Our November Event at Waterstones: A Word with the Authors

UPDATE: We’re thrilled to announce our final event of 2018 is now sold out!  Thanks to all of you who booked up 100 tickets to our special literary evening tomorrow, Thursday 29th November.  This means Waterstones Gower Street is going to be packed with lots of passionate people, not to mention our line-up of award-winning authors, as we discuss writing trauma, recovery and gender-based violence. (If you are desperate to go, you can try turning up on the evening in case there are no-shows, but sadly, no promises.)

On Thursday, November 29, seven award-winning authors from around the UK will speak at our next Clear Lines event: Writing About Trauma, Recovery, and Gender-Based Violence.  It’s a difficult topic, but a necessary one — both for the writers themselves (many of them writing from personal experience) and for the audience, who will be coming to Waterstones Gower Street in Central London for this unique literary evening.

Working across a range of fiction, poetry, and memoir to capture the human truths behind sexual trauma, these authors will take part in a lively, honest discussion about the ethical questions, the challenges, and the rewards of addressing these topics through literature. The event commemorates UN Women’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, taking place 25 November-10 December.

While in the past year #MeToo and #TimesUp filled news headlines, many of us know that sexual assault and abuse are not anything new. Survivors have lived with the legacy of these traumas over the course of decades and lifetimes.

Poet and writer Clare Best says: ‘It took me more than fifteen years to write The Missing List and in a sense I’ve been writing this book all my life, since I was abused by my father from the age of seven.’ Her memoir, a finalist in the Mslexia Memoir Competition 2015 came out with Linen Press in September 2018.  She continues: ‘I’m driven by wanting to help create a space in which people can talk, ask questions, split taboos wide open. And I want to model the healing power of creativity – crafting The Missing List might have saved my life.’ 

Similarly, novelist Louise Beech says: ‘My writing has always been my therapy, my way of trying to access buried memories and cope, so if talking about it helps me or anyone else, then that is powerful stuff.’ Maria in the Moon is Louise’s third novel (she has since written two more), and The Irish Times calls it ‘a stirring novel, beautifully written.’

Clare and Louise will speak on the evening’s second panel with Madeleine Black, a survivor of a teenage gang rape who recounts her lifelong process of recovery in her memoir Unbroken. A spokeswoman for The Forgiveness Project, Madeleine will be coming from Glasgow for the event. That panel will be chaired by writer, survivor, and longtime Clear Lines collaborator Tanaka Mhishi, whose spoken word poetry was featured on BBC Three.

Broadly, the second panel of the evening addresses violence by a perpetrator known to the victim or within the family — while the first panel addresses the classic narrative of the dangerous stranger ‘out there.’ But how can survivors and writers subvert that traditional narrative?

Drawing from her own violent trauma as a teenager, Yorkshire-based poet Clare Shaw has long explored the polemical power of literature across her three award-winning collections. She writes: ‘Words have the power to harm and help us, and a powerful language can transform us as individuals, communities, and societies.’

Likewise, Clear Lines Co-Founder Winnie M Li transformed her real-life stranger rape into her debut Dark Chapter, a fictional reimagining of the crime and aftermath from both victim and perpetrator perspectives.  Winner of The Guardian’s Not The Booker Award 2017, it was also shortlisted for the Best First Novel Award and the prestigious Edgar Award in the US for crime fiction. 

Abigail Tarttelin’s third novel Dead Girls is similarly labeled ‘a feminist crime thriller,’ which places at its centre a young female protagonist determined to find the killer of her friend — and of other victims.  Tarttelin writes: ‘May we teach girls not to be obedient, digestible, and decorative, but to fight with teeth and mind and fists; to see themselves as potential victors, and not ineluctable victims.’  In fact, this re-writing of victims as survivors and protagonists very much fuels all these authors’ work. Join us for an unforgettable evening on Nov 29th.

Writing About Trauma, Recovery, and Gender-Based Violence: A Clear Lines Event
Waterstones, 82 Gower Street, London, WC1E 6EQ

Thursday 29th November, 2018
6.30 – 8:30 pm

Books by the authors will be available for purchase and signing.

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