I mentioned in my last post (I know, three months ago, I’m sorry) how much I enjoy doing writer events. This post is a whistle-stop tour of some of the things I’ve been up to.
Most recently, I had a cracking day at my local park at The Glen Gardens Centenary Fair, meeting readers during Crime Reading Month. A percentage of sales went to the community garden and to Henry Dancer Days, a charity supporting children with bone cancer. I shared my stall with my husband, Josh Parker, who makes beautiful, naturally hand-carved wooden spoons. Highlights included signing books for the Sheriff of York and the Lord Mayor’s Consort and meeting a real life PCSO.
(Photo: Michael J Oakes).
Back in March I chaired a panel at the York Literature Festival called Writing Motherhood, part of a larger project created by Carolyn Jess-Cooke. Debunking the myth of Cyril Connolly’s famous comment – “there is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall” – three writers, Carolyn Jess-Cooke, C.L.Taylor and Nuala Casey shared their experiences of raising their children alongside their writing careers. We discussed whether the theme of motherhood is taken seriously in the world of publishing, where more women read fiction, but where male voices still dominate. Nuala shared a beautiful autobiographical piece about the sadness of losing female children in pregnancy (you can read it on her blog, here) and we agreed that as we all wrote novels with a high level of suspense, and one of the shared experiences of parenthood was the constant fear of loss, then a mother’s anxiety could be seen as a useful stimulus for fiction writing.
Left to right: Nuala Casey, C.L.Taylor, Helen Cadbury, Carolyn Jess-Cooke
Photo: John Illingworth
Book groups are one of my favourite types of writer events and the one I visited in Durham recently was no exception. This group is affiliated to New Writing North and they produced their own review of the event here. It was great to hear their views on my characters and talk about what they hoped might become of them later in the series. I found myself scribbling notes on the train about future plot lines, fuelled by our conversation and excellent cake.
After the Durham book group, I braved the torrential rain, as did a brave and wonderful audience, to join Alison Taft and Leigh Russell at the inaugural Cleckheaton Literature Festival. Huge thanks to Karen Naylor for inviting us. And thanks for the best parking sign ever!
Then in May I was at Bristol CrimeFest, a fantastic annual get together of readers and writers. I hadn’t been before, but I was on two panels, one for debut novelists and one on Characters Who Disappear.
On the debut panel I was really pleased to be asked about my influences, and to have Laura Wilson, the chair, push me a bit further to talk about childhood reading. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series was my first big reading passion as a child. Tales of pioneer life across nineteenth century America, great suffering and jeopardy for the family and a tough heroine, all inspired me to want to be a writer, thirty years before I finally took the plunge.
In the Characters Who Disappear panel, Julia Crouch, our chair, made the observation that missing people stories are also love stories. In my debut novel, To Catch a Rabbit, Karen’s love for her brother drives her to keep asking questions and pushing for answers, while Sean, now I think about it, feels a real love for the victim whose name he doesn’t even know.
The other amazing thing about CrimeFest is meeting other writers. I am in danger of missing someone out if I try to list all the people I met, or met again, but an honourable mention goes to Jax Miller, who was also on both panels with me, and who had never spoken about her work in public before CrimeFest. (You couldn’t tell; she came across like a calm and seasoned professional.) Her debut novel, Freedom’s Child, is out In July and I was thrilled to be given a proof copy by her publicist. I’m really enjoying reading it and it has made me want to start reviewing again. In the past I’ve reviewed for YorkMix, covering the work of local authors, but I’m currently exploring where, when and how I might post reviews, either here or on a separate site, of books that I’ve enjoyed and want to share with you. Watch this space!