Newark Book Festival 2018

Newark Book Festival 2018

Last year I went to my first ever book festival - Newark Book Festival but I was only able to attend one day. This year I was able to attend events on two of the days. This article is about my experiences of the festival.


Last year I went to my first ever book festival - Newark Book Festival but I was only able to attend one day. This year I was able to attend events on two of the days. This article is about my experiences of the festival.

The first event I went to as part of the festival was a talk with Matt Haig at The Palace Theatre. The talk was on his latest book Notes on a Nervous Planet. I hadn’t read the book yet, but I was impressed by How to Stop Time and I enjoyed reading his tweets on mental health on Twitter, so I decided to attend this event.

My dad and my brother had both read How to Stop Time and loved it as well, so I bought my dad a ticket for Father’s Day and invited my brother to come with us. Our seats were in the stalls second row from the front, so we had a very clear view of the stage.



Matt Haig began the talk by sharing with the audience that he grew up in Newark and was last in The Palace Theatre when he did his work experience in 1990. As part of this he had to look after a donkey which was part of a production going on in the theatre at the time.

Matt then went on to read a small excerpt from Notes on a Nervous Planet.

“The problem isn’t that we have a shortage of time it’s that we have an overload of everything else.”

Matt’s publisher Canongate is a small independent publisher, so the success of Notes on a Nervous Planet was a massive boost for them.

Matt Haig came across as a funny and intelligent man and it was clear from the extracts he read that this was evident in his books.

Matt Haig had written ten books and was a struggling writer before a friend convinced him that his blog Reasons to Stay Alive would make a good book. Initially he was resistant to the idea as he didn’t want to write a self-help book and he wasn’t a celebrity, so he didn’t want to write a memoir. Also, he felt his experience was a common one but that was the point, to show people they weren’t alone.

He wrote Reasons to Stay Alive in a style that would have been easy for him to read whilst he was in the height of his anxiety and depression. The chapters are short and there are a lot of bullet point lists within the book because he found it hard to concentrate on things.

He felt it was nice writing something that helped people and felt less self- indulgent than his novels.

During the talk Matt said that he felt like a fraud after Reasons to Stay Alive was published because he was being hailed as a mental health ambassador when in actual fact he was struggling with anxiety and depression still.

He liked that it got people about mental health and that is something I like about the books as anything that encourages people to talk about mental health is good.

“With this book I wanted to talk about mental health the way we talk about physical health.”

He talks about the unhealthy nature of social media and the negative effects it can have on your mental health but also the positive effects it can have as part of a community.

One of the things I found fascinating was the importance books held in helping him to feel well.

“Mental illness wraps you up in yourself and books place you out of yourself.”

One of the favourite things he said was that people always say that bookish people are anti-social, but they are the opposite. One of the things that frequently irks me is when people describe me as quiet because I like to read.

One of my favourite moments of the talk was when someone mentioned that he had been blocked by Piers Morgan on twitter that morning and the whole audience clapped.

The talk frequently made me laugh and gave me something to think about. What I liked most about the book and about Matt Haig himself was the honesty that was loud and clear when he was talking about his mental health.

On Sunday the 15th of July I arrived in Newark for my second day at the book festival. Last year I went to A Very Vintage High Tea and heard Rowan Coleman talk about The Summer of Impossible Things (which I had read) and The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull (which I hadn’t read but I have now.) This year I was going to Afternoon Tea with Carole Matthews but I was taking a friend as a birthday present.

Prior to heading to The Secret Garden Café for the even we decided to check out the events at the castle and in the market square.

On the way through the castle I decided to leave some books for people to pick up if they wanted them as part of the Book Fairy project (follow link for more info.)

After we left the castle we decided to check out the books stalls in the market square and then we headed to the afternoon tea.

Prior to the start of the event Carole Matthews spent time talking to people and signing their books whilst they waited for their afternoon tea (which was delicious.)

Shortly after the talk started a woman freaked out and jumped out of her seat because a bird had landed on her head. This disrupted the talk and for several minutes everyone was focused on the bird which then spent time flying on people’s tables and handbags throughout the event.

I hadn’t read any of the author’s work before so was interested to hear more about her and her former work as well as her current books. She had recently got married and after writing two books a year for many years she has decided to step back and write only one a year in an effort to gain more of a life/work balance.

Million Love Songs is about a recently divorced woman who tries to find who she is without him.

She spoke about the ways she gains ideas (from real life bits of conversations she hears) and the form her research takes (eating chocolate and drinking prosecco).

She gave a reading from the book and then proceeded to answer questions from the audience about her favourite book she had written (always the last one) and her favourite author (to many to name.)

For aspiring writers, she said that you need to make time to write and you need to have faith in your own abilities.

Carole Matthews spoke about failed projects such as a crime novel she tried to write, and a vampire novel which she was told nobody would want to read as no one wants to read about vampires. This was shortly before the Twilight phase.

She also spoke about her former works such as Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses which I later bought and got signed shortly before getting a picture with her.

I had an enjoyable day and I am looking forward to attending the book fair next year as well.

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