotty. He was also from Kentucky and on the KILL list for that week when our local shelter manager grabbed him and a few older dogs and 29 puppies. Our vet says Scotty is about 2 years old. He thinks he is my body guard. We fell in love with each other instantly! This is the first small breed dog I ever had. He has the heart of a lion! He's some kind of terrier mix. So playful, can dance across the room on his hind legs and loves his squeaky toys.


Thursday 27th August at 11 am: Book signing in the Totnes Bookshop.

Friday 28th August at 11 am: Book signing in the Harbour Bookshop, Kingsbridge,

Tuesday September 8th from 5.30 to 6.30 in the Flavel Hall, Dartmouth. . This is an opportunity to come and meet Marcia Willett. Organised by Dartmouth Community Bookshop and Dartmouth Library.