Monday 9 July 2012

Book Groups in Bantry, in Frinton, in US, and Welsh Cakes in West Meon - the joys of taking your book out there...

Table decoration at the wonderful West Meon WI Tea! Just for 'The Coward's Tale' -  what lovely ladies!
Great indie bookshops and public libraries don’t just supply books for loan or purchase any more - many of them organise and inspire and support literary events, and I have been lucky enough to attend three such events in the last month.  
First, Bantry, West Cork, Ireland. 
On Thursday June 6th, I travelled from Eyeries, where I was warming up for the short story course at Anam Cara Writers and Artist’s Retreat, and drove the hour or so back to the town of Bantry. The Bantry Library Book Group had read ‘The Coward’s Tale’ and invited me to attend their meeting. 
The rather lovely building, Bantry Library, waterwheel in front.
Great to revisit the library. Last time I was in Bantry at the West Cork Lit Fest, I heard Kevin Barry read a short story from his collection  ‘These Are Little Kingdoms’  in this place - I also heard Selma Dabbagh interviewed by Carlo Gebler here. So to be meeting a dozen or so of my readers, answering questions, listening to their discussion, and reading for a few minutes - this was a wonderful thing. Much enjoyed - I left for lunch at a local restaurant, glowing. ‘The Coward’s Tale’ was doing the rounds - three further books groups in the Cork County Library service were reading it too. Many thanks to the organisers, the librarian from Bantry in particular.

Next, Frinton, Essex. Saturday 30th June saw me driving up to Frinton (the day after driving all the way back from a  family week in Cornwall...) to attend a wonderful event organised by Caxton Books of Connaught Avenue, Frinton - the annual Book Groups get-together.  
Judith and Sally in their wonderful bookshop!
 It is a brilliant idea, thought up by Max Bridgewater of Bloomsbury. Each year there are two novels selected. This year it was mine, and Stephen May’s ‘Life, Death, Prizes!’.  

Stephen May
Members of reading groups in the locality buy a ticket to the event - which gets them one of the novels,  a reduction off the other, and entry to the event. Stephen and I were there, to talk and read  - then we joined each of half a dozen book groups at their tables, to be grilled, and listen to comments about our work. Such a valuable time! Important to hear comments, positive and a few - not negative exactly, but asking questions - why this was so, or that. Food for thought for the next! So many thank yous to Judith and Sally of Caxton Books, Max, and to Bloomsbury for making it possible for us to travel all that way and stay over. 
Welsh cakes - delicious!

Last but not least, West Meon, Hampshire. The West Meon Literary Festival is held with the support of One Tree Books of Petersfield, who are on hand selling books. I was lucky enough, not just to be invited to attend, but to take The Coward’s Tale to what must be one of the best events of the festival - the WI Tea! 

Well. Suffice it to say we had a tea never to forget - wonderful - a themed tea to go with the novel. So, there were welsh cakes, bara brith, sandwiches galore, there were Welsh dragon flags, flowers in the same colours, and tables crammed with eaters and listeners. I decided to talk about food in the novel, tea at my grandmother’s, (sandwich spread sarnies, jelly with tinned mandarins and evaporated milk) - and I had lots of wise nods and cried of ‘Oh yes, I remember that!’. 

The lovely lady who made the best bara brith Ive tasted in ages...

Smashing. It was great. Then I read the hardest scene to read - well ring the changes - and signed books.  Sigh. It was lovely to meet up with Imogen Robertson  and have lunch. Imogen also won The Daily Telegraph Novel in a Year competition in 2007... and is now well-established and on to her fifth novel.  Also enjoyed seeing Tania Hershman and fellow Bloomsbury author Marika Cobbold -  both of whom were doing lit fest sessions - a wonderful festival indeed.  And here are a few more pics of cakes, dragons, flowers, from the West Meon Tea!

And finally, also reading my novel this last week, was a group in the US. Sent the book by friend and writing colleague Beverly Jackson, they sent me questions to answer in advance of their meeting, so I almost felt like I was there. Wonderful to know it is being read all that way away. Can't tell you how nice that is. 
Thank you all. 


  1. How wonderful, Vanessa! Doesn't it just show what a passion for reading, lots of imagination and enthusiastic readers can do?

  2. It was a wonderful tea, and the WI did themselves proud. Which is why I put on weight this week at fat club! Never mind, it was so worth it. I must try and make some of my own Bara Brith.

    Lovely to hear you talk about yourself and the book. Looking forward to reading it.

  3. It was fun, Sally, all of it - bless them all for reading me!

  4. Hello Jo, thanks for dropping in - I loved West Meon - just wish the rains had let up for the drive home! Thank you for coming, and I do hope you enjoy the book. V

  5. @ Jo I think I like the idea of Fat Club!! I'm sure I'd get a place. HAA!

    Vanessa- you are a busy busy bee! It sounds like your book is being loved far and wide as it should be. Great to read all about it.

  6. I love Fat Club too - I think I AM one!

  7. Just catching up here - oooh those pictures remind me of the wonderful afternoon teas turned on by members of the Australian equivalent of the WI - the CWA (Country Women's Association)

  8. They were absolutely delicious... and the lovely lady in the pic above appeared at my elbow as I was signing books, with a little pile of buttered bara brith, wrapped in cling-film, to take home. Such fabulous hospitality!

  9. So wonderful. I am drooooooling over that tea. The cakes!!!!!!!!

  10. Rather distracted by the cakes as well but what a lovely way to show off your book (which I am taking to Corsica next week). I just did my first litfest in Penzance and it's so true - what a wonderful way to put your work out there. And book clubs - they are so much fun! xcat