Yesterday evening #IndyBookTourCymru2019 took me to the lovely Book-ish bookshop in Crickhowell to chat to readers at their Throw Away (Your Television) Society Book Club about None So Blind and the Teifi Valley Coroner series.
And what an absolutely delightful evening it was!
As you can see from the photo below we were in the bookshop’s café (I do love a bookshop with a café – buy your books then go and sit somewhere comfy and immerse yourself with the beverage of your choice and a cake – bliss!) which made for a very convivial atmosphere and the tea – made with proper leaves – was delicious.
The TA(YT)S book club is run by the two Amys – Amy Vale who works at Book-ish as well as being a book illustraor, and Amy-Louise who is a book blogger. They are a wonderful double act and, between them manage to be calm, welcoming, competent, enthusiastic, insightful, bubbly and huge fun to be with. They’ve created something lovely in the new book club which they launched in January this year. If you live in the Crickhowell area and haven’t yet sampled its delights on the third Monday of the month, my advice is head over and do just that. You can find details on the bookshop’s website.
We had a lot of fun discussing None So Blind. I arrived not knowing what format the evening was going to take and was prepared to talk for a while at the beginning if that was what seemed appropriate. (My notes for the said talk said: ‘1. Why C19 Teifi Valley? 2. How arrive at Harry & John? 3. How continue series?’ just in case I forgot how to speak…) Alternatively, I told the audience, we could just wade in and start asking and answering questions. We decided to do that and the conversation didn’t flag once for almost two hours.
It was just fabulous and I had an absolute ball. I love talking about my writing and it was wonderful to spend time with people who asked really interesting questions – many thanks to all who came along and made it such a memorable evening. Despite the fact that Crickhowell is 45 minutes away I think I might just have to throw my carbon footprint to the winds and join the club.
As the event was hosted by Book-ish, I should just tell you a bit about the bookshop itself. Owned by Emma Corfield-Walters, it’s one of the independent bookselling sector’s big success stories and, a couple of years ago, moved to bigger premises in Crickhowell which very much bucked the trend, at that point, of bookshops closing. (Interestingly, in the last year or two that trend seems to have gone into reverse and, this year, the Independent Bookseller’s Association recorded a slight rise in membership of 15 shops which is very good news indeed.) And this year, for the second time, Book-ish was awarded the title of Welsh Independent Bookshop of the Year in the British Book Awards.
As well as being a leading literary light in the community, organising book clubs, taking books into schools and running numerous author events through the year, Emma is also co-director of the Crickhowell Literary Festival, a 9-day long event which brings writers from all over Wales and the UK to Crickhowell to delight audiences of all ages. I’m delighted to be able to tell you that this year’s festival programme will include a Crime Cymru day – a whole day of crime writing and discussion which will culminate in a panel event with writer Matthew Hall, creator and scriptwriter of Keeping Faith (who also writes the Jenny Cooper, Coroner crime series), Hannah Daniels who plays lawyer Cerys in the series and Catherine Ayers who plays Faith’s ditzy friend, Lisa. Their discussion will be chaired by Crime Cymru founder member and bestselling thriller writer Matt Johnson (www.mattjohnsonauthor.com). If you’d like to know more about the Crime Cymru day or the whole Crickhowell Literary Festival, keep an eye out here as I’ll be announcing the official progamme launch in a couple of weeks.
What Emma has achieved with Book-ish and the Crickhowell Lit Fest is a great example of how a single, visionary individual can shape a whole community. The presence of a bookshop tells you something about a town and a bookshop that is as funky, vibrant, well stocked and inviting as Book-ish tells you a very appealing story about Crickhowell. This is a place where culture and ideas are valued, where people are welcome to come and discuss those ideas with friends, locals and the wider community. It’s a place where you can plug in to the zeitgeist without having to leave Powys – a county not generally thought of as particularly cosmopolitan or cutting edge. That’s the beauty of books and the ideas they nurture – they can be found anywhere, anytime, opening minds and horizons in the least likely places. And, in the times we live in, that’s going to be increasingly important, I think.
Huge thanks to Emma, Amy and Amy for their enthusiastic welcome both to me and the Teifi Valley Coroner series – it was an absolute pleasure to be part of the Book-ish world for an evening!