Launching ‘Defenders of Guernsey’

Defenders of Guernsey is a short story of about 12 thousand words I launched at the Guernsey Literary Festival. I had been invited there to talk about Skelton Yawngrave, a character I have created and am finalising a novel about. So that I didn’t turn up empty handed, I decided to write a shorter story with this character, but based on Guernsey. Luckily for me, this format worked really well for the character, and I was able to cram in a good deal of action in a very short space of time. It is too early to say how this has been received, but the kids seemed to like it.

I have two short story sequels plotted. Invaders of Guernsey, and Liberators of Guernsey. And I am basing the story on Guernsey legend, as well as a ghostly goat called La Biche who lived in La Rue des Grons where I used to live. This is slightly in reaction to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which, although a runaway success, had little of the real Guernsey in it and annoyed me. I feel churlish having briefly met Annie Barrows who is lovely person, as are Mary Anne Shafer’s daughter and son-in-law.

My strategy is that I have given three schools these little books, and it seems I may be invited back. It seems to me self-evident that you have to start forging relationships with schools if you are launching fiction for children.

I had a blast doing it too, although I felt quite nervous about it. And as we were doing the work in the hub in the Market Square in Guernsey I had to incorporate the chiming of the town clock into the story, and got the schoolchildren to participate by making ghostly goat noises, which was enormous fun for everyone. The children from Vauvert and Le Muriel schools were absolutely delightful too.

Another thing I’ve learned is that if you have a girlfriend who can fix up the laptop and deal with technical things while you mince about wringing your hands nervously this is also a boon too.

Guernsey Literary Festival

The first Guernsey Literary Festival seemed to me to be a success. I think the benefits of this festival will be immense in the long term. If Guernsey is an island that, with its many other blessings, is seen as a place where writing and culture happen, this can only enrich the lives of its people and greatly encourage a new generation of visitors.

For my part seeing the faces of the children from Vauvert and Le Murier schools light up with delight when I began telling them an adventure set where they live, made the whole trip worthwhile. I donated books to these schools and to St Martin’s primary too.

It was excellent to secure the backing of Barclays Wealth. It was a win-win too. Good for the sponsors because from a PR perspective, they have an image problem they need to fix. Projects of this sort that reach benignly into the island should be exactly what they should be looking for.

For my own part any time when Richard and I manage a BBC radio appearance and three poetry readings to promote the A Guernsey Double is a success in itself. I was also able to launch Defenders of Guernsey in two sessions with schoolchildren, attend a poetry cafe reading with some fine poets, and meet people like Annie Barrows, Edward Chaney, Sebastian Peake, Caroline Carver and Tim Binding, do some protracted networking on the island, and know that the best part of 160 Skelton Yawngrave stories are now in the island’s schools.

Thanks to the Guernsey Literary Festival I returned home full of a revived interest in writing and performing, in Mervyn Peake, in the poetry of Caroline Carver, the singing of Olivia Chaney and with new friends made and old friendships strengthened.

Well done Guernsey. And well done folks like Catriona Stares, Richard Fleming, Jane Mosse and the many others who dedicated enormous time and effort to the whole thing.