Monday 20 May 2013

Greenacre Writers Literary Festival: Two Wonderful Days.

Finchley in North London was the setting of the second Greenacre Writers Literary Festival with its theme of truth and fiction. Four events provided a literary feast for writers and readers.

Miriam Halahmy's workshop.
We kicked off with Miriam Halahmy's workshop 'So You Want to Write for Kids.' Held at the now world famous Friern Barnet Community Library, this event was open to all. Writers, some published some novices, came along to learn about writing for children and the kids' publishing world.

Fast on the heels of the workshop was our Open Mic. Facilitated by Allen Ashley, we were treated to a mix of literary styles with poems, flash fiction, extracts from fiction and memoir. The readings from Rosie Canning and Keith Martin related the story of the re-opening of Friern Barnet Library by the people as a protest to its closure by the council six months earlier. Poet Sarah Doyle took our star slot with a variety of poetic styles and we were also treated to 'star' readings from Miriam Halahmy, CJ Flood and Emily Toder from the USA.

Several members of Greenacre Writers read their work and we were joined by members from other writing groups including Clockhouse London Writers, Ways into Writing, Ally Pally Group and Exiled Writers as well as local poets. We had some amazing speakers, including short story writers, novel writers, poets, and activists - one of whom was 76, and provided us with a mix of literary styles and themes.

Saturday began with a morning workshop 'Life Writing and the Writing Life' led by Josie Pearse, followed by the main festival in the afternoon.

CJ Flood
We played host to four authors who were all wonderfully entertaining speakers, talking about about the truth in their fiction. CJ Flood's talk set the tone for the afternoon, discussing the truth and fiction of how she created her characters in her novel Infinite Sky with readings to illustrate her points.

Leigh Russell signing books
Crime writer Leigh Russell followed, thrilled us with a walk in the park that led to the inspiration for her first book Cut Short and introducing us to her psychological thrillers featuring detective Geraldine Steele.  

We then had short readings from four of our Greenacre Writers. Lindsay Bamfield began with the opening of her comedy novel, a work in progress, 'Do Not Exced Fifty' and Linda Louisa Dell read an abridged version of the first chapter of her recent novel, Earthscape: A Long Way from Home. Then came Rosie Canning's reading of The Flying Star episode from her novel, another work in progress, 'Ways of Remembering'. Mark Kitchenham closed the first session reading from one of his short stories.

Gina Blaxill
After a refreshment break and book signing session, we opened the second half with Gina Blaxill. Gina, who grew up in Finchley, talked about her two YA novels Pretty Twisted and Forget Me Never. Discussing how she created a world that her young readers could believe in, she explained how she compared the books she had read as a teenager, with what young readers want today.

Sarah Harrison
 Sarah Harrison, author of over 25 novels talked about the inspiration behind her novel Flowers of the Field which was published in 1980 but has just been re-issued with its sequel A Flower That's Free due to be re-issued shortly followed by the third in the trilogy The Wildflower Path later this year.

Three more readings from Greenacre Writers followed. Liz Goes read from the third of her fictionalized memoirs The Not Quite English Teacher, Mumpuni Murniati read her short story rooted in her native Indonesia and Wendy Shillam completed the section with a reading from her most recent novel, just completed the day before, The Vining Plant.

Truth and fiction panel discussion.
To close our day, Allen Ashley facilitated a panel comprising Sarah Harrison, Leigh Russell, Dr Josie Pearse and Alex Wheatle one of last year's festival speakers discussing truth and fiction. They questioned how much truth should there be in fiction? What things must we stay true to as writers? What does fiction teach us about truth? Our panelists gave us fascinating insights into their versions of truth and fiction and all agreed the importance of emotional truth. They discussed the writing process and what writers need to achieve for their readers. They inspired our members to keep on with our writing and we're happy to say that we've had enquiries from audience members about joining GW.

Alex Wheatle wasn't the only speaker from last year to be with us as we were very pleased to have Emily Benet and Andrew Bradford in our audience. They all made last year's event worthy of a sequel so thanks to them for this year's success.

We are also very pleased to announce that Alex Wheatle will be our judge for this year's short story competition.
Greenacre Writers 2013 Short Story Competition

All in all, we had a wonderful two days and extend our sincerest thanks to our guest speakers, our workshop leaders, our writers and all those who helped achieve a great event. Special thanks also go to Robert and Elizabeth Newton and Mr Greenacres. Thank you to Christine Freeman and Waitrose in Finchley for providing refreshments.

See you next year. But first, some of us have to Finish That Novel, which was where the Greenacre Writers story began.

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