Thursday, August 16, 2007

Great Big Blog Party #60 Caerleon Special

So - Caerleon has great courses, friendships, food - but that's not all. As the organisers my dear friends Anne and Gerry Hobbs always emphasise, it is a Writers' Holiday - so you can do everything or nothing. I've been to Caerleon and I've joined in everything - run one course, attended another, been to all the Main Lectures, a couple of After Tea Sessions, the Poetry Reading, the afternoon trip out, the Welsh Male Voice Choir Concert . . .Phew!

And I've been there and done nothing at all. There was the year I had a deadline and I gained a reputation for disappearing off to my room at every opportunity. 'Kate's locked in her room with a hot Italian' was the story that went round Caerleon that year. It did my image a power of good - and the resulting book - The Sicilian's Wife - was a brilliant success too!

But there's plenty of fun to be had in Caerleon as well as plenty to learn and to find out about. There's the final Concert Evening which I've mentioned and there are the trips out on the Wednesday Afternoon. You can visit Cardiff or the Welsh Folk and Country Museum at St Fagan's - or you can really go for Book Overload and take the coach to Hay on Wye.

Hay on Wye is the Town of Books. Mostly secondhand boooks - shops and shops of them - and streets and streets of shops!

Every year I lose the BM as he disappears into book heaven and emerges, blinking, several hours later with innumerable carrier bags filled to the brim with musty, dusty old books and an expression of pure bliss on his face. I just thank heaven that we're not flying to and from Wales - we would have to pay for excess baggage every time.

And I've barely mentioned Caerleon village itself where you can visit the remains of the Roman Fortress,find out about Caerleon's links with King Arthur, explore the wonderful little museum or simply sit in the sunshine and stare at the river. The BM's friend Les tells me that there is excellent beer in the local pubs as well and he should know - he organises the traditional Pub Crawl every year.

And the traditional Poetry Reading. Every year anyone who goes to the Poetry Writing Course - or who just wants to join in the reading - gathers for the 'Open Mic' evening. And it's at this event that the notorious Caerleon Mad Russians have appeared for the past 3 years or so.

The first Russian immigrant poet to appear was Dmitri Todgeroff who bore an unfortunate resemblance to the BM. He was soon joined by Vladimir - who looks surprisingly like Les and then there is the lovelorn Tatiana who sends Dmitri love poems every year. There are rumours of a Russian Poetry collection next time . . .

So that's Caerleon in brief - is it any wonder that the BM and I - and many many other Caerleon 'regulars' - Kathy, Val, June - sending you special hugs - are addicted and each time we go there the week just seems to fly by. Just writing about it makes me wish I was back there.

Oh yes, and just to prove that we do actually do just a little work - here's the BM holding forth on writing History.

And yours truly talking about How Not To Write A Romance

And so, to round off this Caerleon Special - and the whole Great Big Blog Party - is Guest Blogger number 60 - the brains (and the beauty) behind Writers' Holiday - the fabulous Anne Hobbs who thought of the whole idea 20+ years ago and has been running the fabulous event with her husband Gerry ever since.

I photographed Anne as she wrote her blog in the Bookroom at this year's Caerleon - and it's a picture that really sums up the mood and the atmosphere of Caerleon and the warm personality of Anne herself.

So if Caerleon is the writing event withe heart, then here's the heart of Caerleon : Anne Hobbs

Kate Walker kept me awake last night-again. To be more precise her 50th book did. Being really pedantic but, terribly honest, it wasn’t so much the book's fault as the Sicilian hero between the sheets - ahem - pages!

Not only am I a huge fan of Kate Walker's but I’ve had the pleasure of introducing her as a main lecturer at Writers’ Holiday this year. I wonder how many realize what a great sense of humour she has. Being a coward and of fairly sound mind I’m not going to repeat here any of the probably libellous, certainly comical instructions on “How not to write Romance”.

Writers’ Holiday is an annual event held at the Caerleon Campus of the University of Wales-Newport. My husband and I originated and run the holiday, without the aid of safety net or the dubious benefits of a committee. The whole thing began as an act of friendship and it’s the friendship of the speakers, course lecturers and that of the delegates that has kept us doing this insane thing for over twenty years.

As you can imagine it’s pretty hectic trying to look after almost 150 people and I need my beauty sleep more than most (my own mother will testify to the truth of this) so I really needed Kate’s fiftieth book like Britain needs more rain right now. Not that I’m complaining, but the two bottles of Champagne and a quantity of wine (undisclosed amount to protect the guilty from the Really Nice Alcoholics association) we consumed in order to celebrate the safe arrival of Kate’s fiftieth child didn’t do much to make the holiday the run without hiccoughs.

