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A Criminal Celebration: Announcing Noirwich Crime Writing Festival

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 15 July 2014

The two men are skulking in the shadows of the cloisters. They talk in muffled voices.

“Have you heard the news?”

The short man adjusts his trench coat and pulls out a slip of paper. The paper is embossed with a black scrawl, the sleek lettering marred by a blotch of heavy red.

“You mean this?”

The tall man spits onto the floor. “This city ain’t in need of any more criminals.”

“I say we watch and wait. You got the low-down?”

“A five day criminal celebration, that’s what it is. They think they’re being so clever, doing it right under our noses. We know this ain’t no literary festival.”  

They walk away from the Cathedral, the spire a dark dagger in the sky.




Noirwich Crime Writing Festival


Taking place from the 10th-14th September, Noirwich Crime Writing Festival brings the best criminal masterminds to Norwich City of Literature for readings, events, masterclasses and more. Organised by The Crime Writers' Association, University of East Anglia, Writers' Centre Norwich and Waterstones, Noirwich promises a series of brutally brilliant events for you to enjoy.

Read on for details of all the Noirwich Crime Writing Festival events:

Wednesday 10th September

A Forgotten Mystery: The Life and Works of S.T. Haymon with Dr. John Curran
6pm, Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, Free
The opening Noirwich event celebrates the life of S.T. Haymon; an unjustly forgotten crime writer. S.T. Haymon lived in Norwich for most of her life and wrote childrens’ fiction before turning her hand to murder. Haymon’s crime novels were hugely popular, garnering her multiple awards as well as an almost guaranteed spot in the bestseller lists. Dr John Curran, who describes Haymon as one of his favourite writers, will lead this event exploring her life and work.
Book your free ticket | More information

New Voices, Old Places with Tom Benn, Eva Dolan and Oliver Harris

7.30pm, Waterstones Castle Street, £6 / £4 conc with £3 redeemable against the price of a book at the event and a free glass of wine.
Meet Tom Benn, Eva Dolan and Oliver Harris; the next generation of crime novelists, and get a guided tour around the mean streets of crime writing. These up and coming writers will discuss how setting has influenced their writing, and their burgeoning  careers. The conversation will be expertly guided by Waterstones Manager Ben Richardson.
Book your ticket | More information


Thursday 11th September

The New Hercule Poirot Mystery with Sophie Hannah and Dr. John Curran
8pm, Norwich Playhouse, £12/£10 conc
Join us for the launch of the first Agatha Christie novel in almost forty years. Sophie Hannah, who is best known for her twisted psychological thrillers, will discuss the challenges and delights of resuscitating the cultural institution of Poirot and give a short reading from The Monogram Murders. She’ll be joined on stage by Christie expert John Curran, and together they’ll discuss the life, legacy and writing of Christie, Queen of Crime.
Book your ticket | More information


Friday 12th September

The Skeleton Road: An Evening with Val McDermid
8pm, Norwich Playhouse, £12/£10 conc
Val McDermid, an icon in the contemporary crime world, joins us to launch her latest book The Skeleton Road. McDermid, an award-winning novelist known for her chilling psychological thrillers and cutting edge procedurals, will discuss the challenges and delights of writing murderous mysteries with Henry Sutton.   
Book your ticket | More information


Saturday 13th September

The Golden Age of Nordic Noir
10.30am-4.30pm, Cinema City Education Space, £40/£30 conc

Enjoy a day dedicated to the art of Nordic Noir. Trish Sheil, film academic, and Barry Forshaw, a leading expert on crime fiction and film, will help you to explore the all-pervading influence of the Scandinavian wave. Using short clips, iconic moments in film history and their personal knowledge, the tutors will guide you through the history of Noir, focussing on the Nordic classics and then exploring French crime film and television, and the blossoming of UK crime drama.
Book your ticket
| More information

A Crime Thriller Masterclass with Henry Sutton
10am-1pm, Writers’ Centre Norwich, £40 or £60 with Simon Brett Masterclass.
Hoping to turn your hand to murder? Get to grips with your crime novel under the expert tutelage of Henry Sutton, co-director of UEA’s Creative Masters and accomplished author. You’ll work on enhancing characterisation and cementing motivations, making sure your characters are believable and well-rounded. Henry will also advise you on writing innovatively within the crime thriller genre.
Book your ticket | More information

A Detective Fiction Masterclass with Simon Brett
2-5pm, Writers’ Centre Norwich, £40 or £60 with Henry Sutton Masterclass
Get your detective novel up to scratch with expert crime writer Simon Brett, author of over 90 books. Simon will guide you through the traditions of the detective novel, using classic examples to illuminate your successes and failures, and helping you to strengthen and polish your novel.
Sponsored by CWA Diamond Dagger
Book your ticket | More information

Celebrating the CWA Diamond Dagger with Simon Brett and John Harvey
7.30pm, Waterstones, Norwich, £6/£4 concessions with £3 redeemable from Simon’s latest book at the event and a free glass of wine
Simon Brett and John Harvey, CWA Diamond Dagger winners, will reveal the secrets to a long and successful crime writing career, offering you an intriguing glimpse into the mind of an experienced novelist.
Book your ticket | More information


Sunday 14th September

Noirwich Crime Writing Festival Presents Megan Abbott
2.30pm, Norwich Cathedral Hostry, £6/£4 concessions with £3 redeemable off the price of the book at the event
Megan Abbott is known for pushing the crime genre into new and compelling places, and is already being compared to Gillian Flynn of Gone Girl fame. In this rare UK appearance Magena will be joined by Henry Sutton for a discussion around the art of crime fiction, including suspense, secrets and desire.
Book your ticket | More information


The Killer Inside Me: A Noirwich Frank’s Bar Film Screening

Sunday 14th September 2014, 5pm, Free
Top off the week with a Bloody Mary and a screening of The Killer Inside Me at Frank’s Bar in Norwich. Based on Jim Thompson’s bestselling novel, The Killer Inside Me tells the tale of meek and mild-mannered deputy sheriff Lou Ford. Lou’s got problems- with women, with his job, with the corpses which just keep piling up. And then there’s his own unsavoury habits; from sadistic sex to sociopathic rages. This 2010 adaptation stars Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson, and has garnered critical acclaim and controversial commentary - there’s no need to book, just turn up!
More information


As part of Noirwich Crime Writing Festival you can buy a reduced price Festival group ticket – more details below:

If you’re attending all five of our paid-for author events, you can get a 15% discount on the total cost. Simply add the below five events to your online shopping basket. Once all five have been selected, add the code Noirwich5 in the ‘promotion code’ box and click ‘proceed’. Your discount will then be applied.

