Preparations are well underway for Shaftesbury’s literary festival, Fiction for Fun. Taking place next week, the inspiring festival will see a wide array of events from different writers and speakers, all celebrating the importance of reading and putting pen to paper. Your New Blackmore Vale met with the festival’s founders, Rosie King and Fran Hill, to find out more.
Tell me about the origins of Fiction for Fun. How did you both come together?
Fran: We came together through last year’s ‘Reading the Land’ book festival. Rosie and I are both fiction writers rather than nature writers, so we wanted to do something with fiction. The Grovesnor Arms were then very kind and offered themselves as a venue. After a few more coffees and chats, it grew it from there!
Rosie: My original idea came from when I taught in Cornwall years ago, and we had Cornwall Children Books Fair. It was a fantastic event with first class children’s authors. As soon as I came here, I realised there were a plethora of book fairs around but nothing in Shaftesbury – not even an independent book shop. We now have the wonderful Folde, but there still isn’t a strong representation. This called for a book fair. Fran and I then stayed in contact after ‘Reading the Land’ and this idea was then born.
How has the planning been for Fiction for Fun? Did anything take you by surprise?
Fran: In a way, everything! We took experience from ‘Reading the Land’ which helped, but the take up and interest has surprised us hugely. The willingness of the writers and those delivering workshops has been amazing.
Rosie: One of the hardest things has been finding sponsors, mostly because we haven’t wanted to step on the toes of ‘Reading the Land’. We know that money isn’t unlimited in the town so we’ve been exceptionally lucky with those who have been able to help us. I’ve also been really amazed at the interest we’ve received, and we really are so grateful for those who have sponsored us, not only with funds but with time and effort as well!
How are you both individually involved with the festival? I know you’re hosting your own event Rosie!
Fran: I will certainly be there for the workshops, holding the hands of people who may not have delivered their writing to others before. I will also be there on hand to talk to anyone about the writing process, and to support our speakers – oh and of course for coffee and cake!
Rosie: Well my coffee morning is the first event! I’ve written a series of historical crime novels, actually inspired by Michael Jecks who is speaking on the Wednesday evening. My books are based in Sherborne, Shaftesbury and a little bit of Salisbury, so I’m looking forward to encouraging people to do some local historical research, whichever time period it may be!
Is there a particular event hosted by another speaker that you’re looking forward to?
Fran: Michael Jecks of course, I’ve been to many of his courses. Sally Page and Della Galton as well. Della isn’t actually just talking about her books and is going to talk about the process of being published with a standard publisher. She’ll discuss the tips she’s picked up in order to get herself published, so that’ll be fascinating.
Rosie: Angela Mcallister I’m looking forward to. Her books are beautiful. I’ve saved some money to buy some for my grandchildren – they’ll just think ‘Oh no! Grandma’s given us a book again!’
Fran: Virginia Moffat too! She’s actually going to interview Sally Page on the day. It’s difficult as every speaker is bringing something different, so they will all be fantastic.
Rosie: We also have one speaker who isn’t an author – John Bartlett. Some of the stories he has to tell are just extraordinary. It doesn’t matter that he’s not published, he has something to say which people may take away with them as inspiration. There’s one in particular that I’ve said he must keep until last. I won’t spoil anything but it’s just amazing. No spoilers here!
The tickets are free for Fiction for Fun. Was this an important factor when planning the festival?
Rosie: Yes, it really was. We had no idea how popular or unpopular it was going to be, so we felt that if it was free, it was an incentive for people to come.
Fran: I agree as well. We have such a variety of speakers, what if someone wants to attend all of them? That will add up! We just wanted to be able to open it to people and inspire them, and to spark up that creative streak within. We all have one. It may have been dumbed down with life, but it’s there somewhere.
Lastly, what would you say to those considering coming along?
Fran: Give it a go. Be inspired. Take away what you can from it but just turn up. It’s a celebration after all!
Rosie: Start with a morning event, which aren’t ticketed, and just go from there! There will be books for sale and lots more, just give it a go!
Tickets for each event are available at https://shaftesburyartscentre.org.uk/events/fiction-for-fun-a-celebration-of-reading-and-writing-fiction/
To become a steward for Fiction for Fun, or if you have any other queries, please get in contact by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org