Gig Review: Launch Party for The Life of Almost by Anna Vaught

Last Thursday evening I travelled to Bath Spa for a book launch at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights. Author Anna Vaught was celebrating the publication of her second novel, The Life of Almost, and her supporters packed the bookshop out. It was a friendly and fun event involving books, chat, readings, wine and delicious snacks. This is my sort of party.

    

Anna talked about her two published books (her first was the autobiographical Killing Hapless Ally) and her writing inspirations. For The Life of Almost these were: her family; her love of Pembrokeshire; Welsh myths; Dickens’s Great Expectations.

She and two of her friends then gave readings from the book before Anna’s husband, Ned, spoke of his wife’s prolific writing and his pride in her achievements. Anna does not have a dedicated space for her craft. She writes at her kitchen table surrounded by family life. The time for this must be squeezed in around her many other commitments.

    

Questions were invited from the floor and Anna spoke of her next books. Saving Lucia will be published by Bluemoose Books in 2020. A fourth novel is currently out to submission and she has started writing a fifth.

In talking of her characters Anna explained that many are based on wider family members and the stories they have shared with her. She wished to capture these before they were lost. Her family do not read her books so she has few concerns about their reaction to her representations.

Anna then offered to sign books and there were a flurry of purchases before a queue formed. As it was getting late I had to slip away.

    

The Life of Almost is published by Patrician Press. Signed copies are currently available to buy at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath.

Anna’s launch party was just one of the many enticing events in Mr B’s Autumn schedule.

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Live on air – BBC Wiltshire summer reads segment, Week 5

My final guest slot recommending a summer read to listeners of James Thomas’s afternoon show on BBC Wiltshire was delayed by a day due to the Bank Holiday. It was then squeezed into a packed schedule. Thus it was a little shorter than previous segments although I hope I still persuaded some listeners to read the book I was recommending.

This week it was Black Sugar by Miguel Bonnefoy (translated by Emily Boyce), published by Gallic Books. I talked to James about my enjoyment of translated fiction, that it offers new perspectives as written by an author raised in a different country and culture.

I had mentioned before the show that I would be spending September reading entries to the Link Age Southwark 25th anniversary writing competition, and that I had become involved with this after meeting Becky Danks at The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses winners’ events in London. As I wasn’t expecting to discuss this live on air I somewhat fluffed my answers to his questions. Sorry about that.

Speaking to the show’s producer afterwards she told me she never listens back to herself as she would be far too critical of her performance. Perhaps this is a lesson I should take away from my experience live on air.

If interested you may listen to the radio segment, which lasts just over 6 minutes, here.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to talk about books and to discover what it is to appear on a live radio show. The bus journeys I have had to take to get to Swindon each week I will not miss.

Books conclude with an acknowledgements section. My thanks for my ability to post these soundtracks go to Rick and Paddy whose technical support from our village location enabled the broadcasts to be captured for these posts.

Live on air – BBC Wiltshire summer reads segment, Week 4

Earlier this week I returned to the BBC Wiltshire studios in Swindon to offer a summer read recommendation to afternoon show listeners. Karen Gardner was again the host and had been browsing my blog prior to our conversation. She told me that her book group had read The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon, and His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet, both of which she enjoyed. On the show she asked me about why I thought these books had proved popular. I hope that I did these excellent stories some sort of justice.

The book I recommended this week was Missing by Alison Moore, published by Salt. I chose it as a contrast to last week’s suggestion (We that are young), as it is a short novel that still packs a mighty punch.

Karen asked why I favour the smaller presses. Again, I hope that the words I was required to conjure live on air made sense – the willingness to take risks and offer an alternative to the commercial fiction generally favoured by the big publishing houses.

If interested you may listen to the radio segment, which lasts just under 8 minutes, here.

I have one more slot to participate in before summer’s end. I now need to decide on my final recommendation.

Live on air – BBC Wiltshire summer reads segment, Week 3

On Monday of this week I enjoyed my third guest slot recommending a summer read to listeners of BBC Wiltshire’s afternoon show. On arrival I discovered that James Thomas, the usual presenter, was not hosting. In his place was Karen Gardner who ran the show in a slightly different way. Even with my limited experience I have learned that taking part in a live broadcast involves an element of unpredictability. The preparation I had done was useful but much was not featured (the book read over weekend, my planned reading). This week’s show focused solely on the one book I was recommending.

We that are young, written by Preti Taneja and published by Galley Beggar Press, was my book of the year last year. It is a big book, ideal for those who like to immerse themselves in a compelling story.

As well as discussing the format and plot of my recommended title we talked about literary prizes – We that are young won this year’s Desmond Elliott Prize for debut novels – and their importance, especially for the smaller presses, in raising the profile of particular books.

Karen had told me beforehand that she listened to audio books so was interested to hear that We that are young has recently been made available in this format.

If interested you may listen to the radio segment, which lasts just over 6 minutes, here.

I will be returning to the studio next week to recommend another summer read. I feel privileged to have been offered this opportunity to bring excellent books to the attention of listeners.

Live on air – BBC Wiltshire summer reads segment, Week 2

After last week’s nerve wracking debut I returned to BBC Wiltshire in Swindon earlier this week to take part in my second live radio guest appearance on the James Thomas afternoon show summer reads segment. This week I was asked to recommend a non fiction book and chose Under the Rock by Benjamin Myers, published earlier this year by Elliott & Thompson.

