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Hay day for the Radio Wales Arts Show

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Nicola Heywood Thomas Nicola Heywood Thomas | 14:15 UK time, Friday, 4 June 2010

This week's Radio Wales Arts Show escaped the confines of the studio and the team (that's me, producer Jill plus Clive as an extra pair of hands) set off for the Hay Festival site to broadcast live from one of the small hospitality tents.

I have to say it was the comfiest venue you could imagine as the three contributors and I settled down on two white sofas to talk about writing, editing and reviewing fiction. I think first time novelist Joanna Davies, her editor Caroline Oakley and even the literary editor of The Guardian, Claire Armitstead were as impressed as I was to learn that the comedian Tim Minchin had sat there earlier in the week before his festival gig.

Joanna Davies, Caroline Oakley, Nicola Heywood Thomas and Claire Armitstead

Joanna Davies, Caroline Oakley, Nicola Heywood Thomas and Claire Armitstead

Claire, who's been working every day at the festival, shared with us the fact that Mr Minchin had put in a request in his artists' engagement rider (that's what stars say they need from the organisers and the venue) for 155 blue M&Ms! Just hearing that made me regret not having seen the show even more.

Anyway, back to today and other things I found out. Editor Caroline Oakley, who works for the Welsh women's publisher Honno, has also been editing award winner Ian Rankin's brilliant crime novels since 1993 and said she still sends him about 16 pages of notes about any new book. That made Joanna Davies feel that the 20 pages of notes she'd had about her novel, Freshers, were not half bad for a first book.

Claire Armitstead pointed out that, although her friends recckon she's got the best job in the world, having around 500 new books landing on your desk for review every week (!) can be a little daunting. She also told me that some years ago she worked on the South Wales Argus - small world!

Also in this week's programme - though unable to join us in Hay - was another début novelist, Mike Thomas. His book, Pocket Notebook is on the longlist for Academi's Wales Book of the Year. It's had some rave reviews and has been optioned for filming by a television company. Not bad for a full time copper who's also doing a degree in creative writing.

Mike will find out on Sunday at the Hay Festival if the novel makes it to the shortlist for the Book of the Year. I just think it's great that we had the chance to talk to two new authors of really quite edgy but hugely entertaining novels. Listen again to the interview:

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Away from the programme, the festival site was really busy. There were lots of families around today and the presence of the queen of pre-teen and early teenage writing, Jacqueline Wilson explained the hordes of 8 to 12 year olds. There was a delightful sight when Ms Wilson was taking photos of people with the man I heard referred to as "that good looking garden chap", Monty Don. I missed his session as I'm afraid it was my only chance of grabbing lunch - venison burger, if you're interested. I may try the tapas tent at the weekend - oh, what a hard life at literary festivals!

Food for body as well as mind is not in short supply at Hay - I can't wait till Saturday. That's a day off to just enjoy the events and then back working on Sunday though interviewing Roy Noble about his autobiography and then talking about the odder stories in the Sunday press with great guests on Radio Wales' Something Else (1pm on the Festival Site) is certainly no chore!

Listen again to Thursday's show, recorded at the Hay Festival.

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