New Voices, Old Places with Tom Benn, Eva Dolan and Oliver Harris
The New Hercule Poirot Mystery with Sophie Hannah and Dr. John Curran
The Skeleton Road: An Evening with Val McDermid
Celebrating the CWA Diamond Dagger with Simon Brett and John Harvey
Noirwich Crime Writing Festival Presents Megan Abbott



Noirwich
is brought to you by The Crime Writers' Association, University of East Anglia, Waterstones and Writers' Centre Norwich.


 

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Writers' Centre Norwich Announces ACE NPO Award

Posted By: Katy Carr, 30 June 2014

Writers’ Centre Norwich is delighted to be awarded National Portfolio Organisation funding to the amount of £466,405 today as part of the Arts Council England National Portfolio settlement. 

The decision to award WCN these funds is justification of the exciting plans that WCN has developed to become a National Centre for Writing from April 2015. 

The total award also marks an exciting collaboration between WCN and the British Centre for Literary Translation (with the support of University of East Anglia) whereby the previously ACE funded public programmes of BCLT will be transferred to the National Centre for Writing from April 2015.

This collaboration responds to both the ever closer working relationships between the two organisations, and the need to deliver outstanding work in the most efficient way possible.

As such, today’s funding award is not an increase in funding for WCN in real terms. Instead, the settlement offers great value for money as the combination between BCLT’s public programme of work and WCN’s programme offers a small reduction in overall costs, achieved through cost savings in office administration and other efficiencies.

As well as a chance to work more efficiently, it was a shared belief in the centrality of literary translation, creative writing and reading, and the desire to put those beliefs at the heart of our culture that prompted the partners at WCN, BCLT and UEA to explore new ways of developing and delivering programmes focusing on talent development, engagement, innovation, access for young people and international exchange.

Whilst the public programme of BCLT’s work is taken on by the National Centre for Writing, the non-public programmes will remain at BCLT’s vibrant academic hub at UEA. The close working relationship that this will foster between UEA, BCLT academic and the National Centre for Writing will be reflected in ambitious new programmes and activities nationally and internationally.

Chris Gribble, CEO of Writers’ Centre Norwich says:
“We are absolutely delighted that Arts Council England has recognised our expertise, track record and capacity in these areas. WCN and our key partners are developing a new organisation as well as a new physical space for the National Centre for Writing in the heart of Norwich, England’s UNESCO World City of Literature. This award is a great endorsement of that aim.”

Dr Duncan Large, Academic Director of BCLT says:
“The BCLT welcomes this wonderful news.  It crowns our many successful collaborations with the Writers' Centre Norwich, and marks a new era in our partnership.  We are immensely excited at the prospect of helping to shape the new National Centre for Writing as a centre of excellence in literary translation.”

Prof Peter Womack, Head of the School of Literature Drama and Creative Writing  (UEA) says: 
“We welcome this decision very warmly, not only because of the joint initiatives the funding will make possible, but also because it marks and recognises a new kind of creative co-operation between the university and the public realm.” 

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‘The Unexpected Professor’. John Carey in Conversation with D.J.Taylor.

Posted By: Sarah Boughen, 27 June 2014


‘Reading makes you see that the ordinary is never ordinary’. 

As part of the 2014 Worlds Literature Festival, literary critic and Professor of literature John Carey was joined in conversation by local writer D.J. Taylor at Norwich Playhouse. Full of tales of grammar school, Oxford colleges and a historic London, the evening was very fitting to the festival’s theme of nostalgia; a very English nostalgia. 

The evening began with both John Carey and D.J. Taylor reminiscing about their respective days as an Oxford student. Taylor recalled his fellow students’ impersonations of their excited literature professor as he spoke of the work of Charles Dickens-  that lecturer was John Carey.

The theme of nostalgia continued as Carey spoke of his John Carey- copyright Matt Writtlechildhood in 1930s London and how his reading in this time developed his feelings towards literature. Carey stated that his childhood was especially middle class using the example of his regular browsing of huge bound copies of turn of the century Figaro Illustre in his father’s drawing room.  It was noted, however, that middle class childhood generally receives less exposure in art and literature than that of the working classes. Perhaps then, this type of nostalgia may be seen as relatively scarce and slightly unusual.    

Carey explained how his childhood shaped him through his upbringing, education and reading. He attended a London grammar school where a teacher recommended Henry Williamson’s Tarka the Otter. This book in which humans were only the hunters and the enemies, opened his mind to a new way of feeling and thinking, specifically towards literature. Carey claims that he is who he is today because of his grammar school education, that without it he would not have been able to achieve what he has. Carey was quite defensive of the grammar school system, but sees its disadvantages. He believes that he would not have been able to thrive at other schools and that even today he can see many middle class children feel they must hide their backgrounds from their peers, a view which members of the evening’s audience certainly agreed with.

After receiving a scholarship for Oxford University and later a Congratulatory First in his degree, Carey began to teach at Christ Church College, Oxford where his class consciousness developed. Describing this period as ‘Brideshead Revisited in the 1950s’ and ‘incredibly aristocratic,’ Carey spoke about being referred to as a ‘no-one’ and the attitude of entitlement which many of the students there held. An unusual environment for a former grammar school boy. 

As a lecturer at Oxford, Carey campaigned for a change in the Literature syllabus, a move away from the previous reforms of J.R.R Tolkein and C.S. Lewis. Until Carey’s intervention (alongside others) little literature produced after 1832 was taught at Oxford. Carey called for a need to keep up with current literature and it was through this that his interest in Victorian literature continued to grow. 

