Havant Literary Festival – a new experience

A film of Voula in conversation with David Penrose about Honor’s Shadow can be found HERE

I seem to have spent quite a bit of time at Literary Festivals in the last weeks, spending time at the Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival and the Cheltenham Festival.  I was paying special attention to the “In Conversation With…” format, as I was attending the Havant Literary Festival as an author (rather than a visitor) and I was going to be in conversation with David Penrose, so I was looking for some hints and tips.  And I got some, from watching Isabel Costello in conversation with Jane Rusbridge, and Marika Cobbold in conversation with Elizabeth Buchan.  They made it look so natural and easy.  It’s a very engaging format for the audience, and a more relaxing one for the author.  The alternative, an author presentation, is more formal, so more pressured for the author – speaking as someone who has done a couple of presentations this year.

Havant is not a major festival, so it has an informal and friendly ambience, and is held at the Spring Arts Centre, a wonderful community resource, with an art exhibition, theatre, cinema and a museum and a coffee bar with delicious homemade cakes….

David Penrose was such a good partner to be in conversation with.  He had read Honor’s Shadow closely, so was able to raise some unusual topics.  One which particularly captured the audience’s attention was the naming of characters, and the meanings of names.  In Honor’s Shadow, Honor is one of three sisters, Faith, Honor and Constance; she has given her own children “heavenly” names: Celestine, Eden and Theadora.  A very lively discussion ensued on the extent to which a person’s name can become a prediction; this is a topic of an earlier blog, that can be found HERE.

There were a number of creative writing students in the audience, so a discussion of whether creative writing can be taught arose, a question which is fairly controversial currently; we agreed that visual artists and musicians would never come under fire for studying and learning their craft, so it seems odd that fiction writers are singled out as a group who should succeed on talent alone.  Surely both talent and schooling are needed to produce a good artist of any kind?  (Not to mention other occupations.)

This was my first experience of speaking at a festival and I found it fascinating and inspiring, reminding me how very much I love the process of creative writing. So it’s back to writing Honor’s Ghost now, with renewed energy.

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