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Join us to celebrate home-grown talent this spring: February-May 2014 

Read Regional is a promotional campaign that connects writers living in the North East and Yorkshire with their local readers. We partner with library authorities throughout the region to hold author events and to ensure brilliant books by northern authors are stocked in libraries.

We are incredibly excited about the 11 titles on our 2014 list, which include literary and genre fiction, children’s novels, and poetry by new and established authors. You can find out more about all of our authors and their books here.

Almost 80 events are taking place this spring at libraries, festivals, and through our book group network.

We hope to see you there!

Q&A with Mark Robinson, author of How I Learned to Sing

What are you working on right now?
The first lines of many poems, reading some great people’s applications for Arts Council funding, and an article about failure.

When and where do you write?
I accumulate notes and scraps of paper everywhere, add them to tooth-brushing phrases scribbled on the whiteboard in my office at home, then take them all away somewhere quiet and free of family and work for a week or two. Then I see what happens. Repeat as necessary till I have something I can bear.

Where in the North do you go to seek inspiration?
My garden. I listen to the kids in the primary school behind the house enjoying playtime. That usually does it.

And to escape work?
Southlands Sports Centre, Middlesbrough, Thursdays 8pm – five-a-side.

Any words of advice you would give to a writer starting out?
Learn to sit in a chair properly and to type properly.

Have you ever tried writing in a different genre (and how did it work out)?
I write all sorts of things as well as poems, but I’ve never successfully written fiction.

If you could wake up tomorrow and write like any other current author, who would you pick? 
Edith Pearlman

Which characters (real or fictional) would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
Captain Geoffrey T Spaulding, Emmanuel Ravelli, The Professor, Mrs Rittenhouse (or the whole cast of Animal Crackers), Liz from Billy Liar and Jo from A Taste of Honey. (Yes, the dinner party will be in black and white, what of it?)

What books are on your reading list for 2014?
The Most of SJ Perelman lives by my bedside for times between other books, so it’s always on the list. I’m not a programmatic reader – it’s what I find/get given/am distracted by.

Tell us about another northern writer we’d be mad to miss.  
I think Paul Summers’s Union is one of the best books by a northern poet in the last decade. Paul currently lives in Queensland, but is essentially northern no matter how far south he goes.

Celia Bryce meets students in Ripon and Bridlington

I took part in two more Read Regional events in Yorkshire this week, with a trip to Ripon and then to Bridlington. Both events were in libraries with pupils coming from Outwood Academy and Headlands School respectively. Both were good fun to do and with two different kinds of writing workshops it made for a varied time for me.

With Outwood Academy the session gave us enough time for something about me and Anthem for Jackson Dawes and for everyone to write something and have pieces read out.  Some fab writing.

Here I am with some of the pupils from Outwood Academy, Ripon.

Celia Bryce RN 3.3.14 - official photo

With Headlands, the session was shorter so I did a more general workshop for the second part of my session, using a flip chart and pen and filling it with great ideas from the pupils. I wish that the session could have been longer, but those pupils will be contacting me via my website to talk about my book once they’ve all finished reading it, and about my session, and the a reading group they’ve  been inspired to start. Isn’t that such great news! I’m hoping to hear from them very soon.

Thanks in particular to Greg Kubas and Penny Chaloner who arranged things between the respective schools and libraries and to Tamsin Fauntkane and Karen Tory, the teachers involved, but chiefly to the fabulous pupils whose ideas, writing and questions about my book made the visits such pleasant ones.

Rebecca Muddiman on that far away look in her eye

It’s a strange position for your brain to be in – juggling the lives of characters from three books as well as the real world. So forgive me if I occasionally look like I’m somewhere else.

As well as talking to readers about Stolen for Read Regional, I’m finishing editing Gone, my second novel, and just about to start writing the as yet untitled third book. Fortunately, the books are a series starring DI Michael Gardner so there aren’t too many worlds to keep straight but each book introduces new characters, new locations, and new facts about murder and working out whodunnit that I’ve learned along the way.

I do occasionally find myself talking about Stolen but referring to characters from Gone and wonder why readers are looking a little confused. I can only apologise. But as I embark on the next book, I suspect it’s only going to get worse.

It’s a nerve-wracking time just before starting a new book. Having spent months working out the plot and trying to refine it, it’s now time to take the plunge and I’m getting that familiar feeling that I have no idea how to write something new. I wonder if other writers have the same experience when starting fresh?

