Stoking the Fire by Phillip Clement | Gladstone's Library

Stoking the Fire by Phillip Clement

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As you can imagine things are getting pretty busy at Gladstone’s Library in the run-up to Hearth. If you don’t know what’s going on (where have you been, huh?) here’s a brief run-down of the why-for’s and the who’s-there’s.

Hearth is a new addition to the Flintshire cultural calendar. Owing to the huge success of last year’s Gladfest (a literary festival in a library) we’ve decided to start the year with a ‘micro-literary festival’. Held over the course of a weekend, Hearth is an opportunity for people to meet, talk and create with four of the Library’s writers in residence over a weekend of writing-related activity.

All of us at the Library are really excited for this, naturally it’s also meant an awful lot more work for us all to do in preparation – but even this has come with its perks, as it’s one of those times that the marketing team at the Library get to experience a bit of glitz. This has meant getting in touch with the writers themselves (always a plus as far as I’m concerned).

I approached our four speakers to see how they’re dealing with the anticipation – also just to chat with some writers. Melissa Harrison, author of Clay ( Bloomsbury, 2013), had this to say:

“As someone with a full-time job, being able to immerse myself fully in writing instead of snatching moments here and there is a rare and valuable event, so I can't wait to come to Gladstone Library and find out what I'm capable of when nothing else gets in the way. My residency will start with the Hearth weekend, at which I'll be discussing creativity and attempting (for once!) to answer properly the most common question I am asked, one which goes to the heart of what writers do, but is impossible to answer in just one sentence: 'where do you get your ideas?'”

Melissa’s event, How to Find Inspiration, is on Sunday 2 February. She’ll be showing participants the best ways to get past that horrid, block-demon, Melissa will also go into some depth about the methods she used while writing her own novel.

There’s a fantastic range of speakers lined up for Hearth and as they are all published authors it’s a great opportunity for people to come to the Library to get some of their worries and misconceptions about writing for publication. One writer I am particularly looking forward to is Adnan Mahmutovi?, author of How to Fair Well and Stay Fair (Salt, 2012) and Thinner Than a Hair (Cinnamon Press, 2010):

“I'm the kind of writer and reader who cares a lot about places. As a refugee I'm very sensitive to the ways places work. I love writing which arises from a certain connection to meaningful places, places that leave traces and that affect the way words take shape on the page. I'm excited to find out how Gladstone Library is going to work on me.”

Adnan’s event, Share the Best Writing Across Borders, is on Saturday 1 February. Adnan’s work is a brilliant example of border writing, but his talk will be an interactive session that will explore other examples – he’s promising to show people that borders go further than they think and are not always limited by geography.

Gladstone’s Library is a place beloved by all for different reasons; some come to us for our theology collection, some for our literature and some just for our quiet. Once in a while someone comes to us looking for all three at once and when that happens we get really excited. Neil Griffiths, author of Saving Caravaggio (Penguin, 2007) and Betrayal in Naples (Penguin, 2004), is one such writer; he had this to say in the build up to Hearth:

“Gladstone Library provides a unique kind of quiet - a quiet that gets work done. If I'm looking forward to anything at the Library that the rest of life doesn't provide: it is the opportunity for sustained thinking about my novel: to get to the heart of it without the ceaseless white noise of real life.”

Neil will be interviewed by our warden Peter Francis as part of his event, Discover the Theological Novel. They’ll be talking about the conventions of genre and discussing what might define a ‘theological novel’.

Writing comes in all forms and sizes, and trends in reading push writers down different paths. An exciting medium to be working with at the moment is the short story. These are growing in popularity for a number of reasons, with internet and the heightened demand for ‘flash-reading’ and bite-sized text being a major impetus for the form.

Tania Hershman, author of My Mother was an Upright Piano and The White Road and Other Stories (Salt, 2008), is a writer of such fictions these are her feelings about coming to stay with us:

“It's hard, even for a writer, to put into words how excited I am about my upcoming residency at Gladstone's Library. Sleeping and writing - in a library! I’m looking forward to meeting other writers both as part of my residency and also through Hearth, with its wonderful program of events, including my own event, which will, I hope, inspire and enthuse the group through the writing of the shortest short stories. The concept of doing it round the hearth it's a beautiful one. I'm coming, light the fire, put the kettle on!”

Tania’s event, Create the Shortest Short Story is a workshop that will provide you everything you need to start writing with clarity and brevity that will sharpen the emotions and impressions in your text – just bring a pencil and a paper, we’ll do the rest.

So, that’s the low-down on our high-tone; all that’s left for me to say is: I hope to see you there – I know which I want to go to…do you?

Hearth - Gladstone Room - Ian Hazeldine