Gig Review: An Evening with Joanna Cannon

Last month my husband and I spent a weekend in Salisbury to celebrate his birthday. As I do when I visit anywhere new, I searched out the bookshops and found this window display at Waterstones.

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“Why don’t you go?” my husband asked. I smiled. The city is an hours drive from our home, along narrow, windy roads, and I do not enjoy driving in places I am unfamiliar with. I don’t go out much because I am nervous in company. I could find many reasons why I would not go.

Fast forward a few weeks. My daughter is home from uni and Joanna Cannon is in the news for her latest book deal. As a medical student and writer my daughter was interested in this author’s story. She offered to accompany me and drive us to the event.

Thus, last night, we set out on a road trip. We arrived at Waterstones early and took our seats in the front row. You can see the backs of out heads on the left in this picture (posted on Twitter by PostConsumerBookClub (@PoCoBooC) ).

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An impressive following of bloggers had congregated on the right but I was much too shy to introduce myself as they chatted happily together beforehand and then again at the end. Perhaps the evening will be written up on their sites too.

The event was hosted by Tom Bromley who knows Joanna from her time at the Faber Academy where he teaches. They talked of her initial application, what she hoped to achieve on the course, and she mentioned how she went on to attend the York Festival of Writing in 2014 where she won their Friday Night Live competition (she wrote about this experience here.)

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‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’ has now been sold in many countries around the world and Joanna talked of the edits that certain territories requested. A glossary of British confectionery from the 1970s has been included in some translations. Most wished to retain the Englishness which is at the heart of the story.

We were treated to a reading and I was reminded of the humour of the book. Its appeal is the gentleness with which it is written yet it has scope and depth. Joanna told us that her aim was to write a book which gave a voice to those who struggle to fit into society. As a psychiatrist she understands these issues through her dealings with patients.

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Audience questions were invited and Joanna talked of trying to fit in time to write her second book alongside the publicity required for her debut. She described her writing process (very early starts to each day and editing as she goes along) and of how what she says is not always reported as she meant (if you are reading this Joanna then I hope I have managed a degree of accuracy).

The topics discussed flowed and it seemed that no time at all had passed before Tom drew proceedings to a close and audience members were invited to have their books signed. The couple sitting behind me unpacked at least seven copies – authors must love such readers!

I introduced myself and was happy to be recognised. I am delighted with the inscription in my proof.

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‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’ is published by Borough Press and is available to buy now. To read my review, click on the image below.

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