It’s also strange that the blank page feels so scary when I’ve spent months complaining to anyone who’ll listen that editing is so much harder compared to writing a first draft. At least with a first draft you can see your progress as your word count grows, but editing can often feel like you’re treading water. I guess it’s a case of the grass is always greener (or maybe the water is always bluer – if I’m keeping my metaphors straight).

But now it’s time for a real swim, out into the murky depths of the first draft where anything can happen.  And if I see you at a Read Regional event over the next couple of months, I’ll try to remember which world I’m in!

Q&A with Rebecca Muddiman, author of Stolen

What are you working on right now?
I’ve just finished (hopefully) editing the second book, Gone, and I’m about to start the third book in the series.

When and where do you write?
I write three days a week (two days belong to the day job) and sometimes at the weekend if the mood takes me or the deadline is chasing me. I use the box room as a study and I’m slowly disappearing under piles of paper and books. I occasionally do my editing in bed – but only if it’s really cold!

Where in the North do you go to seek inspiration?
One of my favourite places in the South Gare especially the Bran Sands side which is usually desolate and a place where industry and nature collide. I take my dog for a walk there a few times a week and between the cold wind and chasing the dog, it seems to shake ideas out of my brain. The fact there are numerous places to bury a body (in theory!) is great for crime writing too.

Any seaside town is good too.

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And to escape work?
I never escape work! But going to the cinema distracts me for a while.

Tell us about one book that made you want to be a writer.
The BFG by Roald Dahl. I was aware from being quite young that it was someone’s job to make up these stories but it didn’t take the magic away. Also, The Third Victim by Lisa Gardner got me obsessed with crime novels.

Any words of advice you would give to a writer starting out?
Read everything you can get your hands on. And don’t worry about getting it “right” – just get something down on the page, you can rewrite later.

If you could wake up tomorrow and write like any other current author, who would you pick?
Kate Atkinson.

Which characters (real or fictional) would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
Sherlock Holmes (but only if he was coming in his Benedict Cumberbatch incarnation). Liz Lemon. The Doctor. Adrian Mole.

What books are on your reading list for 2014?
The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison has been on my list for ages and I’m determined to get to it in the next few weeks. The new Elizabeth Haynes – Under a Silent Moon. There are lots more – my reading pile next to my bed is dangerously close to toppling over and killing me in my sleep.

Tell us about another northern writer we’d be mad to miss.
Michael Donovan’s Behind Closed Doors is fantastic – a private eye novel with lots of nods to classic noir but set in contemporary London. Can’t wait to read the second book.

Q&A with Celia Bryce, author of Anthem for Jackson Dawes

What are you working on right now?
My second novel and a long short story for the commercial market.

When and where do you write?
I write in the back room of my house. There’s a window overlooking the Tyne estuary. It’s complete with a bamboo blind whic h keeps the morning sun out and stops me from gazing at the river, otherwise I’d get nothing done.  I write every day that I can but not always on the novel or the short story, it’s often tweets and blogs, emails and day to day stuff, which I hate having to do.

Where in the North do you go to seek inspiration?
To the coast, which stretches from my door  (in reality, of course it doesn’t but it feels like that, so there) right to the borders. Anywhere along there for a walk.

And to escape work?
To the coast which stretches from my door, as you know, to the borders. Anywhere along there for a walk. To some of the more out of the way places where other people don’t go so much, and there aren’t any buildings  around. I don’t think I can ever escape work though.

Tell us about one book that made you want to be a writer.
It was called The First Day of the Battle of the Somme. I read it at the age of fifteen, one of my dad’s history books. It was something I just couldn’t believe, in terms of size of death toll and the shortness of the time it took to dispense with so many soldiers.  I wanted to climb inside the head of one of those soldiers and make up his story before he was killed. To give him a name and some brothers and sisters, some parents, some friends, still kicking a ball about whle he was being strafed to pieces.  It was all facts, I seem to remember, in that book, facts and maps and nothing about the soldiers, the real people.

Any words of advice you would give to a writer starting out?
If what you want to do is write and enjoy the process, and not consider it as a means to gainful employment, then sit back, get writing and enjoy it, because writing is a joy.  If you want to earn money from writing, don’t give up your day job and expect to have the same income.  That might not happen for a very long time. It might never happen. Obviously, if you’re an immediate rip roaring success, it’ll be a wonderful and amazing thing and you’ll have been very lucky and I, for one, will salute you.  If it if doesn’t happen you won’t be too disappointed.  Always have something else you can do, even if it’s another style of writing, something you can earn money from. Just in case.  Whatever you decide, keep writing and enjoying, keep reading and enjoying.

