Prior to the first Honno Authors Book Fair in May, my first guest post features the splendid Judith Barrow, telling us what she has missed about book fairs. Judith is one of Honno’s most prolific authors and a co-founding member of the original Tenby Book Fair which later transferred to Narberth and where the new Honno Book Fair will be taking place on Saturday 7th May.
Judith has been publishing books with Honno since 2010. Her first book, Pattern of Shadows, heralded the fascinating Howarth Family Saga Series.
She has gone on to write several more books, one of which – The Memory – was shortlisted for the Literature Wales Rhys Davies Trust Fiction Award 2021.
When I asked Judith for her observations on lockdown, and how it has affected her writing, I knew she would come up with something thoughtful, observant and honest. Welcome, Judith and over to you!
“Two years without book events! I can’t begin to describe how much I have missed them.
Most of all, it was not being with like-minded people; other authors to share ideas on any work in progress, what works (and doesn’t) with book promotions, general encouragement and help with “keeping on writing”.
And I also missed chatting to readers in person, learning what they liked and even what they disliked about my books. After all without feedback one doesn’t grow as a writer. And yes, I know written reviews on Amazon and such forums help, give egos a boost (or a much-needed wakeup call sometimes, to stop complacency – to try harder to improve our work). But none of those can replace face to face interaction.
I just missed people.
And yet, the first lockdown didn’t affect my writing. In fact, at the time of the initial few months of isolation, I felt a kind of freedom from any obligation. I think that’s what inspired me; I was told I couldn’t go out; told I had no need to carry on with normal activities. No meetings. No appointments. No shopping – yay! My only real regret was that my creative writing classes for adult learners stopped, no one wanted to attend them on zoom, although initially they were offered.
Zoom hasn’t worked for me anyway. People in boxes on a screen have been something I have struggled with. Yes, I know they have been a godsend for many but, after a few months I really begun to dislike the concept. However I have the sneaking feeling this way of communicating between us is here to stay, however much “normal” life will eventually return on one form or another.
That said, I will reiterate my earlier statement, lockdown helped me to focus on something I’ve loved doing all my life – writing. And with only that and domestic trivia to choose from… well, it wasn’t a difficult decision. So with the dust settling nicely on the furniture, and meals made from whatever was available on the “replaced with” items on delivered shopping. I spent hours every day researching and putting words on paper, and screen. Making up stories!
My book, The Memory, a contemporary read of a family (which some have described as a memoir), was published during the first lockdown. The frustration of not being able to go to events to promote and talk about the novel was enormous. I had a couple of zoom interviews and promotions, but it always felt as though I was whistling in the wind. And no one was listening.
But someone must have been, because in July 2021 I was shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year Award 2021: The Rhys Davies Trust Fiction Award (alongside fellow Honno author, Carol Lovekin). A lovely surprise (if only they hadn’t got my name wrong and announced the book was written by Judith Brown!)
Knowing at the time, that there was still little I could do in “real” life, I decided I might as well get on with the next book. And, with The Heart Stone, I reverted to writing an historical family saga, set during and after WW1. Which was then published around the time of the next lockdown. Hey-ho!
So, I suppose, in conclusion I can say that the solitude in the times of a pandemic gave me chance to explore the life and times of my fictional characters.
Yet, however productive the situation was for me, I will be so grateful to be at the first event of 2022. Our Honno Book Fair on Saturday 7 May.”
You can find out more about Judith and her books by following the links.