Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Festivals, Dares and Soup by Claire Fayers

I've spent the past four days on a diet of soup, painkillers and salt water after having a wisdom tooth removed so today's post may be a little incoherent. I'm not allowed to eat anything crunchy for the next week, which is very unfair. How am I supposed to write anything if I can't eat crisps?

Still, I will try. First up - the Crickhowell Literary Festival. Run by the lovely Emma at Bookish, the festival was back after lockdown and now that I'm a local it would have been impolite not to go. So, on a chilly Thursday evening, we gathered to hear Robin Ince talk about his new book, The Importance of Being Interested. 

During a fascinating hour, Robin talked very fast and non-stop about the nature of time, God, the big bang, the death of the universe, poetry and dogma. Meanwhile my mind reeled around a single fact - the man was on a 100 day book tour. One hundred days! How on earth do you organise something like that? The hotels, the travel, the co-ordination with bookshops. The longest I've done is a week and that nearly killed me. The only way I could do a hundred days is if I was replaced by a robot.

Though if I was replaced by a robot, I may end up writing something like this. (Courtesy of

Cassie O'Pia looked at the peculiar cutlass in her hands and felt angry. She walked over to the window and reflected on her rocky surroundings. She had always loved wild Barnard's Reach with its lonely, long library. It was a place that encouraged her tendency to feel angry...

I don't think the robots will be taking my job just yet. But if you have a spare minute, it's fun to plug a few words in and see what you get.

Back to the festival, and story generation reminds of another event at the Crickhowell Festival, with Jasper Fforde and Jodie Taylor. Jasper Fforde always starts his stories with a dare - 'humans hibernate', or 'there are human-sized rabbit people.' Once he's set the dare, he has to carry on and write the whole book, however long it takes.

I rather like the idea of setting a dare, though a bit less keen on the idea of struggling on and finishing a story no matter what. To me, that would be a bit like pulling teeth and I've had enough of that already. I do think it's important to know when a story isn't working. It's hard, when you've been struggling with a story for months, to abandon it. It feels like you've wasted all that time and effort. But no writing is ever wasted. I have a folder on my hard drive for unfinished drafts. I'll go in and read a few of them from time to time. Sometimes, an idea or a character will spring out at me and give me fresh material. And sometimes the draft I read is so tedious and badly written I can reassure myself that I've improved a lot since writing it. Win-win!

Finally, thinking about dares, reminds me of Trick or Treating which reminds me that it's almost Halloween, so to finish, here is a recipe for soup, which has nothing to do with books or writing, but it tasted so good my husband admitted that he may have wrongly maligned butternut squash.

1 butternut squash
1 tin coconut milk
1 veggie stock cube

Cube the squash flesh and roast it for 30 minutes. Fry some onion, garlic, ginger and chilli in some olive oil. Add the squash and the coconut milk, refill the coconut milk tin with water and the veggie stock cube and add to the pan. Cook for a while then blitz.

Thanks to Anna Wilson for the recipe.


Claire Fayers


Andrew Preston said...

To be honest, I was quite intrigued by that plot generator, and curious to discover where the seemingly absurd discontinuity mught lead.

Moira Butterfield said...

Yum! I'll be making that soup for the weekend! I love the idea of the dare.