Celebrating Romance

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June 5, 2014 by Lydia Syson

romancefestival_red_final

Think of historical romance, and I suspect you’ll find yourself instantly bogged down in swathes of taffeta, tripping over corset-laces and tumbling into somebody’s moonlit arms beneath ivy-bedecked castle walls.   keep reading


Observe yourself

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May 11, 2014 by Lydia Syson

Orwellaspidistra

Fieldwork. An anthropology of our own people, in the name of progress.  Political empowerment.  Or covert surveillance?  Furtive notebooks and licked pencils? Psychoanthroposociologic Nosey Parkers, according to the Daily Herald.

You would struggle to find anything more utterly characteristic of the 1930s than the Mass Observation movement, and the mixed responses this social observation project provoked. I don’t think I could have written That Burning Summer without the help of the Mass Observers.

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Writing competition results

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May 2, 2014 by Lydia Syson

Warsaw, September 1939

Last month I wrote about a high-tech school visit I’d made to Sydenham School in South London. Today I’m delighted to announce the results of the creative writing competition. keep reading


Diving deeper: into the ‘Glass Room’

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April 27, 2014 by Lydia Syson

South London Press, 21.3.14

Writing historical fiction demands total immersion.  It’s a fairly obsessive process, but well worth it.  Bit by bit, you build up an increasingly accurate and nuanced picture of the world your characters inhabit, discover what makes them tick, what might affect the way they think and feel about events.  Not surprisingly, I was immediately intrigued when I was invited to use the new ‘immersion room’ at Sydenham School, London, for a planned event with some of their year 8 and 9 students. keep reading


#UKYADay

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April 19, 2014 by Lydia Syson

Project UKYA Button

I’m not going to assume that everybody who reads this will instantly understand the title of this post, but I have a feeling that in twenty or thirty years time, someone, somewhere, will be writing a thesis about the phenomenon that is UKYA.  And nobody will need an explanation. keep reading


Len Crome Memorial Lecture 2014: Taking Sides

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March 2, 2014 by Lydia Syson

Hora de Espana magazine cover

The Spanish Civil War ‘gripped the imagination of a generation’, said Valentine Cunningham this weekend at Taking Sides: Artists and Writers on the Spanish Civil War.  To judge from the huge and variously-aged turnout at the event, not to mention the responses I’ve had from young readers of my own novel on the subject, it will continue to do so for several generations to come.   keep reading


National Libraries Day

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February 8, 2014 by Lydia Syson

NDL

Today’s the day to show your love for all the libraries in the country, and celebrate with millions of other library lovers. You can read my guest blog for NLD2014 here and find out more about events near you and get involved here.  So here’s to libraries everywhere! Can you imagine life without them?


Authors Take Sides

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January 26, 2014 by Lydia Syson

NancyCunardlyingdown

Who is this glorious woman?

If you saw the recent production of The Scottsboro Boys at the Young Vic in London you’ll be interested in her involvement in the campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic to free these nine young black men falsely charged with raping two white women on a freight train in Alabama in 1931.  The dazzlingly beautiful, taboo-breaking daughter of a British shipping magnate, Nancy Cunard started her career as a journalist with the Associated Negro Press (ANP), but she was also a poet, political activist and a publisher.  Charismatic and idealistic, she clearly had a genius for motivating the radical intellectual circles, black and white, in which she largely moved. keep reading


Ravilious

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January 14, 2014 by Lydia Syson

HMS Ark Royal in Action© IWM (Art.IWM ART LD 284)

Ravilious in Pictures: The War Paintings by James Russell (The Mainstone Press) – one of the most thoughtful and appropriate Christmas presents I received last month – has many resonances for That Burning Summer.  Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) was probably the best known of the three British Official War Artists who were killed during the Second World War, keep reading


Wartime Christmas

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December 22, 2013 by Lydia Syson

Carnegie Advent

Today’s war-themed window in the Carnegie 2014 Advent Calendar by We Sat Down is my inspiration for this final post of the year. Christmas in wartime tends to be peculiarly poignant – so often dark with separation, and haunted by the ghosts of past celebrations.  Ritual is disrupted, and hope can seem fragile.  Both That Burning Summer and A World Between Us include not scenes, but memories of Christmas. keep reading