Cheltenham Literary Festival: An Introduction

Or How I Realised I Could Never Be a Journalist.

Alright, folks, what’s happening?
I’ve had a right mare of a day today but I’m back and fully(-ish) functioning and ready to tell you all about my weekend at Cheltenham Literary Festival.
Well, I say ready…
I’ll start from the beginning because it’s a bit of a long story… well, it’s not.
It will probably surprise you when I say I am fond of tangents.
I learnt a lot this weekend and in the next couple of days I’m going to attempt at sharing this knowledge with you lovely people.
I’ll start with the first thing I learnt this weekend: I would make an absolutely rotten journalist.
I’m OK with this because it’s probably the only career that I haven’t decided that I simply must go into or else I will die. Also, I can’t even fold a newspaper without getting in a pickle so god knows what would happen if I tried to write an article….
Let me explain.

Remember when I told you that I had bought myself a ticket to go and see Patrick Ness and Jason Wallace talk about their books and I was giddy as a kipper?
WELL, I woke up early and I went into a WHSmiths to get myself a fresh notepad (because I forgot mine) and some new pens (because when I went to write with them they didn’t work) and made my way to The Studio (I actually got lost on my way there and had to ask someone where the venue was and they looked at me for a moment before pointing behind me where the biggest sign in the world announced ‘The Studio’.)
(See? Jo = oblivious and under prepared = bad journalist)
(Also, I use too many brackets which could annoy bosses at newspapers and my readers)
And I was terribly early but I went in straight away and settled myself in the front row with the best seat in the house… or, um, the tent.
But it was only when Mr Ness and Mr Wallace had finished their discussion and the audience had stopped laughing (and crying…. I’ll explain about that later) and the lights came on that I realised I had a problem.
I had been too busy laughing and hanging onto their every word that I hadn’t written a single one.
The good thing is, though, I actually remember a great deal about what is said so I’m about 89% sure that I can write an intelligent post about their fantastic discussion.
Also when I got to my brother’s house (who lives in Cheltenham), he announced that he had bought me a ticket for a ‘How To Get Your YA Book Published Masterclass’ .
Which wasn’t nearly as ominous as it sounds.
For the whole day beforehand I had been breaking out in cold sweats and scowling at my brother because I had visions of every person in publishing sitting behind a desk and watching me as I read out my entire manuscript as I trembled in the spotlight that shone in my face.
Needless to say…. It wasn’t like that.
And I’m quite possibly mental.
It was actually amazing and it gave me a fascinating insight on British children’s publishing.
On the panel were Barry Cunningham (of the Chicken House fame… oh and yeah, he launched J.K Rolwing’s career! :-| ), Zoe King (A literary agent with The Blair Partnership who now represent JK Rowling and are responsible for Pottermore) , Amanda Craig (Literary critic for The Times), Sophia Bennett (author of the Threads series) and Melvin Burgess (general bamf of YA fiction).

Um… yeah.
It’s safe to say I was in good hands.
Also, my brother is the best.
Anyway, I made sure my shiny new notepad and my shiny new pens were out as I took my seat in the theatre and was already planning how fantastic my post would be and how everyone who read it would bombard me with e-mails that said : “JO! THANKS FOR THE KNOWLEDGE AND I LOVE YOUR BRAIN.”
But that was before I was plunged into darkness.
That’s not me being metaphorical about getting writer’s block.
I mean literal darkness.
They turned out the house lights and I couldn’t even see my shiny new notepad, never mind write in it.
I managed to manoeuvre my notepad into this weird, random shaft of light that only I seem to have been able to see and I wrote down as much as I could. It was only when the lights came back on, and we all blinked wildly like startled moles, that I realised the majority of my sentences were written over the top of the previous sentence and some words were half-written on the page and half on my tights.
So yeah, my notes for the masterclass became this kind of palimpsest of literary excitement and knowledge which I will have to decipher and try and make sense of so I can share with you.
Also, there are doodles.
Which have no relevance to the topics discussed but I’ll take pictures anyway and include them in my post.
For giggles.
Does this happen a lot? Should I have been more prepared?
I mean… do journalists carry torches around with them?
I just don’t know.

So basically… to cut a long story short-ish…. I will write about both of these discussions but it may take me a while because of my shocking handwriting/ my inability to focus when authors come into my eye-line/ my goldfish memory and the fact that the publishers and agents believe that it is a vital skill for aspiring writers to be able to write in the dark.

ALSO: Stay tuned and get excited for Wear the Old Coat’s first giveaway/competition. The prize is amaaaaazing, if I may say so myself.
Don’t worry…. It’s not a photocopy of my notes from the aforementioned sessions.
Although that does give me an idea…

3 thoughts on “Cheltenham Literary Festival: An Introduction

  1. JO! I had no idea that's where you went, did you tell me? Sorry am a bad friend BUT OMG!! That sounds amazing!!!!
    Also, you have a manuscript?! DUDE! I am majorly impressed, I just pulled out my meagre excuse for one (which is all beginning and scenes with no context) cos I got inspired after watching Dirt Dancing: Havana Nights, oh god I know, I know but it was awesome and has nothing to do with my story except that I fell in love with the MCs. ANYWAY rambling, love you! x

  2. Great post Jo! I can't wait to hear about THE CONTEST. Dun dun dun!!!

    Also, the above post from Trinity is the cutest thing ever.

    Also x 2, I'm glad that I'm not the only Dirty Dancing fan.

  3. Jo, I don't think words can express how much I love you. That was all I could think while I read this, and therefore all I shall tell you.

    Good day! :)

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