It's not just a book thing!
I was at school all day on Friday, so I only managed to get to see Rosa Rankin-Gee, writer of Sark-based novella The Last Kings of Sark. At the age of fourteen, Rosa swore to her parents that she’d hate books forever. However, when Maggie Gee’s your mother, that’s a hard promise to make.
It was at Durham University that Rosa learnt about Sark, when her football coach asked her if she’d like to go there on holiday. On researching the island, Rosa was fascinated by the fact that it had no cars.
Rosa had a few words of advice for budding writers in the audience: ‘Don’t write a novella – they don’t sell.’ Nowadays, people want more value for their money… as in actual pages. Surely it’s quality not quantity! Nevertheless, Rosa wanted her story to remain a novella: the size of the book fits perfectly with the size of Sark. So she wrote it as three separate books, calling it ‘a novel in three parts’.
On Saturday morning, I headed to the Hub. I was quite awe-struck by Chuma Nwokolo when he first walked in. He’s African, exceptionally tall, good looking and dressed in African clothes. As he took his place on stage and began to talk, I soon learnt that he also has a gorgeous accent. Nigerian-born writer and lawyer Chuma has written several books and spent three years in Guernsey writing poetry. His book The Ghost of Sani Abacha contains 26 short stories, tales of life, love, greed, jealousy and betrayal.
One of Chuma’s short stories is called ‘Orange Crush’ and describes his passion for Maitama oranges. He said he would always see women in Nigeria selling oranges on the street, and he’d buy one simply for the pleasure of watching them peel and quarter it. He also has a very strong interest in politics – his curiosity is in the system. ‘No matter how strong-willed you are, the system can turn you.’
Next, I watched the Panel Discussion on Digital Publishing. ‘Publishers are getting wise at the fact we need to re-skill,’ said Dan Franklin. ‘The Frankenstein Project’ was created by Dave Morris. Throughout the book, you can choose different branching parts, such as ‘Shall I kill this person/shall I not.’ The idea is that you choose what happens. Jeff Norton likened it to sitting around a campfire telling stories, tweaking the storyline based on people’s reactions.
In the evening, I went to see Carol Ann Duffy, the first female, Scottish and openly gay Poet Laureate. I was excited about seeing her because I’m studying her poems at school. The most hilarious poem she read was ‘From Mrs Tiresias’, about a man who went for a walk and came back a woman – as you do. My favourite part had to be when he started his period: ‘One week in bed. Two doctors in. Three painkillers four times a day.’ Realistically, this is probably how a man would react in that situation.
Gillian Clarke, the National Poet of Wales, was also there. She read a very moving poem about Oradour-sur-Glane. A couple of days after D-Day, people were rounded up and murdered by the SS, but no one knew why. She also recalled her desperation as a teenager to find love. I found it funny when she said: ‘To make things worse, my school was a Convent Boarding School.’
In the evening, I went to the Fermain Tavern for the Punky Poetry Reggae Party. First up was Attila the Stockbroker, rowdy and explicitly hilarious; then Linton Kwesi Johnson made a stand against discrimination with some deep, moving poems about his personal experiences regarding racial abuse. Finally, Ruts DC played some tunes and everyone was jamming along. It was a brilliant night!