Sunday, 6 July 2014

Stephens House & Gardens WW1 Centenary

Some of the Greenacre/Finchley Literary Fest peeps are involved in Stephens House & Gardens WW1 Centenary celebrations on Tuesday August 5th:
12-1pm A.L. Michael is running a creative writing workshop for kids, centred around WW1. Write stories, poems and letters inspired by life at that time, and the perspectives of those at home and on the front lines. An interactive and educational creative workshop. 

A.L. Michael is an author and a creative workshop facilitator from Mill Hill. She runs classes in writing and wellbeing, as well as teen and kids creative classes. Her first book, Wine Dark, Sea Blue, was published by Stairwell Books in May 2013, her next one The Last Word, will be published by Carina UK in April 2014. She has a penchant for shiny things and drinks far too much tea.



1.30-3pm Rosie Canning is running a creative writing workshop using World War One letters, photos and artefacts as inspiration. Rosie will spark your creativity and imagination, using creative writing exercises to take you back in time to WW1 from the safety of the bunker. 

Rosie Canning is co-founder of Greenacre Writers. In 2012, she co-hosted the Greenacre Literary Festival. This year the festival expanded and was been re-named Finchley Literary Festival. Rosie has an MA Creative Writing.





3-4pm Come and have afternoon tea in the lovely drawing room at Stephens House and listen to Sarah Harrison read from her bestselling WW1 novel, The Flowers of the Field and hear how she got the idea to write the book and all about the WW1 research. 

Sarah Harrison is the author of twenty five books and counting. She made her name with the bestselling The Flowers of the Field and its sequel A Flower That’s Free. Both have been reissued by Orion this year, with the third in the trilogy, The Wildflower Path, coming out in September. Sarah is also an entertainer, regularly performing in an all-woman revue, and winner of Silver Stand-Up’s Best Newcomer 2013.

 
Wednesday August 6th:
7.00pm Ally Pally Prison with Maggie Butt

A multi-voice, illustrated presentation from Maggie Butt’s surprising and moving first world war history, 'Ally Pally Prison Camp'.

Maggie Butt’s book and presentation combines the prisoners’ own words from letters and memoirs, with evocative photographs, full colour paintings by internee George Kenner and her own poems.

“This haunting mélange of words and pictures movingly conveys a forgotten story of hurt and injustice.” Juliet Gardiner, historian and writer.
Maggie grew up in North London, and still lives in Southgate, so has been aware of Ally Pally all her life. Alexandra Palace in North London was a ‘concentration camp’ for 3,000 civilian internees from 1915 to 1919. Many of them had grown up in England and very few of them spoke German. Many had English wives and children and others owned businesses in England. But they were locked up as ‘enemy aliens’ for four long years. This illustrated, multi-voice presentation combines their own words from letters and memoirs, with evocative photographs, plus full colour paintings by internee George Kenner and poems by Maggie Butt.


Stephens House & Gardens WW1 Centenary includes star Costumes from the hit BBC Drama 'The Crimson Field'  that will headline a week long exhibition 'A Casualty of War'. Tickets are available now for the exclusive opportunity to view the main character costumes and see images from the show alongside original WW1 ephemera, courtesy of David Cohen Fine Art, and a recreation of a section of a hospital ward in a private house, 
The purpose of this week is for Stephens House & Gardens to provide a focus to remember those that served and the many that suffered especially those treated within Avenue House when it was seconded as a Hospital. 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Finchley Literary Festival

Greenacre Guest Blog by Munpuni Murniati

I said to my two children aged eleven and eight, 'We’re going to CliFi Workshop next Saturday,’ Yes! was the response; not out of interest but the excitement that they would only spend half day at their Arabic School.

We arrived early. Rosie was looking tired but calm, particularly as the clock was ticking and the speaker was nowhere to be seen.  The kick-off event on 24th May started on time nevertheless. As my children seemed to settle in, I decided to saunter round browsing the library books. To my delight I spotted Amy Tan’s ‘The Opposite of Fate’; soon I was immersed in a chapter about her mother’s morbid imagination. I was thinking of the indescribable trauma the woman must have been through as a child following the suicide of her mother.  In so doing I did not hear my middle daughter’s answer in response to a question of what would happen beyond our lifetime. I was later told, she said: ‘We’ll invent the ‘fountain of youth’ and learn to speak to animals.’ My English was not as good as hers when I was eight.

At the end of the session she and her brother admitted that they had enjoyed the experience and moreover Sarah Holding’s the SeaBEAN Trilogy had enticed them with ‘ideas’ (I’m always intrigued when they say the word ). In my view, Holding writes well and I hope her books line the shelves of the school libraries so the likes of The Diary of the Whimpering Kid, can be put away. 

