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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 German 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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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 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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A Writer's Dilemma: Tove Jansson, More than the Moomins.

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 19 June 2013

I have a dim memory of being read the Moomins as a child, poking at the chubby creatures with my equally chubby fingers. I also have a copy of  The Summer Book sitting on my ever increasing ‘To Be Read’ pile at home. Still, before the Tove Jansson: Between Light and Dark event, Tove Jansson was nothing but a shadowy figure. Now, post event, The Summer Book has been moved to the top of the pile. I’m determined to re-read the Moomins back catalogue, and I’m desperate to find out more about the elusive figure of Tove Jansson.

On the panel was Rebecca Swift (of The Literary Consultancy), poet and Jansson fan, Esther Freud (author of Hideous Kinky), who wrote the foreword to The Summer Book; actor Samuel West (Howard’s End), voice of the Moomin app and Icelandic writer Sjón, who recently collaborated with Björk on her Moomins and the Comet Chase soundtrack. The event began by Rebecca inviting the panel to talk about what Tove’s work meant to them. Fascinatingly, our panellists’ child selves seemed to be drawn to the Moomins because of the thin edge between light and dark in her work, and her truthfulness as a writer. As adults, they love Tove’s work for similar reasons, but are also drawn to her wry observations on humanity (or Moominity?!).

Throughout the discussion it became clear to me that the Moomins held a very special place in the hearts of not only our panellists but in our audience’s too. The centre of the discussion seemed to be on Tove’s artful way of combining conflicting emotions, and the subsequent creation of bittersweet tableaus. Indeed, our panellists seemed to agree that bittersweet was the best word to describe Tove’s writing.

For me, what stood out the most from the event was the image of Tove as a determined artist and a writer who was absolutely dedicated to her craft. She went to extraordinary lengths to be able to create, going as far to living on a tiny island (think the size of a large living room). On the miniscule windswept island there was a small house, which you’d assume would be the living space – yet Tove lived in a tent to preserve the house as a workspace, and to resist the bleeding over of relaxation into work. I find that both extraordinary, and inspiring.

She was an artist who wanted to pursue her craft first and foremost, and came to almost abhor the Moomins, because drawing the Moomins left her no time to experiment and try new things. Of course, the popularity of the Moomins also came to mean that she was first and foremost known as the creator of the Moomins and her other artistic pursuits were all but ignored.

Eventually, Tove handed on the work of drawing the cartoon to her brother Lars, giving her the freedom to pursue her other creative urges. It was lucky that she did, as it gave her the time to write her adult fiction, including The Summer Book (which both Esther and Sjon raved about as being one of the best books they've ever read.).

I think anyone who fancies themselves as an artist, or a writer, could do a lot worse then using Tove Jansson as an icon. Hugely successful, Tove was always striving to achieve and create, never resting on her laurels, and always focussing on her art- what more could you want in a hero?

Take a look at the story of the evening on Storify

Listen to podcasts of the event on Soundcloud.

Watch Esther read from Comet in Moominland:

Watch Sam and Sjón discuss Tove Jansson and read from her work:

Take a look at photos from Worlds 13:

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A Special Evening of Poetry for an Extra Special Price

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 07 May 2013

On the 13th May, Writers’ Centre Norwich will be host to a trio of poets at Norwich Playhouse. Organised in collaboration with The Rialto Magazine, poets Don Paterson, Sophie Hannah and Hannah Lowe will be opening Words & Ideas at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival. And, even if we do say so ourselves, this is one event you won’t want to miss. Especially as you can buy tickets half price.

The evening promises to be a delightful exploration of contemporary poetry- I can’t wait to hear all of the poets, but I am particularly looking forward to hearing Sophie Hannah read again.

I was lucky enough to hear her read at the EDP Book Awards last year, and felt connected with the text in a way which I hadn’t experienced when reading her poetry at home. (It also persuaded me to dig out her collection of Selected Poems when I got home, and to re-imagine the slants and emphasis of the writing.)

