Sunday, 24 July 2016

THE CORK LITERARY FESTIVAL - 2016

Having lived in Spain and then Fiji since I became seriously interested in writing, I’ve never had the opportunity to attend a Literary Festival before. Years ago I was invited to attend the Oxford Literary Festival because I had been short-listed in a travel writing competition. Sadly, it was impossible to fly to the UK from Fiji at short notice to attend.


Now, glory be, a Literary Festival is held annually where I live. I pre-booked several events and I was also fortunate to be offered a chance to read at the Festival through the medium of my Writers Group.

WHERE I LIVE


John Banville read extracts from his latest book: The Blue Guitar. He impressed me with his intelligence. I was left thinking that if I found myself at a dinner table with him I would find his intellect rather formidable. I would eat my food in silence, doing my utmost not to attract his attention because anything that came out of my mouth would probably sound giddy.

I went to a musical event: Joni Mitchell songs translated into Irish. I thought the idea was interesting, but, given that I don’t understand Irish, the reality soon became rather boring. The singer had a gorgeous voice – well suited to Joni Mitchell’s style, but I quickly found myself wishing she’d just sing the songs in English.

WHERE I LIVE
The workshop I chose was The Art of Memoir because I’m working (floundering?) on a book about my years in Fiji.

The tutor, Michael Harding, is an accomplished writer of plays, novels, articles and – importantly - memoirs.

So, feeling that I was in safe hands, I attended his workshop in the hope that he might have some useful insights and advice to share.

It took four days of patient explanation by him on the single most important aspect of memoir for the penny to drop. This was on the day I was to read my travel essay at the festival.

Now that I understood the basic elements of what elevates a piece of writing from bad to good, I was in a panic. Was I about to blithely read a load of crap in front of a knowledgeable audience?

But it was too late for me to back out of the reading. Fearing the worst, I re-read my essay, scant hours before I was due on stage.
And there it was: the ‘device’ Mr Harding had been discussing all week. To my great astonishment, I had already been instinctively using the tools described by him. 


It is hard to describe my euphoria.

So, did I really gain from the workshop?

Yes, absolutely, because I now understand the mechanics of how I’ve been doing it and I now understand how to structure my book.

At the end of the workshop I told Mr Harding that if I ever succeed in getting the book published, I will name him in the acknowledgements!

p.s. I almost forgot – my first experience of reading at a literary festival was fine. I didn’t trip on the way to the podium, I didn’t stumble over my words, the audience laughed in the right places, and they applauded at the end.

Have you been to a literary festival? Have you experienced a lightbulb moment in your life - not necessarily related to writing?
I'd love to hear about it.


See you next week.




34 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you did great and certain you would even given the intimidating man with great knowledge. I had an Aha moment after my separation from my ex. I realized that I could just be ...me

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    1. Thanks, Birgit. I think your 'Aha' moment is significant and something we could all learn from.

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  2. Sounds like a wonderful experience, Susan. I thoroughly enjoyed the last literary festival I attended. As well as being inspirational - you are spot on - they can also serve to confirm that you are getting it right! It's also reassuring to hear that even 'famous' writers experience the same qualms as us mere amateurs.

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    1. Thanks, Helen. I'm still riding high on the experience! :)

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  3. Sounds like a wonderful experience, Susan. I thoroughly enjoyed the last literary festival I attended. As well as being inspirational - you are spot on - they can also serve to confirm that you are getting it right! It's also reassuring to hear that even 'famous' writers experience the same qualms as us mere amateurs.

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  4. I am so happy for you that you went and that you read aloud. Here in New England we have quite a few of them and, I confess, I haven't gone in a few years now but I enjoyed them in the old days. John Banvile is such a admirable writer. I hope you enjoy every single second.