At the Anthology Launch on Sunday 25th I was one of the readers.  My story ‘Expedients’ was about the long-overdue meeting between two ‘strangers’ in a park. Andi Byrne’s ‘Authors In Residence’ was the story I enjoyed most, for I recalled a similar accident at home concerning ‘The Oxford Companion of English Literature.'  The victim was my eldest son, for the heavy book was put on a shelf over his desk and well...accidents happen! You'll have to read the anthology to find out what happened in Andi Byrne's story.

On a serious note it was a good networking event for Greenacre Writers and I hope the same event will continue in 2015.

On 28th I took my two daughters and their friend for A.L. Michael’s forty-five minute workshop ‘Write Here Write Now’ at Friern Barnet Community Library. The workshop aimed to enrich the children’s writing through a number of approaches, eg. speed writing and using various objects to conjure up a character. Despite the rain, there was a good turn-out. In between the session I chatted with Carol (another Greenacre Writer) whose nephew also participated.  Moreover, I congratulated Michael on the publication of her debut chick-lit novel The Last Word.

On the way home I told the girls the tale of the occupied library and how this had contributed to it reaching its eightieth ‘birthday’ on the 23rd March (I supposed my words fell to deaf ears as they were much more interested in going back as soon as they could L).

I also attended the first session of The Reader Organisation on 29th May to which I also took my three children, held at North Finchley Library. Paul Higgins and Ruth Cohen were the jolly facilitators. We read ‘Meeting Echo’; a chance encounter between two young minds in an airport; the Chinese girl Echo and the English man Danny. Each person in the circle was able to convey their thoughts and impressions in relation to the story which was fascinating.

The last fifteen minutes were spent discussing ‘Daydream,’ a short poem which seemed to reverberate John Lennon’s Imagine. Somebody then recalled the days when being an ‘idle child’ was something to be frowned at.

The hour passed but the story and the poem lingered in me. I felt grateful that my darlings could stay (and most importantly they behaved).

The Dragon’s Pen the day after was a learning curve (‘Yay! We don’t need to go,’ shouted my children thanks to friends who were willing to babysit them).  The five minutes slot went fast, but I managed to finish reading my flash fiction ‘Shadows’ seconds before the knocking on the door.

Talking to other participants about their work and pursuits beforehand eased me a little from the pressure equivalent to a walk-in job interview.  And yet, the three ‘dragons’ themselves Cari Rosen, Gillian Stern and Mary Musker  turned out to be three wonder women who had no resemblance whatsoever to the Hungarian Horntails.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Bettina the Abseiler

Greenacre Guest Blog by Bettina von Cossel

I’d like to thank all those who generously sponsored my abseiling in aid of the Finchley Literary Festival. I’m really pleased about the outcome. All in all I raised £340. 

Liz Goes, a fellow Greenacre writer, had promised good-looking hunks on top of the tower to strap me on securely, and she didn't promise too much. Hercules and Brad Pitt roped and hooked me up with the utmost care; my husband couldn't have done it any better. Still, I found the event extremely stressful because I’m scared of heights, and the moment when I had to climb over the edge of that tower and let go, was one of the worst in my life. I was so terrified I felt sick.

I can’t even tell you how relieved I was when I arrived back on firm ground. The security men from the Harlow Tye Rotary Club, who'd organised the event, helped me out of the abseiling gear, all looking at my bottom, strangely enough. It turned out that my husband had involved them into a vivid discussion whether my bum looked big from below. Of all the topics in the world… A man’s soul will always stay a mystery to me.

Thanks again so much for supporting me, and enjoy the Finchley Literary Festival.


Bettina von Cossel will be giving the following talk at The Finchley Literary Festival:
Crime Writing - How to Kill your Darlings?
Tuesday 27th May, 3pm
Church End Library, N3 1TR 
Free of charge. 

Find out more

Monday, 5 May 2014

The Truth about the Writing Life

Greenacre Guest blog by Allen Ashley

Many years ago I had an article published entitled “The Hollywood Writer and I” in which I took issue with that formulaic filmic portrayal of writers as shambling, alcoholic womanisers desperately trying to replicate a past glory (basically: the received popular image of Dylan Thomas). The truth about the writing life is far less glamorous / clichéd / easy to pigeonhole. Many writers that I know live a hand to mouth existence from one commission or sale to the next; and such a lifestyle precludes as a financial impossibility the notion of quaffing a bottle of Jim Beam every night to send one into dreamland. Most writers, even quite successful ones, have some other employment that offers a reasonably steady income – teaching, lecturing, copy-editing, librarianship, taking paid reviewing gigs for “The Guardian”, whatever.