D.J. Taylor used this moment to describe Carey as ‘an anti-academic academic,’ a label which Carey approved of. Perhaps this term appears so apt due to Carey’s views on the opinion of art. According to Carey, when it comes to art, whether that be an extravagant painting or a short story, there is not an absolute judgement. He asks how one person’s opinion can be more valuable, or even more correct than another’s and suggests that if he is unable to persuade a person to his own opinion of a piece of art, ‘they are not inferior, they are just different’. Indeed, all art is subjective. If something is classed as great art it is not, as Carey proposes, ‘written in the sky’. 

Interestingly, Carey described how we, as a people, have always strived to place value on art. He first gave the example of theological art; it is God who chooses what is good and bad art. He also spoke of neuro-aestheticians who research the reactions of the brain when viewing art during a scan. Ultimately, positive reactions to art in these scans would determine what can be classed as ‘good’.

To conclude the evening’s conversation, Carey expressed his views on reading and the benefits and advantages it undoubtedly brings. He stated that by reading, one is inviting self-doubt and showing willingness to challenge one’s own perceptions. ‘Book burners,’ stated Carey ‘try to destroy ideas different from their own, readers do the opposite’.

By the end of the evening, audience members were full of feelings of self-belief and felt that their opinion mattered equally as much as the next person’s. The conversation between John Carey and D.J. Taylor proved to be insightful and inspiring, leaving the audience with a long reading list, many of which are Carey’s own titles.

Find out more about the 2014 Worlds Literature Festival.

Find out more about John Carey.

Reading List
Tarka the Otter- Henry Williamson
Lord of the Flies- William Golding
The Hanging- George Orwell
What Good are the Arts?- John Carey
The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life- John Carey 
Thackeray: Prodigal Genius- John Carey   

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NUA Needs Writers!

Posted By: Sarah Boughen, 06 June 2014

NUA Needs Writers!

Writers, Norwich University of the Arts Illustration students are offering you the chance to participate in their Final Degree Show, where you’ll participate in a unique workshop, have your writing showcased, and have the opportunity to network.

Norwich is home to a great number of prolific writers. This is the reason why we, the NUA's third year Illustration Course, would like to collaborate with local writers for our final show.

The Degree Show is an annual event which provides an opportunity for the public to see the work of over 500 new graduates.

This year, the illustration course decided to incorporate a series of four consecutive creative workshops into their Degree Show. These workshops will be modelled on an illustrative interpretation of Graham Wallas’ Four Stages of Creativity - preparation, incubation, illumination and verification.

Each day will directly inform the next, holistically following the illustrative journey. The illustrative process is often fed by narratives, which is why we are looking for talented writers to participate in this unique experience. Throughout the process, writers will be on site to provide the workshops with a narrative, facilitating the public’s response to the workshop exercises.

The first day of the workshop will be ‘Preparation’. We will provide a selection of found objects, and participants will be invited to create tools which will produce printed and textured material, which can also act as sculptural pieces.

The second day of the workshop will focus on nurturing ideas or ‘Incubation’. Schoolchildren will be invited for a day of mask making, using materials created during the previous day.

These masks will then be used in ‘Illumination’, a reflective process that will collate and explore ideas to create an illuminated sculptural outcome. This workshop will be focused on light, shape and composition.

The workshop will culminate in a day of ‘Verification’; an exercise in editing, consolidating and curating the previous outcomes to produce a zine which will showcase the work created during the series of workshops.

Writers will benefit from this experience by having the opportunity to showcase their work to the local community in a very interesting and unique way. They will also have the opportunity to do some networking. This is a one of a kind opportunity to see how people respond to their narratives and a great way to exercise their creativity by producing work on the spot.

Ideally, we would like to have writers on site, but if writers can’t make it to the workshop we will also consider existing pieces of writing that they might like to contribute. All genres are well received and narratives will be suited to each workshop (narratives for children will be used on the second day of the workshop since children will be attending on that day, for example).

The Degree Show will run from the 2nd until the 5th of July, and it will take place at The Norwich University of the Arts.

If you would like to contribute and be part of this event, please contact me at: karla_alcazar@hotmail.com. We will get in touch to provide a more detailed description of the workshop and how the day will be structured. Please feel free to ask any kind of question - we will be happy to hear from you.

Thank you!

NUA Third Year Illustration Course

Follow @NUAnews and @NUAIllustration on Twitter.

 

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Choose the Heroines You Need: Reporting from the Literary Festival in the Day

Posted By: Katy Carr, 20 May 2014

Our festival in a day took place on a idyllic summer’s afternoon at Norwich Cathedral, the spire in perfect relief against a wide blue sky, the pair of peregrine falcons taking turns around the turret.

We were lucky to have writer and tutor Rachel Hore presiding over events, a thoughtful interlocutor who fully engaged with all of the writers and the texts, drawing out the stories with aplomb.

The Lives of Great Women Writers started at pace as Hermione Lee gave a fascinating talk on Penelope Fitzgerald. Best known for The Blue Flower, Fitzgerald’s story is an encouraging one for any writer who may feel like it’s too late– she started publishing  at 60, and got through 12 books by 80.

Her life story is also inspiring as a feat of endurance; after a promising start Fitzgerald went on to find hard times, starting with the scattering of her life with the coming of the war. Her beloved husband Desmond came home from war changed and struggled to ever get back on his feet. Penelope and her three children struggled financially, facing destitution when Desmond had to leave his job, and desperation when the houseboat that they were living on sank.

When her husband died, Fitzgerald finally took to writing and the experiences she’d stored up over the years formed the subjects of her first novels. But interestingly, it was when she turned away from these personal experiences that, according to Lee, Fitzgerald created her greatest work.

What was special about Fitzgerald as a writer? The clash between reason and emotion is foremost; her writing has violent troubling stuff in it (a theme throughout the day). As with the other writers present this day, Fitzgerald believed that it is the unexplored that can destroy. The dark power of the buried is what she fought with.

