Image above: Local Authors’ Party in the Boston Room of George IV; photograph Roger Green
Chiswick has a long and impressive literary history. Among the authors who have lived and worked in Chiswick are Booker prize winner Iris Murdoch and two Nobel Laureates no less: WB Yeats and Harold Pinter.
Among the list of authors who are still alive and kicking and living in Chiswick are TV presenters Clare Balding and Richard Osman and Costa First Book award winner, novelist Sadie Jones.
There are so many writers out there, of all types of book, that it is hard to attract attention to your manuscript once you have it finished and even once it’s been published. Each year at the Chiswick Book Festival, the organisers give local writers the opportunity to make a presentation about their work. The Local Authors’ Party is sponsored by Waterstones in Chiswick, who also sell their books.
Image above: Local Authors’ Party, all the authors on stage; photograph Roger Green
The Chiswick Book Festival 2021 Local Authors’ Party was held on Tuesday 7 September in the Boston Room of George IV. Altogether 19 authors talked about their books. To make it fair and a bit more fun, Programme Director Jo James times the authors, giving them two minutes each, and blows a horn – her ‘Horn of Doom’, if they go over.
She only had to use it once or twice as the authors gave slick, polished presentations, almost all to time. Here are the authors and their books, in the order in which they appeared at the event.
Calum Kerr – Dirty Money, Terrble People
Calum told the audience he wrote as he liked to read – “short chapters, short paragraphs, short words and very tall tales”. Dirty Money, Terrble People is a work of adult fiction – the second one about “terrible brothers”. It was, he said “a terrible series” in which the main characters had loads-a-money and lived respectively on Hartingdon Rd and Chiswick Mall.
Calum has worked in the New York and London financial markets with board roles in the industry and spent twenty years with KPMG and EY – two of the “Big Four” global accountancy firms, so he speaks of the world of financial scullduggery with some authority.
Zoe Antoniades – Cally and Jimmy, Twins in Trouble
Zoe said she had come to Chiswick via Cyprus and gone to school here. Her children’s book was based on her Cypriot family, in which twins Cally and Jimmy, (‘Cally’ being short for ‘Calista’), were brought up by their Greek granny. She had met an agent at a previous Chiswick Book Festival she said, which had led to a book deal. Her first book Twins in Trouble, and second, Twintastic, will be followed by a third book, Twins Together, which is due out in February 2022.
“I’m Cally” she read from the introduction to the book, “short for Calista, which means, I don’t want to sound big-headed or anything, ‘most beautiful’. I’m not sure about Dimitri, but if Dimitri means most-annoying-brother-in-the-whole-wide-world, then that’s him”.
They get together and bake some poisonous cakes, amongst other things. Twins in Trouble is intended for ‘newly confident readers’.
Jason Sandy – Thames Mudlarking, Searching for London’s Lost Treasures
Jason has found Celtic swords the nose of a woolly rhino, buttons, coins and medieval pilgrim badges amongst the stuff he’s picked up off the shore of the River Thames. His book is all about his serendipitous collection and how he finds it by mudlarking.
The incredible, forgotten history of London through objects found on the foreshore of the River Thames.
Nicholas Bromley – Stage Ghosts and Haunted Theatres
Nicholas has worked in theatre all his life and has complied the stories he’s heard about stage ghosts and haunted theatres in many of Britain’s 1,200 plus playhouses. The ones he’s included, he said, are those which are either famous or recounted to him personally by people he believed.
Albie Amancona – Still Breathing, 100 Black Voices on Racism
Albie spoke of the personal accounts in the collection of 100 Black Voices on Racism, variously hopeful, frightened or shocked – sometimes all three – but always enlightening.
Still Breathing assembles a cast of 100 Black voices to talk about their experiences of racism in Britain. Actresses Suzette Llewellyn (Eastenders) and Suzanne Packer (Holby City) are joined by musicians, Members of Parliament, poets, artists, athletes, civil servants, doctors, lawyers, and others to give their testimonies.
Catherine Jessop – Pulling Through: Help for Families Navigating Life-Changing Illness
Catherine spoke movingly of her personal experience of witnessing her husband have a seizure while reading something to the family on Boxing Day 2016. Other seizures followed. It turned out he had Autoimmune Encephalytus. The impact of the illness on her husband and the entire family – two children at university, one still at Chiswick School – was severe.
“This book” she said, “is the book I needed to help with all the practical things you don’t know about until you are in this situation”.
Things like what happens when sick pay stops being paid by an employer after ten weeks, the top ten things not to say to friends when a family member falls ill and how to look after your own mental health.
“If you know someone who’s ill, this book is for you”.
Ryan Wilson – Let That Be a Lesson
Let That Be a Lesson is a collection of anecdotes from a teacher’s life – “some which will make you angry, some sad”, Ryan told the audience “but mostly funny”.
Based on his experience of working in a school “not a million miles away from here” it’s a collection of stories harvested from students and teachers, such as the PE teacher who spent time trying to wrestle a child into their gym kit, only to find the child had been sent in with a pillow case by mistake, and the child who, when asked if any of the class could name a play by William Shakespeare, bravely raised his hand to suggest a title:
“I think he wrote James and the Giant Peach” he said.
“It’s a rip off of This is going to hurt by Adam Kay” Ryan told the audience in the Boston Room, only translated to the classroom.