It would be quite a good idea to reach for the sick bag at this moment-but in truth, and with the benefit of over twenty years experience, I can honestly say the more successful the author the more willing they seem to be to pass on their hard won knowledge to would-be –writers.

Writers’ Holiday delegates not only receive tuition from the very best, they are royally entertained by them and where else can you go and find it perfectly normal to sit and enjoy excellent food, alongside top Mills and Boon authors, agents, publishers and above all, in an intoxicating atmosphere of fun and friendship… I think I just talked myself into running this event for another twenty years.

To the bags under my eyes - sorry, to the extra pounds in weight from the good food and unreasonable amounts of alcohol - sorry. To Kate and all my friends at Writer’s holiday a big thank-you and I look forward to partying with you all again next year!

If you could ask any writer just one question - which writer would you choose and waht would you ask them?


Well the prize was supposed to be a couple of books from some of the speakers at this year's Writers' Holiday - but then Zoe and Jane wanted to join in the Blog Party too so their prizes went into their blogs - and you've already had Marina Oliver, Iris Gower and Jane Wenham-Jones as guests on here. You've even had the BM aka Dmitri. I'd offer you the Mad Russians' Poetry Collection From Petrograd To Pudsey but that's still in production. So I thought we might as well go back to the beginning and I'll offer as a prize the whole reason for this Blog Party in the first place - that 50th title of mine. And because it's one of two linked books, then I'll throw in the other book as well.

So the final 60th Great Big Blog Party prize is a signed copy of

The Sicilian's Red-Hot Revenge and its linked title

Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride

And thank you all for coming to my party!

But I can't end without posting one last special picture of Caerleon - this is a wooden sculpture that is in the grounds of the college - I've passed it every day I've been in Caerleon and I love it. (If you can't imagine what it is - think of a wonderful Welsh Dragon disappearing underground and leaving only his tail sticking out).

And if these reports on Caerleon have whetted your appetite and made you want to think about trying the Caerleon experience for yourself then you can check out the details here

I won't be running a course next year - next one I'm doing is 2009 - but if you can't wait till then, then take a look at the Fishguard Novel Writing Weekend which you'll find here. It's a shorter event and hasn't as much variety to offer as Caerleon but the tutors are every bit as enthusiastic and welcome is every bit as warm - it's run by Anne and Gerry to so it has just the same atmosphere.

Maybe I'll see you at one event or the other.


Ayla said...

Heh i was at the campus and town today with my fiance, =D

Anne McAllister said...

Great party, Kate! Now I wish I had time to sleep it off. Unfortunately, the deadline is appearing on the horizon and headed this way.

Virginia said...

Hello, I think I would choose Constance O'Banyon, because she is whose books I got hook on first. I also have all of her books. I would ask her where she comes up with her ideas and when will her next book is coming out? She only has one or two a year.

Anonymous said...

It would be Lucy Maude Montgomery. I love the Anne of Green Gables series and here in Canada we had the TV series 'Anne of Avonlea'. There even is a place called Avonlea in Sask. where my aunt lives. I'd ask her about her story idea for Anne and if she based her on anyone she knew.

robynl (blogger is being bad)

nathalie said...

I would like to ask Edith Hull how she got the idea for the Sheikh... amazing book - I read it about 10 times, and she started a whole new romantic genre!!

ilona said...

My question would be for you and it would be:
How do you manage it - writing 50 such different stories and still keep us readers hooked?

lidia said...

This party was great. I hope that all of the authors and readers had as much fun as I did participating in this amazing celebration.

My question is for Kate. As you know I've been reading HPs for many, many years. What amazes me is how many authors are still writing. More amazing is how they are able to move on with the times and write books that are acceptable for the given time.

Therefore, my question to Kate is: How difficult is it for you when you come up with an idea/plot to write it in such a way that it is acceptable by today's readers versus what might have been acceptable 20 years ago?

Thanks for the fun!

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

What lovely photos!!!

My question is for Kate Walker.

Do you have any lucky writer's charms to hand out to wanna-follow-in-your- footsteps writers. :D



Dena said...

Well I would like to know Kate who and how did your husband get his nickname? it's adorable. Actually my question Kate is if there was another genre that you would be interested in writing a book in?

Thank you Kate for such a wonderful 2 month plus party. I know it took a lot of planning and organizing.It has been such a treat to have so many guest bloggers,thanks to them all too.You and all the guests have been very generous and I am amazed at the quantity that you all have contributed. Thanks for all the stories,insight,and fun.


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