August Blog

Penzance held its Literary Festival in July. For a few days the streets and parks were full of people happily wandering between events, listening to visiting writers and poets and steadfastly supporting local writers. Writing workshops for aspiring authors of all ages and numerous children’s events were a great success.

None of this could have happened without the vision, imagination and dedication of a few, who give up much of their lives to organising this event as well the endless hard work of many volunteers.

Penzance is lucky to have a wonderful, thriving bookshop that contributes hugely to Penzance and wholeheartedly supports the Litfest. It loyally promotes local authors as well as visiting ones by consistently having buzzy little launches in the shop in the evenings.

For those of us who spend most of our lives shut up in a small room with a computer it is exhilarating to be reminded, if we needed it, of the armies of readers in love with books, with words, with communicating with the writers taking part in festivals. That sheer joy of reading and talking about the books they have discovered or are about to discover.

I was also warmed by the generosity of writers towards each other. It is a joy to get together and share experiences of our current work, as well as the good and bad luck stories about agents or publishers. Hilarious and self-depreciating jokes over put downs or run ins with the egos of well known authors unite us all in a mutual love of what we do and the sometimes hard realities of commercial publishing.

Communicating face to face is the oxygen that breathes fresh life into the necessary solitary life of a writer and literary festivals remind us of the abiding satisfaction of interacting with discerning readers.

Writers are people who spend their lives building a world other than their own, developing, slowly, step by step characters that become more real than real life. Immersed in our own imaginations we become obsessed with the thrill of a plot unfolding in ways we had not envisaged or rising from the subconscious in weird moments to startle us. We want our books to be populated with characters who are believable, who jump off the page and lodge in the memory.

The drive and excitement of creating a story is like weaving a tapestry and being unsure how the completed work will turn out. Writing is not a precise science. Writers control the narrative. Confront and drive and conjure from imagination and intellect a chosen world, a spread, a family of people.

We choose a place and a plan for these particular lives as they make their way through joys, sadness, violence or cruelty towards some sort of resolution. We know them. We are protective of them. We don’t want to leave them. We are fearful we have not done them justice or have left them to their fates at the wrong moment.

Then we write The End and hand them over. We give them up. They are no longer solely ours. Agent, Editor, Publisher carries our newborn away for inspection. They will suggest slashes of brilliant prose; ask us to cut our excesses and beloved descriptions.

Questions will be asked about character, plot and motive. We will be reined in and asked to examine in detail words that have flown or stuttered out of our head and heart. Our created world is swivelled and turned and angled with expertise, examined for a false note, a longueur, a pointless chapter.

Initial indignation and outrage, as we cut and paste and lose a thousand words, are lost as we acknowledge the flaws and gaps and applaud the editor we trust. Those important, vital experienced pair of eyes that make a re-write bearable. We sigh; we battle and despair until slowly, with renewed excitement, a subtle, honed deeper story emerges from the original. We experience the exhilaration and exhaustion of a book completed.

There have been many possible twists. Many possible beginnings and endings, but this is where the story starts and ends. It is now up to readers, maybe at some book festival, where, hopefully, they will peer down at our cover and carry our imaginary lives away with them.


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