That wireless signal went into fluctuating after all but I'm back at Mission Control restocking the hamper for tomorrow and reflecting on a day of contrasts.
Up bright and early to be across the Moors and seated in time for Penelope Lively at 10am. Always the most gracious and measured of speakers and never to be missed if you have the opportunity to hear her, Penelope Lively's theme was Reflections on Living and Writing and Letters Home and if you are interested my thoughts on her autobiography Oleander Jacaranda here.
The Letters Home was a lovely touch, the comparison of a book once published to that of a grown-up child leaving home, off they go to live their independent lives which it is is meet and right so to do, but nice to get the occasional letter home. Penelope Lively kept us smiling with her accounts of some of the letters from readers her books have generated down the years, and that blurring of fiction and reality which often happens,
' was the character called Mrs X in your book Y any relation to the Z family now living in Chester? If so do you have a contact address as they are old friends and we've lost touch with them.'
This was a warts and all account of an accidental writer's life including the frequent financial insecurities of a profession for which no training is required and no qualifications needed, and Penelope Lively gave good account of all the endeavours required. Endeavours of which she knew precious few when she loaded the first sheet of paper into the typewriter forty years and some fifty books ago, becoming by chance (and our good fortune I might add) a writer.
Furnishing a writer's mind and the suggestion that in order to write a writer must read, and read more alongside the idea that the roads not taken in life can often offer interesting material made for fascinating listening. Penelope shys away from the term research for a novel, it's too scholarly, often the imagination will suffice but more often than not background reading and the beloved library work are essential. The benefits of the mature long view back on life as it unfolds were highlighted, that richer and deeper seam of material that becomes available to mine, the more of it you've witnessed the more material you have to call on.
The essence of the process of writing was shared alongside the comforting fact that Penelope Lively can also procrastinate and just absolutely have to clean the oven rather than settle at her desk and her typewriter. No drafts,no computer, typewritten manuscripts annotated and altered by hand and surely those must be fast disappearing in this cut-and-paste age? With it I realise we lose the fascinating workings of a writer's mind so often the source of rich analytical material, back to the Olivetti's everyone.
Lots of questions, too many to cover here but asked which was her favourite book Penelope Lively mentioned her Booker prize winning novel Moon Tiger, though it's fame and the blaze of ongoing publicity and public speaking did somehow temper her love of it and the associated prize money did attract some remarkable begging letters (we heard one which had us in stitches). The book which has sent the most letters home a children's book, The Ghost of Thomas Kempe and with it invitations ot tea 'which my mum says will be all right as long as it's Thursday.'
Delightful, the entire hour, just delightful.