Saturday, July 20, 2013

Talking through the talk

Yesterday evening, I had the very, no extremely, pleasant job of doing my first book talk in a while. I was very lucky to have the cooperation of one of the language schools I work for, and what better place than the Centre for British English. Emma Gill Willems is the Director of Studies and owner of the school and together we decided to combine a book talk with a creative writing discussion as a kind of precursor (or pre-courser) to offering some workshops on creative writing.

In the first part of the evening, I talked about the two books I have written with local interest (both published by Sunpenny Publishing). My theme was the difference between writing fact and fiction and the different approaches a writer needs to adopt for these two fundamental genres. Having done both, I was able to say that within my limited experience, they provide different challenges too. Writing fact gives you little freedom with the 'what' element, so you need to focus on the 'how'. Writing fiction offers far more creative freedom with the 'what', but the difficulty lies in the fact everything is essentially your own creation. Your only real confines are your context. However, this of course, generates its own challenges, and then you have to add the 'how' factor on top of that.

So I told them about Watery Ways, my memoir of my first year of living on a barge, and then I went on to talk about The Skipper's Child. I explained that it was inspired by my partner's childhood as the son of a commercial skipper, but how I'd woven many of his anecdotes into a fictional adventure story with the theme of loyalty and family values running through it. Many of the questions the audience asked were detailed and quite searching, so it was a very stimulating exercise for me. An added dimension was having my daughter Jodie there too to talk about her novel, which is part fantasy, part comedy with a healthy dose of Terry Pratchett style absurdity.

I am very grateful to all who came as the evening was beautiful and the weather gorgeous so I was impressed anyone turned up at all. If I were them, I'd have opted for the beach and a barbecue rather than a book bash. I am even more grateful to Emma whose lively enthusiasm gives everything that extra buzz that you want. She's also a great organiser and everything went very smoothly. It's undoubtedly the best book talk event I have done so far, and we're looking forward to doing another together later in the year.
Two of the guests enjoying an interval drink

Jodie and I in the interval

Former students of the school

All of a sudden there was a queue to buy a book!

The lovely and bubbly Emma - she was pleased with everything
as you can see!

Getting settled

And then there were the side shows :-)

Reading from The Skipper's Child

Talking about…well, Watery Ways?

Answering questions time

And if you're interested in dipping into any of my books, why not have a look at my author page on 


  1. Sounds like a lovely evening. My copy of your new book has just arrived, guess what I'm going to be doing today! Xxx

  2. Oh Fran! What is it like? I haven't got mine yet. Does the cover look nice? I'm so excited to see it!

  3. Hi Val, great to hear about your fantastic evening. I love your writing. Best wishes Stefan

  4. It looks like everyone had a great time. What a perfect way to spread the word. Well done :-)

  5. Thank you, Stefan. That means a lot to me x

    Ros, thank you too. It was a lovely evening and lots of fun. The wine, beer and snacks were well received too :-)

  6. Well done you. However much you appreciate reviews,and nice comments online, actually engaging with real live readers can't be topped!!(Though mine are usually considerably younger, don't drink wine and ask exceedingly challenging questions!)

  7. Carol, I am a wimp. I haven't even tried the yonger audiences. This was very enjoyable, especially with a glass of wine!

  8. How incredibly thrilling Val!!
    U r amazing and brilliant, u r an inspiration. x

  9. Great to meet you today on Julie's blog. Husband has been to Rotterdam. I haven't had the pleasure. Yet :)

  10. Looks like you had a fun time Val I would have loved to have been there.I didn't know your daughter has written a book too,you'll have to put a link to it on twitter.

  11. Grace, thank you, dear!
    Carole, nice to meet you too. Rotterdam is a great city!
    Anne, My daughter's book isn't published yet. She's finished it but it's not formatted yet. It'll be a Kindle book for sure.Thank you!


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