Tales from the Hidden Grove

Tales from the Hidden Grove
"Amongst the finest short story writers in the UK right now" ~ Black Pear Press

Friday, 30 June 2017

Bradford Lit Fest: Meet and Greet

          The Arabian Nights panel.  Abdul-Rehman Malik, Robert Irwin and SF Said.

It's the first full day of the festival and I can't wait to get going.  I even do my nails!

My first event of the day is Book Bidding Wars, which takes place in City Hall.  One of the panellists is Kate Nash, with whom I have a 1-1 tomorrow, so I am listening carefully.  The panel take us on a fascinating tour of the inner workings of publishing, such as:  What makes a bestseller?  What makes for a distinctive authorial voice?  What happens in acquisition meetings?  The impact of cultural trends (both platforms like Netflix and YouTube, and values like kindness and self-care). And the struggle to achieve diversity in publishing.  A lively Q & A time follows, and the festival volunteers have to evict us from the room to set up the next talk.

I then miss my next event on The Arthurian Legend because I am asking panellist Lisa Milton for advice on my novel-pitching problems.  The conversation gets off to a better-than-expected start when she says to me, "I recognise you. Are you famous?"  It turns out she remembers me from Liars' League at the National Gallery.  This is great, and her advice is helpful.  I marvel that conversations like this are happening in the middle of Bradford!

After refuelling at Waterstones, I hike up to Bradford University for Arabian Nights: The Original Science Fiction.  Our host Abdul-Rehman Malik (who reminds me of an Asian George RR Martin) takes us through an interesting discussion with author and academic Robert Irwin and children's author, SF Said.  Topics range from speakers' personal relationships with the Nights, to its influence on classic SF and the English novel, as well as its relevance to modern Muslims.  On the way, we take in alchemy, mythology and talking cats!

There's time for a quick meet-up with fellow Forgotten & Fantastical author Dan Micklethwaite in the Festival Hub before I join my husband in Sunbridge Wells for the Game of Thrones Quiz.  We are nothing like super-fans and we come last, but we should get points for creativity for our answer of 21-and-a-half.  (I can't say what for!!) 

Now to do it all again tomorrow!

    House of Hopkinson.  Like Jon Snow, we know nothing!!



Thursday, 29 June 2017

Bradford Lit Fest: The Kick-off


400 Writers. 300 Events. 10 Days. One City.

Bradford Lit Fest is here again! It's truly incredible how this world-class festival has been built up in only three years by Syima Aslam and Irna Qureshi. In true Bradford style, it's a cutting-edge festival that reflects our city's diversity and desire to discuss religion and politics openly. It's also an intelligent festival.  There are serious academic discussions with serious academics, alongside fun, family events. And on the menu for 2017, a whole stream on Fairy Tales, Myth and Legend!

This year, I have been offered a feedback pass by the festival organisers, which means I will be going to LOADS of events!  And I'm going to attempt to blog about every single one of them.

My first event is Mastering Eloquence with linguist David Crystal.  I've heard David - and his actor son Ben Crystal - speak more than once at Swanwick Writers' Summer School, so I know to expect something good.

David doesn't disappoint.  He keeps us entertained and laughing, while basically teaching us how to make a public speech, and very much demonstrates that old authors' adage: "Show, don't tell."

I now feel enthused for tomorrow, when the festival begins in earnest! 

Sunday, 4 June 2017

The Stones of York

Earlier this week, I had a short break in York.  And I did something I've been meaning to do for years - go around the Minster in an attempt to identify the statues Susanna Clarke brings to life in her novel of quarrelling Regency magicians, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

I'm probably not the first fan of the book to do this, and I'm sure I won't be the last.  But I'd like to share with you my candidates for the identities of those marvellous statues.  You may disagree.  After all, nothing comes more naturally to magicians!


The Cathedral of York, from a window in High Petergate, home of Mr Honeyfoot.


Peering up into the gloom of the chancel, where little stone figures jut out.  One begins to speak...


"...this was the man who had murdered the girl...We know where he is buried.  In the corner of the south transept!"


One of the fifteen stone kings.  (With other, smaller statues above).


"...a little group of queer figures with linked arms...atop an ancient column."


"In the chapter house there were stone canopies with many little stone heads with strange headgear."


A stone dragon?  Or another strange creature?


And here's another one!

The only statue I couldn't identify was the one I thought would be the easiest: "a copy of a work by Michael Angel."  Is there such a statue in York Minster?  Was there at one time?  Do let me know.  And do share any other contenders for Mr Norrell's talking statues.  We could discuss them at the next meeting of the Learned Society of York Magicians.

Which, incidentally, meets here:



All quotations from Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (London: Bloomsbury, 2004)

NB: Minster = a mission church, founded by monks.  
Cathedral = the seat of an Archbishop.  
York is both.