These days the public stereotype of a writer is probably J. K. Rowling. Rich, courted by Hollywood, her tweets eagerly consumed by fans, even lower standard fare that she initially publishes under an assumed name sells by the bucket load. Photogenic and with something of an airbrushed rags to riches back story, she’s become the poster girl for the “I Want To Be A Writer” dream. Trouble is: the writing community is an iceberg: Rowling is its visible tip twinkling in the Edinburgh sunshine and the LA starlight; the rest of us are the submerged part trying not to drown.

As well as writing, many years ago I turned to editing also. When I responded to submissions, I started giving a short critique of what worked or didn’t work in the story. People thanked me for my notes – which were mostly intended to aid my thinking. As well as this, I dipped my toes into running writing workshops, aiming to pass on some of my hard-won experience and knowledge to aspiring authors. With a background in teaching and the encouragement of those close to me as well as those I’d helped along the way, I took the plunge a couple of years ago and became a full-time writer and tutor. My situation wasn’t quite as I’d envisaged it when I was 13 or 14 wanting to be the next J. G. Ballard. As a short story specialist, I know I’m never going to make millions. I take some other work a couple of days a week in order to stay afloat.

But I love tutoring and believe I have a natural talent for it. Like a proud parent, I’ve been able to guide several people towards their first ever publications or competition successes. Others have had their faltering publication record revitalised. In some ways, I’m offering something that I would have found immensely useful when I was a novice writer myself many years ago.

I haven’t uncovered the next Dan Brown or Martina Cole and don’t necessarily expect to do so. The supernovas are very far beyond this stratosphere. But even if people don’t graduate straight from my classes to the top of “The Sunday Times” bestseller list, they will have improved as a writer and will have a deeper understanding of how the business actually works.

If I had a pound for everybody who’s come up to me and said, “I want to be a writer, how do I go about getting published?” or “I’ve written a book, can you tell me how to get it published?” then I could probably retire several years early. Oh if only it were that simple. At this point I have to diplomatically inform them that such success, if one ever achieves it, is usually preceded by years of hard slog; and maybe before you start expecting Bloomsbury or Penguin to chuck a contract your way, it might be best to start with smaller, more realistically achievable ambitions for the moment. That’s where I come in. Of course, the question should be: “How do I go about improving my writing?” or “How do I become a better writer so that I’ve got more chance of being published?”

Remember: JKR is the dream; the myth, even. And she did it by hard work and application. So, if you fancy a bit of hard work – and fun! – come along to my workshop at North Finchley Library at 4pm on Friday 30 May. It’s free at the point of delivery. My slogan is: “You will be writing within five minutes.” You may even discover the Shakespeare or Emily Bronte inside you!


As part of the Finchley Literary Festival, Allen Ashley, as well as running the above workshop will be hosting the “Spoken Word Showcase”. Come along and hear a great range of fiction, poetry and non-fiction from Festival writers and local authors. Reading spots allocated on strictly first come, first served basis. Allen will also chair the Panel Discussion: Men writing as women and women writing as Men at the Main Event, Sat 31st May 2-6pm

Enquiries to Allen on allenashley-writer@hotmail.co.uk

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Finchley LitFest Quiz Night - Sat 3rd May


The quiz is open to all! 
To book your place, call 02083465503 as we have to let the quiz master know.
Or email: finchleyliteraryfestival@gmail.com

Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Value of the Literary Festival

Guest Blog from Gina Blaxill

I’m going to come out with my main point straightaway; I think literary festivals are fantastic. Well, obviously - I’m a writer, and an avid reader, too. Anything booky that celebrates the written word is right up my street. On a more serious note, though, there are a lot of things competing for our attention – things that are easier and might seen as more accessible than books. More often than not these are connected with technology, which is constantly changing and evolving, something books do too, but less obviously.

I should point out that I’m not anti-technology at all (my first book is about teenagers meeting on the Internet and yes, I have a Kindle). However I do think it’s a bit of a triumph when you see people coming to enjoy a literary festival rather than spend their time elsewhere. Books and writing have been around for so many years, and it’s good to see them, and more broadly imagination, being celebrated. I think we often take for granted what amazing things they are. This is especially true when it comes to children and young people, something which as a writer for young adults I feel keenly. Books aren’t always perceived as the coolest thing for a teenager to be into so it takes courage to go to a book event, which is pretty much putting up your hand and saying “I’m into this”.

Going back to taking books for granted, this is something that was emphasised to me when I came along to speak in the Greenacre Literary Festival last year. The theme I’d been asked to speak on was truth and fiction which when I really came to think about it was quite a deep topic. I came to the conclusion that truth could be particularly striking and insightful when told via the mode of fiction, which can be used to really connect a reader and draw them in. For years books have been making profound and pertinent points about the world in the vehicle of fiction. Sometimes that was the safest way to do it, sometimes it was the way that would reach the most people, and sometimes it was the only voice someone had. When you start to think about the power a book can have to observe the truth, it’s pretty amazing, and that was one thing I definitely took away from the event last year.

