Readers’ Afternoon at Dudley Archive Centre

Poor blog is feeling neglected at the moment! Two weeks of blog silence but lots of activity elsewhere! I had a few days in beautiful Derbyshire, staying in the most idyllic place with a wonderful sense of tranquillity. The place we stayed is a steep climb up from the village of Cromford, where Arkwright established his mill. It’s also home to the most amazing bookshop Scarthin.

While I was there, I looked through the visitors’ book – jam-packed with praise – and one comment in particular caught my eye: When my world was in turmoil, you provided sanctuary. Thank you. Wow! How many online bookshops can say that? Here’s to independent bookshops, especially ones with delicious cakes!

Anyway, back to the title of the post, and more hyperbole because this was a lovely event. A consortium of libraries who run the Black Country Big Book Fortnight held a Readers’ Afternoon at the new-opened Dudley Archive Centre. I was invited by Roz Goddard of West Midlands Readers Network to be on the panel of four speakers to talk about our reading and writing lives. We all had a book out in the last year. The other speakers were Nathan Filer (this year’s Costa winner!), Kate Long and Amanda Smyth.

More than fifty people turned up and were a lovely, appreciative audience. Three of us on the panel had been avid readers as children – a characteristic I think a lot of writers share. 

Kate Long said that her mother read to her until she could read herself and then she read to her mother every night until she was fifteen. Even in the midst of teenage angst, she would end the day reading to her mother. A recipe for happier homes?

Only Nathan Filer hadn’t read as a child, but he had earned his living as a performance poet for ten years, which I was really impressed with. He said he was used to hecklers, but that ‘every time someone heckles a poet, a Guardian reader dies.’ What a great line!

When we talked about our current reading, I mentioned thrillers as I had just finished reading a book by Linwood Barclay. I said I thought writers could learn a lot from reading thrillers in terms of plotting and pacing. I’ve also recently read ‘State of Wonder’ by Ann Patchett, which I think would be classified as literary fiction. It has an interesting premise and starts with great promise well, and picks up towards the end, but the middle went on forever! Despite enjoying the quality of the writing, I wanted to say to her ‘Please read some Linwood Barclay!’

After a break for tea and delicious cakes (their second mention in this post), we came back to talk about our writing and our current book. I was, of course, talking about ‘The Piano Player’s Son’.

The Piano Player's Son - ready to go!

which has had some great reviews on Amazon lately! Have a read!

I’m always happy to talk about the book and could go on forever about the characters, and the plot, why I write about families, secrets and … and … yes, given the chance I’d probably still be talking after everyone had gone home! But after spending years writing the book, living with the characters in your head, coping with the difficulties and despondency that accompany the writing process, it’s so lovely when people ask questions and want to engage. And lovely too when they buy the book!

I came away on a real high, pricked but not deflated by the rigours of negotiating Dudley’s roundabouts!


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  1. Debbie Young says:

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time, Lindsay – and what a lovely comment about that bookshop! I’ve never seen a visitors’ book in a bookshop before but will suggest it to my local indie bookshop’s proprietor – I’m sure people would leave fabulous comments there too, which would lift his spirits on a bad day, and also make his customers realise just how much they really do benefit from these local traders’ hard work. We use them or we lose them!

  2. Lindsay says:

    It certainly was a brilliant event, Debbie, and one I felt lucky to be part of. Some events just gel, don’t they? Don’t know if you’ve ever been to Scarthin Books, but it really is a wonderful place – a warren of rooms, reaching ever upwards and all crammed with books. Heaven! And yes, the visitors’ book was a lovely touch.

  3. Polly says:

    I feel almost as if I was there! Thanks, Lindsay, for a smashing post. I like Nathan Filer’s comment, ‘every time someone heckles a poet, a Guardian reader dies’ and agree with you, it is a great line.

  4. Lindsay says:

    Glad you enjoyed the post, Polly. And that line makes me smile every time I think of it.

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