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Monday, 15 May 2017

The Dunedin Readers and Writers Festival

Full marks to the organisers for pulling the festival all together. It seemed to run smoothly and the writers invited were excellent. I could only attend at the weekend, the festival began on Wednesday and finished on Sunday evening, and I had to pick the sessions with the visiting authors as they were pricey. I enjoyed the  Friday evening opener with all the authors: Ian Rankin, Stella Duffy, John Lanchester, Hannah Kent, Bill Manhire and Victor Rodger, (M.J. Carter missed it) with MC Kate De Goldi. There was a crime panel on Saturday afternoon with M.J. Carter, Ian Rankin, Stella Duffy and a Sunday morning session with historical fiction writer,  Hannah Kent. I was delighted to hear her speak as she has written two historical novels in a similar vein to my historical novel, 'Tizzie' and she is an inspirational speaker!

It seems to me it's good pratice for a writer to attend such a festival as a reader. It certainly does give one a different perspective looking as a writer from the reader's side of the signing table. Writers are observers and I observed and learnt.

At my next group book signings I will remember not to huddle with my colleagues but try for a little separation. I had no idea how intimidating it can feel when you have to approach three authors with only one of their books. What do you do? What do you say? "Sorry I can only afford one book."?  Fortunately M.J. Carter was very kind and signed and smiled at me. Perhaps she's quite new to the Book Festival signing lark or maybe she's just a sweet person. The other two looked, looked away and chatted. I felt terrible, but I was saved by another reader wanting their signatures. I will, as a writer, remember to smile sweetly in that situation and make a friendly comment like: "Good choice, I really enjoyed that book and she's/he's a good writer." Readers remember. I still feel awkward and it's been a couple of days.

The other thing I will remember to watch is those first 3 second assumptions we will make about people. I don't go around wearing those 'Look at me! I'm a creative person, a writer person!' type clothes, I am grey haired and walk with a stick. I wear what I call classic clothing so I got the 'Oh no, this looks like another middle class gushing old lady' look. Not something to flick between yourself as author with an author colleague if, as is most likely, it turns out said little old lady/gentleman is a sharp minded, keen and critical reader. That glance will be noted and it will rankle. Never upset your readers, they won't buy your books. And I didn't!

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