Thursday 10 November 2011

The Big Read In Newport

Which of these was most influential?
The ‘Big Read’, staged by Newport libraries at the Riverfront theatre, is an annual event - great fun and informative for anyone who loves reading. The theatre is a lovely venue – as the name suggests, situated on the river - it’s a modern space, with comfortable seating, a selection of breakout rooms and a pocket size café.  I attended the event last year for the first time and really enjoyed it. When I got a letter inviting me to this year’s day of authors and their books, I didn’t waste any time getting my ticket. The event has a number of mix and match streams, for children and adults, poetry and prose, Welsh and English. My choice this year took me to talks by Lesley Pearse, Lynda Page, Paul Doherty and Gwilym Games. All entertaining speakers and recommended if you get the chance to hear them at another venue.
Lesley and Lynda were frank, funny and informative about the path to being a writer – plenty of information for the fan who loves their books, and there were many of those in the audience - but also of interest and inspiration to anyone also hoping to achieve a publishing contract. As so many other authors suggest, hard work, persistence, a bit of luck and a thumping good story seemed to be the right ingredients.   Paul Doherty, historian, headmaster and author of a range of historical crime novels, covered ground from various royal murders and other scandals to the planning of the perfect murder. Of course the perfect murder is the one that has never been found out …
My wild card for the day was a talk by Gwilym Games about the horror writer Arthur Machen, rated as one of the greats by no less than Stephen King. Two of Machen’s books have recently been re- issued as part of the Library of Wales’ collection. I knew a little about him as a writer of gothic horror but it was particularly interesting to hear about his use of landscape in his work - of Gwent, around Caerleon, where he was born, and later of early 20th Century London. As setting is important to me as a writer, I’m always interested in how others handle it. He also wrote on Arthurian legends, which I’m currently researching for a book project. When one of the librarians attending the talk mentioned that Newport library has a collection of original Machen source material, the information definitely went down in my notebook. Mentioning original sources to an historian is like offering catnip to a cat!
One member of the audience was making a study of which author each speaker considered to have been the most influence on them, and asked the question in each session – interestingly it wasn’t one of the classic names who was most mentioned, although Charles Dickens did score quite highly. The author most often given credit was Agatha Christie, for her plotting and the page turning nature of the stories. It looks like everyone loves a puzzle.
 All in all it was an extremely enjoyable day. Hats off to Newport libraries for organizing it – already looking forward to the next one!

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