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Charroux Litfest Take Aways

29 Aug 2017

I’ve been quiet the last few months, I know, but a series of events, opportunities and catastrophes -- big and small -- all collided and something had to give. No prizes for guessing it was the blog.


Part of my crash into silence has been technical -- an old laptop ran out of steam and a brand new one sent back TWICE for repair. It slammed the brakes on finishing my latest Skillshare class, and other projects, and meant lots of catching up ever since, amid the mayhem of recent life goings-on and whumped right in with the school holidays.


However, today I hope I am back with a bang. I’ve just spent two days in beautiful Charroux (Vienne 86), at the bilingual literary festival, with a selection of writers, authors, and publishing experts, and want to share with you my highlights and takeaways from those workshops and discussions, because you know how much I like to pass on any analysis of technique I can find and any snippets of the long and often troubled voyage into publishing, too.


The headlining appearances for the English speaking audience were Barbara Erskine, Andrew Lownie and -- my favourite of the festival -- Jane Lythell.


The event actually spans three days, but I was only able to attend the last two. It’s a small fest and -- I think -- better because of it. It’s friendly, un-intimidating, plenty to do without being over-taxing. There’s opportunity to chat with fellow writers but also with the speakers and big names in publishing. Everyone mingles with everyone else which is refreshing when the publishing industry to many-a-mortal can often seem elusive and elite. And Charroux itself is so lovely it really is a pleasure to pass the time away.    


So, I’m going to start with my favourite speaker of the weekend, psychological thriller writer, Jane Lythell.


Jane has an impressive TV career behind her prior to her career as an author and, as anyone who has reached that kind of success, she cuts a pretty formidable figure in the room. And yet she is such a magnetic character, oozing with warmth and charm. And genuine interest - interest in other people’s thoughts and opinions. She had the audience eating out of her hand in no time at all. If you ever get a chance to hear her speak at an event, I highly recommend going along, because she also has a great sense of fun.


She hosted two talks -- Creating Setting and Suspense, and the other was a split between creating believable characters and if those characters need to be likeable.   


Everything Jane talked about, from her writing approach down to her writing routine, aligned itself with my own writing practices and ethos and I found myself nodding along enthusiastically like a little plastic dog on a car back shelf, speeding down a potholed road. She read excerpts from three of her books, The Lie of You, After the Storm and Behind Her Back.


The top points I noted (with some of my own observations added in parentheses to provide context and further insight):