My expectations... were surpassed by the reality

My expectations... were surpassed by the reality

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Cathy Grimmer won a competition through Writing Magazine to our micro literary festival Hearth. Here’s what she thought…

It was a fabulous surprise to find I had won a free place at Hearth, a micro-literary festival held at Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, North Wales. My expectations for a weekend listening to interesting writers in the beautiful surroundings of Britain’s finest residential library were surpassed by the reality.

As a lifelong bibliophile, being in the library itself was an almost spiritual experience. I could have stayed sitting in the worn leather armchairs, gazing at the shelves of books (the library has more than a quarter of a million!), all day. But, of course, I didn’t, as I had workshops and talks to attend. The first of these, on Saturday afternoon, was a two hour workshop on writing radio drama by Lucy Gough. I love radio drama and have a short play which I would like to adapt for radio so was hoping to get some good tips. I wasn’t disappointed. Lucy’s workshop was excellent. She not only educated us in in what we should do but also used a spoof radio play by Timothy West called ‘This Gun That I Have In My Right Hand Is Loaded’ to show (not tell!) how not to do it.

After a very satisfying dinner in the ‘Food For Thought’ restaurant, we topped up our wine glasses and adjourned to the comfortable lounge to attend the first ‘round the hearth’ session with the writers in residence. Lucy was joined by James Runcie (Grantchester Mysteries), Rebecca Abrams (Touching Distance) and Patricia Bracewell (Shadow on the Crown). The question and answer session was illuminating as well as highly entertaining with as much warmth coming from the writers as from the roaring fire!

Next morning, after a tasty breakfast and a wander around the grounds, I settled down in a well-stuffed armchair in the lounge to listen to James Runcie. Having enjoyed the first four episodes of his Grantchester books, currently being serialised on television, I was looking forward to hearing him speak. Writing novels which are historical but based in a time within living memory is a particular challenge and James gave us some excellent advice on how to make this believable. I was particularly taken with his admission that he reads The Times from the period online every day when he is writing, which helps him to give a sense of the time in which Sydney Chambers is living. James also explained how being the son of the late Robert Runcie has provided him with an insight into the life of a young vicar which has made his protagonist so authentic.

Lunch was followed by the final ‘round the hearth’ session. The writers were, again, generous in sharing their tips and tricks on finding inspiration and how to fit writing in with your day job (as few writers make a living from writing) as well as with family and personal commitments. It was generally agreed that a degree of selfishness is needed as a writer to shut the world out while you write – something that I’ve always found a struggle.

I had an inspiring, educational and fun time at Hearth and find it hard to believe I was only there for 24 hours! I’m hoping to attend the next Hearth in February 2015. This time I shall have to pay, of course, but I know it will be well worth it.

Cathy Grimmer