Fringe Box



Bookfest: Plenty Of Chat And Coffee Draws Audience In

Published on: 17 Oct, 2014
Updated on: 17 Oct, 2014

By Maria Rayner

Middle-aged women in flowing scarves and swirly cardigans, eating cake and cackling at mildly risqué jokes: disciples of the country’s best known and loved romantic novelists gathered at House of Fraser’s Tea Terrace.

Authors who are members of the

Authors who are members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association give writing tips.

Truly, Madly, Deeply on Thursday, October 16, was part of the Guildford Book Festival and billed as an author coffee morning. Most writers who take part in the event have a recently published book to flog. In this case it was a collection of short stories under the same title.

I nearly didn’t make it. Let down by my companion, whose son was ill, a flat tyre and lack of signage, I arrived just in time, and flopped down on the closest table with a friendly face.

I rarely go to such things on my own, and don’t think I’m unusual as all of the other tables were filled with chatting female couples. I wouldn’t worry another time.

It was a friendly gathering. The cafe wasn’t completely closed and the chatting of non-bookfest customers and the ‘swarsh’ of the coffee machine was initially distracting, although, by the end of the event I think it added an authentic coffee morning buzz.

The talking authors were Carole Matthews, Judy Astley, Chrissie Manby and Sue Moorcroft, who chaired the panel. All members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, they were funny, wise and shared a great rapport that drew the audience in.

My friend, a budding novelist, missed great advice on writing. From Judy: “Writing a novel is a daunting thing.” From Chrissie: “When you’ve got a good novel it flows” – ie, if it’s not, it won’t.

The audience enjoyed coffee and cake at the Guildford Book Festival event at the

The audience enjoyed coffee and cake at the Guildford Book Festival event at the House of Fraser’s Tea Terrace.

As they were flogging an anthology of short romantic stories, talk slanted that way. Carole: “If a novel’s not going well, switch to short stories, it’s a bit of light relief.” Sue: “Getting a short story into a magazine gives you an instant hit that waiting for a novel to be published doesn’t.”

The panel touched on recent developments in the writing world. They are often asked to provide a short story for free in a newspaper or magazine. As Sue says: They say it’s good exposure, but Tesco doesn’t take exposure at the till.” She had great witty one-liners.

Carole says that the market for short stories has grown with the popularity of ebook readers. She now writes a vignette about some of her novel’s minor characters or the main characters in a year’s time, which can be downloaded from a link at the end. Thousands do.


The authors agreed that positive remarks about them on social media is a real boost when you are in a solitary profession.

All agreed that social media had brought them into contact with their readers and sometimes they met Twitter or Facebook friends for the first time at literary events. It was unusual to be “trolled” [have someone write unpleasant comments] and the hundreds of positive remarks was a real boost in what can be a solitary profession.

I had a lovely morning with friendly, like-minded people; who knows, maybe next year my friend will be giving a talk.

The Guildford Book Festival runs until Saturday, October 19. Tickets and information available from

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