the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

Having a blast at the Mani Lit Fest

Over the weekend, I was delighted to present a workshop and talk at the Mani Lit Fest in the Peloponnese, Greece. The invitation came as a good excuse to continue our itinerant lifestyle and we’re spending the next month roaming around the country. Stoupa makes a delightful starting point and the Mani Lit Fest was a wonderful event to be involved with. I delivered a Get Creative! workshop where I shared prompts and exercises to generate ideas for short fiction. One of the participants had read This Much Huxley Knows and throughly recommended my novel to the gathered group. The following day, I gave a talk about my experience of being published by small presses. This was well received and an email arrived soon after from a member of the audience who said my input was thought provoking and reassuring.

There was a real buzz around the Lit Fest. The highlights for me included a talk from James Heneage (founder of the Chalke Valley History Festival and Ottakar’s bookshop chain) who shared stories from his new book The Shortest History of Greece. Carol McGrath gave a hilarious presentation on Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England (the name of her forthcoming non-fiction book) and then there was a delicious introduction to the cookbook Salt and Honey from Nicholas Tsakiris and his daughter. (David followed a chilli lentil recipe last night which was very tasty.)

The Lit Fest was held at a local restaurant where the venue created a cocktail in honour of Huxley. A non-alcoholic drink (Huxley is only seven years old) can you guess what it contains?

There was also delicious cake (enough for two) called Ekmek Kataifi. It’s made with a layer of syrupy shredded filo pastry, another of vanilla custard, a layer of whipped cream and topped with pistachios. It goes very well with Greek coffee although I think it’s also good with tea.

If you’d like to enter the Mani Lit Fest Flash Fiction Competition (I’m the judge), send up to 1000 words on the theme of return. The competition is free to enter and is open until 30 November 2021.

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Two months in Cambridge

We’ve had a wonderful time staying with an old friend in central Cambridge. Although we’re here for another fortnight, I wanted to share are the highlights so far:

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival

Open air theatre is a particular delight and when plays are staged in Cambridge college gardens, there can be few better venues. Over a six week period we’ve seen plays that I know and love including Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, A Comedy of Errors and two plays which were new to me, Richard III and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Richard III wins the prize for the most gruesome and A Midsummer Night’s Dream was a sheer joy.

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You’re invited!

There’s going to be a Twitter launch party at 3pm BST on Thursday 15 July to celebrate the release of This Much Huxley Knows. Everyone is welcome, especially you!

Twitter launches are a lot of fun and provide the opportunity for readers and writers to mingle virtually and chat about books and reading. To join, all you need to do is use the hashtag #ThisMuchHuxleyKnows in your tweets to follow the conversations. It’s best if you use a social media management programme like Tweetdeck (https://tweetdeck.twitter.com) which allows you to filter tweets with searches on hashtags or specific accounts.

This is what my Tweetdeck looks like and you can see from the columns what I’m following.

If you’d like to start using Tweetdeck, Twitter provides two excellent step-by-step guides covering both the basic (here) and advanced features (here). YouTube is also a great source for user generated how-to videos about using Tweetdeck, such as here or here. (Thank you to Women Writers’ Network for the links.)

I’d love to have you join the Twitter launch for This Much Huxley Knows. It lasts for just one hour and there’ll be questions to put everyone at ease and start chatting. If you need a little more advice or encouragement, do get in touch by emailing gail@gailaldwin.com.

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Come celebrate publication day!

It’s been a long time coming, but today sees the release of This Much Huxley Knows.

The fountain may be dry but the champagne will flow…
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Last few days in Edinburgh

We’re making the most of the little time with have left in Edinburgh with yet another visit to Saughton Park. A walk along the Water of Leith from Stockbridge eventually arrives there. With formal gardens including herbaceous borders as well as neatly-clipped yew hedges, flower and heather beds, what’s not to like? I also admire the renovated bandstand and who can resist a bacon roll from the cafe?

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One month until lift-off

My second contemporary novel for adults This Much Huxley Knows will be released by Black Rose Writing on Thursday 8 July 2021. It’s an absolute delight that this uplifting and humorous book will be available in print and on Kindle. There are so many people to thank for bringing This Much Huxley Knows into the world, so if you fancy reading a copy, do check out the acknowledgements. Of course, if you can’t wait until launch day it’s possible to request an electronic copy from Netgalley.

Later this month, the blog tour begins. I am so impressed with the voluntary workforce of bloggers who do so much to promote books and reading. Here’s the poster:

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A few delights from Edinburgh

We’ve been in Edinburgh for three weeks and are coming to love the city more and more. Previously, we’ve been here during the Edinburgh Book Festival and the Fringe in August, so spending spring in the city is a new experience. Edinburgh seems such a chilled place outside the summer rush. And the real pleasure has been discovering the walkways and paths that crisscross the city. Here are a few of our adventures.

