The story so far…

If you haven’t seen, we’re live tweeting a lot of the events over at @LewishamLitFest (thanks to @bitoclass who takes over the account and has a much stronger signal at St Swithun’s than us!). Here’s what’s been happening so far…

Firestation Book Swap

More cakes have arrived: impressive baking, Lewisham! Firestation Book Swap starts in a short while, with guests Evie Wyld and John Harding.

Host Scott Pack introduces the idea of this evening, the three Bs: banter, baked goods and book-swapping, then brings on the authors

Evie Wyld is the first author to offer a book to swap. She offers up her copy of Things We Didn’t See Coming by Steven Amsterdam

After a bidding war in the audience as everyone talks up their books, Wyld opts for a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

John Harding’s the next guest author; also swaps a book – somewhat reluctantly but the audience forgives him as he baked delicious brownies!

Discussion kicks off by considering Wyld’s first novel, After The Fire A Still Small Voice, in which the protagonist is male. Hard to write?

Book Swap panel L-R: Scott Pack, Robert Hudson, Evie Wyld and John Harding

Wyld says not hard to write as a man & guest host Robert Hudson agrees: just another type of character different from yourself to get into.

After more chat about writing (while your live-tweeter sought signal!), Pack delved into his basket of random non-literary Qs from audience…

Questions included “Cats or dogs?” (Wyld dogs, Harding cats) and “Who’s your favourite Today programme combo?” Original!

Pack praises Wyld’s idea of putting ‘deleted scenes’ from her novel online. She says it’s partly to shed light on writing process – and fun!

Authors talk about where they call home. Wyld loves her place in south London: “Tried living in Australia; it’s nice, but it’s not Peckham!”

Question: “What is the best bus route?” Wyld likes the 76: “it takes a long time to go from Peckham to Liverpool St, but it gets you there!”

Scariest experience? Harding was out running & was hit really hard; thought he’d been attacked. In fact a squirrel’d fallen out of a tree.

“Were you a tall or short child?” Wyld: “I was a fat child – so kind of tall but width-ways?”

After some more Qs – “you won’t get incisive probing like this at any other literary event” – Pack draws things to a close

Independent Magazines

L-R: Darren Atwater from Snipe, Alex Musson from Ambit, Martin Bax from Ambit, host Rachel Holdsworth and Matt Haynes from Smoke

Ambit started when its editor realised litho printing was a relatively accessible way to print an arty magazine

Snipe’s editor ran a similar publication in Vancouver; on moving to London he wanted an alternative to Time Out less aimed at rich tourists!

Smoke’s editor used to run record labels, which he got into from fanzines in the ’80s. Smoke’s like a fanzine but about the city, not bands.

Comedy magazine Mustard started because its editor missed doing print design, and wanted to do a project with friends.

Alex from Mustard thinks it’s harder to get art contributors than writers, partly because weak art stands out in a way weak writing doesn’t.

Alex got lucky at the start when chance mtg with Terry Gilliam secured Mustard a first interviewee: easier to get future big names then too!

Matt from Smoke gets sent lots of writing for inclusion in the magazine, much good but rather too much of the poetry, er, not quite so good!

Alex from Mustard asks if the others also find the quality of submissions is inversely proportional to the self-confidence of the submitter!

Talk moves to distribution. Matt from Smoke explains how complicated the process is to get it into the big bookshops, who won’t deal direct.

Once took Smoke directly to shops but big bookshops’ insistence on using distributors & distributors’ insistence on exclusivity stopped this

Shops like WHSmith require payment for counter-spots but Smoke got left there by staff unused to personal deliveries

Onto extracurricular activities: Ambit has branched out into events, with one coming up next wk, which help promote the mag & reward readers

Smoke’s never been interested in a web presence, but has just recently begun experimenting with some online spin-offs, like a character blog

Smoke also produced a board game last year, based around a Soho pub crawl – “I’ve just always liked board games,” says Matt

Snipe’s had a web version from the start, but plans to ramp up the coverage for next year’s mayoral elections, and hopes to run some events.

Editors agree they do print despite web as they love the finished printed product. Matt says he likes the finite focus on filling 52 pages.