Sophie Hannah’s poetry is clever, witty, and undeniably wicked. Her writing has a vicious, razor sharp edge. Sophie takes everyday incidents, and spins them into bittersweet poems, writing with grace and intelligence. It’s little wonder that she has been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize, while her bestselling psychological thrillers continue to receive critical acclaim.

For a taster of Sophie’s poetry, you can watch her read If People Disapprove on YouTube.

While Sophie Hannah is sure to make you laugh, Don Paterson will make you shift forward in your seat, alert and straight-backed.

Paterson has won most of the poetry prizes around; from the Forward Prize to the TS Eliot Prize (twice). His accolades speak for themselves, but don’t capture the scope and quality of his work. Don Paterson writes lyrically on fable and charm, creating an intimate exploration of the moments that unite us all.  

Don Paterson’s reading is sure to be both thought provoking and moving, and a perfect foil for Sophie Hannah and Hannah Lowe’s readings.

Don Paterson reads Rain:

Last, but certainly not least, Hannah Lowe will also be reading at the event. Hannah published her first full-length collection, Chick, earlier this year. Described as an “extraordinary debut”, the publication heralds a fresh and outstanding voice into the world of contemporary poetry.

Hannah joined us last year to read at The Norwich Showcase and you can watch her reading on YouTube:

Lowe’s sensory poetry is deeply personal. Chick is named after her father, and it tells the story of his extraordinary character, a Chinese-black Jamaican migrant who gambled professionally. Hannah’s poems capture an emotional truth, but always resist sentimentality with peculiar beauty.   

This Rialto event promises to introduce you to a world of brilliant poetry, bringing  established and emerging poets together for an evening of immersive entertainment. And, I for one, can’t wait.

Get your tickets now.

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Guest Blog Post: The Inner Melody of Julian of Norwich's Writing

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 17 April 2013

In advance of Julian Week (6th-10th May), Louise Øhrstrøm, co-ordinator of Julian Week, blogs about the upcoming event with Mikael R Andreasen and Edwin Kelly.

Two international guests will be visiting Norwich for the upcoming Julian Week (6th-10th of May). Danish Mikael R Andreasen will be playing songs he has composed on Julian's lyrics. Irish Edwin Kelly will be reading from his experimental translation of Julian's writings. Louise Øhrstrøm has asked the two artists what they find fascinating about Julian of Norwich as a writer.

In 2010 Mikael R Andreasen's Danish band Kloster released their critical acclaimed fourth album, The Winds and Waves Still Know His Voice, which holds songs based on Julian of Norwich’s Middle English lyrics. Kloster was booked for Roskilde Festival (the biggest music festival in Northern Europe) in 2011 because of that album and has played at a number of venues in Europe.

Mikael R Andreasen heard about Julian from a friend and soon learned that Julian's words somehow seemed really easy to put into melody:

“It was as if the passages contained some sort of inner melody themselves. Later, when I started reading Julian's complete work in English, I noticed, that also just by reading, the text seemed very rhythmic and had an almost melodic ease or flow to it”, Mikael explains.

Edwin Kelly became interested in Julian when he did an MA in Poetry at University of East Anglia. He currently works on an experimental translation of her texts, inspired by an ancient tradition of editing manuscripts:

“I work with Julian's texts in a way I feel it has been worked with throughout the last 600 years or so - simply as an engaged reader who wants to know more. In medieval times this engagement may have been mainly looking for devotional and spiritual guidance. In an academic context, this engagement may look at the production of the text itself. Personally, I'm most interested in the emotional power of the text and how this has been maintained through the centuries. I work with the text as a document of the experience and as a physical object”, Edwin says.

Both artists find that there is something about Julian's voice that makes her writings relevant even for a modern reader.

Edwin explains: “The texts themselves are consistently surprising. Just when I feel I have categorised them, something in their style will lead me to question my assumptions. I think Julian's texts are, to some extent, taken a little for granted. Often, interest is in relation who she is rather than what she wrote. I think people will be pleasantly surprised if they take the time to read and respond to what she wrote. It will deepen their appreciation of a fascinating and surprising figure”.