Have you ever tried writing in a different genre (and how did it work out)?
Yes. I’ve written for adults for most of my writing life, mainly in short stories but also in radio drama and short pieces for the stage. I even dabbled in television writing. I managed to win a few awards in short story and radio writing, and was shortlisted to the final six in a screenplay competition. One, two and three were lucky enough to have their films made. I was fourth, fifth or sixth. Ah  well. I enjoyed the experience and learned a lot about script writing.

Currently I’m confining myself to writing fiction for young people as well as adults. I can’t seem to fit any more in.

If you could wake up tomorrow and write like any other current author, who would you pick?
Eva Ibbotson. OK I know she died very recently but if I could capture her fantastic sense of humour and comedy timing I’d be happy as a pig in muck.  If I can’t choose her then I’d have to go for Susan Cooper, whose series of dark adventures for young people, The Dark is Rising, still catches my breath. Written in the eighties the language is slightly dated but it doesn’t detract from brilliant storytelling.  Her most recent novel, Ghost Hawk (2013) is on my 2014 reading list.

Which characters (real or fictional) would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
Joe Darling, John Willie, Lanky Jones and Rory McAlister just a few of the characters in novels for young people written by none other than Catherine Cookson between 1960 and 1991. They are wonderfully troubled boys in fabulously crafted stories set in the place that I was born, which I love. I’d give them a bread and dripping starter, saveloys and pease pudding,main, and trifle to follow. Oh and a hundred cups of tea.

What books are on your reading list for 2014?
The rest of the novels for young people by Catherine Cookson (I have three more to find ) and as many other books for young people as I can possibly fit in.

 Tell us about another northern writer we’d be mad to miss.  
Colin Mulhern. His first YA novel, Clash, about young cage fighters, is a gripping and fascinating read and his second, Arabesque, is on my list for this year. It promises to be an equally gripping and gritty read.

Susan Elliot Wright on a thrilling first year in print

An exciting first year…

When The Things We Never Said, was published in May 2013, it was a long-held dream come true, but I prepared myself for the book to have a relatively short ‘shelf life’, because this is what so often happens to debut novels. However I have been extremely fortunate in that readers are continuing to buy it, partly because it’s getting good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but also, I think, because of the exquisite artwork on the cover, which I fell in love with the moment I saw it.

Not long after the novel was published, I learned that it had been selected for Read Regional, which was wonderful news. The campaign is now well and truly under way, and I’m thoroughly enjoying my library visits. So far, I’ve been to libraries in South Shields, Stockton, and Hull. I’m looking forward to visiting Darlington, Bradford, Gateshead, Newcastle, Rotherham, and Wakefield.  It’s so nice to meet readers face-to-face, and to meet the librarians who do so much to support authors. It’s also great to have the chance to chat with other Read Regional authors at joint events.

And as if all that weren’t enough, good things continue to happen!

I was delighted (and more than a little surprised) to hear recently that the novel has been shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award in the ‘contemporary’ category. Other categories are:  Epic Romantic Novel, Historical Romantic Novel, Comedy Romantic Novel, and Young Adult Romantic Novel. The shortlisting was a huge surprise because, while there is a strong love story in the book, it’s not what I would call a romantic story in the traditional sense, although maybe what we define as ‘romantic’ is changing?

Anyway, I’m thrilled to bits to be shortlisted, and I’m looking forward to the awards ceremony in London later this month – I get to drink some fizz, wear a new dress and chat with the other shortlisted authors.  I‘m up against some fabulous novelists, so I’m already practising my ‘good loser’ face in the mirror.

So, this was all very lovely, and then last week, I received an email from my editor informing me that The Things We Never Said has been longlisted for the Waverton Good Reads Award. This prize is awarded by the people of Waverton for the best debut novel published in the last 12 months. The prize, now in its 11th year, has quite an interesting story, so to find out more and cast your eye over the longlist, click here: http://www.wavertongoodread.org.uk/contents.html  as you’ll see, I’m in stellar company. A shortlist of five will be announced later in March. I would be ecstatic to be on it, but I won’t be holding my breath!

