Friday, 6 May 2011

Village Literary Life

I spent an entertaining few hours in a village bookshop last Thursday evening,
listening to Julia Crouch talk about her highly acclaimed debut novel, Cuckoo. The venue is so tiny, it was a bit of a squeeze to fit us all in, and such was the enthusiasm, and the crush, the owner had to run next door to borrow a couple of chairs. Well, it’s that sort of village.

To get her audience into the mood, Julia started off with a short reading from her book, an unsettling psychological thriller. Then, with our appetites duly roused, she went on to chat informally about what it feels like to have your first novel published, as part of a three book deal. (Pretty brilliant, I would say.)

Julia and I were once, very briefly, members of the same Brighton based writing group, so I was really pleased to hear of her good fortune. I came to that particular writing group as a complete newbie, my dabbles previously having been largely confined to writing blogs. I certainly had never been part of any sort of writing group before. She had already started what was later to become, Cuckoo. I’m glad to report, even on that early encounter, Julia’s novel seemed pretty damn good to me.

Not many weeks after my first session, that particular writing group folded - I swear neither of us were in the least bit implicated - it’s the nature of writing groups apparently. The keen remnants reformed, to make up the select few I now meet with once a month.

Julia appears to have given up the idea of writing groups after only one session, and went on to dizzy heights soon after, but from the four of us that formed the new group, one was quickly published, one is about to be published, one will be published as soon as her agent gets his finger out – and then there’s me – tapping away, getting impatient for my turn.

After the many casualties among bookshops in Southeast England, it’s a pleasure to see The Mint House in Hurstpierpoint flourishing under new and innovative ownership. Where else would you find a bookshop that, along with selling books in a real cross section of genres, houses regular book readings, signings and associated literary events, and is so far sighted as to organise not only a book group, but also a knitting group. A real community gem, long may it remain so.
(The Mint House, Hurstpierpoint, Nr Hassocks, BN6 9PX)


  1. Keep tapping away, Lampie. I am sure you will get there.

  2. Well, you know I'm going to echo Fennie, don't you. You will get there. I'll be with you all the way. Best of luck that your MS has gone off. It spurs me on even more to know you've done yours and it's gone.

    This was an interesting post as I've just joined a writer's group at my nearest town. We've had three really constructive meets so far (it's a new group.)

    And we also have a super little independent bookshop in Church Stretton - Burway Books - who are innovative too.


  3. So hope that one day we shall see you published!

  4. Keep at it, will happen.
    Writing, reading and knitting - I like the sound of your community.