After the recent release of Vanessa Harbour’s debut middle grade novel, Flight, I’m looking back at the many highs of the launch event at PG Wells in Winchester; an evening that was full of reasons to celebrate children’s literature. The perfect cake. The perfect crowd. The perfect kind of tears. And a journey that will inspire anyone to chase their own writing dreams.
Lissa Evans had a successful career in radio and television for many years before she realised her long-cherished dream of writing a novel. To date she has written five novels for adults: Spencer’s List (2002), Odd One Out (2004), Their Finest Hour and a Half (2009), Crooked Heart (2014) and Old Baggage, which is out this month. Their Finest Hour and a Half was longlisted for the Orange Prize and went on to become an acclaimed feature film, Their Finest, in 2016. Her first children’s book, Small Change for Stuart, was shortlisted for the 2012 Carnegie Medal, the Branford Boase Award, the UK Literacy Award and the Costa Children’s Book Award and she has since written a sequel, Big Change for Stuart (2012) and Wed Wabbit (2016).
The moment we meet, Lissa notices how excited I am to be in London during the school holidays and takes me straight to the BAFTA Cafe. Keen to make the most of our child-free chatting time, I dive right in with the questions. (Reader beware, there may be a couple of plot-spoilers in here).
A long-awaited and much-anticipated evening with award winning novelist and poet, Sarah Crossan, took place on Tuesday 13th March at The University of Winchester. Crossan opened the evening by saying that her journey to publication “happened quite quickly.” However, after saying these words Crossan paused, thought for a moment, then laughed and said “No it didn’t, that’s a lie!”
Will Eaves joined us for the final evening of this year’s Winchester Reading Series. Will is a novelist, poet and teacher. He was Arts Editor of the Times Literary Supplement for many years before moving to Warwick where he is Associate Professor in the Writing Programme. His novel-in-voices The Absent Therapist was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize in 2014. The Inevitable Gift Shop, a collection of poetry and prose, was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for Poetry in 2016 and specially commended by the Poetry Book Society. The opening section of Murmur was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award 2017.
“ … like Mowgli whose own hairless coat of skin he thought was just another shape of wolf, who learned to turn his human throat to languages that neither beast nor child can really learn …”
From ‘Ashes’ – by John Haynes
On Tuesday 6th March the great John Haynes came to our rescue on what was nearly an evening of literary mourning. At very short notice he agreed to stand in for the highly anticipated Emily Berry who was unable to join us. John has been a poet of high standing for many years and has been the recipient of the Costa Award (Letters to Patience 2006), shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize (You 2010) and runner up in the Arvon International Poetry Competition (‘Ashes’ 1992). He has published collections with Seren Books and The London Magazine, and has several non-fiction titles to his name. John spent many years as a teacher and poet in Nigeria, whose culture and language is behind much of his life’s work.
Andy Hamilton, one of Britain’s best loved comedy performers and writers for more than 30 years, is a multi-award-winner (British Comedy Award 2009) with two sell-out UK stage tours to his credit. He is known to millions for his appearances on TV shows such as Have I Got News For You and QI, and is co-creator and co-writer of the BBC One TV hit sitcom Outnumbered.
The latest event in the Winchester Writer’s Series saw an enlightening collaboration between children’s publisher Penny Thomas and children’s author Vanessa Harbour. The evening was a rare opportunity to glimpse both sides of the editor and author relationship.
Dorothea Brand says, ‘the first step towards being a writer is to hitch your unconscious mind to your writing arm,’ but this can be an unfamiliar and sometimes elusive process. Jamie Catto is not only a past master at accessing his own creativity, but is also great at helping others to access theirs.
On Saturday 3rd February 2018, seven MA students from the Writing for Children programme were treated to an afternoon with the amazing picture book writer Andrew Weale. Andrew opened the workshop by asking our group two questions. Firstly, what attracted us to picture books and secondly, what did we hope to draw from the session?
Selene’s mouth contorted into a smirk. She looked downwards at her black strapped heels. Then she placed one foot stridently in front of the other while raising her gaze to meet mine. Her jade green eyes stared at me. Long fingers brushed chestnut brown hair away from her right eye. And her lips, painted with immaculate red lipstick, parted softly.
“So,” she said, as she stepped forward, “are we going to have a drink or not?”