26 things we learnt at Wordstock

Photo by www.vincentthuet.com
  1. It took widely praised Serbian author Vesna Goldsworthy thirty years to write creatively in English.
  2. Goldsworthy’s favourite game as a child was a made-up game called Office, a game of filling in forms in triplicate.
  3. Goldsworthy’s favourite books as a child were Lady Chatterley’s Lover and the Little Prince, not The Great Gatsby, on which her first novel Gorsky was based.
  4. Suffering from life-threatening cancer, Goldsworthy wrote Chernobyl Strawberries, a memoir for her son. It’s about growing up in the former Yugoslavia and moving to England.
  5. Goldsworthy tells her creative writing students who are blocked to buy a notebook – somehow the whole thing with pen works differently.
  6. For her novel, Gorsky, Vesna wrote 45,000 words in three weeks. This is possible by getting the rest of your family to leave the house for three weeks
  7. Evelyn Waugh’s surname means ox in Serbian.
  8. Copywriter Simon Prichard shows what business writers can learn from country music. Country songs are simple, tell a decent story and make it believable, evocative, memorable and surprising.
  9. Start writing with a punch. Be memorable. Learn from the best titles of Country & Western songs like, ‘You’re the reason our kids are ugly’, ‘My wife ran off with my best friend and I sure do miss him’ and ‘Did I shave my legs for this?’
  10. What happens when you play country music backwards? You get your wife, kids, dog and truck back.
  11. As Tammy Wynette once sung, “Sometimes it’s hard to be a writer…. But stand by your words.”
  12. Learn from oral historians. The best stories have details.
  13. Oral history is a conversation, it’s about the voice, it’s about the space in between the words. Not everyone is going to write a book,” explains Alan Dein, “but sometimes it’s about what is inside that can brought out.”
  14. The oldest reading group in England dates back to 1764 in Cumbria.
  15. Author, Victoria Hislop wanted to be a tennis player and used to work at Wolff Olins.
  16. Hislop takes two years to research her books, then she works out the deadline and the word count and divides it by days, normally writing around 1000-2000 words a day in the same seat in the same library.
  17. Hislop’s advice on writing well on place. Visit and take lots of photos, including photos of people’s faces. Stick them on your wall as you write.
  18. Tom Phillips creates poems by blocking out words in other people’s books. Read A Humument. Try it for yourself.
  19. Businesses with a clear purpose make better decisions in times of crisis and when planning for the future.
  20. Metro Bank is just brilliant. Its purpose is for people to love their bank and last year it spent just £60k on advertising. Dogs are allowed in its banks and its branches are open 7 days a week. Maybe not brilliant for advertising agencies.
  21. Increasingly people don’t just buy what you do; but why you do it. The estimated cost to VW thanks to “Dieselgate” is $43 billion.
  22. If we’d built an ark and our name was Noah BUT we could only let in animals with good names, bumblebees and hippopotamuses would be absolutely fine. Lions would not be.
  23. Dostoyevsky was a huge gambler. He worked so close to the deadline he had to hire a typist to type for him.
  24. For lessons in how to be your authentic self on social media, take a look at Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood. They’re genuine, they have opinions, they’re consistent and they don’t sell to us all the time.
  25. Hiraeth is the Welsh noun for homesickness for a home you cannot return to or one that never was.
  26. Meraki is the Greek verb to do something with soul: to put something of yourself into your work.

We’d love to hear what you thought about Wordstock this year. If you haven’t done so already, please fill in our quick survey here.

By Laura Hunter, Elen Lewis, Robert Preece and Elena Bowes.

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