As such Fitzgerald was drawn to obsessives and compulsives. Her world was full of ‘exterminators’ and ‘exterminatees’ and she felt herself to be one of the latter. The world was not necessarily a kind place for Fitzgerald and this is conveyed in her work, however she valued kindness, truthfulness and fortitude. She was interested in hope.

Lee talks of the incredible condescension Fitzgerald faced in the literary world, her slightly bumbling older lady persona a foil that it was up to those around her to work out. Similarly, in her work Fitzgerald never gave everything away, she held back, leaving a great deal of mystery in there. She researched heavily but conveyed this research lightly in her perfectly formed worlds; ‘storing up knowledge and leaving it to ripen’. She said she was interested in writing fragments; a dream like series of events that shouldn’t have to cohere.

The talk flew by, Hermione Lee’s luminous  phrasing leaving me inspired and wanting more, just as Fitzgerald did. Her biography is surely a work of art in itself, and highly recommended.



Unfortunately there isn’t time or space to give each event its due, so leaping through, here are some of the highlights:

Samantha Ellis talked warmly and engagingly about the genesis of her book How To Be A Heroine; a  re-evaluation of the heroines she adopted as a child.

Her story is one of self discovery through the  characters she identified with when growing up, characters who offered different ways of being; alternatives to the projected life her Iraqi-Jewish family expected for her.

Reading here was fundamental, life-changing, and the audience was fully engaged when talking of their own relationships with Anne of Avonlea (interesting reading of Anne on Jezebel here), Posy from Ballet Shoes, Katy Carr from What Katy Did (close to my own heart!) and of course Catherine Earnshaw v Jane Eyre.

Growing up Ellis identified with Catherine. Why? Because at the time she needed Catherine’s intensity, her selfish passion.

Interesting idea – that we choose the heroines we need at the time. There aren’t enough spinster heroines, and too often fictional girls as they grow up become boring, pale, according to Ellis. Think of Anne of Green Gables, the demise of the sisters from Little Women as soon as they settle down. And what of today’s heroines?


The choral accompaniment of evensong faded as Brian and Mary Talbot took to the stage to talk about their collaborative graphic novel, Sally Heathcote: Suffragette.

The novel came out of Mary’s desire to learn about the Suffragettes more fully; and this is a theme – writers following their instinct for a story, knowing that it’ll deliver if they follow their nose.

In this case the story unearthed a rather unflattering side to the famous Mrs Pankhurst as well as many divisions in the movement. It also high-lights the very real suffering the suffragettes underwent through hunger strike and force-feeding.

Mary, who also wrote the prize-winning Dotter of her Father’s Eyes, (next on my reading list) is working on another feminist icon for her next book; one to look forward to.

We enjoyed the tolling of the bells as the peregrines called and Diane Setterfield took to the stage.

Author of the famous The Thirteenth Tale, her new novel Bellman & Black is ghostly in a subtle way. Focussing on the power of the past, and of the dark stories we hide from, (the theme of the day), this gripping story also gives corvids a voice (Norfolk is the best county for crows, says Setterfield).

A crow is not just a harbinger of death, but also a ghostly presence that really looks us humans in the eye, and what do they make of us? Their wing breaks up the light, reflecting colour back at us from out of the dark, much as Setterfield reflects light out of the dark story that William won’t tell himself.

Finally, Raffaella Barker gave the first ever reading of her new novel, From A Distance, which is set around Norfolk and Cornwall. (Raffaella’s account of growing up in Norfolk was in the Guardian recently and makes for a fascinating read). The prime mover in the novel is Luisa, an Italian mother, who is watching her children grow up and move away. It was satisfying to hear from a fictional  mother, as Ellis had earlier remarked how mothers often get a rough deal in fiction and that there isn’t enough work from their point of view. Barker also talked of how important humour is in a story, how writers should be able to make their readers laugh and cry, as well as how important place is in a novel, both fictional and geographical.

In all it was an inspiring afternoon of readings and conversation in a beautiful setting, a thoroughly enjoyable set of events. Many thanks to all of the writers involved, and to Rachel Hore for guiding us through the day with such skill.




If you’re interested in finding out more about the works and the writers involved, do see the links below:


Visit Hermione Lee's website or read a review of Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life.

Visit Samantha Ellis' website  or read a review of How to be a Heroine.

Visit Mary and Bryan Talbot's website or read a review of Sally Heathcote: Suffragette.

Visit Diane Setterfield's website
.

Visit Raffaella Barker's website or read a review of From a Distance.

Visit Rachel Hore's website.

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A Nostalgic Homecoming- Worlds Literature Festival Returns

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 07 May 2014

"Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days." - Doug Larson

In six short weeks Worlds Literature Festival is back, and in its tenth year too. As in previous years, we at Writers’ Centre Norwich will be welcoming internationally renowned writers from around the globe for a week of readings, events, and in depth literary discussion. (I’ll be sitting at the back of the room, doing my best to capture the debate in 140 characters.)

The theme for our tenth annual extravaganza is, appropriately, nostalgia. Over the week, through the public and private events, our writers will be exploring halcyon days of yore, rose-tinted glasses, childhood memories and the idea of home. Our first Worlds Literature Festival was pre-recession, pre-iPhone and pre-ereader – a simpler time. Yet I’m told the inaugural Worlds was as ambitious in scope and events as our tenth is.

I’m delighted that JM Coeztee, Nobel Laureate, Man Booker Prize winner, and all round literary superstar, will be returning to Norwich. I’m also looking forward to meeting Louise Doughty (Appletree Yard), NoViolet Bulawayo (We Need New Names), and Owen Sheers (Resistance). (You can view all the Worlds participants here.)

John Carey, Oxford Professor, author, critic and social commentator will be joining us at Norwich Playhouse (17th June, 7.30pm) to discuss his latest book; The Unexpected Professor and give us a personal tour of his reading history. There’ll be intimate tales of some of the literary world’s greatest heroes; from TS Eliot to Philip Larkin, accessible and interesting literary critics, and insights into a now vanished publishing industry. I must admit I’m hoping to hear scurrilous stories about the literary elite...

