Salem Literary Weekend
I wasn’t able to attend the whole of the weekend but on Sunday afternoon I spent an enjoyable few hours in the company of some fantastic writers in a very unusual venue, the Salem Chapel in East Budleigh, Devon.
The speakers were Graham Hurley who writes thrillers and crime novels. He told us how he spent six weeks with the police in Portsmouth where he then lived to try and understand how policing really works, before writing his Faraday novels beginning with Turnstone. Perhaps just as interesting was his description of how publishers operated and how little input an author often has in the production of his novel. ‘We know best’ is the mantra they trot out when the author says he wants a different cover for example and apart from the editor none of them will have read the book. Graham is an Essex boy (I’ll say no more) educated at Cambridge and was a scriptwriter and then a TV director making documentaries but all the time harbouring a desire to write novels. He has certainly had his dream fulfilled
This was followed by some heartfelt poems by John Payne on the theme of nature and farming. The poems sounded with his own experiences of the world he grew up in and his regret at the changes our modern world has brought about.
Rosemary Smith who is the inspiration behind this weekend, it’s organiser and, I suspect the general dogsbody as well, has written a number of romantic novels set in and around Budleigh Salterton. Some extracts from one of her published novels were read by one of her appreciative supporters and friends. They recall a bygone era when life was more gentile and were written in a manner consistent with that period.
After tea and biscuits and what Sunday afternoon would be complete without it, Mal Peet talked about his novels which, for marketing purposes are described as Young Adult, a description he deplores. His novel ‘Tamar won the Carnegie Medal. He began writing at the age of 52 about things he says he knew nothing about- ‘writers make things up -don’t they.’ He too was critical of the way publishers try to take charge of the book, and like Graham had changed his publisher in order to find someone more sympathetic to his writing.
All of them were upstaged by CL Raven, actually twins called Cathryn and Lynsey who write comic ghost stories and much more. They read sections from their doom laden apocalypse story and had the audience laughing all the way to oblivion and back. Their clothes were fantastic, just like their imagination.