On my sixtieth birthday, we walked to the summit of Arthur’s Seat. (This is the main peak from an ancient volcano that overlooks the city.) It’s very craggy at the top and I had to scamper up like a mountain goat. The views are spectacular. When we were walking down the other side, we met an elderly woman carrying a shopping bag who was on her way up. We stepped aside to let her pass and my husband told her she was nearly at the top. She replied, ‘Och, I know that. I’m taking a short cut home from my Tai Chi class.’ If I’m that fit at her age, I’ll be very happy.

We are renting a flat in Stockbridge which is a few minutes from the walkway of the Water of Leith. From there we can stroll to the sea or go further around the city. The paths are like nature reserves although recently there’s been a distinct pong from the wild garlic. (The figure in the water is by Anthony Gormley.)

Today we walked along the Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal then took a turning back to Stockbridge along the Water of Leith.

Who knows what walking joys await us next week.

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Art under the lockdown lens

In a determined effort to make the most of our freedom before lockdown, David and I visited the Russell-Cotes Gallery in Bournemouth on Saturday. Formerly the home of Merton and Annie Russell-Cotes, the building was completed in 1901 and is stuffed with paintings, sculptures and mementos from overseas travels enjoyed by the couple.

Photo: Ethan Doyle White

Unlike the photo above, it was pouring with rain when we visited, as evidenced by this photo of the leaking conservatory.

Fortunately, the rest of the house is dry! Until 18 April 2021, there is a special exhibition titled Hidden Highlights Life in Lockdown which comprises eighty of the galleries ‘lesser works’ taken out of storage to replace planned exhibitions which had to be rescheduled due to Coronavirus. The gallery invites visitors to reinterpreted the paintings on display through a lockdown lens. Some of the works include hilarious captions which had me laughing out loud. What do you think of these examples?

Shall we drive to Corfe Castle to test our eyesight?

The hand washing and hand sanitising inspection was very thorough
Socially-distanced dating Georgian style

The exhibition has inspired me to run a social media campaign to promote Pandemonium along the same lines. Here’s the first example:

Ghost Buster! Corona Buster!

Stay safe and well.

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Celebrating Libraries Week

Libraries Week is an annual event which takes place during the second week of October. This year it runs from 5–10 October 2020 and aims to celebrate all that UK libraries have to offer. And it’s not just public libraries that participate but school libraries, workplace libraries and university libraries.

Titles available for loan through Dorset Libraries

In Dorset, our libraries have become community hubs where so much more is on offer than the loan of books, audiobooks and DVDs. Babies and young children enjoy songs and rhymes, school children join fun learning activities, residents can find out more about managing health and there’s access to wifi and games. Help is available at the library to find out about employment opportunities, and support to start a new hobby or set up a business. With so much going on, libraries are well worth celebrating.

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Posh frocks, presentations and prizes

Traditionally held at Stationers’ Hall, the eleventh annual awards ceremony for The People’s Book Prize was instead organised via Zoom thanks to Covid19. Finalists from the three categories were there, authors of fiction, non-fiction and children’s literature, plus all the publishers. The evening was hosted by founder Tatiana Wilson and director Tony Humphreys. At one point I found myself virtually rubbing shoulders with prize patron, Frederick Forsyth.

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We wore our finest clothes to make the occasion special. While I drank a cup of tea, others sipped wine. Like all finalists in the fiction category, I was able to say a few words about my novel and then the winner was announced. Author of The Weighing of the Heart gained the the sparkling trophy and I was very pleased to celebrate Paul Tudor Owen‘s success. I’ve been following Paul on Twitter for some time and feel I know him from the podcasts and interviews he’s offered since his novel was launched in March 2019. The Weighing of the Heart is a contemporary novel set in New York where the English protagonist Nick Braeburn becomes fascinated by his landlady’s Egyptian art and a young artist who lives nearby. Paul was very gracious in his acceptance speech and highlighted the importance of small presses in bringing to market stories that are overlooked by the big five publishers.

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Who can you spot in this photo of fiction finalists and others?

Becoming a finalist in The People’s Book Prize has been a wonderful experience. It’s raised the profile of my coming-of-age novel The String Gamesprovided a platform for my publisher Victorina Press and has given me the chance to connect with lots of wonderful authors. And there are many of you reading this post who I have to thank for helping me reach the finals. Without your votes, I would never have come this far. So, let me take this opportunity to thank you very much for your support.

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