Author Jane Corry was a guest at The Acorn Theatre in Penzance, Cornwall. Where she discussed “Life behind bars” and also her two books.
During her very eloquent talk, she discussed various topics. Her life as a journalist, her time as a Writer in Residence, her books My Husband’s Wife, and Blood Sisters tips and advice for aspiring writers as well as a reading from her latest book Blood Sisters and also a book signing opportunity.
Libraries had been Jane’s refuge as a child, surrounded by books and inspiration. Her mother was also an inspiration, she wrote little stories and tales that were kept in a “special box”. Whilst at school, Jane’s teachers were a little condescending when she mentioned that she would like to be a writer. But undeterred she continued her path and eventually attending university. Upon leaving she made her way into the journalistic world.
A regular columnist in The Telegraph, as well as Woman and Womans’ Own were to follow. One of her first interviews was with a then unknown actress at the time, but Jane was told that the actress would be the talk of the town in a few weeks time, this was indeed true of the Educating Rita actress Julie Walters.
WRITER IN RESIDENCE:
A change in family circumstances required Jane to get a “proper job”, rather than relying on the freelance column writing work that fitted in with her children. A friend suggested the job vacancy section in The Guardian, there she spotted a job for a Writer in Residence, at a High Security Male Prison.
Jane felt sure that she had “fluffed the interview”, but to her surprise the job was offered to her for 2 days a week for 2 years, later to be increased to 3 years. The third year needed funding, it was agreed that Jane and other fellow journalists would spend a night in prison. Jane spent a sleepless night typing, a little shocked at the routines in place, with no exceptions.
During her time working there she helped men with writing, from letters home to memoirs and stories. Jane mentioned how she would spend her morning in the Open section of the prison, the men were guilty of white-collar crime or, due for release. The afternoon section was spent with the most dangerous men, those convicted of murder, rape, grievous body harm amongst others crimes.
The men who volunteered for Jane’s classes found them helpful in raising their self-esteem, therapy and self realisation. Jane also mentioned The Koestler Trust , set up by Arthur Koestler in the 1950’s as a way for those who are in prison to enter their artwork, stories, poetry into a yearly competition.
Jane mentioned that she has used her own experiences as the triggers for her writing, those being “prison and marriage”. As I listened to Jane talk I could hear things that had I had come across in her books. While writing, Jane has to have complete silence as she sits in her office overlooking the sea. She has set times for writing, social media and admin work. When an audience member asked how she came up with the names for her characters, she replied it was a difficult process for her. She tends to use the names of family members for the names of the book characters.
Jane has done a lot of research for her books, taking a stained glass course to expand her knowledge for Alison in Blood Sisters, visiting Brain Injury Units to add correct information to the character of Kitty, again Blood Sisters. She saw the young mainly female lawyer visit prisoners and used an amalgamation for Lily in My Husband’s Wife, also did a lot of research for Tom, also My Husband’s Wife, who suffered from Aspergers and details regarding the Autism Spectrum.
AN AUTHORS’ ADVICE:
Jane gave the audience some very good and sound advice for aspiring writers.
Be disciplined: write daily, if you get a block then change where you write, when you write, what genre you write. Just make sure you write.
Do your research: Jane had previously indicated that this was an important aspect for a writer, but also to be aware that you do not become to bogged down with details. Sometimes a fact in your research can give rise to a plot twist that you had not thought of.
Go Networking: go to literary festivals, meet other writers, publishers, agents. Follow them on twitter. Also look out for writing competitions, read the rules thoroughly and submit your story, if it gains a placing in the results then use that on your submission. Also try Kindle publishing, some writers have been approached by publishers. Publishers tend to keep an eye on what is being published via kindle, but don’t feel you have to go with a publisher if you are happy doing it yourself.
Read it: when you read your work, do it OUT LOUD.
MY OVERALL FEELINGS:
This was the first time I had been to a literary festival. I decided to choose this one as I had read My Husband’s Wife and loved it, add in the intrigue of a female author in a male high security prison was an opportunity I did not want to miss. I found the talk to be really informative, funny and also quite humbling. Yes humbling, especially as Jane spoke about the some of the prisoner she met, a split second decision can have drastic and life-altering consequences.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jane Corry and The Penzance Literary Festival for a wonderful afternoon.
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