Front Row: “Do we publish too many books?” (Audio)

Front Row asks the question “Do we publish too many books?” In front of a live audience,the panel discuss some of the pressing issues that face the publsihing industry today: has the emergence of digital books diluted the quality and undermined the value of books? Is self publishing a route to new and exciting authors or a path to derivative mediocrity? With Philip Jones editor of The Bookseller, Crystal Mahey-Morgan of Zed Books, Alexandra Pringle, group editor in chief of Bloomsbury and Ali Sparks author of 41 books for children.

Withdrawal Symptoms

It’s Monday and all of the excitement of the Hay Festival is a memory. I didn’t write any blogs for the final few events that I attended but thought that it might be interesting to some of you if I give a quick summary before I sign off for good.

On the 29th May I joined a packed audience to listen to the talented dynamic acoustic folk/rock singer/guitarist Frank Turner. Being of a certain age, his performance transported me to my past, to the days of Dylan, the Doors and the many other anti-establishment protest artists of that era. I was surrounded by fans of Frank who were able to sing every word and I think that it is fair to say that the evening performance gave us all a real treat of an extraordinary talent.

Debborah Moggach is a prolific writer who is able to position her stories in locations that are not familiar to her because she understands her characters so well that they can drive the story rather than the place. A luxurious flat is a luxurious flat, wherever it is. She finds smug marrieds hard to tolerate, an opinion that made the front page of the paper on the following day.

Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian born campaigner for the rights of women, spoke passionately about confronting oppressive regimes throughout the world. She pointed out that women’s liberties and rights are compromised in many western cultures in addition to the better known areas of the Middle East and northern Africa. Divulging some of her most intimate experiences gave weight to the evidence of the suppression that women encounter on a daily basis. Her book ‘Headscarves and Hymens:Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution’ is a plea to confront the toxic mix of culture and religion that affects the daily lives of the women in those areas.

I finished off my Hay experience this year with a delightful session from the Call the Midwife team. Virginai Nicholson lead the discussion where the screenwriter, producer and star (Jenny Agutter) gave insight to the research and story development for the series. As an ex-midwife, this series intrigues me and it can move me to tears as I remember some of my own experiences delivering babies. The attention to detail is remarkable even to ensuring they have the correct size of fake umbilical cord for the size of the baby.

Now I have returned to my home, inspired to return to my second novel, and thankful for the opportunity to experience the wonderful Hay Festival.

The Final Day at Hay

Today I visited The Hay Festival for the second time. I went last year to get a feel of it, and to visit the town. 

Last year, I remember the festival being busy. It was a nice May day, and it was great to be surrounded by people interested in literature.

Today, I went on the last day of the festival and found it quiet. The mood was sombre, as if people were getting over a hangover.  I think this was because the festival was coming to an end.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. The rain held off, although it was a bit windy, and when we were walking around everyone seemed in their element.

It was a book lovers dream. I found it interesting visiting the book stores and seeing people queue up, ready to meet their chosen authors. The town was wonderful, and I’m always amazed with how extravagant the book stores are in this town of books.

I would have liked to attend the festival on a warmer day, when more was going on. But nestled in the country, mountains surrounding it, its feels like a writers home.