One terrified writer, one HUGE literary festival, one big mistake?

Over the past year I’ve been asked to speak at several events, some big, some small, but all have one thing in common – I’ve said no. I think I can pinpoint exactly when and why my phobia of public speaking started, but knowing that, understanding that, hasn’t made it any easier to cope with. On the occasions I’ve tried, I’ve ended up in such a state I’ve not been able to sleep or eat in the weeks preceding and have been physically sick and unable to talk on the day. Shaking, dry mouth, fainting, you name it, I’ve suffered with it.

Althorp Literary Festival is in its 14th year and when an email dropped into my inbox I assumed it was asking me to buy tickets as I’ve attended most years as a guest. Instead, it was an invitation to take part in a panel event. I felt equally honoured and disappointed. There’s no way I could possibly take part, or could I?

Unusually, I didn’t rattle off a polite ‘thanks, but no thanks’ straight away. Althorp is a very dear place to me. I grew up 10 minutes down the road and have many happy childhood memories of our Sunday afternoon drives through the beautiful grounds after a roast lunch, my parents in the front of the car, me playing eye-spy in the back with my sister, ending with tea and cake and the more I let the memory cover me like a blanket, the more it grew – the urge to say yes. My fingers hovered over the keyboard before I quickly punched out an acceptance. And then I cried. And then I set about finding a solution, painfully aware I wouldn’t just be representing myself but also the festival, both my publishers and my agent. No pressure then. My google research resulted in me booking a course of hypnotherapy. I genuinely enjoyed every second of my talk and I’ve since signed up for various events and I honestly can’t wait. Next week I’ll be interviewing my hypnotherapist, Carmen, and she’ll share her thoughts on why public speaking is such a common phobia and give her tips on giving a great performance and I’ll be talking about the things that worked for me. (You can now read that post here).

Today though I want to share my memories of what was an amazing weekend.

On arrival I was escorted to the Green Room, the library. The sight of all those books was instantly calming, admittedly so was the sight of the gin…

It felt so surreal at first and I had to remind myself to focus and pay attention to the other panellists as initially I was sitting there thinking ‘I’m on a stage at Althorp! How did this possibly happen to me?’


There were books everywhere and at my first official signing I had a touch of anxiety I’d scratch the beautiful desk. I didn’t, and chatting to readers was one of the highlights of my weekend.

Umm there’s always one, lowering the tone, photographing the food. That would be me…

The grounds are absolutely stunning.

And no festival would be complete without a champagne bus. thankfully the sun shone and it became open top. 

I met some amazing people, caught up with old friends and made some new, and whether I’m invited back as a speaker or not, I can’t wait for next year’s event.

Huge thanks to everyone involved in putting together such an amazing festival and leaving me with memories I shall always treasure.

36 thoughts on “One terrified writer, one HUGE literary festival, one big mistake?

  1. Looks lovely, Louise! I wanted to go this year but had too much work to do, but will def try to go next year. I was recently asked to do a presentation at York Writers’ Festival and I was terrified, so I’m looking forward to reading about your hypnotherapist and how she helped…

  2. Well done. I love this blog. I hope you will have the huge courage again to speak elsewhere. Photos lush too. Thanks for this post. Encouraging for others.

  3. Well done, Louise. I use hypnotherapy to help with my anxiety issues, I don’t know how it works, but it does. I love your books and so do many more, and it’s so nice to interact with your readers and gian new ones through these events.

  4. Well done. Public speaking cripples me whenever I have had to do it. Maybe hypnotherapy would work 😊
    It looks a lovely place and as a reader it is always good to meet the author of your favourite books and hear what they have to say

  5. Well done, sure you were brilliant! I took part in my local book festival at the weekend and once got started I forgot to be nervous and really enjoyed myself. There will be no stopping you now!

  6. Well done! This looks an amazing event and one I would love to attend sometime Myself as everyone looked to have a fabulous time. Looking forward to the top tips on public speaking from your hypnotherapist although will be coming a little late for me-I’m due to give a speech in front of 72 ladies at a literary lunch tomorrow and I’m terrified!!!! Xx

  7. Well done on taking on something you feared! I have to be honest, this is something I struggle with too. I make myself participate in these events, but I get myself worked up over them. And while I’m speaking, it’s like a five-alarm fire inside my head, and I’m not certain what’s coming out of my mouth. I recently received feedback that I come across calm and confident (what?!), despite what’s going on in my head. To my great relief, my autopilot works well.
    I look forward to hearing tips for this. It’d be nice to feel the calm inside that other people see on the outside.

  8. Well done on conquering your fears, Louise. It’s not easy to speak in public: when I was a desk editor I was expected to present the books I’d worked on to the sales reps at the publisher’s annual conference – but I always chickened out.

  9. I too had a fear of public speaking. I overcame it by joining a Speaker’s Club which allows me to practise in a safe environment with constructive feedback. Doubt I’ll be invited anywhere as grand as Althorp though – well done!

  10. Congratulations, Louise. Oh, how I know how you feel. Even though I was a teacher, the thought of getting up and taking to a group of adults leaves me shaking. This year, I was asked to be part of a panel talk at a writing conference and actually said ‘yes’ because it was local and one I’d enjoyed attending. What had I done! When someone couldn’t attend and it was decided not to go ahead with that part of the programme, I was almost sick with relief! I’ve recently been asked to give a talk to a local writing group and am plucking up the courage to say yes. Can’t wait for your next post – it might be something that could help me too 😀

Thanks so much for reading!

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