So, last night was my first ever proper, grown-up-author event. Waltham Forest, the London borough where I live, has been hosting its first literary festival over the past few weeks, and judging by the buzz on the streets (well, more the school gates really), it’s proving to be an absolute runaway success. When you manage to secure names like Carol Ann Duffy, Dorothy Koomson and Martina Cole you have to be on to a pretty good thing. Last night I was lucky enough to be a part of it, with a Girls Night In event at the local library.
It was a joint event with another first-time author, Jamie Baywood, and followed a simple format – short ‘how I came to write’ talk from both of us, then we each read from our respective books, before taking questions from the floor. I’ve been really nervous for the last few days thinking about it, and have been waking up sweating from classic anxiety dreams, but, when it came down to it it, was just hugely enjoyable.
Every so often my old job required me to deliver a Powerpoint presentation, or talk the Board through a paper I’d written. These were black days on my Outlook calendar, dreaded for weeks in advance, and requiring very large quantities of chocolate and/or alcohol to recover from. This was the kind of feeling I had been anticipating with dread, but it couldn’t have been more different. It turns out that there is a huge difference between presenting budget figures or policy proposals to an audience whose entire purpose is to critically challenge them, and talking about the reading and writing I love so much with an audience who are similarly motivated.
The atmosphere was friendly, interested and supportive. The questions were intelligent and thought-provoking but never hostile or threatening. My fellow author, the host for the evening, and the organisers were a delight to meet. I genuinely loved every minute of it, and was walking on air as I came out of Walthamstow Library at 9pm last night. I am so excited to have been part of such a lovely event, and very proud to live somewhere which sponsors and supports the written and spoken word like this.
My evening ended fantastically too, as I headed off to the pub with my publicist from Hodder who’d come along to support me. I didn’t need alcohol to calm me down this time, but a couple of glasses of sauvignon blanc, a platter of houmous, tzatziki and pitta and a good gossip is never a bad way to round things off. Of course it meant that I wasn’t in bed until 11.30pm, which, pathetically, is an extremely late night for me these days, but my good mood was such that I was even (relatively) undaunted by a 6am wake-up. Which really is unprecedented.