Muddy review: Stratford Literary Festival
Back for its fifteenth year, the Stratford Literary Festival (AKA Strat Lit Fest) saw authors and readers unite for five days of events, discussions and all round book-lovin’ fun! Muddy’s Suzanne Lane went along to get the lowdown…
Talk about meet your idols… Stratford Literary Festival is brimming full of fabulous authors, agents and other luminaries of the literary world and whether you’re a fan of a budding author (haven’t we all got a book inside us?), it’s a really inspiring way to spend a day or deep dive for the full five-day event.
Unless you’d been living in an internet-free cave over lockdown, there is no way you could have avoided hearing about Maggie O’Farrell’s number-one-around-the-world selling novel Hamnet, which won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020. What with the book being about Shakespeare, and this being HIS town, it was the perfect setting to hear about the inspo behind the book – Maggie’s interest in Shakespeare’s children and how there’s nearly nothing previously written about them.
Before O’Farrell were authors such as Bonnie Garmus and Tessa Hadley, all hosted in the rather smart 4 star Crowne Plaza Stratford, right in the centre of town, which meant I could get pop out for walks along the river and moseying around town, musing over what I’d just heard (and doing some window shopping!).
Other notable sessions that I attended included a Q&A sesh with hugely popular self-publishing phenomenon, Nicola May. As an aspiring self-published author myself, it was perfect for me to get some useful tips from the number one Amazon e-book best seller for her novel ‘The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay.’
After this literacy overload, I went for some much needed brain food at the nearby Pen and Parchment Pub. Fab service, yummy food (think seasonal menu and pub grub) with a lovely atmosphere – just what I needed to prepare for what was to come next!
Then came the scary bit – I was taking to the stage! As one of those people who signs up for something without really thinking it through, I had decided to put myself forward for the Open Mic Night. It seemed like such a good idea at the time of booking, but once the night rolled around I was a bag of nerves – thankfully the bar was open! I needn’t have worried, though. The audience listened to me wax lyrical about my novels (FYI two self-published women’s fiction books) and I managed to get through without saying anything embarrassing or falling off the stage – result!
Saturday morning, and my creative juices were ready to flow again with some more author titbits. I started the day with a Q&A sesh with agent Sophie Lambert, who gave the audience valuable anecdotes on how to get an agent’s attention – fab for authors who are just starting out.
I spent the rest of the day going in and out of different author chats, finding out about lots of books that I hadn’t heard of before (but have now been added to my ‘to-read’ pile). Melissa Fu, Moses McKenzie and Sabrina Mahfouz all chatted about their upcoming debuts, while Emma Smith and Mark Hodkinson took us through the journey of their love of books.
I finished up with the extraordinary Ali Smith, whose novels are always full of fascinating political opinions mixed in with some lighter fiction. She focused on her latest book ‘Companion Piece’ and had us all in hysterics throughout.
The Muddy Verdict
Good For: Anyone who loves to read or is an aspiring author! The Strat Lit Fest is the ideal event for finding out the meaning behind your fav novel, or to join in on some writing workshops to hone your talent. They also do lots of children’s events for those junior budding novelists!
Not For: If you are a bit of a bookworm but don’t care about the person behind the pages, maybe give this one a miss.
The Damage: The events were reasonably priced; on average they were about £10 per adult. Parking at the Crowne Plaza was free, and lots of local pubs gave 10 per cent off the bill for festival-goers.