Wednesday 30 April 2014

Finchley LitFest Quiz Night - Sat 3rd May

The quiz is open to all! 
To book your place, call 02083465503 as we have to let the quiz master know.
Or email:

Saturday 26 April 2014

The Value of the Literary Festival

Guest Blog from Gina Blaxill

I’m going to come out with my main point straightaway; I think literary festivals are fantastic. Well, obviously - I’m a writer, and an avid reader, too. Anything booky that celebrates the written word is right up my street. On a more serious note, though, there are a lot of things competing for our attention – things that are easier and might seen as more accessible than books. More often than not these are connected with technology, which is constantly changing and evolving, something books do too, but less obviously.

I should point out that I’m not anti-technology at all (my first book is about teenagers meeting on the Internet and yes, I have a Kindle). However I do think it’s a bit of a triumph when you see people coming to enjoy a literary festival rather than spend their time elsewhere. Books and writing have been around for so many years, and it’s good to see them, and more broadly imagination, being celebrated. I think we often take for granted what amazing things they are. This is especially true when it comes to children and young people, something which as a writer for young adults I feel keenly. Books aren’t always perceived as the coolest thing for a teenager to be into so it takes courage to go to a book event, which is pretty much putting up your hand and saying “I’m into this”.

Going back to taking books for granted, this is something that was emphasised to me when I came along to speak in the Greenacre Literary Festival last year. The theme I’d been asked to speak on was truth and fiction which when I really came to think about it was quite a deep topic. I came to the conclusion that truth could be particularly striking and insightful when told via the mode of fiction, which can be used to really connect a reader and draw them in. For years books have been making profound and pertinent points about the world in the vehicle of fiction. Sometimes that was the safest way to do it, sometimes it was the way that would reach the most people, and sometimes it was the only voice someone had. When you start to think about the power a book can have to observe the truth, it’s pretty amazing, and that was one thing I definitely took away from the event last year.

The thing I like best about literary festivals, though, is not just meeting the people and the fact that despite everything they still remain popular – it’s that they’re a celebration of reading and all it stands for. As someone who owes so much to books, that’s fantastic. I meet people who also enjoy escaping from the world between the pages, people who love to learn about new things, people who are open-minded and perceptive and articulate, three things reading gives us. People who feel a connection to characters and writers they’ll never meet, who connect emotionally to words on a page, who like seeing the world from different angles. There are lots of different reasons people read, and why it matters, and whatever the reason, it’s brilliant – and important – the people get together to tip their collective hats to books and the incredible things they give us.

Gina has written three books: Forget Me Never, Pretty Twisted, and Saving Silence. To find out more about Gina's work, visit or follow her on twitter @GinaBlaxill

As part of the Finchley Literary Festival, Gina Blaxill will be appearing at Waterstones Finchley, N12 8JY, Tuesday May 27th from 2.00pm onwards along with Miriam Halahmy and Lil Chase, to speak about Young Adult fiction and writing. 

Friday 18 April 2014

A Literary Finchley Walk

Guest Blog from Paul Baker

I'm not a writer -- at least, I haven't written fiction or poetry for publication for thirty years. I'm a tour guide, and I couldn't imagine another job I would rather do. I've been doing it for ten years, since I became a City of London guide. I roam around the square mile, Spitalfields, Westminster, Soho, as well as my own beloved borough of Barnet. I do public walks, and walks to commission: Jack the Ripper, the Sinful City, Lovers' London, and yes, once or twice, literary walks. I must have dragged many thousands of people along the pavements of London in the past ten years, and I've met some memorable individuals: the fascinating, the lonely, the eccentric, the pretentious, the dangerous, the adorable, the unbalanced, the know-it-all, the beautiful, the tragic, and those that defy categorization. Wonderful copy for any writer -- what a pity I don't write fiction any more!

I was delighted to be asked to do a literary walk as part of the Finchley Literary Festival. I can't reveal which authors I'll be talking about along the way. But I can safely say that Finchley, like the rest of the modern-day borough of Barnet, has always been considered by writers and artists to be a quiet, peaceful place, conducive to reflection and literary endeavour. From the seventeenth century onwards, writers have flocked to Barnet and Finchley, some to live for long periods, and some just for short stays.

Three of the greatest novelists of the nineteenth century -- Dickens, Trollope and Thackeray -- knew Barnet extremely well. Dickens dined at the Red Lion pub on numerous occasions, set a chapter of Oliver Twist in Barnet, and wrote an excoriating essay about one of its schools for his magazine, Household Words. Thackeray bought his mother a house in nearby Monken Hadley, and visited her there regularly. Trollope and his mother -- Fanny Trollope, a very famous writer in her day -- lived in Monken Hadley in the 1830s. He set one of his novels, The Bertrams, there. Thackeray's and Trollope's houses still stand: Trollope's has a blue plaque. Pepys took the waters at Barnet, which was known as a spa town in the seventeenth century, and wrote about several visits there in his diary. Unsurprisingly, he flirted with the wench who served him. Kingsley Amis lived in Monken Hadley for nearly ten years with his wife, Elizabeth Jane Howard, author of the Cazalet novels, who died on January 2nd this year. His son Martin wrote his first two novels there. Cecil Day Lewis, Poet Laureate, died there. John Betjeman and Iris Murdoch visited him for boozy weekends. Betjeman also taught in a private school in East Barnet when he was a rootless young man. Bram Stoker drew much of his inspiration for Dracula from Hendon churchyard -- he had many artist friends in the village.

