Yesterday saw the second BeaconLit writing festival in Ivinghoe, Buckinghamshire. The inaugural event last year only consisted of an afternoon but this year the programme was extended to a full day.
The morning programme gave us options ranging from Dave Sivers’ experiences of self-publishing, Creative writing sessions, Crime novelist Alison Bruce giving tips of interesting ways to kill your characters, and Mardibooks founders Martin Godleman and Belinda Hunt talking about publishing pitfalls.
The afternoon had three sessions – a Young Adult discussion panel with authors Hilary Freeman, Teri Terry and Caroline Green, a talk by Catherine Jones and Mandy Kirkby about the non-fiction book ‘Love Letters of the Great War’, and finally the Crime panel with Stephen Booth, Anya Lipska and Jane Isaac.
What I liked about the panels was the fact that each and every guest had something valid and interesting to say. The YA panel brought a level of depth and credibility to what many see as an ‘easy’ genre (which I know for a fact is not the case), the Great War letters panel brought us all down to earth by the sadness and beauty of the letters, and the Crime panel – despite its gory theme – brought a high amount of humour, as well as interesting viewpoints between hero and villain.
Increasing the programme to a full day was a big step for the festival committee to deal with and I think they did a fantastic job in organisation. The atmosphere was good-natured yet professional, and at no point did I feel the delegates were being harried or jostled to meet a time deadline. All of the guest authors were exceptionally friendly and approachable, as were the other delegates I managed to speak with. A mention should also be given to the ladies who staffed the front door and the refreshments stand, who all did a great job (and with smile). There were a couple of issues which I know Dave Sivers felt as though could have gone better but they were elements beyond his, or the rest of the committee’s control, and didn’t spoil an otherwise enjoyable day.
As a side note – part of the day’s activities was a flash fiction story competition, open to all delegates – max 150 words with ‘beacon’ as a theme. I was very happy, and surprised, to be announced as the winner. Here’s my story:
The Longest of Nights
They said if I lit the Beacon then help would arrive. They said men would gather and drive the invaders from our lands. They were wrong.
The Sais chose their moment well. They’d harried our borders for months – killing the menfolk, stealing their cattle, taking their women and children as slaves. Bishop Iestyn said it was punishment because many of us still followed the old ways and hadn’t taken his murdered God to our hearts.
Some think the dead only walk our paths during Samhain but on this, the longest of nights, the veil between worlds is at its thinnest so we light fires for our ancestors, to guide their shadow bodies to our doors. Together we celebrate the solstice and tomorrow’s rebirth of the sun to our land.
Yes, the Sais chose their moment well – for who would notice one Beacon when the whole land was on fire?