Two main activities bring me joy in my working life apart from my own writing; these are working with children and young people in schools and colleges and hosting event at the Ilkley Literature Festival. Fifty years old this year, the festival is still vibrant and young at heart.
There is something so inspiring about meeting and talking to writers about their books in front of live audiences. The hushed attention, the sense of massed enjoyment and the absolute privilege of hearing a writer talk about their writing. From cookery writers to poets, from novelists to travel-writers, memoirists to politicians, I’ve interviewed hundreds of writers and found the whole experience fascinating and delightful. This week as part of a summer festival event I’m talking to poet, novelist and critic Blake Morrison about his collection of family memoirs. First appearing in 1993 to talk about his recollections of his father in ‘When Did You Last See Your Father’. I’ve chatted to Blake many times about his books. A Yorkshire lad, originally from Skipton, Blake Morrison’s writing is honest, true and tender. In recent poetry collection ‘Skin and Blister’ and autobiographical ‘Two Sisters’, he deals with heartbreak and love [and guilt]. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to catching up with him again.
Over the years it seems to me that the trick of the whole business of interviewing writers is to make it all seem relaxed and informal so that it becomes a conversation between friends, however recently introduced, in front of an audience of perhaps two hundred people. It’s more like a circus act than anything else I do, walking a high wire and juggling plates at the same time.
Fingers crossed it goes well.
PS: It always has so far, the slight tension I feel just before an event has the benefit of keeping me on my toes!