It’s all very exciting, and I’m absolutely loving my first year as a published novelist. I’m just worried that at some point, I’m going to wake up…

It’s a small world, finds Rebecca Muddiman

My Read Regional adventures started off with events in South Shields and Bradford and I couldn’t have hoped for better experiences to ease me in. At South Shields it was fantastic hearing Susan Elliot Wright reading from her novel The Things We Never Said and hearing about her writing life – including a very funny story about the moment she found out she’d got a publishing deal.

It was a very miserable night outside but lots of readers braved the elements to come to the event and it reminded me once again that readers and librarians are all lovely people with great questions (even if I did get heckled by the librarian for liking The Time Traveller’s Wife). And I was also reminded that it’s a small, small world. One reader came up after our talk to tell me he’d stayed in a holiday park in my hometown of Redcar many moons ago, and another couple mentioned they’d stayed in Loftus (which is briefly mentioned in Stolen) and had taken part in the Poultry Run – an annual event that as an (almost) local I’m sorry to say I knew nothing about.

The local connections continued in Bradford with a lady who mentioned she used to live in Stockton years ago. And it was lovely to meet fellow crime writer Lesley Horton whose books I’ll certainly be looking into. As with most library events I’ve done so far, I’ve come away knowing a lot more (and a lot more people) than I had before.

My event at Bradford happened to be on National Libraries Day and it was fantastic to see the library so busy. Taking part in Read Regional is a great reminder of how vital our libraries are and how amazing the people inside them can be.

Thanks to everyone who came and to Pauline Martin and Dionne Hood who organised the events.

Celia Bryce: Sowing the seeds of creativity in Rotherham

And so to the first of my Read Regional book gigs with Niel Bushnell and Sam Swanney, the librarian who organised the event. Aston Academy, in Rotherham, bursting with energy and milling with pupils coming to and from lessons and us in the middle of it all, being processed through a machine, photographed, bar coded and labelled enough to make us Authorised Visitors. Painless enough. Gone are the days of signing-in books and trying to remember car registration numbers, at least in Aston Academy.

Niel and I worked with two groups of pupils from Yr 7 and Yr 8. They probably didn’t know what they were in for, poor things, except that they were to spend an hour with two obscure authors. Mind you, if I’d been one of them, and missing Maths or Physics, both of which make my blood run cold, I would have been pretty happy.

Gratifyingly, Aston Academy pupils seemed pretty happy to join us for a short introductory segment on ourselves and our books and to be split up into two groups to take part in creative writing exercises.

The nice thing about being a writer for young people is being able to work with young people and the best thing about that is seeing what is produced in creative writing workshops.

I suppose the challenge for us, as visiting writers, is to share the enthusiasm we have for our jobs and hope that some of it rubs off on others. The challenge for young people is to produce some writing in a workshop situation which may seem strange to them, maybe even off-putting and perhaps not something they would all opt for.

But the Aston pupils showed great commitment and determination and if creative writing wasn’t everyone’s favourite subject, it didn’t stand in the way of things. Much was achieved in these short sessions, and fab writing produced, and I hope, plenty of creative seeds sown.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and would like to thank Sam, and Karen Jones, school librarian, as well as teaching staff, for their warm welcome, and of course a huge thank you to all of the pupils who took part.

Celia Bryce
February 2014

Reading regionally

Mark-Robinson-cropAs Read Regional 2014 gets underway, poet Mark Robinson, whose collection, How I Learned to Sing, is part of this year’s selection, writes about the campaign in The Bookseller

Imagine 11 writers marching down the road. “What do we want? Readers. When do we want them? Now. Where are we going to find them? Libraries.”

In each town they visit, they are met warmly by librarians who usher them past piles of their books towards audiences who listen with rapt attention, then engage them in bright and lively discussion about their books. This, in a nutshell, is writing development agency New Writing North’s Read Regional promotion, or at least how I like to imagine it.

When Read Regional began in 2008, I was executive director of Arts Council England, North East. I thought it was a great idea – just one of many in New Writing North’s near 20 year history. It was imaginative, practical, strategic, and helped writers, independent publishers, local authority reader development work and readers equally: a great use of public money.

The scheme has gone from strength to strength and is now built into New Writing North’s annual programme, supported by Arts Council as one of its set of key National Portfolio Organisations. It is widening its reach every year and now includes library services in Yorkshire alongside the North East. This year, Read Regional will work with 19 local authority library services, promoting nearly 80 events featuring eight novelists, including three writing for children and young people and three poets, of which I’m lucky enough to be one.

Read the rest of this article at www.thebookseller.com/blogs/reading-regionally.html