I am already preparing insightful comments to stammer unintelligibly at JM CoetzeeHe’ll be reading at the Norwich Playhouse (19th June, 7.30pm) with Xiaolu Guo, Julia Franck and Ivan Vladislavic. Vladislavic’s novel Double Negative was one of my favourite books of last year, capturing South Africa in a time of racial segregation and in an uneasy post-apartheid reality with stunning prose. (I’m thrilled that Double Negative is also one of our Summer Reads titles!)

As an ex-pat South African, I’m sure the event with JM Coetzee and Ivan Vladislavic will raise feelings of horror and nostalgia. I’m hoping, however, that my own emotional response will be contextualised through the private salons. These feature provocations from the visiting writers, with each author or translator exploring their own experiences of nostalgia, and its function as a literary device. Whilst the provocations are only open to Worlds participants, we will be live-tweeting from @WritersCentre, blogging and recording the events- so you won’t miss out.

A series of public readings will also be taking place over Worlds Festival- priced at £2, these readings offer introductions to four or five authors and their writing. Perfect for students, keen readers and aspiring writers, the Worlds Festival Reads too often leave me with a prohibitive reading list and the urge to scribble my own stories down.

So, please join us, online or in person for Worlds Literature Festival. We’d love to have you.

Find out more about Worlds Literature Festival.  





"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there" - L.P Hartley in The Go-Between


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Pack Your Bag - Your Reading Adventure Starts Here

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 01 May 2014

Summer Reads 2014 is here, and you’re invited to join us on a bookish journey. With the help of the Readers’ Circle, we've chosen eight brilliant books to get you reading and to transport you to pastures new. We've also expanded; bringing Summer Reads to libraries and bookshops in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire for the first time. 

Now in its fifth year, Summer Reads has a great track record in exceeding expectations and inspiring readers. Summer Reads has been described as “a brilliant way to find outstanding books”, and I couldn’t agree more!

The final eight titles were chosen from a 129 longlisted books, by 50 readers and through 750 reviews and a complicated spreadsheet system. The only criteria for the books was that were inspiring, moving, and always engaging, and the chosen Summer Reads title definitely do all of those things.

So, please join us on this reading adventure - there’s no need to bring a map, but you might want to grab a pen and hunt out a bookmark. Don’t worry if you get lost on the way, because we’ve got reader workshops, tons of resources, and book clubs to help you navigate the path and discover the treasure at the end of the rainbow.

Head over to the Summer Reads website to discover which eight books made the final cut!

(Oh, and we'd love you to join us at the Launch of Summer Reads, which will feature sake, sushi, and plenty of bookish chat.)



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European Literature Night

Posted By: Sarah Boughen, 15 April 2014

European Literature Night returns for its sixth annual event and this year WCN is delighted to be hosting its digital content. Showcasing the finest literary talent from across the continent and featuring a handful of specially selected fiction writers and graphic novelists, ELN 2014 is an unmissable occasion. Everyone is welcome at the British Library on 14th May to celebrate some of the greatest literature of Europe.

With an evening of four events and a closing reception (including free entry to the summer exhibition, Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK and a glass of wine), I am struggling to choose which one to rave about first. 

I feel that I must start with Writers Stories in Words, chaired 
Rosie Goldsmithby award-winning arts journalist Rosie Goldsmith. This event boasts writing for everyone, from chilling crime fiction to humorous explorations of the nature of power and will provide an astounding introduction to some of the greatest contemporary European literature.

Rosie will be accompanied by esteemed writers including winner of the German Book Prize Julia Franck, who has sold over one million copies of her novel The Blind Side of the Heart in Germany alone. Italian Diego Marani, a senior linguist for the EU,  will be another addition as he prepares for the publication of his next book The Interpreter in 2015. A range of writers will also be joining Rosie, find out more. With the company of these wonderful writers there is no doubt that this event will be unforgettable. We are lucky enough to have extracts from all of these writers’ work, just to wet your appetite!

If graphic novels are your thing, Graphic Novelists Stories in Pictures is anWhen David Lost His Voice absolute must. Featuring graphic novelists from Germany to Spain, this event offers a diverse view of the innovative European graphic novel. The cartoonists will discuss their work with co-director of the Comica Festival, London’s own, Paul Gravett.

Paul will be joined by a variety of novelists such as Germany’s Line Hoven who presented her unique scraperboard method in her first full length graphic novel, Love Looks Away, which depicts a family’s history. Also speaking is Belgian comic creator Judith Vanistendael, who is known for tackling life’s big issues in her work, most recently cancer in When David Lost His Voice. Find out more about all of the graphic novelists.

For those interested in translation and European literature, I would recommend the afternoon’s panel discussion, Translators Translating the Untranslatable. Writers Witold Szablowski and Diego Marani will be joined by translator Antonia Lloyd-Jones and Dedalus publisher Eric Lane. This event is free but has been very popular in the past so be sure to register.  

ELN is working closely with a young European writer who has yet to be translated into English for the first time in 2014 as part of The Next Generation. Germany’s Nora Bossong has been selected for  based on a translated extract from her acclaimed Limited Liability

What a fantastic evening, I hear you say? Absolutely.

Tickets can be booked direct but for those who simply cannot wait, don’t forget to enjoy the writers’extracts!
For more information visit the European Literature Night 2014 page. 



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Announcing the 2014 Norfolk and Norwich Festival City of Literature Events

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 05 March 2014

The Norfolk and Norwich Festival is back, and this year it’s bigger and better than ever. We’ve programmed a series of extra special events, including an evening with *Ray Davies of The Kinks,our second Harriet Martineau Lecture, given by celebrated novelist Kate Mosse, and a day long literary festival celebrating great women writers. For the first time, our events have been inspired and dedicated to Norwich, City of Literature, bringing the best local and international writers to our fine city.