And finally, back to those three great novelist of the nineteenth century. Did I say three? Better make that four. Edward Bulwer-Lytton, author of The Last Days of Pompeii, stayed in Barnet when he was researching The Last of the Barons, his novel about the Battle of Barnet. Bulwer-Lytton is well-known for the excellent aphorism: 'The pen is mightier than the sword'. He's perhaps better known for the most derided first sentence of a published novel ever written. 'It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flare of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.' For over thirty years, the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest has offered an annual financial prize to the writer who can pen the worst first sentence. Suddenly, I feel a new urge to return to fiction.

Paul will be leading a Literary Finchley walk on Friday May 30th.
Meet outside Finchley Central Station 10.30am. Cost £5.00
Details of Paul's walks on

Saturday 12 April 2014

Not a series, not a trilogy but a cycle of books - Greenacre Guest Blog

Guest Blog from Miriam Halahmy

When I started my first Young Adult novel, Hidden ( Albury Fiction) I had no idea that I would go on to write and publish three interlinking novels.

 I was quite clear in my mind that I didn’t want to write a trilogy where the story starts in the first book, continues in the second and concludes in the third. This structure had never appealed to me as a writer.

I also didn’t want to write a series with the same main character getting up to different adventures in each book.

But I did love my setting – Hayling Island, off the south coast of England, opposite the Isle of Wight. My family lived there for 25 years and I’ve been visiting the Island for 40 years. I was  beginning to build a group of teenagers in the same school and I had another character, Lindy, who popped up in Hidden.

The concept of the Hayling Cycle was born. A minor character in the previous book becomes the major character in the next, with familiar characters having little walk-on parts through the three books. But each book is stand- alone with a brand new story.

So here they are :-
Hidden : Alix and Samir pull an asylum seeker out of the water and hide him to save him from being deported.
Illegal: Lindy, a misfit in school, is being groomed by her older cousin to deal in drugs. Then Karl appears, another misfit and together they try to outwit the criminals.
Stuffed : Jess and Ryan are falling in love but each has a terrible secret from the other. Will their love survive or be crushed?
And yes – I do have an idea of 4th book, so watch this space!

You can meet Miriam at the Finchley Literary Festival on Tuesday 27th May from 2pm at Finchley Waterstone’s, along with fellow authors Gina Blaxill and Lil Chase. Miriam will also be taking part in the panel: Men writing as Women and Women Writing as Men - at the main event, Saturday 31st May at Stephens House & Gardens*

To find out more about Miriam visit: or 
follow her on twitter @MiriamHalahmy

*Formerly Avenue House

Friday 4 April 2014

Why Festivals are not just for FUN! - Greenacre Guest Blog

Guest Blog from Lil Chase

This May I will be taking part in the wonderful Finchley Literary Festival, speaking with over twenty other authors and illustrators about all things book-like.

I’ve been involved with many festivals before, but I am particularly excited about this one. Why? Because it’s a local festival. All the authors taking part in the festival come from London and the surrounds. And I think that’s very important.

Festivals allow readers to meet authors and see them in action, reading and talking about books – putting a real face to the sparkly names printed on book spines. I think it’s nice for people – children especially – to know that we’re just normal folk. There are a few authors demand seven-figure advances. Some whose book launches take place in champagne filled rooms in Claridges. But most authors live in regular two-up-two-downs, our launches attended by close friends, delighted to receive a glass of wine and a handful of Pringles.

Festivals put authors up on stages as they talk to the crowd (how else are they going to see and hear them after all?) but rather than being on pedestals, the effect is that of normalising the author. To me this is hugely important. Because as well as getting people into reading, I think – I hope – literary festivals get people into writing.

I can’t remember the name of the author who came to visit my school when I was young, but I do remember him being enthusiastic about reading and writing. He was down-to-earth, encouraging, and scruffy. It made me believe that having a book published was something I could do myself.

Authors are not special, sparkly people, they are people who were inspired by someone or something to write down a story. I believe festivals such as the one in Finchley in May can be that inspirational something.

Lil Chase is the author of two books; Boys for Beginners and Secrets, Lies & Locker 62. Her latest series - The Boys' School Girls - will be out in July 2014. 

You can meet Lil at the Finchley Literary Festival on Tuesday 27th May from 2pm at Finchley Waterstone’s, along with fellow authors Miriam Halahmy and Gina Blaxill.

To find out more about Lil visit: or 
follow her on twitter @lilchasewriter