Big Book Weekend – A Review
So, there I was, sat rather awkwardly on the sofa in my sister’s family home, where I had taken refuge from my solo abode before lockdown kicked in, waiting for the online book festival – The Big Book Weekend. And why awkwardly? Well, how is one to know how to attend an online book festival when such a thing barely existed before? Should I get dressed for the occasion? Would I be able to see other viewers? After all, I would be in the virtual presence of some extremely inspirational writers… This felt like a special day.
At this point, it’d been seven weeks since I had temporarily moved in with my sister, her husband and their twin five-month-olds. Living in someone else’s home was wonderful, comforting and fun – and at times stifling and overwhelming. As a 31-year-old woman who floats through life at her own pace, I’d taken for granted having a space of my own to move as I pleased.
The pros definitely outweighed the cons; I had company during a time where I might have been totally isolated by myself. But over the first few weeks of lockdown, I couldn’t help feeling like furniture in somebody else’s life – with two babies and their own set of life issues to tackle, it was a testing time. But for this moment – my special event that interested me, and me only in the household, population 5 – I claimed a quiet space as my own for a day, to escape into the world of writing and writers.
As a child, my dreams were filled with various career goals – as most are – artist, vet, historian… and I’d finally settled on writer. That’s one of the things I miss most about being a teenager… the excitement about the future and what’s possible. I try and carry it into my adult life, but I find it difficult. Now, as a magazine writer, I dream of transitioning into creative writing. Except, I have no idea where to begin. My dream is stuck. I was hoping that watching talks from successful writers would provide me with ideas on where to start.
I began by listening to Hapsah Aneela Bashir read her powerful poems, often linked to strong childhood memories. They moved me to a place far away from my home, where I watched her colourful stories play out in front of me. It made me consider my own family and how the current times could inspire me as a writer: the blossoming relationship with my sister, with whom I hadn’t lived in over 15 years. Before this experience, we were very close, but spending day-in-day-out with somebody – without the filter that you have with people outside of your family – it took us to a whole new level. She had recently become a mother, after years of struggling with infertility. A baby boy and girl, four months old when I arrived. I watched her so closely as she grew into this new role, figuring things out for herself. Seeing the bond between her and her children bloom. It was magic. It made me think – could I take this experience to inspire any future work I did? Or from other experiences in my life? Robert Webb seemed to think so. During his talk, he discussed his first novel, How Not To Be A Boy, which looks back at his life and details events such as the death of his mother and being pushed back at school. He looked at what made his life unique and turned it into a story to share with others.
And then there was Marian Keyes, ever an inspiration, divulging her gold-dust writing advice. Revealing the secret of writing a book: hard work. “There are so many people that talk about wanting to write a book,” she says, “And they sort of talk as if the book is some magic thing that will go away and write itself. And it absolutely won’t. People hate me when I tell them that.”
Not me, Marian; they were exactly the words that I needed to hear.
Colette Joanne Earley is a Welsh writer, currently based in Bristol. Having written for leading women’s lifestyle platforms, including Refinery29, her focus is on women’s health and culture. Colette is now delving into the world of creative writing, trying her hand at short stories and poetry.