How can I not have been to the Birmingham Literature Festival before now? Ten days of events around writers, books and ideas, virtually on the doorstep – well, better late than never, I suppose. Nor had I been to the newly-built Birmingham Conservatoire, and I would have expected my first encounter with that impressive space to be for a musical performance, but the Recital Hall was the location for the Sunday word-laden events that I’d chosen.
My choice was influenced by already knowing one of the speakers, Katharine Norbury, as she’d been a tutor on my recent writing residential at Tŷ Newydd. For ‘The Call of the Wild’ she shared the ‘stage’ in the pale wood-clad theatre with Abi Andrews, discussing women’s perspectives on writing about nature and travel, chaired by Alys Fowler. Illustrated with readings from Katharine’s The Fish Ladder and Abi’s The Word for Woman is Wilderness, the chat covered such interesting topics as the bravery of writing about failure, coming to terms with the idea that you might not achieve your quest, questioning boundaries and challenging traditionally male preserves, consideration of who your reader is, and dealing with that ‘conflict’ ingredient – so essential to all good narrative – that disturbs the equilibrium of your literal or emotional journey. There was also a health warning: memoir may be painful to write!Continue Reading