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    1. Thanks, Kathleen - I had a great experience and I'll definitely put this one in the diary for next year. :)

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  5. So now I'm bursting to know the 'trick', Susan :) That's obviously a fine writing accomplishment in itself.
    No, I haven't, but yes I would love to. Possibly without Irish singing :)

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    1. I don't have the skill to describe the whole workshop, Jo - it took me four sessions to 'get it'. :)

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  6. So now I'm bursting to know the 'trick', Susan :) That's obviously a fine writing accomplishment in itself.
    No, I haven't, but yes I would love to. Possibly without Irish singing :)

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  7. Congrats on your reading Susan! What a great experience. I have never been to a literary festival but there is a yearly one in Banff. I will definitely consider it for future.

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    1. It was a great experience, Sue - highly recommended!

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  8. Except for listening to Joni being sung in Irish, sounds like you had a great time. Realizing you're doing something right *instinctually* is a wonderful thing. I had a moment like that when I got to go on week-end retreat with Jane Yolen.

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    1. Thanks, Bish - yes, there's nothing like discovering that ones instincts are right! :)

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  9. Phew! What a relief! Four days of tutorial sounds a lot - I'm not sure I could sit still for that long :)

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    1. Ha ha - it was five mornings, Liz - and Michael Harding was so entertaining, the time flew! :)

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  10. I have not been to a literary festival but I would love to go to one someday.

    I wish you a wonderful Wednesday!

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    1. Thanks, Keith - this one was my first, but it definitely won't be my last! :)

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  11. Congrats on having your first reading at a literary festival behind you! Knowing the calibre of what you write here, I'm sure that you will have many more readings ahead of you :) And it sounds like it was an interesting adventure whether reading or listening.

    I have not been to a literary festival and hadn't actually heard of any nearby, but you prompted me to dig a bit and I found one in my town that sounds interesting. Not sure if I'd be ready to attend one (this one is about 50% workshops) but nice to know that there is one there if I was interested in the future.

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  12. That's very kind of you, Tracy. I do hope this won't be my first and last experience!
    The nice thing about literary festivals is that you can pick and choose which events to attend. :)

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  13. I'm also bursting to know what 'the device' was, and what elevates writing from bad to good - must be very reassuring to know that you're already doing it.

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  14. As I said to Jo in an earlier reply: I don't have the skill to describe the whole workshop - it took me four sessions to 'get it'.
    All I can say is that it's to do with switching between 'now' and 'then' - or maybe 'present' v ''backstory'. But Mr Harding did say it shouldn't be called 'backstory'. Oh dear... I'm getting in a muddle even trying to outline the basics! :(

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  15. What fun. I've never attended a literary festival.
    So what is the basic elements that lifts writing from bad to good? And yours is always good, I'd like to add:)
    Oops I see that question has already been asked.

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  16. So now you must stop saying 'if I ever succeed in getting the book published' and start saying 'when I get the book published'.
    I haven't been to a literary festival yet, but it's on my to-do list - and I'd love to visit Cork!
    I suppose my most important writing lightbulb moment came when I read a very boring bedtime story to my toddler son and felt sure I could make up something more exciting. Learning how to get it published though, was a very different matter :).

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    1. Yes, you're right, Linda - I should be more positive, shouldn't I? (I hope you do visit my neck of the woods some day - coffee??)

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    2. Coffee would be lovely - if you're not away on one of your adventures . . .

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  17. Good on you on so many levels! Get writing... you have so many experiences to share and ever since I met you during the April challenge I've enjoyed your posts. You have the knack of finding the hook for every tail!
    I don't know anything about the mechanics of writing... I'm a storyteller so I just stumble along in my way but I think your way works... that's why the light-bulb moment was thrilling rather than painful!
    And no... I've never been to one. I must go... and no, I don't think I will read a story aloud... believe it or not... I don't read well! Something to do with the lisdexia? ;-)

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    1. Thanks, AJ. Yes, I'm beavering away on my project which is why my recent posts are repeats from last year, because I don't want to get too distracted right now!

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  18. It would seem that you are far more prolific as a writer than a mere 'scribbler' :)
    Congratulations on not tripping or bungling your way through your reading. I could just imagine your panic attack after attending that workshop! Isn't it interesting how we sometimes instinctively do the right thing? I live for those moments ;)

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  19. Hi, Joanne - yes, my discovery that my instincts were correct was thrilling. :)

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