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Literature and the Spoken Word

Autumn is my favourite time of year. In our house it is birthday season and that always means that a couple of treats are in store – this year’s include planned trips to Canterbury and Rye. Despite the shorter days, I have more energy after the heat of summer gives way to gentler days, the comfort of woollies,  the prospect of crunching through leaves and – these days it seems – the pick of my local book festivals.

Hearing Esther Freud speak a couple of months ago, she commented that it has never been easier for authors to get closer to their audiences. Here is how you can do it:

Literature & Spoken Word at the Southbank Centre – with its focus on ‘Ten years on since 9/11’, speakers include President Jimmy Carter, Amin Maalouf and Mourid Barghouti. Also speaking are Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, who will read from her collection Rapture, and Edmund de Waal who will talk about his extraordinary memoir, The Hare with the Amber Eyes. For the full programme go to SOUTHBANKCENTRE.CO.UK

Wimbledon Bookfest, 1 – 9th October 2011 –  my (original) hometown – offers a 9-day programme including biographer Claire Tomalin in coversation with James Naughtie about Dickens, author Penny Vincenzi, Writer and broadcaster Daisy Goodwin and Sportswriter of the Year, Brian Moore. Bookfest is also offering 500 copies of Emma Donoghue’s Orange Prize nominated Room to book clubs. To sign your bookclub up email: or for the latest news go to Top tip: go to an event in the atmospheric music room at 17th Century Southside House (open to the public again for the first time since a fire in November 2010 threatened this historic building) – you may find one of the curators’  dogs sitting on your feet.

Guildford Book Festival, 13th – 22nd October, hits back with a varied rosta: days dedicated to specific genres to help those who are visiting the area plan their perfect schedule (Saturday 22nd October is for Crime fiction addicts, £6 per event or £27 for the whole day); workshops for writers; Readers’ Day, giving readers an opportunity to share their enthusiasm for reading and hear what authors read and who inspires them. Events often involve several authors in discussion – Marika Cobbold, Isabel Ashdown and Susanne Bugler, for example, or perhaps Coffee with See Gee, Jojo Moyes and Fanny Blake –  providing excellent value for money, and even more opportunities to get your books signed. (A signed copy of a favourite book is the perfect Christmas present, and festival bookseller, One Tree Books, Independent Bookseller of the Year 2010, will be discounting many titles.) In addition to the array of fiction writers, you can delve into history with Neil Oliver and David Wilson, learn how to bake the perfect cake with Dan Lepard, stretch your brain with Johnny Ball or howl with laughter as Barry Cryer takes you through the alphabet.  PS: did I mention the shopping?  If I didn’t, remember to allow a couple of hours in your schedule. Log on to book tickets at