Eleni Kyriacou – She Came to Stay
Eleni set the scene of 1950s London – a smog which gripped you by the throat; policemen holding flares so that people could find their way through it – which her mother encountered as a 26 year old woman arriving alone in London from Cyprus.
She lived with her brother, whose only interest it seemed was to try and marry her off, while gambling away the rent money. She got work in a nightclub and eventually settled happily in London.
Eleni’s work of fiction is about how things might have gone very differently, had she taken a wrong turn in those murky streets.
John Griffiths – The Write Escape, how one actor coped with COVID
John recounted how he had been about to step out on stage at the Waterside, Aylesbury, as an actor when they got word that the theatre was to shut on 16 March 2020. His book is an account of how he coped with lockdown, through prayers, poems and psalms which he started writing about in a daily blog, which in turn became a book. He writes about “the triple loss of livelihood, colleagues and identity” but, he said, the overall tone is one of faith in the human spirit.
Kim Ansell – Frederick the Fox
Frederick the Fox is a grumpy old fellow, a character Kim invented with her sister Lisa, when Kim was on maternity leave and Lisa on furlough last year, she told the audience. This beautifully illustrated children’s book is written in rhyme and follows Frederick on his adventures, during which things don’t go to plan.
He got to the beach and he laid out his towel,
But the sea made him itch and the sun made him scowl.
He got to the fair with a big helter skelter,
But it started to rain and he had to take shelter.
As he experiences one mishap after another, he realises that really the key to happiness is his friends at home.
Jim Sitch – Donald Trump and Me
Jim started writing a diary on the day before Donald Trump’s inaugeration and kept it up for 1,462 days. It charts Trump’s presidency through quotes from the likes of Johnny Depp and George Cluny as well as Trump’s own daily witterings. Him’s book had not been published by the time of the event, but is due out shortly.
Kate Mikhail – Teach yourself to sleep: An ex-insomniac’s guide
Kate was an insomniac, but isn’t any more, she told the audience, because she taught herself not to be. Teach Yourself to Sleep is the product of her experience over five years. There’s no quick fix, she said, but we can all make choices during the day which will affect the quality and quantity of our sleep at night. He book, she said, is based not just on her own experience, but on research and interviews with experts.
“Our bedtime routine should start the minute we wake up” she said.
Lena Shah – Impetus, No cover up
Lena is a Mindfulness coach who has written a book of poems and prose which is a personal reflection on how to soothe your soul.
Mark Pallis – The Fabulous Lost and Found and the little French mouse
Mark’s books introduce children to learning langauges in a fun way. The inspiration, he said, came from smuggling cauliflower into his own kids’ mashed potato. If you smuggle some foreign phrases into stories, they pick them up easily, and painlessly. He’s working his way through the world’s languages, having just finished Eritrean.
The most recent book on sale, The Fabulous Lost and Found and the little French mouse, introduces 50 French words in a heartwarming book for young children.
Helen Batten – The Improbable Adventures of Miss Emily Soldene: Actress, Writer and Rebel Victorian
Helen’s fictional character is the illegitimate daughter of a Clerkenwell bonnet maker, and the year is 1860. Emily Soldene is 22 and already has two children. She establishes a career in Music hall and gets a break into performing opera. She goes on to become a producer, putting herself in the lead role always, and conquers Australian theatre audiences and Broadway.
Josephine Perry – I Can: The Teenage Athlete’s Guide to Mental Fitness
“We’ve just witnessed the Olympics”, said Josephine, “and seen the phenomenal physical fitness of Olympians and Paralympians.
“They have to be incredibly fit mentally as well” she said.
Her book, The Teenage Athlete’s Guide to Mental Fitness, outlines the techniques for teenage athletes to conquer their nerves and develop the mental toughness they need to do well.
She tried a very quick breathing exercise on the assembled company – a risky strategy with Jo hovering with her horn at the ready – but just squeaked it in to her two minutes.
Andrew Maunder – Enid Blyton: A Literary Life
Andrew has written a biography of Enid Blyton, who he said has received a bad press over the years, seen as a racist and as a bad mother. Contemporary author Alison Uttley, who wrote the Little Grey Rabbit series, declared Enid Blyton’s books fit only for the jumble sale.
Andrew reassesses one of the most successful children’s authors ever to have written, examining her rise to fame in the 1920s and the ways in which she managed her career as a storyteller, journalist and magazine editor. Author of the Famous Five, the Secret Seven, Malory Towers and Noddy series, for forty years she was one of Britain’s most successful and powerful writers.
Brian Dobbs – Black and White: The Birth of Modern Boxing
Brian’s book takes us back to 1921 and the days when boxing was a more popular sport than football in this country. The Times gave more coverage then to a notorious fight than it gave to the World Cup final in 1966, he told the audience in the Boston Room.
In his richly illustrated 450 page book, he looks at boxing in the early years of the 20th century, examining how it was that Black boxers were officially banned from title fights and what boxing meant to ethnic minorities in immigrant communities, in a comprehensive study of the sport from its bare knuckle days to the modern era.
Louise Burfitt-Dons – The Secret War
The Secret War is the third in Louise’s series of thrillers and concerns itself with the intelligence war between the secret services of China and the US, beginning when Helen Rogers, “a fantasist and fortune hunter” is found dead in her bath on a cruise ship …
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