So, it’s mid-March and we’re off the starting blocks – Read Regional 2016 has begun!

carolinerobertsI’m Caroline Roberts, a novelist who is very proud to be taking part in this campaign organised by New Writing North which links up local authors with libraries (as well as schools and festival events) across the North and North East. I have to admit I have never been one for public speaking, so this has totally put me in a new zone. But as a recently published author living in Northumberland, when I read about the scheme I really felt it was something special to take part in. Along this writing journey I am learning so much and doing so many new things, it’s all a part of a huge new learning curve.

My first event was at Ponteland Library on the evening of 10 March. I was welcomed by a lovely librarian, Ros, and met the team there, who had obviously made a huge effort. There were posters about me and the novel, and my picture on the wall framed by cut-out love-hearts that echoed the cover of the book. Displays of Read Regional books were very prominent, and a fabulous audience of nearly 30 people were all ready for me to entertain them for an hour or more – gulp!

I started with a short introduction about my background, my writing journey and a brief description of my novel, The Torn Up Marriage, before I launched into my first reading to give the audience a feel of the book. There’s something nerve-wracking having thirty people listening to you read aloud, especially from your own book! What if they hate it? You fluff a line or two, three…but I managed fine, and the wonderful conversation and Q&A session that followed really put me at my ease. The participants are people who are there because they love reading, they’re interested in you as a writer, and they just want to find out a bit more. I have to say I really enjoyed the evening and we had gone fifteen minutes over time before I had even realised. So I knew I had nothing to fear from my next event.

So, on to Cockerton library, in Darlington, five days later, and this was to be an event with another author, Chris Killen, who had written a contemporary, darkly humorous novel. I had read his book In Real Life the week before (and really liked it). I was very glad I had done so, as it made the conversation with the reading group far more meaningful and engaging. Our writing styles were fairly different, but several themes and plot lines were similar.

Again, the library staff were absolutely lovely. Thanks to Carol who made the journey to collect and drop us off at the station, and made us all coffee and biscuits at the event. This event was very different in nature, being a smaller reading group style – there were nine participants as well as the two authors. Again, we did a short intro and then a reading each. The audience said how lovely to was to hear the author speak their own words; it made it much more meaningful. We had a very active discussion, with lots of questions and comments. The time whizzed by and before we knew it, it was time to wrap up. After thanks all round, we found ourselves on Darlington train station – nothing was open as it was about 8.30 pm, and we had a half hour spare, so what do two authors who have recently met and are enjoying chatting do? Nip to the pub!

I hope this article gives you an idea of how it might feel to take part as an author and also for anyone wondering whether to go along to a Read Regional event. Absolutely, just go for it! They have such a friendly atmosphere, bringing readers and writers together. All the campaign books are there in the libraries to hire too, and the events are free, so you really don’t have to spend out at all. And you’ll be sure to have a good time. In the words of one of my Ponteland audience: ‘Lively, entertaining & friendly, and the author was very approachable.’

Big thanks to New Writing North and Read Regional for choosing me to be a part of this!