Sarah Moss and Neel Mukherjee

Cambridge WordFest has been re-branded Cambridge Literary Festival, but it shall always be WordFest in my heart. WordFest has an earthy, funky feel, as though Ali Smith made it up.

This morning, as part of CLF(Winter), I went to see Sarah Moss (Cold Earth, Bodies of Light, Signs For Lost Children) in conversation with Neel Mukherjee (Past Continuous, Lives Apart, The Lives of Others).

I won’t review Moss’s Night Waking here but it was one of the first books I read on the brand new Kindle Paperwhite (oh! how I love you!) my husband had to buy me so that I could read while breastfeeding in the middle of the night. (It’s easier to swipe one-handed than turn actual pages.) It’s a book that is, in large part, about motherhood and having to get up for children in the middle of the night, so it was right up my proverbial alley. It’s wonderful. I suspect it may turn out to be a work of genius.

Mukherjee and Moss discussed reading as a necessary precursor to writing, not just because they both engage in – and seem to enjoy – copious amounts of research, but because, as they said, what you read becomes ‘part of your DNA’. They were both lucky enough to have the kind of literary education which made them read everything classic and this depth of reading can be seen in the important and ambitious scope of their works.

This DNA idea is why practically every blog post I intend to be about writing winds up also being about my reading habits. So that’s my writing advice for this week: read. Read widely. Read the kinds of books you love. Read the kinds of books you want to write. Read until what you read becomes part of you.


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