Mikael R Andreasen particularly likes the way in which Julian talks about suffering and love:

“Today it seems like whenever love hurts a tiny bit, people tend to throw it away in search for any kind of new 'suffer-absent-love.' It is as if we have created a culture where we are trying to avoid suffering at all cost. In such a culture, I find it both interesting and provoking to read how Julian almost asked for an experience of suffering in order to understand what love is all about.”

Meet Mikael R Andreasen and Edwin Kelly at Julian Week at the Comforting Words event.

For more info, please visit the Julian Week website.

Other Julian Week events include:

Julian of Norwich: Poetry Writing and Critical Reading Workshop by poet Edwin Kelly and PhD student Louise Øhrstrøm

Julian of Norwich as a Poet: Language and the Search for Meaning in A Showing of Love

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Translating the Poetry of the Holocaust- A New Collaborative Project

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 05 April 2013

“Translating the Poetry of the Holocaust” is the title of a major new research project led by Professor Jean Boase-Beier at the University of East Anglia, working in partnership with Writers’ Centre Norwich, and including a number of public events.

Historical documents and eye-witness accounts have given us the facts about the mass-murder, degradation and annihilation of whole communities in Europe between the early 1930s and 1945.

“Translating the Poetry of the Holocaust” aims to explore the legacy of poetry created during the Holocaust, as poetry does more than document facts; it invites the reader to engage. Poetry can have a profound emotional effect on its reader, and it is through this emotional connection that we can keep events such as the Holocaust alive in peoples’ memories.

The difficulty in translating this poetry is ensuring that the translation is still interesting and meaningful for readers so far removed in time and place, whilst preserving the original message and meaning of the text. Professor Jean Boase-Beier will be translating the poetry with others, and hopes to further share the work with anyone who has an interest in the Holocaust, or in translated poetry.

Much of the Holocaust poetry we are familiar with is in English translation, written by members of the Jewish communities who were interred in camps, or detained in ghettos, and managed to flee abroad. Boase-Beier is keen to find examples of Holocaust poetry in other languages such as Italian, French or Hungarian, and intends to include poetry written by victims and survivors who were not Jewish. 

This project will result in an academic book, and an anthology of the poetry translated by Jean Boase-Beier and other writers. There will also be a series of public events, and an exhibition. Professor Boase-Beier hopes that anyone who is interested in the Holocaust, poetry, translation, or the movement between culture and languages will attend the events.

The first public event in Norwich will be a Café Conversation held by Jean Boase-Beier, in the UEA Café Conversation series run by BJ Epstein. This takes place on 26th April at 2 pm  in the White Lion Café, and is entitled “What’s the Point of Holocaust Poetry?". Please come along if you are interested- there’s no need for you to have been to any of the other Café Conversations. (Find out more about Café Conversations

Later on in the year there will be an event in a local Norwich bookshop, and on 4th and 5th November there will be a free exhibition on Holocaust poetry and its translation at the Forum. There will also be two workshops, one on each day, and a poetry reading in the Library Training Room on 5th November.

On December 4th there will be a Translation Workshop on Holocaust poetry from 5-7 pm at UEA. This is part of the series of Workshops for the MA students, and, like all Translation Workshops in the series, it is open to members of the public and is a unique opportunity to see what MA students are learning about translation, and to join in. For further details on the workshops contact Dr Cecilia Rossi on

For further details on "Translating the Poetry of the Holocaust", contact Prof Jean Boase-Beier on 

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High Impact- A Literary Tour with a Difference

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 13 December 2012

As a book nerd of the highest order I go to a lot of literary events. A lot of signings, talks, discussions, readings- as long as there’s books involved I’m there. However, sometimes there’s an event that looks so brilliant I know that I’m going to tell all of my friends to come. High Impact is one of those events.

High Impact takes place over six days, across six cities, and features six best-selling and prize winning authors. The writers all hail from neighbouring countries Belgium and the Netherlands, and include authors Chika Unigwe and Herman Koch.

I heard Chika read earlier this year at Worlds from her latest novel, Night Dancer. I have rarely enjoyed a reading so much, or felt a room fall into such a deep silence. Chika has the gift of writing brilliantly, and the much-sought after but only occasionally achieved, gift of speaking brilliantly too. Her reading conjured up Africa and created a character so vivid that if you closed your eyes you could imagine her standing in front of you.  I cannot wait to hear from her again, and would highly recommend her novels.

