Books Magazine

Second Blog Anniversary Competition – Return of the Literary Lunch

By Isabel Costello @isabelcostello

Things have been pretty frantic since I returned from my month in America:  I got straight back into my manuscript for the final push before I send it out to readers and then agents. On the blog I’ve posted a travelogue, a fantastic piece by Wendy Wallace, the first guest to ‘reappear’ on the Literary Sofa, and last week perhaps the closest I’ve ever come to a rave review, of Hannah Kent’s debut Burial Rites.  I’ve just spent a glorious weekend in France with friends from my book group and on Thursday I’m travelling north a day early before attending the York Festival of Writing, where I have three meetings lined up and tons of friends to catch up with.  There’s a lot happening, and it’s all very exciting.

September is a time of new beginnings and next week it’ll be two years since I started the Literary Sofa.  In one way, it’s flashed past and in another, it feels like far longer.  Recently I joined a conversation on Twitter where writers were expressing ambivalence about both reading and writing blogs.  If blogging interferes with your writing of fiction or feels like a drag because you can’t think of anything to say, it’s understandable to feel sceptical about its value.  Likewise, if you don’t enjoy reading a particular blog or get anything out of it, why bother?

This made me reflect on why I do this.  Over the last two years, producing this blog has been a very positive experience.  I’ve just realised that sounds like the build-up to saying I’m not going to do it any more – but it isn’t.  I do struggle with the time commitment of posting once a week, but that’s my choice and has now become part of my routine.  It gives me some much needed structure and the opportunity to write different kinds of material.  It makes me feel plugged into the book world, which I love, and gives me the chance to share my passion for reading and writing with interesting people who enjoy a lively discussion.  I’ve been genuinely touched and sustained by your support and cameraderie when I talk about my own journey (I had the decency to cringe saying that) as a writer.  I don’t fudge how hard it can be, and it seems you can relate to that.

So this second blog anniversary finds me in optimistic mood.  Last September the counter passed the 20,000 mark.  Now it’s approaching 50,000, which seems a good enough reason to celebrate by repeating the blog birthday competition.

Many thanks to everybody who supports the Literary Sofa – readers who come back week after week, fellow writers, publicists, editors and my guests.  I’ll keep writing if you keep reading!

& Sons HB

As I’ve done a lot of book giveaways in recent months, there are just two prizes both of which are on me:  the Literary Lunch and a copy of David Gilbert’s stunning novel & Sons.


This was a surprise hit last year with plenty of people keen to join me for a nice lunch in London to chat about books, writing or wherever the conversation leads, whether they already knew me or not.  I’d never met the lovely winner, writer Claire Snook from Bristol, but we had a great time swapping stories at Le Deuxième in Covent Garden.  This year’s winner will be consulted on where we meet and the prize can be taken on a mutually convenient date up until 31 May 2014.


David Gilbert’s novel & Sons was published to critical acclaim in the States but so far is only available as an import here in the UK (although it doesn’t cost any more than you’d pay there).  Set in New York, it’s the story of two families bound by their fathers’ long and complex friendship.  One of the men is A N Dyer, an iconic novelist whose own life makes for a cracking story.  I read and hugely admired this book when I was in America, particularly for the setting and the writerly observations which kept making me nod (and sigh).  Writing this elegant and fluent used to make me feel like giving up – now it makes me want to try harder.  I’d recommend it to any writer and anyone who enjoys intelligent and compelling fiction set in the literary world.


To enter, just leave a comment below with the name and author of the book you’ve enjoyed the most so far in 2013.  (Year of publication doesn’t matter.)  You can say why if you like, but please keep it brief.  One entry/book per person.  You DON’T have to be a writer to enter!

Closing date:  Tuesday 17 September, 4pm UK time.

Open to readers worldwide but the first winner drawn at random gets to choose which prize they want in case they cannot travel to London (or don’t want to have lunch with me!)  The remaining prize goes to the next entrant drawn who is able to accept it.


Next week, I’ll write about the York Festival.  And next month, I’m delighted that For Books’ Sake have invited me to contribute a How To Run a Successful Book Blog guide for their excellent site.

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