With 14 events in the City of Literature line up, I barely know where to begin – but I’ll start with Literary Death Match, the first event of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival to take place in the stunning Spiegeltent. AL Kennedy has already been confirmed as one of our judges, and the night promises raucous wordplay and spirited merriment.



If you like your literary events lively, our Live Literature events at Norwich Arts Centre are sure to be up your street. Ross Sutherland will be previewing his new show Stand By For Tape Back-Up and Molly Naylor will be exploring the teenage experience with her show If Destroyed Still True, with a musical accompaniment from Iain Ross- tickets for both of these shows can be bought for £14 through our joint ticket offer. Our third event, The Shroud, is a two man miniature epic, and is part of the [LIVE] Art Club.

After the success of our inaugural Harriet Martineau Lecture, we’ve invited Kate Mosse (author of Labyrinth and The Taxidermist’s Daughter) to give the second lecture celebrating the life and legacy of radical thinker Harriet Martineau. We’d also like to welcome you to our Norwich City of Literature Salon, where you can get involved in your City of Literature.

I’ve been humming hits from The Kinks back catalogue as I’ve been typing, thanks to our event with lead singer Ray Davies. Davies will talk about his new biography, Americana, giving you an intimate glimpse into what music and fame really meant to him.



Like your writing bloodthirsty?  Masters of horror, Darren Shan and Alexander Gordon Smith will be discussing writing and reading in an edge of your seat event, which is destined to be a hit with the younger readers.  

Our final Playhouse event is with Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard, whose series of My Struggle novels was a controversial bestseller in his home country and is causing a buzz over here too. Having just read this Guardian article, I’m already looking forward to this event (with a dollop of healthy trepidation)! 

Last, but certainly not least, is our day long literary festival The Lives of Great Women Writers . For only £20 you can buy a ticket for the full day of events, or get an individual ticket for £6. We’ll be kicking off with an event celebrating the life of Penelope Fitzgerald, with biographer Hermione Lee, which is sure to shed a new light on the life of this intriguing novelist.  Next, we’ll be joined by Samantha Ellis who will discuss her memoir How to Be a Heroine, and how her literary heroines (from Cathy Earnshaw to the Little Mermaid) shaped her life and writing.

Writing team Mary and Bryan Talbot created the first graphic novel to win the Costa Biography Award (Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes). With their second graphic novel they’ve turned their focus to women’s emancipation in Sally Heathcote: Suffragette and they’ll be discussing the challenges and delights of tackling such a tough topic in the third of our festival events.

I’m eagerly awaiting our event with Diane Setterfield, having adored her novel The Thirteenth Tale (which was recently adapted for BBC). You’ll hear all about her new novel Bellman & Black, its writing process, and how her reading affects her writing. Rounding off the day will be local writer Raffaella Barker, whose latest novel From a Distance captures the secret and flaws which shape family life across generations. I’m hoping to discover how Norfolk and her writing family have influenced Raffaella’s own craft.

As I’ve been writing, tickets are already flying off the (imaginary) shelves, so I would urge you to book quickly! You can view the whole City of Literature Festival Programme here, and individual tickets are available for all our of events.

In the meantime, I’m off to have a proper hunt through the entire Norfolk & Norwich festival line-up – I’d hate to miss anything!


*Suggested musical accompaniment for this blog:

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Here be Dragons- a Tour of Norwich

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 10 January 2014

There are dragons hiding in Norwich. And they’ve been hiding for years.

But from the 10th-23rd February Norwich’s dragons are coming out to play and you’re invited to join them at the Norwich Dragon Festival. Over the three weeks there’ll be exhibitions, displays, performances, talks and quests, all focussed around the scaly fire-breathers themselves.

Whilst we’ve managed to coax most of the dragons out from their lairs, some are too busy guarding their piles of treasure. Luckily, through our special tour of the city and with some canny wordplay, you’ll be able to track down all of the city’s dragons, and discover their hidden secret. If you’re brave enough to face the dragons’ flame, that is.

The Dragon’s Spell City Trail

The Dragon’s Spell city trail will have you peering round corners cautiously and puzzling through poetic clues. George Szirtes, award-winning poet, has written a specially commissioned poem which hides a secret code – crack the code and you can enter a competition to win your very own dragon.

Pop into the Forum, the Tourist Information Centre or intu Chapelfield to pick up a map and an entry form, and explore the city centre in a whole new way. Once you’ve finished the tour (singe-free, we hope), drop off your entry form at intu Chapelfield Information Desk to pick up your limited edition poem postcard and to enter the prize draw.

You can also enjoy a free live reading of The Dragon’s Spell with George Szirtes, Robyn-Astrid, Meghan Purvis and Keiron Pim, at the stunning Assembly House on the 18th Feb. The evening promises to be an extravaganza of music, monsters and poetry, and if you’d like to join the performers there are also open mic spots available.

Find out more about the Norwich Dragon Festival.

Book your free ticket to The Dragon’s Spell reading event


Norwich Dragon Festival is organised by Norwich’s Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART), with support from Norwich Business Improvement District (BID), The Forum and the Norwich Town Close Estate Charity.

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The Opportunity of SPACE- A Guest Blog from Jen Morgan

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 14 November 2013

Jen Morgan, Specialist Creative Reading Mentor for the SPACE project, blogs about her experience of SPACE.

Although it is the beginning of the second phase of SPACE it is the start of my involvement with the project. I have taught creative writing to adults for a number of years which I have loved and continue to love, but my background is in teaching young adults and that was what made me so excited about SPACE – the opportunity to explore creative writing/creative reading with 12-18 year olds. I am particularly pleased to have been given the role of specialist mentor as it means that I will have the opportunity to visit each of the project venues and meet lots of the young people involved.  

My main role is to work with the young people and suggest books that they might like, based on their interests and reading preferences. I have already visited the project based in Thetford and think I have some challenging times ahead with coaxing some of the young people into giving things a try! But that is what this project is all about for me – opening young eyes up to new experiences. 


