Burnley Literary Festival 2017

This year’s festival seemed a good deal bigger. Circumstances got in the way of attending all the events I’d have liked but you do what you can. Unlike last year’s blogathon (beginning here)  it’ll be just this post.

Kate Field.

Kate has been writing for 18 – 20 years. Her early works were done in the age of floppy disk (how technology has changed). She is a member of the Women’s Romantic Novelist Association and in its 2015 conference, won the Joan Hessayon award for new novelists for her novel: The Magic of Ramblings. She gave a coherent account of her shock at winning – it came as a complete surprise – and I was drawn into her account. This resulted in her earning a two book deal with Accent Press, an independent publisher based near Cardiff.

Despite Kate’s protestations to the contrary, I found her a very able communicator.

My questions were:

  • How many novels?
  • How long to write?
  • Would she revive any of her earlier unpublished works?

Interestingly, she indicated that her two Regency novels would remain unpublished, partly because mores have moved on, but also the market has moved; the level of detail available to research the period is far greater. It sounded to me like they are going to stay ‘in the trunk’.

Kate Fields: The Magic of Ramblings - front cover

Kate Fields: The Magic of Ramblings

Kate Field writes Romantic Fiction and you can find her Goodreads profile at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15797942.Kate_Field I have nothing against romance.

How to get published: Alysoun Owen, Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook

My reservations about this event were soon brushed away. Alysoun proved very knowledgeable. She rattled through the machinery of publishing – if you haven’t got a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, make it an ambition. I was impressed by her command of detail. After pointing out we lived at the back end of nowhere, a place without a bookshop for 15+ years, I abandoned questions. Clearly the allotted time would be insufficient for her. I hastily jotted notes.  What good is a bookshop, you might ask? Someplace that might show the desperate scribblings of local authors. Bookshops are my second best place in the world, after libraries… or maybe third, after football stadia.  

Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2017

Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2017

My thoughts: too fast to make notes, good job I’d read my copy in advance so I was pretty much aware of the content of Alysoun’s presentation. Much better than I thought it would be. What of the questions I didn’t ask?

Well points really: in particular, Alysoun repeated views I’ve seen elsewhere in publisher circles as well as the finance pages… the decline in traditional publishing has been arrested. I take that with a pinch of salt. Long term decline isn’t measured by the short term, the longed for plateau may just as well be a blip. A business strategy type would say ‘well taking out the non-repeatable factors and adjusting for other one-of events, the position is…’ I’m all ears for that kind of narrative because I do budgets, forecasts and business plans, and one thing I know is deriving the long from the short term is risky. Let’s not beat that one to death, talking up morale may help decision making and, you never know, we may have a balance. There are other aspects. Amazon and its ilk, by cutting out the middleman, have shifted power from bricks and mortar (easier to regulate) to a relocatable offshore corporate presence.

There’s a million plus self-publishers out there of which I’m one. On my own account I’m not unhappy to cut out the middleman but on the other hand I don’t equate what benefits me personally with the overall good. The economics of it aren’t a zero sum game because great dollops of revenue leak out of the UK —presumably into cleverly tax-havened corporate vehicles —at the expense of bricks and mortar jobs. What does Amazon contribute to society? On the evidence, not a great deal. Couple that with the gaming of its systems to the overall detriment of those that do all the right things to provide a quality product and you wonder if we’re sleepwalking to the death of publishing. The arguments in favour of scrapping Resale Price Maintenance were about reweighting pricing in favour of retailers. That looks self-defeating now by, apart from anything else, reducing what can be paid to already impoverished authors. To expand on ‘apart from anything else’, it also sealed the fate of local bookshops.

Of course traditional publishers could take some ownership for their predicament. For many years, most trad-pub SF books have been predictable. Talk to the authors and they say that’s the nature of book deals – produce to a formula etc. Now I know formulae I design spreadsheets for a living, something I’ve done for 30 years. I should use shouty letters here:

The purpose of the mechanistic stuff is to get plodding repetition out of the way so as not to encumber the act of creation. You don’t need to wrestle with writing theory to get that. Now to the central problem: the traditional publisher position is: whoo-hoo we found a formula that works; roll it out. Much to their chagrin, self-pubbers imitate this and mop-up. Traditional Publishers have tremendous leverage — wasted on making easily imitable product.

What of my notes?

  • Unbound
  • Bookview Café
  • The Rogue Reader
  • Bedford Square Books
  • Jelly Books

Just words until I chase them down. I’ve other stuff brewing atm which demand to be dealt with; my CPD needs attention (finance & business), Northern Voices is ready to kick-off so the writing groups feeding into it require inputs for the next stage.

I should put up a picture of Alysoun but as I erred on the side of gossiping, I took no photos (I made do with the tweaked yearbook image above).

SD Robertson

Stuart Robertson writes under the pen name of SD Robertson. He is an English graduate and a former journalist. In a weird inversion of synchronicity, he worked on the Accrington Observer then moved to Rossendale Free Press before quitting in 2009, –when MEN closed the Rossendale office –to become a full time writer (my family moved to Rossendale in 2009 and very recently made the move the Accrington). Stuart is published by Harper Collins and his first novel is Time to Say Goodbye.

SD Robertson: time to say goodbey - front cover

SD Robertson: time to say goodbye

Stuart has a good reading voice and he was well organised. He wasn’t afraid to talk about the writing process. His second novel is If Ever I Fall and he has a third due out soon. His Goodreads profile is at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13853110.S_D_Robertson

Emma Decent – I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing

Emma is a performance poet / thespian based near Todmorden. This piece was themed around her relationship with her mother who has recently passed away. Although I found it tedious watching, it’s fair to say that Emma worked hard to make points around old age, senility and loss of self. Emma has a web-site at: http://emmadecent.co.uk/ but isn’t on Goodreads.

That kind of wraps things up apart from the session I missed. Here I dip into quibbles:

Awareness. No e-media mention in Burnley Express until after the event, and then just the one. Come on guys, if no one knows we’re here, whose going to turn up? At least the Lancashire Telegraph ran some articles (I emailed the Express btw).

The browser for the events is unchanged from last year and it’s fiddly, as is booking. Yes I know most events were free but, living out of town, I actually relied on it for my itinerary. I PDF’d and printed them out ending up with two blank pages in my ticket haul. It was impossible to check them back to what I’d ordered so I assumed this was just a process glitch. Only later did I discover that it was more than that – I’d been booked on events for which I’d got blank sheets. The events booklet might have ironed that out but I didn’t get my hands on one till Saturday afternoon.


Burnley does need a lift so well done to the organisers (esp Catherine) but please look again at online booking.

Oh yes, my event.

I shared a platform with local authors Barbara McHallam and Laura Sheridan, and we talked about what inspired us, capping things off with readings. I talked about my life (details here) and read from my recent novel The Tau Device which deals with issues such as lust for power, racism, the urge to explore, conquer and colonise, and of course how we humans might make our way in the stars, as an inferior species. I also read from my collected essays: Burnley.


The Tau Device - cover

The Tau Device

Burnley - front cover


About Terence Park

Board games, US Comic books, SF Paperbacks, Vinyl records; I've plenty of them all. I write SF (the serious sort). I also do spreadsheets.
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