Helen Humphreys @ The Storey Institute’s Reading Room in Lancaster
This event was part of the Toronto/Lancaster Connection project being supported by the FASS Enterprise Centre’s Knowledge Exchange Fellowships. I’ve been to a few of the events supported by the FASS Enterprise Centre and I have to say that they do some brilliant work that I haven’t really been aware of before now. Particularly the creative exchange they’re currently engaged in with Canada, it’s allowed me to become aware of and hear many writers who I may never have encountered otherwise.
We were a small-ish audience, as was to be expected for a midweek afternoon, but this was a really enjoyable event. To start, Helen read a section from near the beginning of her latest novel, which was grand – I always think you learn so much more about a piece when it’s read by the original author – but the highlight of the event was the Q&A session afterwards.
The Q&A started off as an ‘in conversation’ between Helen and Dr Susan Billingham from University of Nottingham. Dr Billingham had clearly prepared really well and the discussion that was generated from her questions was fascinating. I’m developing a keen interest in the writing processes of others and Helen’s writing process was really interesting as it is so research based. Her comments on trying to find a new kind of novel, one that allows her to show all the intriguing research that she finds along the way, were particularly intriguing to me.
As the conversation progressed the audience started to chip in and what followed developed into a wide-ranging discussion touching upon – amongst other things – writing the past, bringing nature into texts, switching between writing poetry and prose and the importance of dog walking.
It was a brilliant event and it was a shame that is was not better attended. I learnt a lot and Helen and Susan were very engaging speakers. I’m going to try and get my hands on her back catalogue – especially Leaving Earth and Afterimage and her collection of poetry.