My other role is to work with the other mentors in terms of helping to create a positive reading space in the venue but I’m also on hand if they want any help with devising the creative writing sessions. I got to meet all of the other mentors at the training sessions run by Roxanne Matthews. Many of the mentors are undergraduates from UEA, still young people themselves, who are all passionate about literature and about the SPACE project. I certainly wasn’t that passionate about anything when I was an undergraduate and their dedication to the project, many of whom have been involved for a year already, has really impressed me. Getting to work with all the mentors has been an unexpected highlight for me.  As an adult education tutor I have always worked on my own in terms of planning and delivering my sessions. When I attend training events run by the County Council I am always the lone creative writing teacher among the groups of fitness instructors, literacy tutors and so on. Now I am suddenly part of a team of hard-working and talented people who share my enthusiasm for literature. I am very much looking forward to the coming months to see how my role develops based on the needs of the young people and the other mentors. Watch this space!

Find out more about SPACE.


About Jen Morgan

Jen Morgan is the Specialist Creative Reading Mentor for the SPACE project. Her early career was in secondary education teaching Philosophy and Ethics, having studied Theology at Cambridge. She has always loved reading children’s stories and whilst teaching, she realised that what she really wanted to do was write them as well. She took the opportunity to pursue this whilst on maternity leave and completed an MA in Writing for Children at Winchester University, for which she achieved Distinction. Since then she has taught many creative writing courses to adults and has recently completed the YA novel she began during her MA. She also works in the children’s department at Heffers Bookshop and is Assistant Editor for the academic e-journal Write4Children. She is based in Cambridge with her two young children and loves dressing-up. Especially pirates and Tudor costumes.

Visit Jen's blog.

You can follow Jen on Twitter @JenDrakeMorgan



We are currently looking for enthusiastic volunteers to get involved in the SPACE project. Are you interested in developing your skills and experience working with young people? Do you have a love for creative writing and reading that you want to share? Please send an email with your CV and a covering letter to Melanie Kidd, Project Coordinator: melanie.kidd@writerscentrenorwich.org.uk

Deadline for applications is Monday 25th November. Please note interviews are likely to take place on Monday 2nd December. For more information about the volunteer role and the SPACE project, call Melanie on 01603 877177 for an informal chat (Monday-Wednesday).

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Welcome to the Fine City of Norwich.

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 14 November 2013

In 2012 Norwich became England’s first UNESCO City of Literature, and the sixth in the world. This elite international network now includes six other cities around the world; Edinburgh, Melbourne, Iowa City, Dublin, Reykjavik and recently Kraków.

Today, Norwich’s new city signs have been unveiled, proudly declaring to all visitors (and, of course residents) that this fine city is a UNESCO City of Literature.




The UNESCO City of Literature award is much more than a recognition of Norwich’s literary heritage and contemporary strengths – it is a promise of what will come.

In the year since Norwich became a City of Literature Writers’ Centre Norwich has already established many projects, events and even a publication, which celebrates and builds upon our literary strengths.

26 for Norwich celebrated Norwich’s literary heritage, present strengths, and future potential by pairing professional writers from writers’ group 26 with students from the UEA Creative Writing courses. The pairs were then asked to produce a piece of work in response to a historic Norwich writing. You can explore the work of Norwich’s historical writers and the pieces produced by our contemporary writers on the 26 for Norwich website.

Into the Light: The Medieval Hebrew Poetry of Meir of Norwich is a collection of poems written by Meir ben Elijah, England’s only medieval Hebrew poet, and our first UNESCO City of Literature publication. Find out more about Meir ben Elijah and purchase a copy of the collection.

UEA UNESCO City of Literature Visiting Professorships was established in early 2012, and brings leading writers to teach at the University of East Anglia. The inaugural professors in 2013-13 were playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker and novelist Ali Smith.

Ali Smith gave the inaugural Harriet Martineau Lecture
at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2013. The lecture celebrated Harriet Martineau, an unjustly oft-forgot Norwich writer. Read a report on the event and listen to a recording


Our plans for the future are even more exciting. Future plans are designed to make literature accessible for residents of the city and county, as well as to visitors to the region.

The National Centre for Writing (NCW) will be a unique building based in the heart of Norwich. Never before seen in England, NCW will be regional beacon and a national draw for the city, offering a home for those passionate about the power of words, whether they be readers, writers or translators. Writers’ Centre Norwich is leading the bid to develop the National Centre for Writing, which will open in 2016. View plans on architect Ash Sakula’s website.

A £360K partnership bid to Heritage Lottery Fund has been developed, with the proposed funding being used to explore, celebrate and open up Norwich and Norfolk’s literary history for everyone who lives in and visits Norwich. (More news soon)

A £300k Cultural Tourism bid led by the New Anglian Local Enterprise Partnership is underway, which is designed to attract more visitors and tourists to Norwich.

A series of workshops for young people and schools is being planned to bring creative reading and writing in to the heart of their lives, and broaden the opportunities available to them.

Margaret Atwood will be the third UEA UNESCO City of Literature Visiting Professor. We’re delighted to welcome Margaret to Norwich for two months in 2014.

SPACE, a volunteer-led reading and writing programme, is running in libraries and venues across Norfolk. A collaborative project with Norfolk Library Service and University of East Anglia. SPACE works with young people and communities to remove barriers to creative writing and reading.

New work will be commissioned which will celebrate our sister UNESCO Cities of Literature, and includes a commission to make a film of one of the stories from Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce.

If you’d like to know more about Norwich UNESCO City of Literature, you can read our successful bid online or visit our webpage devoted to the subject.

To keep up to date with all Writers’ Centre Norwich’s news sign up to our enews.




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A Poet Must Seduce the Air- Live Literature with Jean 'Binta' Breeze

Posted By: Laura Stimson, 10 October 2013

Programme Manager Laura Stimson blogs about our free Performance Poetry Masterclass with Jean 'Binta' Breeze. Jean will also be performing with John Agard tomorrow evening at Cafe Bar Marzano, for which you can buy tickets online.

What a treat to host Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze for her first official visit to Norwich.

