Friday 15 November 2013

I Need to Get Out More #5 - Wood Green Literary Festival

I don't normally manage to get out to literary or author events too often, so I was especially pleased to make it to a couple of events taking place as part of the Wood Green Literary Festival a few weeks back. I'm usually pretty clueless when it comes to doing write-ups (I suppose it's a good thing that I don't get the chance to do too many then), so I thought I'd take a different approach with this one as look at a few of the points raised and see how I can relate them to my own writing...

16120429The first talk was about Uncovering Ancient London and featured Lydia Syson and Catherine Johnson. Now, if you follow my blog, you'll know that I'm a big fan of Lydia's writing and you can find out her thoughts on political YA in this interview from a little while back. As you can imagine, it was very interesting to get a writer's perspective on how London history has made them tick. Catherine Johnson talked animatedly about how a trip to the Huntarian Museum inspired her to write Sawbones, a book that sounds delightfully gruesome and rich in the historical detail of the backstreets of this city. Lydia Syson talked about how she is a fifth generation Londoner, something that is quite rare this days, and how she has grown up to appreciate the rich history London has to offer, in particular, surprising facts about her family history.

That Burning SummerThis got me thinking about stories that my own family have told me. I've lived in west London on and off for the last ten years, but I was brought up in a commuter town after my parents moved away from their original west London haunt. My dad used to tell me stories about when he used to place Underground Hide and Seek on the tube with his friends as a teenager. You might be able to guess what it involved...basically, jump on a train, jump off at different stations and try to remain illusive to the person tasked to find you. I had completely forgotten about this story up until that moment, and now it's taking pride of place in my notes for something I'm planning about London set in the 1960s. It's nice to be reminded that I couldn't live anywhere better in the world when it comes to writing about the past, so thank you lovely authors!

When I Was JoeThe second talk I attended featured Keren David and Hilary Freeman discussing Edgy YA Fiction. This is of particular interest to me right as I'm currently working on a contemporary YA, although I don't know if I'd describe it as particularly 'edgy', but I suppose that was the whole point of the discussion - what does constitute edgy YA and how do you get the balance right? One of the issues that has been at the forefront of my mind recently (especially now I am at the editing stage) is swearing in YA. A while back, I read this interesting article by James Dawson which got me thinking about whether established authors are in a better position to have swearing feature in their books rather than debut novelists. However, both authors didn't think this was really the case and that all authors need to compromise to a certain extent on this depending on the market.

Lifted. Hilary FreemanWhen I first started working my MS, I was given some advice that I've always found useful - when it comes to swearing, don't censor yourself in the early stages - it's more important to get the first draft done and you can always compromise on this at the editing stage. Needless to say, my first draft was as potty-mouthed as it gets and I remember reading it back and blushing. As I'm going through my chapters now, I can appreciate that a little goes a long way in this respect. I think it's important to get my dialogue as authentic as possible (and this includes using swear words), but perhaps using too many can have the same effect as using none - it might only succeed in distracting from the story.

All in all, this was a great, informative afternoon, and I've very much looking to venturing north again next year. My only criticism would be that the talks were too short! I could have listened to them all for hours...


  1. I hardly get out to literary events (or any sort of event, really) but I love them when I do! Great write up, Anna. I like the approach of just getting all the swearing out first and then you can clean it up a bit later.

  2. Wow, it sounds like a fantastic event with some amazing talks!

  3. I always try to get to events where I can meet some of my favourite authors, although I've never been to any festival type things. Keren David's talk would have been really interesting (particularly as I love her Joe series). Great point about how much swearing should be included, I think it's just a case of finding a happy medium. Great write-up Anna :)