Notes from ChipLitFest

You may have noticed I’ve been missing for a few days. Well, for the first couple of them I was strolling around Oxford’s cobbles with my brother, wondering how I could possibly get the entire stock of Whittard’s home on Ryan-‘ONE piece of cabbin baggage’-air, and hoping that the strolling was at least contributing to the burning off of the calories consumed at afternoon tea. After that, I was at ChipLitFest.


May contain cucumber sandwiches. 

With big names splashed all over the program, military-level organization (in a good way!) and five-star accommodation for authors, it’s hard to believe that this was only the second year of ChipLitFest. I was delighted to be invited to do a ‘ChipLit Chunk’ — a two-hour workshop on self-publishing followed by half an hour of coffee and cake with my participants afterwards — and since my big regret at Waterford Writers’ Weekend was not having enough time to attend anyone else’s sessions, I made sure to grab some ChipLitFest tickets as well.


The main house at Heythrop Park.

ChipLitFest are famous for looking after their authors, which is how I ended up at the stunning Crowne Plaza hotel at Heythrop Park. On 400-hundred-and-something acres, it was like waking up on the grounds of the palace of Versailles in the morning—especially since on Saturday it was all clear blue skies and warm sun. I checked in at the (well-stocked!) authors’ Green Room, collecting my ‘Author’ badge to wear for the day. And there was a even little thank you card from Clare Mackintosh, the founder of ChipLitFest, who invited me. Such a lovely touch!


No, thank YOU!

My event, The Art of Self-Publishing,took place in one of the most adorable bookshops I’ve ever been in: Jaffe & Neale. In my daydreams about one day opening my own bookshop/cafe, it’s the interior of Jaffe & Neale’s that I’d hope to recreate: plenty of books yet plenty of space, and coffee tables not collected in a far corner but actually dotted around the bookshop. I couldn’t help myself; I picked up Stranded by Emily Barr and We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver while I waited for the previous event to finish. (It being one of my all time favourite novels, I already have a copy of Kevin, but all my books are piled in boxes in a storage unit at the moment and I fancied a re-read.) Then the lovely staff took my coffee and cake order for later—coffee, cake and sunshine? Can’t all book festivals be like this?—and then it was time to start.


Jaffe & Neale bookshop & cafe, Chipping Norton.

The event went really well, mainly because I had such a lovely group, and afterwards I ran around the corner to the theatre because I had tickets for Lionel Shriver’s talk about new book, Big Brother. Shriver has long been a favourite writer of mine so it was thrilling to see her in the flesh, but honestly: there’s clues in her books, but I didn’t appreciate just how clever and fascinating she is. The hour flew by. I would’ve happily sat there and listened to her for another two after that.

I also had tickets to Peter James, in conversation with the lovely and hilarious Jane Wenham-Jones. James has amazing access to seemingly all branches of the criminal world and the authorities who strive to put a stop to them, and his anecdotes were worth the ticket price alone. Another truly fascinating hour. I snapped up Wannabe a Writer? by Jane (again, another copy, since I have it already—this one was so she could sign it for me) and Perfect People by Peter James, who signed it and wished me luck with my writing.


A souvenir and great reading for the journey home…

Heading back to Heythrop Park I had a bag weighed down with books and a heart full of love for all those who write them.

Thank you to Clare Mackintosh for a wonderful weekend!

Bit of housekeeping: due to a recent surge in spam, I’ve reverted to the comment moderation setting that means first time commenters must be approved, and thereafter will have their comment published immediately. So sorry if this is a bit annoying but waiting to see your comment appear is better than me having to delete tens of spam comments per post—trust me! 

6 thoughts on “Notes from ChipLitFest

  1. Murtaza Manji says:

    Hi Catherine,

    I’ve been reading your blog post with interest for the past several weeks, and really enjoy your writing style. All that aside, I wish I had known you’d be in Heythrop over the weekend, I was there for a Friday/Saturday event. You may have mentioned it earlier, and my apologies if I missed seeing the news, but it would definitely have been great to catch up with you.

    Hope to get the pleasure of meeting you in person soon.

    All the best.

    Murtaza Manji Certified Action Business Coach

  2. Red Hen says:

    You have a beautiful blog! And I absolutely adore this post. It has everything I need. A loaded cake stand, beautiful books and the most perfect coffee shop.

    I`ll be back!

  3. writeonthebeach says:

    This is the 2nd time I’ve said “I wish I’d known…” I said it when i read Self-Printed and had already made all the mistakes you talked about and now I’m saying it again because I’d love to have met you at the ChipLit. I really will try to keep up with the programme. Thanks for the post – I can smell the choccy.

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