Jean’s workshop focussed on music; how musical elements live within poems. She started off with physical and vocal warm ups; using vocal chorus exercises to get the group thinking about how consonants and vowels affect your body. The group were tasked with creating vocal tongue-twisters using guttural vowels and consonants, using sound rather than word or meaning. With this, she explored the musicality of poetry; how rhyme, repetition, repeat can be woven into both your written work and live performance.



There was a lot of sharing; first poem, worst poem, poem generation and process, audience anecdotes, swearing, dialect. Jean talked about the importance of mic technique, of endings, of ‘breaking the silence’. The audience hush before a poet speaks is beautiful and the poet must ‘seduce the air’, Jean says; how the silence is broken is very important. She talked about selecting your set and ‘being kind’ to your poems; poetry is a conversation with your audience and your audience must be considered. She talked about the beauty of simplicity, about performer etiquette, about how poetry’s first love is music.

This was a special, intimate afternoon, in which the participants had a chance to really get to know Jean. A wonderful session with one of the world’s warmest. Don’t miss your chance to see her and John Agard at a special Black History Month event this Friday.


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Translating the Poetry of the Holocaust - The Project So Far

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 25 September 2013

Translating the Poetry of the Holocaust is a new research project led by Professor Jean Boase-Beier of the University of East Anglia. Supported by Writers' Centre Norwich, Translating the Poetry of the Holocaust includes a public exhibition, workshops and a book display at The Forum on Monday the 4th and Tuesday the 5th of November. Read this blog by Research Assistant, Marian De Vooght, to find out more about the project:


Poetry about the horrors and traumas of the Holocaust is perhaps an unlikely topic for an ‘event’. The question about what it means to translate such poetry—from numerous languages into English—is probably even less expected as the starting point for a exhibition. If you are curious and would like to know more about what will be happening in the Forum, please read further for our plans for the event.

Visitors to the exhibition will get an idea about the scope of the languages used by victims, survivors and others for writing their poems. From the 1930s to 1945 the Nazi regime persecuted people from all over Europe and deported them to concentration camps. Women, children, men of many different backgrounds and cultures.  We’ll draw attention to as many different groups as possible, show places they came from, display examples of the poetry that represents them, and show how it can be translated into English.

A book display organised by the Millennium Library will support the exhibition. You will have a chance to leaf through memoirs, poetry, fiction and information books, all relating to the Holocaust.
We would like to give people an idea about why Holocaust poems have been written. Who are the poets, where did they come from and what was their fate? We want to raise awareness that Holocaust poems continue to be written. How are poets of today still reacting to the Holocaust? Why, indeed, couldn’t any of us respond to the past in a poem? Thinking about this may help you relate to the problems translators face when dealing with Holocaust poetry. What motivates translators and how do they create new versions of these poems that do justice to the original? We want to get across why it is important to keep reading, writing and translating Holocaust poems.

What happens to readers when they read a Holocaust poem depends to a large extent on their knowledge of the original language and/or on the way the poem has been translated.  By reading different translations of the same poem, you can get an idea of what are the most important words or key images and emotions in the original. The two workshops organised during the exhibition days will further explore what is happening during translation—but more on this will follow in October.

Besides the workshops, there will be poetry reading in the library. In January 2014, more of these readings will take place in The Bookhive in Norwich, as well as in The European Bookshop in London. This Autumn, Professor Boase-Beier will also give talks about her research on translating the poetry of the Holocaust at the universities of Edinburgh (15 November) and Newcastle (28 November).

Jean Boase-Beier is also teaching two free workshops on Translating the Poetry of the Holocaust

On the 4th of December, 5pm, Jean will give a workshop at the University of East Anglia. Contact J.Boase-beier@uea.ac.uk if you want to come.

Find out more about the project.

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Best of British and Novelists’ Fears

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 25 June 2013

The third day of Worlds Literature Festival brought muggy sunshine and an evening event with two of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists; David Szalay and Evie Wyld, hosted by Ted Hodgkinson of Granta. Both David and Evie read from their extracts featured in Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 4.  

David read first, from his novel in progress, Europa, a novel which will take the form of a number of 10-15 thousand word novellas, linked by ideas of transnationality:

Evie followed with a reading from her just-published novel All the Birds, Singing:




Best of Young British Novelists 4 is an anthology that collects work from young writers who show potential and skill and, as such, the writing isn’t linked by theme or style. Instead it aims to showcase the best sample of writing, which is representative of the chosen author’s style. Consequently, David and Evie’s writing is very different, yet their discussion of writing had several common threads.

As the title suggests, the recurring motif of the evening was one of fear. (Not that the audience was scared, mind you- although Evie’s reading was very creepy.) Evie explained that she’d grown up reading horror, from the Point Horror books, to Stephen King, to Silence of the Lambs, and that as a child she’d always thought she’d write horror books. And, in a way, she does.

The fear in Evie’s novels is an oblique suppressed horror- it is a fear created by the self, and all the more terrifying because of the illogical indefinableness of it. Evie commented that she liked ghost stories, especially family ghost stories, saying that she didn’t believe in ghosts, but she did believe in people seeing ghosts.

Evie followed this by talking about her preoccupation and fear of sharks, and laughed that she’s always having to take sharks out of her book- so there are far more sharks lurking in the first draft than the final draft!

David has a knack for picking out the grotesque in ordinary people, creating fear and repulsion in the hidden shadows of humanity. He said that he found it amusing how often he found something in his book funny, and when somebody else read the same section they would find it depressing or horrifying. David then commented that “to the writer, the characters in the story are less real than to the reader” and as the creator, the author will not fear the demons and horrors in their own work. (Unlike their readers!)


Of course, the fear that both David and Evie have to confront is the worry of not living up to the expectations placed upon them by being chosen as two of the best writers of their generation. Previous Best of Young British Novelists include Martin Amis, Iain Banks, Pat Barker and Jeanette Winterson- proving that the mantel is an impressive but intimidating prospect. But we don’t think they have anything to worry about at all.

Listen to a podcast of the event below:



Take a look at some of the photos from Worlds Literature Festival.

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