Thursday, August 05, 2010

Authors North Social in Tullie July 20th 2010

Authors North's summer social this year was held in Tullie House in Carlisle. Tullie House is an interesting place: part art galley and part museum. They served us a highly satisfactory lunch of orange juice followed by various sandwiches and wraps and then some fruit for dessert.

The main focus of the day, however, were talks from John Murray and and Clare Sambrook. John talked about how and why he set up his literary magazine, Panurge. It was, he said, because he thought good quality short fiction needed an outlet in the UK. The situation is little different today with several publications such as Stand magazine (which I remember taking as an undergraduate, even though my specialism was chemistry) no longer in production. Through it, he and his co-editor, David Almond, discovered many new writers that are still going strong today.

He then went on to describe his own literary career - the sales and the effect of being long-listed for the Booker - and the benefits of being published by, and being faithful to, a small press.

One of John's more recent initiatives is to act as mentor to promising writers and Clare Sambrook's Hide & Seek is the successful result of such a collaboration. Clare, rather impressively, gave her talk completely without notes. She told us how she'd started to write when very young, lost interest in education after her mother died when she was aged eight, but was then given special dispensation to stay onto the sixth form even though her grades were not quite up to scratch. Winning a national prize for a history essay must have vindicated whoever gave her the benefit of the doubt, and she went to Cambridge to study history.

A hard-won career in the press followed (and this sounded incredibly pressurised - much more so than I realised) and after suffering meningitis re-evaluated her life and decided to do something she had always intended to do, and that was write fiction. She had written her novel when John took a look. Clare recommended the ruthlessness of John's blue pencil.

It was an excellent session, and I felt Clare and John complemented each other's styles very well.

A cup of tea and cake followed and it was time, too soon, to return home.

Many thanks to our secretary, Sarah Burton, for another successful meeting.

(Apologies for the quality of the photographs - they were taken by iphone since I forgot my camera...except for the good one of Clare in the middle which was taken by Colin Shelbourn)


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