Herman Koch’s The Dinner is one of my best books of the year. Described as a cross between The Slap (Christos Tsiolkas) and We Need To Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver), The Dinner is a wicked narrative of crises and parental collusion. Interestingly Herman Koch also works as a comedy actor- so his reading is sure to be brilliant.

High Impact will arrive at Norwich Arts Centre on the 18th January, and you can buy your ticket from them online.

The other visiting authors include Lieve Joris, Poet Laureate Ramsey Nasr, Peter Terrin, a psychological thriller writer, and Judith Vanistendael, a graphic novelist.  See below for a little more information about these writers:

Lieve Joris
: whose journalism & non-fiction books on Africa, China, the Middle East & Europe have earned her the reputation as  the VS Naipaul or Ryszard Kapuscinski of the Low Countries. Author of the acclaimed The Rebel’s Hour (Atlantic, 2008):

‘Powerful and timely, intensely imagined.’
- Paul Theroux

Ramsey Nasr
: the Dutch Poet Laureate & all-round Renaissance Man (actor, director, poet, journalist & librettist), famed for his beautiful prose, provocative politics & exciting public appearances. Heavenly Life was published by Banipal in 2010.

‘With this collection Anglophone readers are introduced to a poet of global scope.’
– Marilyn Hacker

Peter Terrin: this year’s winner of the prestigious AKO Literature Prize & author of the magnificent psychological thriller The Guard (Maclehose Press, 2012):

'A rich and gripping mix of all the ingredients that make for a truly haunting atmosphere.'
- Writers' Hub

Judith Vanistendael
: the Posy Simmonds of Belgium; the bold & brilliant graphic novelist of When David Lost His Voice (Self Made Hero, 2012):

‘Big, bleak, brilliant and stark.’ – The Economist

High Impact is sponsored by Flanders House and the Netherlands Embassy in London and curated by Rosie Goldsmith. To find out more about the tour visit the High Impact website.   

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Add a Dash of Salt

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 24 October 2012

The Man Booker is probably the most important award in the UK book industry calendar. Perhaps even the world. So when we at Writers’ Centre Norwich heard that The Lighthouse, written by Alison Moore and published locally by Salt, had been longlisted for the Man Booker we cheered. And when we heard it’d been shortlisted we proposed opening a bottle of champagne and toasting to their success. (Sadly, we don’t keep champagne on ice in the office, so instead celebrated with biscuits and fresh cup of tea.)  

Hilary Mantel was announced as the winner, yet the effects of the Man Booker shortlist are longlasting, as demonstrated by book sales and prestige. The publicity afforded by the Man Booker is undeniably beneficial- Alison Moore has already been approached regarding a film adaptation. The Lighthouse is a stunning novel which explores relationships through an almost painfully close magnification of the protagonist’s life. Throughout the novel, scent plays a crucial part, triggering memories and driving the narrative forward.  It is rare to read a debut novel so accomplished and pitch-perfect.  

That being the case we’re delighted to announce that Alison will be visiting Norwich for a special event with Salt on the 23rd November.

Salt Publishing, supported and hosted by Writers’ Centre Norwich and others, will be presenting an evening of literary brilliance at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library. Authors Alison Moore, Derek Neale and Jonathan Taylor will be reading and discussing their work, while Directors Chris and Jen Hamilton-Emery will be introducing.

Alison Moore is also an accomplished short-story writer, and has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, the Bristol Short Story Prize, and the Manchester Fiction Prize, to name a few. Derek Neale is an award-winning writer of short stories and scripts, and has just had his first novel, The Book of Guardians published by Salt. Jonathan Taylor is the author of Entertaining Strangers and the memoir Take Me Home and is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at De Montford University. Together, these writers will read from their own work and discuss the craft of writing. 

Based in Cromer, Salt has been publishing high-quality literature since 1999. With an impressive established range of poetry and literary fiction, Salt has always been at the forefront of independent publishing in the UK.

Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate the best in literary (and local) independent publishing.

Complementary soft drinks will be provided and books will be sold after the event courtesy of Waterstones. 

Tickets are £2 and available from Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library and Waterstones Castle Street.

Visit the event page.

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To the Moon and Back: Two Very Special Poetry Performances

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 11 October 2012

wonderful, warm, unexpected, funny, moving, emotional and engaging… fact, just smashing!

Poetry has escaped from between the constraining pages of books, and leapt out into the world, ready to twist and sparkle in these new performances at the Castle Museum and Forum Norwich.

is bringing a new show to Norwich: I Gaze From My Kitchen Like An Astronaut, which will be performed in two parts across the 24th November. For a bargain £5 you can enjoy two performances, one at 11am at the Castle Museum with poets John McCullogh and Liane Strauss, and the second at 2pm at the Forum with Karen McCarthy and Tom Warner.

I Gaze From My Kitchen Like An Astronaut combines brilliant poetry with subtle stagecraft to create a stunning performance. Don’t believe me? Here’s what a past audience member said:

The show allowed me to really engage with the poetry, be close to the poets, hear the nuances of the words and be transported to the place and feelings they were expressing.

At moments during the show I became moved in unexpected ways and the use of subtle props gently enhanced the speaking. There was a reflective energy and immediacy which drew me in and made me want to hear more!
Sarah Palmer

Ideal for poetry-lovers and the perfect convert for poetry-sceptics I Gaze From My Kitchen Like An Astronaut is a wonderful immersive experience.

Book your ticket.

Visit the Gaze Like An Astronaut website

Take a sneak peak at the poetry which will be performed.

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Summer Reads 2012; Events So Far...

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 29 June 2012

It hasn’t been much of a summer so far this year, but our Summer Reads reading programme has been in full swing since May. With a host of author events, book club meetings and library events going on, it hasn’t seemed to matter so much that it’s been rainy and miserable.

Our first event was with SJ Watson, author of best-seller Before I Go To Sleep. I read Before I Go To Sleep last year and loved it, so I was thrilled to discover that it had been chosen as one of WCN’s Summer Reads books for 2012.  The event was held at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium  library. The room quickly filled up with readers who sat patiently, clearly filled with anticipation. I noticed that the audience was a diverse mix of people- it’s always interesting looking at the audience for individual events, because it gives a much better idea about who the book appealed to- Before I Go To Sleep is a novel which seems to engage almost everybody!

SJ Watson began the event by reading an extract from the beginning of Before I Go To Sleep. Sam Ruddock, the man behind the Summer Reads programme, began a conversation with SJ Watson which ranged from medical accuracy, to gender, to the nature of the debut novel. SJ said that he didn’t find it difficult to write from the perspective of a woman, because, as a writer you should be able to write from other people’s perspective. The audience laughed when SJ mentioned that he found it odd that people seemed to be comfortable with the idea of individuals writing as serial killers but not comfortable with a man writing as a woman! He did say that he asked his female friends to read the novel and fact check it for him too however...

When the floor was open to the audience for questions there was a constant flow of interested queries. SJ Watson spoke at length about the difficulties of balancing medical accuracy (as he worked for the NHS for a number of years, medical accuracy was imperative!) whilst maintaining the plot and pace of the story. SJ Watson said that he'd thought he had made up Christine’s precise medical complaint, but discovered that there is a very similar case when the book was published.

The SJ Watson event was a great success, and a brilliant start to our Summer Reads reading programme!


During our Worlds Literature Festival we had THREE of our Summer Reads events, making it a jampacked schedule of bookish joy. Our first event was ‘An Evening with Dame Gillian Beer, Jeanette Winterson and Jo Shapcott’ and was completely sold out. Jo Shapcott read from Summer Reads book Of Mutability, which won the Costa Book Award. Jo’s poetry was emotionally charged, and worked perfectly in companion with Jeanette Winterson’s reading of Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal. (Read more about the event in Petra’s Blog.)

