Separating the boys from the mentoring

A couple of years ago I did some work mentoring a teenage writer. He’s still a teenager but he’s just come back as a writer/producer – and he’s hired me for an event.

I’d say that this feels inexpressibly wonderful, except actually it’s that special kind of wonderful that is shot through with terror: what if I let him down?

He’s George Bastow and my event is one of an entire day he plus three teenage colleagues have programmed. I also love that one of the other three is a particularly strong writer I work with at a regular group session in Rugby.

Even if I didn’t know her and even if he hadn’t commissioned me – seriously, I just got all the paperwork from him and I can’t remember the last time I ever got anything like proper booking forms from anyone – I’d be thinking this event is wonderful. Actually, if I didn’t know her and he hadn’t commissioned me, I’d be free to think it expressibly wonderful and without the slightest fear.

What they’re doing is Teen Takeover Day at the Birmingham Literature Festival. The festival runs from October 6 to 16 but Sunday 9 October belongs to this group. Everything that happens on that day is down to them. I presume they were let in on the planning for the rest of the festival but as I understand it, the brief they were given consisted of two sentences: “It’s 9th October, here’s the budget. Good luck.”

They’re spending some of that budget on me.

This gives me pause.

Anyway, this is the first time that the Birmingham Literature Festival has handed over a day to teenagers or to anyone at all. It may be the first time any festival has done something so nutty as to fold their arms and tell anyone to get on with it.

You’ll forgive me if I tell you first about the event I’m doing, won’t you? Sunday 9 October 12:00-13:15 at the Studio Theatre in the Library of Birmingham: Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs. Young Adult writers Juno Dawson and Nicola Morgan come together on stage to discuss fiction and specifically how mental health issues for young people are and are not dealt with in novels.

I think it’s a coup for the Festival to get these two and I’ll be chairing the discussion with them.

But then afterwards there’s The True Identity of Comic Books Revealed and there’s an evening of poetry and spoken word with Hollie McNish.

Here’s how made up I am about this: I’m performing at a book launch in Waterstone’s, Birmingham at 14:00 on the same day and I’m telling you about Teen Takeover first. Plus I’m reading a new short story at a Room 204 pop-up event on the evening of Friday 7 October. As West Midlands regional representative of the Writers’ Guild I’m also a bit involved in a great event on Saturday 8 October: we’ve got the creators of The Bridge and Hinterland on stage with Lisa Holdsworth. How about that, eh? Saturday 8 October at 19:30.

Oh, just do what I’m going to do: move in to the Library of Birmingham for the whole ten days. Here’s everything that’s happening.

But back especially to Teen Takeover Day. You and a pal can come see the entire day for £10 – together, not each – with a special Teen Takeover Day pass. Quote TPASS241 when booking to get this deal.