Showing posts with label Henley Literary Festival. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Henley Literary Festival. Show all posts

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Removal quotes and books

Two themes are dominating my notebook this week - literary festivals and our imminent move to a new house. In amongst pages of removal quotes and a transcription of my conversation with BT about changing over our broadband, are my notes on the Henley Literary Festival and the Cuckfield Bookfest.

Emma Clark Lam and broadcaster Cathy Newman
Cathy and I celebrate with a glass of fizz
As ever, our local lit fest in Henley offered up a smorgasbord of knowledge and current affairs. A highlight for me was attending a session by my fabulous friend, Cathy Newman, who was promoting her new book, Bloody Brilliant Women

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Twelve new things I learnt last week

Notes from the Henley Literary Festival 2017

Blogger's son and children's author Katherine Rundell, writer of The Explorer
My son meets children's author Katherine Rundell,
who researched her latest novel The Explorer
on an expedition to the Amazon rainforest
What a journey! I've travelled from the Ottoman Empire to the Tudor Court, across Russia, dipped a toe into Georgian and Victorian England, scurried through a few war zones and glimpsed behind the scenes of a coalition government. 

It has been exhilarating, mind-blowing, delightfully informative and, at times, a little exhausting. My conduit for this dizzying tour of culture was the Henley Literary Festival, a book fest that pops up every autumn like a mushroom in my back yard.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Can Clegg save us from Brexit?

Notes from the Henley Literary Festival 2017

I've always been slightly intrigued by Nick Clegg. A silver-tongued, liberal politician with a touch of eurotrash glamour (Dutch mum, Spanish wife and a half-Russian dad). Yesterday at the Henley Literary Festival, my passing interest in this former deputy prime minister tipped over into something stronger - admiration? School-girl crush?

Former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg with Emma Clark Lam & friend
Starstruck at #HLF2017 with Nick Clegg and my friend Jo
During a lively interview, Mr Clegg was unequivocal about his support for the European project, charming his audience (not just me) with articulate and impassioned arguments, as well as giving an honest account of his time in government. 

He was there to promote his new book, How to stop Brexit (and make Britain great again)we were there to listen and perhaps buy an early copy (except, annoyingly, they ran out).


Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Between the covers

Some of you will know that my nine-year old son, Tristan, was a finalist in the Henley Literary Festival short-story competition, run by Dragonfly Tea. Just for a bit of fun, I thought I would post his entry here on the blog. Have a read and see what you think!

Finalists from the Henley Literary Festival short-story competition
The 2016 finalists for the children's short-story competition
Hi! I’m Larry the bookworm and I’m hooked to books! Adventure, fairytale, scary, funny, anything! If it’s a book, I’ll read it! I’ve probably read over a thousand, but then I do live in a library where there is always a book to read. The book I’m reading at the moment is called ‘Evil is Back,’ the sequel of ‘Evil in Front.’

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Window on the world

It's here, it's started! My brain is buzzing, my heart is full. Can you tell I'm excited? The Henley Literary Festival kicked off this week with a host of writers, performers and literary stalwarts. The festival and I go way back. Ten years ago, when it first opened its doors, it took my hand and said, Stop pining for London - look what Henley has to offer! We've been friends ever since.

Comedian Ben Miller asks: 'Is there life beyond earth?'
For one week in the year, I cram my head with knowledge. It's like I'm making up for lost time - and perhaps I am. My biggest regret from my university years was not attending enough lectures. At the time, bed seemed a more inviting prospect first thing in the morning. In my callow youth I took 'learning' for granted. Now, entrenched in the humdrum world of work and parenthood, I can't get enough of it.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Family plc

My feet have hardly touched the ground since 2016 kicked off in a burst of fireworks over the banks of the river Thames. Once the kids were back at school, I threw myself in a maelstrom of overdue paperwork, house tidying, novel-editing and publicity work for the Henley Youth Festival. The kids only went back at the beginning of last week and already it feels like a month!

Kids performing at the Henley Youth Festival
Credit: Cheryl George
Sometimes friends ask me: "Now your kids are at school full-time, when are you planning to go back to work?" How does one answer that tactfully? Here are some multiple-choice responses.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Moonlight Jasmine

This is my short story that was shortlisted in the Henley Literary Festival 2015 short-story competition. A few of you have asked me to post it on the blog so here it is! It is 3,000 words long so you may want to make yourself a cup of tea first. It was inspired by a true story.  


Jasmine flowers
©  | Dreamstime.com
A spray of white blooms caught Connie’s eye as she marched past the flower stall, but she didn’t allow herself to falter. Not today. She had a very important meeting to make and she couldn’t be late. Possibly the most important meeting of her life… no, that was an exaggeration! Nonetheless, her mission was to reach the cafĂ© at Selfridges before eleven o’clock. All her instincts told her that she should be safely in situ before her foe arrived. Stepping into the gutter to avoid a ponderous group of tourists, she picked up her pace and continued down Oxford Street.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Poetic truth

Notes from the Henley Literary Festival 2015

My favourite event in Henley's social carousel has come round again. For one glorious week (the sun always shines), I swan about the Henley Literary Festival on my own little voyage of intellectual discovery. This year I am attending talks on subjects as diverse as babies being born to mothers incarcerated at Auschwitz, black holes, the debutantes at Bletchley Park and an Indian suffragette. Every year I fall under the spell of the written word, marvelling again at its power to capture the gamut of human experience and inspire emotion.