Anna Funder, whose novel, All That I Am, was our first Summer Reads book, participated in an event with JM Coetzee and Tim Parks. These three very different authors created a smorgasbord of literary delights. Anna Funder read from All That I Am and then discussed her motivation for writing the novel and the difficulties when crossing over from writing non-fiction to fiction. Throughout the event the audience were clearly hanging upon her every word. During Worlds festival Anna Funder won the Miles Franklin award for All That I Am and was even interviewed from the Writers’ Centre offices for Australian television!

Last, but by no means least, came our event with Teju Cole, author of the multi-award winning Open City. Teju Cole read an extract from Open City  and discussed how his work was influenced by his street-photography. (Take a look at some of his photos on Flickr) The event was so successful that Waterstones almost sold out of Teju’s books! (You can read a long blogpost about the Teju Cole event here)

Listen to a podcast of the Teju Cole event below:

World Voices featuring Teju Cole, Vesna Goldsworthy and Arturo Dorado by Writers' Centre Norwich

Still coming up is an event with Stefan Tobler, the publisher of Down the Rabbit Hole, and with Rosalind Harvey, the translator. Taking place on the 25th of July, you can buy your ticket for only £2 from our website or the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library. (Find out more about the event) This is sure to be a fantastic event, and as a big fan of Down the Rabbit Hole I can’t wait to find out more about the book!

As ever, we have a regular book club which meets to discuss the Summer Reads books. It’s been great to see so many new faces, as well as the regulars of course, so please do come along if you’d enjoy a relaxed evening of chatting about books. Our next Book Club Sessions are for Of Mutability (in partnership with Norwich Poetry Book Club) on the 10th July and for Down the Rabbit Hole  on the 24th of July.

We’re also running a new series of events in libraries across Norfolk. Sam has been visiting the libraries across the county and enjoying chat, Mexican chocolate and intriguing Mexican fizzy drinks.

He says:
‘The Get Involved library events are all about meeting readers across Norfolk, and having a relaxed conversation about books with them. It has been a pleasure to visit libraries that are supporting Summer Reads so well this year, and to see all the great work they do with their communities. I’ve been struck by the warmth with which these events have been received and delighted with the atmosphere and willingness to share that everyone involved has created. I’ve enjoyed every minute of delivering them. Not only have we succeeded in introducing the delights of Summer Reads to lots of readers and book clubs, but I’ve discovered lots of books I’d never heard of too! What could be better?’


Find out more about our Summer Reads reader events.

We love to chat with you about these books, so please do tweet us @WCNbookclub, follow us on Facebook, and check out our Summer Reads Pinterest page!

If you love our Summer Reads illustrations too, check out this blogpost from the illustrator Lauren Marina.

Vote online for your favourite Summer Reads book and you could win book tokens!

Find out more about our Summer Reads reading programme.

Reading is just the start...

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Identity, Censorship and Culture: Challenges Writers Face Across the Globe

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 27 June 2012

The World Voices event was organised as part of our Worlds Literature Festival, our Summer Reads reading program and to celebrate Refuge Week. Naturally, expectations were high. Luckily Arturo Dorado, Teju Cole and Vesna Goldsworthy more than exceeded them.

Arturo Dorado, the City of Refuge Writer in Residence, began the evening with a startlingly honest account of his oppression. A political refugee, Arturo encountered such prejudice and censorship in Cuba that he found he was unable to write. He explained that he found Cuba to be a country with a society built around lies and falsehood and that he believed a totalitarian society was one of perversion and destruction.

Living in a democratic country it is often easy to forget that there are people all around the world who live in a society of censorship, and are denied that most basic human right of free speech. Arturo’s introduction was a well-timed reminder that those of us living in the UK have benefits and rights that people are fighting for in many other countries. He closed his speech by saying that when he first moved to England he felt lonely and homesick, but he hoped that in Norwich he could start his life over again.  For many in the audience, and certainly for me, that was a poignant moment where I felt very grateful for all of the advantages that I take for granted.

