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Archive for October 2016

David Starkey: 800 years ago we were more mature

David Starkey

Last night, the Guildhall was packed out with people eager to hear from eminent historian, David Starkey. Dr Starkey was in town to deliver his talk ‘1216: The Real Magna Carta’. Since his 2015 TV series and book Magna Carta: The Truth Behind the Charter, Starkey has set out his thoughts on the document that sealed the…

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10 things I learned at Berwick Literary Festival

I spent the weekend blogging at the Berwick Literary Festival. I spoke to other readers, met some fascinating authors and heard some brilliant talks about being a writer. Looking back on my two-day adventure, there are some key things I will take with me and use to help me develop as a reader and writer.…

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A life of privilege, power, politics and passion


As any decent creative writing teacher will tell you, conflict is at the heart of storytelling, and it’s the contradictions within a character that make them believable. Mike Fraser’s talk, based on his meticulously researched study: ‘Sir Charles Trevelyan of Wallington: Northumberland’s Upper-Class Socialist MP’ (A Blue Button Publication), was the story of a man…

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How to start writing

Start Writing

Richard Yeo’s session this morning provided some essential tips for those of us who want to write but don’t know where to start. By working through four simple questions – why, when, what and how? – Richard offered a useful structure for getting your ideas on paper. Why? Richard was very clear on why anyone…

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Margaret Skea: 3,000 words was my comfort zone

Margaret Skea

Margaret Skea gave a brilliant talk today on writing short stories – and how short-form writers need not fear the novel. “Short stories are my first love”, Margaret pronounced at the opening of her talk. I’ve heard this a lot from various authors and it always sounds somewhat confessional, like they’re sharing a dark secret.…

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Writing tips from LJ Ross

LJ Ross

LJ Ross – or Louise – as we know her, was in Berwick today to talk about the importance of place in writing. She has written four novels – Holy Island, Sycamore Gap, Heavenfield and Angel – that have distinctive North East landscapes as their settings. But how does she build those landscapes into her writing, and what does…

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Jelly babies from Helen MacKinven

helen mackinven

As a book blogger, I attend quite a number of meet the author events. I’ve sat in the front row in a Waterstones basement, in the upper tier of a packed theatre and been squashed into a heaving festival tent to listen to the authors I love. But, I’ve never quite had the experience I…

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What are authors worth?

Alistair McCleery is Director of the Scottish Centre for the Book at Napier University in Edinburgh. He knows his stuff when it comes to the book industry and joined the Berwick Literary Festival to talk about the worth of writers – on a social, cultural and financial level. Getting paid Alistair started his session by…

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Writing short stories with Margaret Skea

Margaret Skea will be at Berwick Literary Festival on Saturday to defend the little guy: the short story. Not only will Margaret be launching her debut short story collection, Dust Blowing and Other Stories, with us, she’ll be talking about the skills needed and the joys of writing short stories. I spoke to her to find…

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Turning trauma into text with Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson is an ex-soldier and Metropolitan Police officer. In 1999, he was discharged from police service due to suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Like many PTSD suffers, Matt was encouraged to visit a counsellor and talk through his experiences. His counsellor also suggested writing down those thoughts as a means of processing the events…

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