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Review: North London Story Festival 

The North London Story Festival focused on transformations in literature

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
By Amanda Symbor 27 April 2021

The 2021 North London Story Festival focused on transformation, taking into account the ways that aspiring writers can transform their work, as well as transformations in the literary industry. The festival encouraged students to find success in the industry by exploring these current practices in literature and film.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, it is clear that aspirations for gender equality are transforming the media and literary landscape. We learnt that many of the writer's work speaks to the ways in which female protagonists can disrupt patriarchal tropes in literature. Monique Roffey subverts the traditional fairytale in The Mermaid of Black Conch. Set in a small Caribbean fishing village, the catching of the mermaid is an allegory for male violence and the dehumanising effects of idolising beauty. To write a feminist text, Monique believes that all aspects of the traditional literary canon and themes need to be re-written. Other authors in the festival give voice to unlikely female protagonists. Ariel Kahn writes of a young woman who runs away from an Orthodox Jewish community. Arguably, all of the authors transform the portrayal of women in literature from passive to empowered.

The festival also focused on the way that the writing process is a transformation in itself. David Cottis said that the greatest aspect of writing is when you surprise yourself. In challenging yourself to write different genres an author starts working not only with a conscious but also subconscious mind. 

There is also the practicality of writing and editing. Common to all writing is the way in which research reshapes text. Lara Thompson’s perspective on the 1930s transformed drastically during her research. Whilst gathering documentary footage, Elvina Nevardauskaite and David Heinemann’s opinions of their documentary subjects changed. Learning more, sparked empathy and compassion in the place of fear.

A different approach to transformation could be an adaptation. James Kenworth proves that the messages in old literature are relevant to the modern reader through setting the stories in the contemporary world.

The drafting process is also a transformation. It might be difficult for an author to distance from the creator’s perspective. Peggy and Steph from the National Centre for Writing help writers to execute their ideas. 

The festival encouraged participants to see that the theme of transformation can be understood in multiple ways, the most useful, perhaps, being that the author should transform themselves.

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