The thing I like best about literary festivals, though, is not just meeting the people and the fact that despite everything they still remain popular – it’s that they’re a celebration of reading and all it stands for. As someone who owes so much to books, that’s fantastic. I meet people who also enjoy escaping from the world between the pages, people who love to learn about new things, people who are open-minded and perceptive and articulate, three things reading gives us. People who feel a connection to characters and writers they’ll never meet, who connect emotionally to words on a page, who like seeing the world from different angles. There are lots of different reasons people read, and why it matters, and whatever the reason, it’s brilliant – and important – the people get together to tip their collective hats to books and the incredible things they give us.

Gina has written three books: Forget Me Never, Pretty Twisted, and Saving Silence. To find out more about Gina's work, visit http://ginablaxill.wordpress.com/about/ or follow her on twitter @GinaBlaxill



As part of the Finchley Literary Festival, Gina Blaxill will be appearing at Waterstones Finchley, N12 8JY, Tuesday May 27th from 2.00pm onwards along with Miriam Halahmy and Lil Chase, to speak about Young Adult fiction and writing. 

Friday, 18 April 2014

A Literary Finchley Walk

Guest Blog from Paul Baker

I'm not a writer -- at least, I haven't written fiction or poetry for publication for thirty years. I'm a tour guide, and I couldn't imagine another job I would rather do. I've been doing it for ten years, since I became a City of London guide. I roam around the square mile, Spitalfields, Westminster, Soho, as well as my own beloved borough of Barnet. I do public walks, and walks to commission: Jack the Ripper, the Sinful City, Lovers' London, and yes, once or twice, literary walks. I must have dragged many thousands of people along the pavements of London in the past ten years, and I've met some memorable individuals: the fascinating, the lonely, the eccentric, the pretentious, the dangerous, the adorable, the unbalanced, the know-it-all, the beautiful, the tragic, and those that defy categorization. Wonderful copy for any writer -- what a pity I don't write fiction any more!

I was delighted to be asked to do a literary walk as part of the Finchley Literary Festival. I can't reveal which authors I'll be talking about along the way. But I can safely say that Finchley, like the rest of the modern-day borough of Barnet, has always been considered by writers and artists to be a quiet, peaceful place, conducive to reflection and literary endeavour. From the seventeenth century onwards, writers have flocked to Barnet and Finchley, some to live for long periods, and some just for short stays.

Three of the greatest novelists of the nineteenth century -- Dickens, Trollope and Thackeray -- knew Barnet extremely well. Dickens dined at the Red Lion pub on numerous occasions, set a chapter of Oliver Twist in Barnet, and wrote an excoriating essay about one of its schools for his magazine, Household Words. Thackeray bought his mother a house in nearby Monken Hadley, and visited her there regularly. Trollope and his mother -- Fanny Trollope, a very famous writer in her day -- lived in Monken Hadley in the 1830s. He set one of his novels, The Bertrams, there. Thackeray's and Trollope's houses still stand: Trollope's has a blue plaque. Pepys took the waters at Barnet, which was known as a spa town in the seventeenth century, and wrote about several visits there in his diary. Unsurprisingly, he flirted with the wench who served him. Kingsley Amis lived in Monken Hadley for nearly ten years with his wife, Elizabeth Jane Howard, author of the Cazalet novels, who died on January 2nd this year. His son Martin wrote his first two novels there. Cecil Day Lewis, Poet Laureate, died there. John Betjeman and Iris Murdoch visited him for boozy weekends. Betjeman also taught in a private school in East Barnet when he was a rootless young man. Bram Stoker drew much of his inspiration for Dracula from Hendon churchyard -- he had many artist friends in the village.

And finally, back to those three great novelist of the nineteenth century. Did I say three? Better make that four. Edward Bulwer-Lytton, author of The Last Days of Pompeii, stayed in Barnet when he was researching The Last of the Barons, his novel about the Battle of Barnet. Bulwer-Lytton is well-known for the excellent aphorism: 'The pen is mightier than the sword'. He's perhaps better known for the most derided first sentence of a published novel ever written. 'It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flare of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.' For over thirty years, the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest has offered an annual financial prize to the writer who can pen the worst first sentence. Suddenly, I feel a new urge to return to fiction.

Paul will be leading a Literary Finchley walk on Friday May 30th.
Meet outside Finchley Central Station 10.30am. Cost £5.00
Details of Paul's walks on www.barnetwalks.talktalk.net