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Sunday 28 May 2023

Here we are in another Bank Holiday weekend. This month they've been rather commonplace but I hope you have something nice planned and are able to make the most of the lovely weather.

As I am freelance, I don't really take much time out from working (or my work-life balance is one big holiday, depending on your perspective!), but I have scheduled some concerted reading activity tomorrow, hopefully in a sunny spot outside.

This reading may still be considered 'research' as I'm currently immersed in the memoirs and novels of The Reverend Richard Coles ahead of his visit next month. But it's no hardship as you'll see from the recommendation below.

Tickets are going well for Rev Coles' lunchtime event at the Riverside on Wednesday 21 June. I hope you'll be able to join us. If you take a look at Richard's commitments over the next few months with both a national book tour and a one man show in the autumn, we're very lucky to have him come to town! 

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 21 May 2023

It's been a glorious weekend in Suffolk and, not knowing how long it will last, I wanted to make the most of it but this weekend that meant doing some remedial gardening rather than sitting in the sun catching up with my reading. 

And I don't know about you, but I have a large pile of books I'm desperate to dive into. Yet the weeks are flying by and I see there are lots of great author events coming up which will introduce me to even more authors and titles I'll be eager to try.

In the June issue of 'Suffolk' magazine I've interviewed Simon Mayo ahead of his visit to the amazing Slaughter in Southwold Crimewriting Festival weekend and Rachel Joyce who is appearing at Felixstowe Book Festival. There will be more details about other speakers in the next few weeks.

But before then I have two exciting author visits to announce for Woodbridge!

I'm thrilled to say that the Reverend Richard Coles, formerly of BBC Radio Four's 'Saturday Live' and a 'Strictly Come Dancing' contestant, among many other things, will be visiting us at the Riverside Cinema for a special lunchtime event on Wednesday 21 June. He will be talking about his second novel 'A Death in the Parish'. Scroll down for more details! Tickets will be on sale from tomorrow. 

And for something completely different, we will be meeting debut novelist Margaret Meyer at Woodbridge Library on Tuesday 4 July as she talks about the witch hunts of East Anglia in the 17th century, the inspiration for her new book 'The Witching Tide'. Again, more details below.

But tomorrow evening we are gathering for our monthly book group meeting. We'll be talking about 'Standard Deviation' by Katherine Heiny. If you would like to come along, please reply to this email by noon tomorrow so that we know to expect you!

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 14 May 2023

There's been a lot of coverage lately about the rise of Artificial Intelligence. How a photographer entered a computer generated image in a competition and won. How journalists are finding news articles so successfully constructed that they struggle to recognise when they are false or not written by humans.

The publishing industry is deliberating on its response too. Recent articles in the trade magazine 'The Bookseller' have reported on academic and educational publishers being ready to 'embrace' AI opportunities. And book-to-film and packaged books are also seen as suitable uses for the technology. But at what cost to the creatives in the industry, one commentator asked. Publishers can't support creatives on one hand and undermine them on the other.

I confess that I'm burying my head in the sand with this issue currently. Things seem to be happening too fast for me to keep up! 

But our guest author Kate Sawyer who visited us in Woodbridge for an event with Browsers Bookshop and Woodbridge Library to launch her new novel 'This Family' has clearly been thinking about the issue.

When asked about copyright, in the light of the recent Ed Sheeran case, and where writers gain their inspiration for their stories, she said: "Just as he said there are only so many notes, there are only so many stories. We're all talking about the same things. 

"AI doesn't worry me because computers can't generate that element of surprise, the human element that makes the story exciting and good. And that's why sometimes you can read something that's classed as romance but it can be about so much more...a brief and brilliant portrayal of grief, for example. We're all telling the same stories, I think, just in different guises."

Thank you to everyone who came along to hear Kate last week. She delighted us all with her energy and determination in what was a wide-ranging discussion about writing, publishing and life! I'm hoping to announce another author visit very soon.

But out next meeting is to discuss Katherine Heiny's novel 'Standard Deviation', on Monday 22 May. Scroll down for details of this month's book group meeting, and please reply to this email if you are hoping to come along so that I have an idea of numbers for chairs and catering!

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 7 May 2023

Whether or not you marked the Coronation this weekend, I hope, like me, you've enjoyed seeing bunting fluttering in the spring sunshine (after the rain) in our towns and villages. And the event itself I thought was another example of pomp and pageantry done beautifully.

I love the teamwork involved in big events. The soldiers managing their skittish horses, the children holding the trains, the thousands of service personnel all marching in time from one instruction, how everyone knew their place and where they should be at what time. And I loved watching the bishops as they kept ferreting into their vestments or down the sides of their chairs to whip out another cue card for the King or Archbishop to recite for the next line in the proceedings. It's wonderful to see how everyone worked together to present their contribution to the whole occasion.

On a much, much smaller scale(!) I have the organisation of an author event to consider in this coming week. Will you be joining us? It's Thursday evening and it will be another celebratory occasion as we meet novelist Kate Sawyer on the day her book 'This Family' is published. If you've joined us at an author event before, you'll know that these are always interesting, stimulating and enjoyable evenings, so I hope you'll buy your ticket here and come along. 

And two of our book group members are taking part in the final rehearsals for their performances later this month. Sarah Atkins and Jill Alexandrou are starring in the Deben Players' production of Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution in Woodbridge on 17-20 May. Perhaps you'll join me in cheering them on! 

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 30 April 2023

I think we all have our favourite writers. Authors that we turn to, sure of what to expect whether in story or style, and who fill us with a sense of excitement and anticipation when they bring out a new book.

But it's also nice to find someone new, to discover something fresh and to feel a sense of other avenues opening up!

Of course trying someone new brings an element of risk, particularly if that writer is releasing their first book. Then we're dependent on the appeal of the title, an enticing blurb and attractive cover design, and recommendations, of course, whether by trusted names or an enthusiastic friend or bookseller.

We've discovered some real gems recently. 'Lessons in Chemistry' was one of my particular farvourites. And during lockdown we discovered Suffolk writer Kate Sawyer with her incredible debut novel 'The Stranding'.

A survey by the publishing trade journal The Bookseller this week (with reports and comments in the national press) revealed just how tough it can be for authors to release their first book.

Kate's first book was released during lockdown. She quickly realised that without a launch party or even bookshops, she needed to take action of her own to make sure her novel was noticed. She contacted booksellers and influencers personally offering them advance copies. She was very present on social media, and she generated stories about herself for media attention.

Having read the book and seen her commitment to it, we were pleased to support her with a Zoom event in 2021 and thrilled for her when she was shortlisted for the Costa first novel prize. 

Now it's just a few days before the publication of Kate's second novel and she's achieved rave reviews from some big names which, if you haven't yet read 'The Stranding' may surely make you curious about this emerging talent?

Bestselling novelist, radio presenter (and Strictly 'superfan'), the wonderful Marian Keyes, says of Kate's book "Intriguing, gripping, moving - this deserves to be HUGE". And when I quoted her on social media this weekend, she responded with a further endorsement in her inimitable way: "Oh beCRIPES I LOVED This Family by Kate Sawyer".

It's a privilege and a pleasure to be able to support writers at the beginning of their careers, and so interesting to hear their stories at these meet-the-author events (which are also great value for money!) so I hope you'll come along to find out more on Thursday 11 May. All the details are below, get your ticket now!

Thank you for reading.