Darren of Snipe says length’s a dividing line between web & print: nice to sit down with a long read, but short listings etc fine on a phone

Q&A time. What advice would eds give someone thinking of starting a mag? Apart from “Don’t!”, advice includes doing it for love, not money

For Books’ Sake

For Books’ Sake editor Jane Bradley, hosting, introduces the panel. First up, Karen McLeod is going to read part of one of her short stories

Karen McLeod reading

McLeod’s story, Never Can Say Goodbye, was a charming and witty tale of a lesbian couple on honeymoon, from this book:

Next, Ellen Lindner is talking about her mainly self-published comics, while showing pages from them on the big screen.

Lindner, from US but now in New Cross, is trying to revive “comics culture” in UK through various initiatives to promote & distribute comics

Last speaker: children’s author/illustrator Sarah McIntyre. She gets children to draw aliens as “you can’t do it wrong”!

McIntyre shows slides of book illustration process & says when she shows kids they often think she manually illustrates all copies of book!

McIntyre’s children’s book about sheep & rabbit Vern&Lettuce is set in Pickle Rye: “thought it’d be fun to take Peckham & put animals in it”

In Vern & Lettuce’s parallel London McIntyre happily drew a Tube escalator on which it’s permitted to slide down the bit between the flights

Another of McIntyre’s books is Morris the Mankiest Monster, which looks pretty disgusting – so all the children utterly love it, of course!

Panel now discussing how they came to be doing what they now do. McLeod used to be more of a performer, incl dressing as a huge fish finger!

McIntyre used to draw picturebooks but was put off comics by too many women portrayed as bimbos – but then Lindner showed her *good* comics!

McLeod worries sometimes when she sees people read her novel’s synopsis & put back on shelf that they may be being put off by lesbian plot.

On the other hand, she doesn’t want to second-guess people’s motivations, nor change what she wants to write about too fundamentally

Meanwhile, McIntyre has to remind herself that her audience of children’s more focussed on interesting stories & funny details than artistry

Lindner says Kindle’s 150dpi, black-and-white screen doesn’t lend itself to comics but the iPad and its rumoured future Amazon competitor do

Joe Dunthorne and Lee Rourke

Lee Rourke and Joe Dunthorne

Rourke opens by describing his novel The Canal, about a man one morning deciding to walk to a canal, instead of to work – and what ensues.

Rourke’s now reading from his novel – a thoughtful extract as his protagonist’s mind wanders while alone at the book’s titular canal

Rourke’s character muses, in defence of boredom, that those who’re not bored are “merely lost in superfluous activity: fashion, television…”

Rourke’s extract finishes with a remembered tale of loving and loathing from the protagonist’s schooldays.

Dunthorne’s chosen extract deals entertainingly with educating commune children in the ways of television advertising (and disbelieving it).

In the novel’s commune, the done thing during commercial breaks is to mute and use AdGuard – a square of shower curtain pulled across the TV

Discussion starts after the extracts as host Rachel asks Lee Rourke how he researched his novel. Yes, he has spent a lot of time at a canal!

Rourke’s novel’s mostly fictitious but does include some vignettes of things he did see while at the canal

Rourke took a lot of inspiration for the philosophising in his book from Heidegger:

Dunthorne’s interested in communal living, but not into “spiritual stuff, crystal healing…”, so he avoided too much of that in his novel.

Rachel suggests both authors’ books are more about character development than plot; Dunthorne jokes “not through choice – plot’s too hard!”

Discussion turns to voice used in authors’ books: Rourke used a first-person narrative in The Canal as it needed it for a sense of immediacy

Dunthorne opted for first-person narrative in Submarine as much of comedy came from the gap between what narrator says & truth reader infers

Dunthorne found it a challenge to switch to writing in third person for Wild Abandon but relished the freedom it gave to jump between people

Rourke’s written both fiction & non-fiction; prefers fiction. Dunthorne does prose & poetry; prefers whichever he’s not doing at the time!

Dunthorne was offered chance to write script for film of Submarine, but he’d just written the book and didn’t want to write the story again!

Dunthorne describes surreal experience of wandering on-set at the film shoot and seeing thoughts made up in his bedroom 6yrs ago played out!

The Canal’s in development as a film now too, with Rourke as co-writer. Took a lot of mental adjustment to rewrite novel as film script.

Rourke’s scripting started weakly, but he’s v happy with how it’s turned out. Dunthorne: hard to be objective & drop bits you wanted in book

Dunthorne visited communes when researching Wild Abandon, but met some reticence: many journos’ve visited to write uncomplimentary features.

There’s plenty more coming up – but it’s much more fun to be here…


1 Comment

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One response to “The story so far…

  1. Mike

    Amazing job so far.

    Its been brilliant to have this festival held here.

    Well done.

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