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My First Time...with Libby Page

Libby Page graduated from The London College of Fashion with a BA in fashion journalism before going on to work as a journalist at The Guardian. After writing, her second passion is outdoor swimming. Libby lives in London, where she enjoys finding new swimming spots and pockets of community within the city.

She is also delighted (probably) to have discovered our little pocket of writing inspiration and will be joining us at The Riff Raff on Thursday 12th April to read from her amazing debut The Lido.

Libby Page. The Riff Raff

Here's the blurb for The Lido...

'Kate is a twenty-six-year-old riddled with anxiety and panic attacks who works for a local paper in Brixton, London, covering forgettably small stories. When she’s assigned to write about the closing of the local lido (an outdoor pool and recreation center), she meets Rosemary, an eighty-six-year-old widow who has swum at the lido daily since it opened its doors when she was a child. It was here Rosemary fell in love with her husband, George; here that she’s found communion during her marriage and since George’s death. The lido has been a cornerstone in nearly every part of Rosemary’s life. But when a local developer attempts to buy the lido for a posh new apartment complex, Rosemary’s fond memories and sense of community are under threat. As Kate dives deeper into the lido’s history—with the help of a charming photographer—she pieces together a portrait of the pool, and a portrait of a singular woman, Rosemary. What begins as a simple local interest story for Kate soon blossoms into a beautiful friendship that provides sustenance to both women as they galvanize the community to fight the lido’s closure. Meanwhile, Rosemary slowly, finally, begins to open up to Kate, transforming them both in ways they never knew possible.'

Read more My First Time interviews >>

Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book?

I’d had the idea for a few months but was unsure about actually starting and committing to it. I then went to Hay-on-Wye literary festival in 2015 and attended a talk by one of my favourite authors, Sarah Winman.

She spoke with such passion about writing and it resonated with me so much that when I left I decided to go for it and start my novel. That’s why it is particularly special for me that a quote from Sarah Winman is now on the front cover of my finished book!

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write your first book?

I suppose I could say that I wish I’d known everything would work out and that my book would get published. It certainly would have been nice to hear in difficult moments! But I actually think there’s something to be said for writing without the pressure of any expectations. I wrote The Lido for myself, because I wanted to and that gave me a certain freedom. Writing my first book was such a huge learning experience for me that I wouldn’t really want to change anything about it – I wouldn’t want to take away any of the lessons I had to learn along the way.

What’s your go-to procrastination method?

If I’m struggling and need a break I try and get out for a walk, run, swim or a yoga class. Exercise is really important to me – I have to get out and do something every day or I get sluggish and claustrophobic. I often find it’s when I’m walking or swimming that ideas come to me. A less healthy form of procrastination is scrolling through Instagram: I often shut my phone in another room when I’m writing to avoid the distraction!

The Lido by Libby Page, The Riff Raff

What was the biggest tantrum you had while writing it?

It’s not very exciting to say that I’m not prone to tantrums, but it’s the truth! I certainly had moments of real anxiety though – worrying if I was wasting my time, if it was good enough, if I would ever make it as a writer… Particularly as I was writing it just for myself with no real expectations of ever getting published, I sometimes felt like I was mad for putting so much time and energy into it. It could be quite dispiriting.

Best thing about writing your book?

When the writing was going well it was the best feeling. I have loved writing since I was a child, so when I’m in the flow with it there is nothing I’d rather be doing.

Hours can go by without me really noticing and I get a great sense of satisfaction at the end of a good day. In the process of writing the book there were plenty of moments like this where I saw the story coming to life and just felt so happy to be spending my time at my computer typing away. And the worst?

Although there were good moments there were also many, many moments when it wasn’t going so well.

When the writing isn’t going well I find it affects my mood so much. At times it felt really lonely and isolating – I was spending hours and hours working on something that I had no idea was any good or was ever going to go anywhere. I did also physically isolate myself at one point too – I saved up and took six weeks off between jobs to go to Paris and write.

It was an amazing and productive experience, but when the writing wasn’t going well and I missed my boyfriend and friends I did question what I was doing. At times I just wanted to give up and come home.

Go-to writing snacks?

Chocolate. Biscuits. Toast. Cake. I like snacks.

Who or what inspires you to write?

I have wanted to be an author since I was about six years old so have always had that drive inside of me. It’s just something that I do in the same way that exercise is now such an important part of my life. If I don’t write or exercise I feel like I’m going mad!

The book that changed you?

It’s impossible to pick out one book! I would definitely say that the books I read as a child had a big influence on me though as they inspired me to want to become an author myself and instilled in me a lifelong love of reading.

It was particularly inspiring to grow up through the Harry Potter phenomenon – suddenly it wasn’t just nerdy children like me who had their heads in books – everyone was doing it. It became cool and there was so much excitement around the books.

I think seeing so many people fall in love with reading in that way made me think that it was OK to love to read, and to love writing stories too.

Your pump up song?

Destiny’s Child ‘Survivor’ always pumps me up before a run. But when I write I don’t usually listen to music – my downstairs neighbour is a musician so I like listening to him play instead. I feel very lucky that he is very good!

If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer dead or alive, who would it be?

The child inside me would have to say JK Rowling. I have so much respect for her, the world she created and how she got a whole generation of children into reading.

One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get a book published?

Stick at it! Aside from those six weeks in Paris, I was working in a full-time job when I wrote The Lido. At times it was hard fitting it in before work, in the evenings and on my holidays and I wondered whether it was worth it. It then took me a year to find an agent and I was close to giving up when I found my now agent.

My life has changed so much since getting my publishing deal. I am so pleased I did make time for the writing and didn’t give up on finding an agent. If it’s something you love doing and you believe in your idea, then there is no reason why you can’t get there too. Good luck!


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