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.

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?’

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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.

 

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Derby Writers Day

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Q -What is better than a day spent hanging out with other writers?

A – A day spent hanging out with other writers in a venue that makes the best scones I have ever tasted (and I have tasted a LOT).

 

The first annual Derby Writers Day on Saturday, at The Quad, was slickly run, meticulously organised with a huge variety of talks on offer. A huge thanks to Alex Davis of Boo Books for all his hard work.

There were three talks happening simultaneously every hour and it was really hard to choose between them. My day kicked off with a talk on crime and thriller writing by Stephen Booth, Niki Valentine and Steven Dunne. All panel sessions were a blend of author talks and audience questions; the atmosphere relaxed and informal. I love to hear published authors talk about their novel writing process.

Julia Murday was next on  my list. Her talk on promotion and marketing at Penguin Books was really insightful. So much happens between an agent submitting a book to its publication date.

Man Booker Prize nominee, Alison Moore shared her perspective on the life of a full-time writer. I managed to catch up with Alison later in the day where she gave me some valuable advice on transitioning between novels. I’ve ordered her books from Amazon on paperback, they sound so beautiful I feel they deserve to be read properly (sorry Kindle, I do still love you).

Alison Moore, Alison McQueen and Niki Valentine explained what the term ‘literary fiction’ means to them.

The day was rounded off with Alex Davis leading an interesting panel session discussing whether writers are thriving or surviving.

I love events like these, meeting other readers and writers is inspiring and I always come away, armed with new knowledge, new friends, raring to get back to my keyboard.