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 Literature

Literature in Guernsey – an untold story

I have been working towards creating an Anthology of literature about Guernsey, as I believe the island’s best kept secret is its literary tradition.

I think there are three sources of this literature. The first that written by Guernsey people about their own island (such as G.B. Edwards The Book of Ebenezer Le Page). The second would be derived from those who have discovered Guernsey (such as Victor Hugo) and the third would be literature of the Guernsey diaspora – the work of exiles.

Literature about the island has never been collected with imagination and authority. Thankfully there have been heartening artistic initiatives on the island in the last year or so, which have begun to offer more stimulus to Guernsey’s cultural life.

The current wider economic uncertainty means that Guernsey’s tourism industry may become even more important. I’ve proposed to Guernsey Arts that an imaginative and professional anthology of Guernsey literature could be a real asset to the island, and have long term benefits for Guernsey as a whole.

Here’s why:

  • Guernsey already captures the imaginations of people around the world. For I have been using Twitter in the last few weeks to search for mentions of Guernsey on the Internet. More than half of what is being said about Guernsey, in this planet-wide snapshot, was about the recent novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. Literature is a window on the world for the island.
  • Literature about Guernsey is a great untapped natural resource. To visit a place, you first have to visit it in your imagination. If successful, an anthology of Guernsey literature could stimulate tourism and support the local economy. As this anthology aims to include material from people of the Guernsey diaspora, which makes it a book stuffed with reasons to visit or revisit the island.
  • Literature about Guernsey is an uncharted region. This anthology should contribute both arts and education in Guernsey. Having an idea of what got us to this point culturally will help the Island move forward with a clearer sense of its own identity.
  • There’s never been a better time to express Guernsey’s vitality and culture. At a time of globalisation, it is vital to retain Guernsey’s unique selling points. Until now its literature is a tool which has not been employed.

Signs thus far have been positive. Watch this space.