Festival Round-Up Part 1

October 24th, 2014

I am a little over halfway through my Writing Motherhood tour so I thought it was high time I get cracking and post something about how it’s all been going.

So: a recap. After finishing BOOM! – my poetry collection about motherhood – I found I wasn’t quite done with the whole motherhood discussion. I wanted to create more conversations between mothers about motherhood, about the so-called juggling acts that happen when a woman has a child and continues to work in one form or another, and particularly about the publishing industry. And about many other things besides.

In short, Writing Motherhood was never just about parenting, or mothering, or figuring out how to raise a child. It was about issues specifically related to women when they decided to have a child and write, too.

I blogged a little bit about the events at the Wordsworth Trust, Hexham Book Festival, the Ledbury Poetry Festival, Poetry International at the Southbank Festival and the Belfast Book Festival earlier this year. Since then the project has visited Birmingham Literature Festival, Wigtown Book Festival, Sheffield Off the Shelf Festival, Durham Book Festival (a great review of that one here), and I was also invited to read at the Cheltenham Literature Festival as part of the National Poetry Competition.

That was a unique experience.

The ‘green room’ was an enormous marquee tent with chandeliers, lanterns, Chinese screens, and famous people. Brian Blessed and Colm Toibin were sat nearby on white leather sofas eating salmon and talking amiably with other famous people. I felt quite flustered.

As for the other events (with Rowan Coleman, Liz Fraser, Kate Long, Debi Gliori and Kathryn Maris), we had some pretty interesting conversations. We talked about our books, which more often than not dealt with real-life issues confronting women in particular, such as abuse and anorexia and suicide, but which nonetheless seemed to end up with an incongruously pink cover with wellies or cupcakes or suchlike on the front. We talked about the ‘juggling act’ of combining a writing life with children, the way motherhood has overhauled our feminism, and audiences were keen to tell their own stories: how some felt guilty about taking time away from their children to write when the odds of getting published were stacked against them. How others felt empowered by their experiences to dive into writing. Others raised the subject of baby brain: I mentioned that once, back when I was trying to write a new novel whilst coping with a newborn WHO DID NOT SLEEP, it took me three attempts one morning to spell the word ‘white’.

I got there in the end.

All in all, it has been a splendid few months. The next half of the tour kicks off on Sat 15 November at Taunton Literary Festival (details here), followed by a number of events in the Spring. Hope to see you there.

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