Newark Book Festival

Newark Book Festival

Summer is here and it is the start of the festival season. For me that meant going to my first ever book festival: Newark Book Festival. This article is about my experiences whilst I was there.

I found out about Newark Book Festival completely by accident whilst I was investigating author events in my area. It took place on Saturday the 15th and Sunday the 16th of July but unfortunately, I was only able to attend the events on the Sunday.

After careful consideration, I decided to attend A Very Vintage High Tea Afternoon Tea at the Secret Garden Café with Rowan Coleman and Rebecca Mascull. I hadn’t read anything by Rebecca Mascull but I had read The Summer of Impossible Things recently and I was really excited to see Rowan Coleman.

On the morning of the 16th I excitedly set of for Lincoln train station and spent the train journey wondering what my first ever book festival would bring. On my arrival at Newark Castle train station I decided to make my way towards Newark Castle as I knew some of the events for the book festival were happening there.

However, I soon realised that the events at the castle were aimed at children, there were face painting stalls and games set up but nothing that interested me. I looked around a little bit but I saw that there was nothing there that would interest me so I took a photo of one of my books for my Instagram account and then I moved on.

My next stop was Newark market place and I was slightly disappointed by the lack of stalls, there were only a handful. The ones that were there were interesting and contained second hand books, or books from authors trying to promote their work. At one stall, I bought a bag to carry my purchases for the day in. In the end, I only purchased two books as I was planning on buying more but unfortunately ran out of time. When I left the market place I headed straight for the event.

The Secret Garden Café is a delightful little place accessed through a little art gallery in Newark town center. I was greeted at the door to the event and asked if I was alone or meeting a friend. I said I was alone so the woman told me to pick any available table. There was a free table directly in front of the authors so I chose that one. The garden of The Secret Garden Café was beautifully decorated, it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere rather than in a town center. Whilst I waited for a coffee I spent time looking around me and admiring the beautiful garden.

Before long the authors were ready to begin their talk. It wasn’t a smooth start to begin with as firstly there were a group of women who weren’t ready to finish their conversation and then an ambulance went by siren blaring. Eventually, there was enough silence for the authors to be heard. Rowan Coleman and Rebecca Mascull were both funny and engaging during the event.

Rowan Coleman began by talking about her book: The Summer of Impossible Things. She spoke in depth about her inspiration and then gave a brief reading from the book. The reading was from the moment Luna realises she can travel back in time. The Summer of Impossible Things is about a girl called Luna. Luna learns that thirty years ago, in Brooklyn something terrible happened to her mother that changed her life forever. Something she is only willing to reveal to Luna and Pia after her death.Still reeling from the unexpected death of their mother, the sisters decide to visit her mother’s birthplace in order to settle her affairs and discover more about the woman they loved so much.Once they are there something impossible and magical happens to Luna and she meets her mother as a young woman in the Summer of 1977. But when every action has a consequence, can Luna change her mother’s life without erasing her own?

For more information on The Summer of Impossible Things please read my review.

Rebecca Mascull went next and spoke about her book: The Wild Air. Della Dobbs is a shy young girl living in Edwardian England until she meets her American aunt and is left with a burning ambition to become a pilot. Prior to coming to the event, I hadn’t heard of the book or the author but I left intrigued by both.

After both authors finished there was time for some questions from those in the audience. I found myself tongue-tied but it was interesting listening to the questions from other people and the answers from the authors. One of the questions asked was about the research process both authors used whilst researching their books. Rowan Coleman said one of the things she did was to visit the area of Brooklyn where the book was set and to interview people.

Rebecca Mascull said her initial research involves looking in second hand book shops for books on the topic she is researching. She said that one of her favourites is Tim Smith Books in Horncastle, a place so full of books you feel they could come toppling at any time. Having visited this shop myself I knew what she meant. She also said that she had spoken to someone who used to fly the planes involved, had been on simulators and had also been in one of the planes. The description of this alone made me want to read her book.

They discussed why they chose the time period their books were set in and the importance of historical accuracy.

When it came to writer’s block both authors had interesting things to say. The advice essentially boiled down to ‘crap words’ being better than no words at all. Also, just because you think something you have written is terrible that doesn’t necessarily make it the case. Another thing they agreed on was that writers are often short on time to write so any writing time is precious. This means that they can’t waste time trying to get the perfect words.

Rowan Coleman and Rebecca Mascull both discussed the process of getting an agent and of becoming successful. They agreed that success isn’t necessarily becoming as big as J.K. Rowling, it could be just having a book published in the first place. In terms of getting an agent they both agreed on the importance of finding the right agent, about researching the agent to make sure the fit is right and about persevering. Both agreed that getting an agent takes time, it can take decades.

When everyone had finished asking questions the staff of the café announced they were preparing the afternoon tea. During this time people started to go up to the authors to ask them to sign books. I had brought my copy of The Summer of Impossible Things but I didn’t have a copy of The Wild Air so I bought that and then went up to get them signed.

This was the first time I have ever had a book signed whilst I have been there so this was an exciting moment for me. I spoke to Rowan Coleman about her book and told her I bought it after I reviewed it and that I was meant to be working but had swapped a shift so I could be there. I then spoke to Rebecca Mascull and she told me she used to live in Lincoln and that she had been asked to talk at Lincoln Book Festival but was unable to. I didn’t even realise there was going to be a book festival in my city so I was really pleased by this information. She then told me that she was going to be doing a talk at Lindum Books in October instead.

When I sat back down again I enjoyed my afternoon tea and spent time talking to an aspiring children’s author who was sat at the table with me. The afternoon tea was delicious and definitely one I would recommend. The sandwiches were cheese and chutney, salmon, cream cheese and cucumber and ham. Then there were scones with Jam, Cream and Butter and a variety of delicious looking cakes. The food was delicious.

When I left both authors said bye and thanked me for coming. This definitely won’t be my last book festival or my last visit to The Secret Garden Café.

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