The Power of Genre

 Over to Sandy Chadwin for our latest blog…

1 TYEUFV4SoXzBcevMtS0uzgSO congratulations to Naomi Alderman whose novel The Power has won the Bailey’s Women’s Fiction Award for this year. This is interesting as, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time a book that is openly identified as being within a genre has won a literary prize. For most of my reading life genre fiction has been looked down upon with weary or angered dismissal by the great and the good and when something genre-like is lauded it of course ceases to be considered as part of that genre. This is why novels such as 1984 and Brave New World are usually to be found in the general fiction section of shops and libraries. Some authors were in the habit of denying that what they wrote was in fact within a genre. Margaret Atwood describes her work as speculative fiction and, it is said, has angrily dismissed suggestions that The Handmaid’s Tale might in fact be SF. The boundaries can be fluid. Does John le Carré write novels or thrillers? He’s treated with a respect that the authors of the latter rarely receive. But then Len Deighton’s cold war spy book Funeral in Berlin is now published as a Penguin Classic. Salmon Rushdie’s first novel, Grimus, was originally sold as a SF novel and according to Brian Aldiss, Midnight’s Children was going to be as well until at the last minute the publishers decided to market it as a literary book.

                And this is the thing. Genre is as much to do with marketing as it is with identifying the style of book. So, when Penguin originally published John Wyndham’s novels which involve walking carnivorous plants, aliens taking over the world’s oceans and other such things, it carefully avoided packaging them as science fiction at all. Indeed the only reference to the genre comes in the little bit near the beginning where they tell us about the author which contains the gorgeously dismissive line ‘[he] decided to try a modified form of what is unhappily known as “science fiction”.’ It’s like that business of calling ‘comics’ ‘graphic novels’ that took off in the ‘80s when comics became briefly trendy.

                But not everything has changed. Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2015 novel, The Buried Giant was greeted with derision and dismay by the critics with Private Eye’s book man being particularly scathing, his premise being that the novel could not be of any artistic value because of its fantastical elements. Ironically the following issue bemoaned the failure to recognise the late Terry Pratchett’s literary skills. Pratchett himself complained about this in his speech when he accepted the Carnegie Award:

                                ‘Recent Discworld books have spun on such concerns as the nature of belief,

 politics and even of journalistic freedom, but put in one lousy dragon…’

So what has changed? The success of the Lord of the Rings films and the Game of Thrones TV series with non-genre readers obviously have had something to do with it. But I think it is more down to writers like Naomi Aldermen who refuse to accept the rigid demarcations and, in Ms Alderman’s case, leapt at the chance of writing a Doctor Who novel. PD James and Ruth Rendell’s detective novels paved the way by being steadily accepted by the better class of critic and the following generation who are building on it. Harry Potter may have something to do with it. Certainly Professor Harold Bloom statement that he would rather children did not read at all than read JK Rowling’s books did a lot to reveal the degree to which certain people see reading not as a pleasure but as a stand to look down on people from.

                Well, here’s hoping anyway.

Sandy Chadwin is co-running the next  North Tyneside Writer’s Circle this Saturday 11am to 1pm in North Shields Library.


Creative competition

Have you ever entered a creative writing competition? If so what happened next?

Competition is the theme of the next North Tyneside Writers’ Circle which takes place this coming Saturday 17th June in North Shields library.

NTWCClare Pepper from North Tyneside Libraries will be popping in to tell us about this year’s Story Tyne Competition and we’ll all share our experiences of this and other competitions.

Do you avoid competitions because you can’t bear the thought of not winning? Come and join us from 11am on Saturday and we’ll try to convince you that entering competitions is GOOD for you!

North Tyneside Writers’ Circle is free to attend and all are welcome. There’s no need to book.

North Tyneside Writers’ Circle – Our first quarter

Back in October 2016, as part of the Age Takes Centre Stage programme, The Next Page agreed to start running a group for writers, based in North Tyneside Libraries. One tea- and shortbread-fuelled planning session later, and the North Tyneside Writers Circle was born!

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Our first visit to North Shields, nervously waiting to see how many seats we’d fill


Having started in January 2017, we’ve made it through our first quarter, and we’ve been delighted with how it’s come together. We’ve had two great speakers in Sue Miller and Steve Urwin, we’ve had round-table discussions, meeting new people and, oh yes – we’ve even had some writing!

As somebody who loves attending events with other writers, whether readings, workshops or anything else, having our group has been a fabulous opportunity to meet new writers in the area. Hearing people share their freshly-written material is always inspiring too.


Seeing the tables fill up the last three months has spurred us on to keep looking at new things, like the guided discussion section, and although there’s no session in April, we’re already looking forward to May, and welcoming Mark Iveson along to talk about his writing.

I’d best go get those prompts sorted!

full ntwc
The answer – plenty of people turned up!




The Next Page’s next twelve months

Hello, and Happy New Year – welcome to 2017!

We hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year, and, more importantly, that all those lovely, ambitious Resolutions are still going strong. If they involved ‘start writing’ or ‘write more’ then we are here for you, with our diaries already filling up with plenty of great opportunities to get the ink and inspiration flowing, or, if necessary, get you back on track whether you’ve been away for the Christmas fortnight, or half a lifetime.

One thing we’re really excited to be bringing you, starting on Saturday 21st January, is the North Tyneside Writers’ Circle. Whether you’ve been writing for decades, or want to make your first tentative steps in any form or genre, come along to this FREE event at North Shields Library. We’re seeing this as a great chance for like-minded, ‘writerly’ folk to get together, chat about news, what they’re writing (or want to), and, hopefully, learn something in the process.


Each month (on the third Saturday, dates announced three months in advance), we’ll be having a good chat about the Tyneside / north-east writing scene, we’ll have prompts and, on a regular basis, we’ll have somebody to give you a brief introduction into an aspect of the writing life. We’re delighted to announce the Sue Miller will be our first speaker, talking about her experience of self-publishing and selling her books through Amazon. Sue’s book (20/20 Vision: They didn’t see it coming) has garnered excellent reviews on Amazon, and has recently been featured in Hello! magazine.


Hopefully we’ll see you there, 1100-1300 on the 21st!

Beyond NTWC, we also have our workshops and mentoring, with the next workshop being Teenage Kicks on Saturday 4th March, exploring musical inspiration, and mentoring places available to book for first Saturdays in February and March.

Tickets for all bookable events are, as always, available via our TicketSource page.

And don’t forget to keep following our blog for news items, and special guest bloggers from the writing world…


We’ll look forward to seeing or hearing from you soon!