Jane Hawkings, memoir writer and first wife of physicist Stephen Hawkings
Jane's memoir was a way
of 'unburdening' herself
It doesn't matter whether it is fiction or non-fiction: a good piece of writing is always authentic or truthful in an artistic sense. Whilst talking about his latest novel (The Dust that Falls from Dreamson the Great War, author Louis de Bernieres told us how he toyed with writing a biography of his family, but decided he didn't want to upset his father. "I've gone back to the normal plan which is to tell colossal lies," he said. "But there is poetic truth [in the book]." His guiding principle was to recreate what individuals felt as they became caught up in the war.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The quiet determination of Doreen Lawrence

Notes from the Henley Literary Festival... 


Doreen Lawrence, Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, made a startling observation at the Henley Literary Festival this week. She believes that police reforms are not being implemented and that the force is still guilty of racism. "Senior officers get what we need to do," she told the audience. "But somehow that is not being transferred to officers on the ground."
Doreen Lawrence

To prove her point, she shared a story about a young black man being arrested at London Bridge, just as she happened to reach the station platform. A group of white officers were kneeling on the young man, who also had his arms held behind his back. Baroness Lawrence decided to intervene and warned one of the officers: "He could die from that, you know." The officer, who clearly did not recognise her, replied: "It happens."

It has been more than 20 years since Baroness Lawrence's son Stephen was murdered in 1993 in London by a gang of white youths. Right from the beginning, the Lawrences were aware that the police were not taking the case seriously enough. "We were treated by the police as if we were perpetrators, not victims," she said. The force seemed more interested in investigating the Lawrence family and their friends, rather than pursuing leads to track down Stephen's attackers.

Monday, 29 September 2014

An audience with Jojo and Daisy

Notes from the Henley Literary Festival... 


A few years ago an editor friend of mine at Headline Review sent me a copy of My Last Duchess because she thought I would enjoy it. She knew my tastes well: this tale of an American heiress who marries into the English aristocracy was right up my street. It has been described as Henry James without the boring bits. Today I got to meet the author, Daisy Goodwin, who has now written a second book, The Fortune Hunter, about the 19th century Empress Elisabeth of Austria.

Lucy Cavendish interviews Jojo Moyes and Daisy Goodwin at the Henley Literary Festival
Jojo Moyes is a regular guest at the Literary Festival
Daisy was joined by Jojo Moyes, the bestselling author of Me Before You, and between the two of them, they kept us riveted with a discussion of their characters, their craft and a few homey snippets. 

In her latest book, The One Plus One, Jojo writes about a single mother Jess who ends up embarking on a road trip with Ed - a man she barely knows - to enter her daughter into a maths Olympiad in Aberdeen. Inevitably love blossoms, although there are of course a few twists in the road.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Erasmus, father of the ebook?

Ever since some bright spark from Mesopotamia in 3200 BC invented a system of writing, we have used the written word to express ourselves. For centuries, across different civilisations, authors and poets have acted on an innate need to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Quite apart from artistic expression, we owe our advance as a species to our inclination to record and share knowledge. Last Sunday this desire to write became part of our debate at the Henley Literary Festival during a session on ebooks and self-publishing.
Lucy Cavendish, Emma Clark Lam and Clive Limpkin at the Henley Literary Festival
Discussing the magic of ebooks:
Lucy Cavendish, Emma Clark Lam and Clive Limpkin

In amidst the feverish talk of marketing and earning commission, my fellow panelist Clive Limpkin reminded us that ebooks provide an opportunity for people to write, just for the sake of writing. Because very little expense is involved in producing an ebook, it can be a vehicle for an autobiography, a specialist text, or that novel you have always wanted to write (but couldn't get published through the traditional channels). 

Thursday, 3 October 2013

My literary week

Stella Rimington, former head of MI5
Dame Stella: MI5's first female head
Credit: James Gifford-Mead
We had a marvellous day out last Saturday: we went en famille to an open day for a private school in Abingdon. There were newly hatched chicks in the biology lab, smarties in the maths room and trampolining in the gym! The kids were in heaven, but what impressed me most was the onsite theatre, two-tier library and purpose-built lecture hall. I realised this was what we would be paying our fees for: the chance to plant our children in a glorious hothouse.

Now that my days in full-time education are long gone, I realise I miss that heady atmosphere of learning new things and discovering a world in books... which is why I adore The Henley Literary Festival. Once a year, thanks to this jamboree of writers, historians and bloggers, I get my literary fix. The festival takes place right on my doorstep for a week at the end of September and I have been attending ever since former journalist, Sue Ryan, set it up seven years ago. It has gone from strength to strength, selling over 14,000 tickets this year.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

To e-, or not to e-?

Not so long ago I felt like I was waging my own ebook revolution. Having published my first novel as a Kindle book on Amazon last year, I faced a dual challenge: I had to sell my novel, but I also had to make the case for reading books in a digital format. Amongst my own group of friends, I was often required to help would-be readers download a Kindle app before they could go on and purchase my book. It was a hybrid sales/computer-support role that I never envisaged for myself when I set out to write a family saga set in the second-world war.

Next week I am participating in a session at the Henley Literary Festival on ebooks and self-publishing - the prospect of which has sparked some navel-gazing. Coincidentally, I also happened upon a feature by Jonathan Franzen in The Guardian which takes a swipe at Amazon and self-publishing, in the midst of a complex argument about the perils of modernity. Here is an extract:

Book cover for Kindle novel, 'A Sister for Margot' by Emma Clark Lam
Only available as an ebook on Amazon
"Amazon wants a world in which books are either  self-published or published by Amazon itself, with readers dependent on Amazon reviews in choosing books, and with authors responsible for their own promotion. The work of yakkers and tweeters and braggers, and of course people with the money to pay someone to churn out hundreds of five-star reviews for them, will flourish in that world."