Vesna Goldsworthy read from her memoir Chernobyl Strawberries. The extract she read described her father-in-laws funeral. Vesna said her choice was motivated from hearing another Worlds participant, Alvin Pang, discuss his mother-in-law’s funeral and the different customs of mourning around the world. One of the fantastic things about the Worlds Literature Festival is that it inspires and sparks off discussion points and explorations, meaning that you’re constantly forming new ideas whilst struggling to document the old ones.

Vesna’s reading explored the contrast between her country of birth (the former Yugoslavia) and Britain, her adopted country. This comparison of nationalities was described in great detail, with beautiful imagery. As Vesna read about the conflicting customs of Yugoslavia and England I found myself pondering the idea of a mass identity through nationality. It is a strange thing to think that people can be identified not by skin colour, or accent, but instead through some unconscious collective behaviour. (Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox is a great book to read if you’d like to find out more about being peculiarly English) Vesna’s writing seemed to aptly describe the less obvious gaps between cultural practises. Vesna finished by reading two poems from her latest collection The Angel of Salonika.

Teju Cole, author of Summer Reads pick Open City, wore traditional African clothing for his reading. Cole, born in the US to Nigerian parents, grew up in Nigeria then returned to the States for university, and has lived there ever since. Open City tells the tale of a Nigerian immigrant, who moves to New York and learns the city by walking it. Teju Cole describes himself as a writer, art historian, and a street photographer. His writing very much touches on all these aspects of his life. Teju writes as an African in America and he writes visually. As Teju said, he writes the pictures he cannot take.  This cross-over between worlds creates a rich reading experience.

This event was named World Voices, and voices from around the world were certainly encountered.  The evening was an inspiring examination of different cultures and writing from across the globe which left me wondering about identity, and how nationality can help define us. As the overarching theme of Worlds 2012 was ‘Fiction, Memoir and the Self’ questioning the meaning of identity seems to fit in perfectly.   


Listen to the World Voices event on SoundCloud:
World Voices featuring Teju Cole, Vesna Goldsworthy and Arturo Dorado by Writers' Centre Norwich

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Michael Ondaatje and Kamila Shamsie Visit Norwich for an Unmissable Event

Posted By: Rowan Whiteside, 08 June 2012

Although our Worlds Literature Festival includes many brilliant writers- JM Coetzee, Jeanette Winterson, Jo Shapcott to name a few - the event that I am most anticipating is ‘An Evening with Michael Ondaatje and Kamila Shamsie’. Ever since reading The English Patient I have been an avid fan of Ondaatje's novels, and I can’t wait to hear him discuss his writing and inspiration.

Earlier, I was discussing The English Patient with my colleague Sam, and he described the novel as gloriously indulgent and startlingly panoramic. This summary, I feel, describes Ondaatje’s work aptly. His prose style has been honed over the years, but still holds the same lyrical joy of his poetry and his writing continues to embrace the microcosm.

Teju Cole, another author who will be visiting Norwich for Worlds, described Ondaatje as his hero. Cole wrote that “Ondaatje makes language translucent” in this recent Guardian article. Clearly, Ondaatje is a highly influential author, for both readers and writers. For Worlds Ondaatje will be reading from his latest novel, The Cat’s Table, a book which is inspired by his journey from Sri Lanka to England. (Read Annie Proulx’s review on the Guardian)

Kamila Shamsie is Pakistani by birth but is currently living in London and, amongst other things, working as a trustee for English Pen. She is often courted as providing a voice for women in Pakistan. Her most recent novel, Burnt Shadows, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and has been translated into more than twenty languages. Shamsie's Pakistani heritage informs her writing but she believes the human experience is very much universal and this is apparent in her novels. (Listen to an interview with Shamsie.)

Both Ondaatje and Shamsie are of multi-nationality, and as such, provide a unique examination of their birth-countries and adopted countries. The idea of identity will be a major discussion point over the evening and I’m looking forward to hearing how they explore the links between their lives and their writing.

Since reading Jeanette Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal I have been intrigued by the idea of authors rewriting and mediating life experiences through their fiction. (Jeanette Winterson is also participating in Worlds 2012). I know that the event with Ondaatje and Shamsie is sure to offer a fascinating new perspective on fiction and the writing process.

Book your place before it's too late.

Find out more about Worlds Literature Festival. 

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