To open I was asked about the books I have been reading since last week and we talked briefly about What Are You After? by Josephine Corcoran, published by Nine Arches Press. Coincidentally, Josephine lives in the Wiltshire town of Trowbridge which I hope was of interest to listeners.

I then moved on to discuss Under the Rock, also giving a brief mention to the author’s fictional work set close by, in Yorkshire’s Upper Calder Valley, The Gallows Pole which is published by Bluemoose Books and won the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2018.

Asked what I would be reading next I mentioned: Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile by Adelle Stripe, and Sal by Mick Kitson. Both of these authors will be at the Marlborough Literature Festival next month discussing their debut novels, an event listeners may well wish to attend.

If interested you may listen to the radio segment, which lasts just over 7 minutes, here.

It was heartening to be told as I left the studio that positive comments had been made about my choice of books as they are not familiar titles. I am also pleased that I have been invited back to recommend another summer read next week.

Live on air – talking about summer reads on BBC Wiltshire

At the end of last week I received an email from Roo Green, producer on BBC Wiltshire’s weekday afternoon radio show, asking if I would be interested in taking part in a summer reads recommendation segment the coming Monday. Anyone who follows my more personal posts, here or on social media, will know that the idea of such participation takes me way outside my comfort zone. I find it hard to think on my feet preferring the written word where I can carefully consider what I say before committing it to public scrutiny. Nevertheless, the opportunity to talk about excellent books that too often fly under readers’ radars was too good to pass over.

Never having attempted anything like this before I was unsure what to expect. I was told that I would be asked about my blog and then invited to talk about one book I would recommend to listeners. I submitted half a dozen suggestions and Their Brilliant Careers by Ryan O’Neill, published by Lightning Books, was selected. I duly wrote out the words that I wished to say as a script and practised reading it out loud. When I arrived at the studio in Swindon I was gently told it would sound obvious that I was reading and I should simply talk to the show’s host, answering his questions as in a conversation.

Back home my children were primed to record the show that I may listen to it afterwards. They also picked up this 15 second ‘coming soon’ announcement a half hour or so before. How strange it is to hear my name mentioned in this context.

In Swindon the segment got under way and I was asked about how I started book blogging, how I selected the books I read and my opinion on ereaders. James Thomas, the show’s lovely host, was doing his best to put me at ease. I managed a shout out to small publishers: Galley Beggar, Influx and Salt Publishing.

We then moved on to the discussion of the book selected – Their Brilliant Careers by Ryan O’Neill. Sadly I did not do it justice. The inspired concept and nuances of structure and presentation did not come across in the words I managed to extract from my nervous brain. Could do better would be on my report card.

To finish I was asked to mention the books I was currently reading. John Boyne’s A Ladder to the Sky was successfully recalled but I didn’t include the title of Patrick Gale’s new book – Take Nothing With You. I then got my blog address wrong (doh!). I truly struggle to think on my feet.

If you wish to listen to my performance it is here (lasts just under 9 minutes).

The plan is to run this segment on BBC Wiltshire every Monday afternoon throughout the summer with a different book featured each week. I have been invited back next Monday to discuss a non fiction book and have suggested Under the Rock by Benjamin Myers, published by Elliot & Thompson. I am delighted that my local radio is talking about books. Wish me luck in rising to the challenge and learning to enjoy the experience.

Gig Review: Launching the Marlborough Literature Festival programme

On a sunny evening last week I travelled to the beautiful town of Marlborough for a literary party of a type new to me. I had received an invitation to attend the launch of the Marlborough Literature Festival programme, to be held at the White Horse Bookshop on the high street. It proved a friendly if packed event.

The festival started small and has grown since its inception, but never too much to lose its intimacy. Using just a few nearby venues – rooms at the college, a church hall, art gallery, library, and the town hall which also hosts the festival’s box office, pop up bookshop and tea shop – it aims to offer

“events with enough variety – from bookbinding and beer to poetry and politics – for everyone whatever your age or interest”

“This year we welcome several leading authors whose names will be familiar to all, as well as those you may not yet have heard of, but who we think are well worth looking out for.”

The expected highlight of 2018 is the attendance of children’s author David Walliams. So popular was his event expected to be that he agreed to perform twice on the festival Sunday – and both events sold out on the first morning tickets went on sale, demand bringing down the on line booking system much to the frustration of everyone involved.

David Walliams is not the only big name to attend. The Golding Speaker is Rose Tremain. Kate Moss, Alan Johnson, Max Hastings, William Boyd and Chris Cleave will all be there. You may check out the full programme by clicking here.

Back though to the launch party. Those I chatted to were: involved in the festival organisation; representing the sponsors; from local media. All were invited to enjoy a glass of wine, browse the programme and purchase tickets. The queue for these ran the length of the bookshop throughout the event. There was also a healthy interest in the books on display.

Personally I am looking forward to listening to the Hiscox Debut Authors – Adelle Stripe and Mick Kitson. I am also intrigued by the Translation Duel where Ros Schwartz and Frank Wynne debate the literary dilemmas posed by L’Amant by Marguerite Duras.

Whatever your interest, if you can be in the area do please consider attending. There are now many literary festivals to choose from and I believe this is a good thing, especially for local book lovers and their independent bookshops. These can only survive if they receive your support.

You may follow news of the festival on Twitter: @MarlbLitFest 

You may also follow the bookshop: @whitehorsebooks