Much of my weekend was spent at the Mountains to Sea Book Festival in Dun Laoghaire, where I took part in the Monster Book Lunch but also picked up some snippets of writerly wisdom. It seemed perhaps like an idea to type them up (while I can still decipher my teeny-tiny handwriting…)
Publishing panel with Ivan O’Brien, Faith O’Grady, and Eoin Purcell
- Eoin Purcell notes that New Island get plenty of short stories and commercial fiction in, but not as much good literary fiction or non-fiction as they would like.
- Ivan O’Brien notes the difficulty in finding good writers for the 8-10 age bracket.
- Faith O’Grady says it’s still, ultimately, about the writing, rather than any particular trend/niche that she’s looking for.
- Ivan also discussed the subjectiveness of publishing – you might publish something that’s been rejected elsewhere, or reject something published elsewhere. It’s not a science (though it gets a little bit closer to that for non-fiction, he notes, where there’s a clearer sense of what to expect).
- Eoin and Ivan talked e-books and doing e-book editions of things also coming out in print – the consensus seemed to be that it’s not nearly as easy as you think it should be.
Tessa Hadley and Keith Ridgway
- Tessa Hadley talked about characters and how you can’t write real people – they’re ‘too sprawling’. You simplify what people are like.
- Keith Ridgway spoke about the ‘pre-planning’ bit – index cards and all kinds of stuff. Which is ultimately just a diversionary tactic and prelude to the actual writing. They both had more of a sense of ‘pre-thinking’.
- Tessa aims for 400 words a day.
- They spoke about teaching creative writing, or rather facilitating people learning to write. Keith notes it’s “kind of exhausting” reading and critiquing student work, sometimes rewarding but sometimes just exhausting. Tessa noted the way you get to know people, through their writing, even though you may have no idea what they’ve worked as or where they’re coming from or any of the more traditional indicators.
- Tessa gets input from both her American and British editor and incorporates all the feedback into one edition. Keith had a fairly light edit on his latest book, Hawthorn and Child, but polishes a lot before anyone sees it.
- Keith: “You have to risk something, in writing a book.”
- On ‘finishing’ a book, it seemed anti-climactic for both. Keith feels the gap between what’s hoped for and what’s there; Tessa notes the trickling-down of ‘finishing’ as the edits get smaller and smaller until finally you’re arguing over comma splices.
David Mitchell and Claire Kilroy
- David Mitchell is
ridiculously adorable very good in front of an audience and read from a work-in-progress, from the point of view of a fifteen-year-old girl in 1984.
- When stuck, David writes a letter to himself about why he’s stuck. Suggests the degree to which you are stuck or not stuck is about perception. If you perceive something right, he said, you can’t not have ideas.
- Claire Kilroy discussed the “really slow and tedious” writing of her novels. She makes lots of notes, writes and writes and writes, before really getting into it. She loves endings, and they get written very quickly. Also noted, “the act of seeing your word count grow is a comfort”.
- Do they enjoy the writing? David: yes, very much so. Claire: yes, at the end of the day, when it’s done.
- David spoke about film adaptations (Cloud Atlas) and how films which interpret books rather than trying to be “audiobooks with pictures”. Also talked about writing different cultures and getting information across – you put into the text the things the characters take for granted, he says.
Okay, I seem to have a lot of scribbles here – let us reconvene shortly for Part 2!