“Don’t feel as though you have to follow somebody else’s rules” Carly Bennett discusses Marcus Sedgwick’s #BathKidsLitFest event

The Bath Kids Literature Festival is always a highlight in my annual bookish calendar, so when the Bath Festivals team contacted me to ask if I wanted to blog about one of this year’s events I jumped at the chance. As longtime readers of this blog know, I’m a huge Marcus Sedgwick fan so I was delighted to be gifted a couple of tickets to his event, which took place last night and was sponsored by Bath Spa University (Spartans, represent!). It seemed particularly fitting that I attended a Bath Spa-sponsored event, almost ten years to the day after I enrolled at that very university!

I’ve been lucky enough to see Marcus Sedgwick speak a couple of times in the past and he was as interesting, eloquent and inspirational as always. I always come away from his events feeling rejuvenated about my own creative projects – and last night was no exception.

The event struck a great balance between talking about Sedgwick’s upcoming release, Saint Death (due out on October 6th), his impressive body of work and even a few tips about the craft of writing. The main advice he gave to other writers in the audience? Don’t feel as though you have to follow somebody else’s rules. Every writer has a different writing process, a different method of plotting and a different way to get inspired. Find what suits you and run with it.

John McLay, who was hosting the event (and co-organises the entire festival), touched on the broad range of styles, genres and structures that Sedgwick has experimented with over the years, as well as his research process. It was fascinating to get a glimpse into the research process for Saint Death, as Sedgwick didn’t have the opportunity to visit Juarez (the Mexican city where the book is set) until after he’d finished writing the first draft. He spent time in the area (known  as one of the most dangerous places on the planet) and we were lucky enough to see some of the photos he took during his stay. Seeing the real life setting was a lovely touch and I know it will help me immerse myself in the dark, thrilling story even more.

Sedgwick is famous for playing with structure and it’s something I’ve always loved about his work. Of course, The Ghosts of Heaven had to get a spotlight here, and he mentioned visualising the novel as a tetrahedron, with each of the four sides playing a balanced, crucial role in the story as a whole. If you haven’t come across The Ghosts of Heaven before, the four parts of the novel can be read in any order, so it’s an interesting play on structure as well as a fantastic story.

I was delighted that my personal favourite of Sedgwick’s novels, Midwinterblood, got a couple of shoutouts during the event. It’s way up there in the list of my favourite books of all time, and I actually ordered another copy as soon as I got home to give to my mum, who came with me to the event but hasn’t yet read Midwinterblood (soon to be rectified, I assure you).

If you haven’t had the opportunity to see Marcus Sedgwick at an event, do seek out one of his appearances and try to go if you can. He’s a great speaker and hearing him talk about his process behind his books just makes me enjoy them all the more. And if you haven’t read any of his books before and aren’t sure where to start (there are a lot of them, much to my joy!), feel free to tweet me @carlybennett and I’d be more than happy to recommend the perfect starting point for you.

As is always the case with events at the Bath Kids Literature Festival, the event was run perfectly to time, was well-organised and had plenty of time at the end for a variety of interesting questions, some of which provoked particularly interesting discussions. I want to say a huge thank you to the entire Bath Festivals team, from the marketing department to the ushers, and I’m truly grateful that I got the opportunity to see one of my favourite writers speak about his books.

By Carly Bennett


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