With less than twenty four hours at my disposal this time at my annual literary feast – the 2018 Franschhoek Literary Festival – I hung around briefly in the EB pop up book section in the Town Hall, to scan the new lists of books. One day, when I own my book shop (in my dreams) I won’t have to pick up one book and then another and then walk around with it, turning each over briefly in my hands to see if it fits as if it were a piece of clothing, only to put it down again and repeat the process with another, finally showing up at the cashier with my one precious purchase. I can just have them all.
While walking in this zombie type state, with a book or five in hand, I glanced up and saw a woman sitting with her legs curled up under her body, like a cat, reading Jen Thorpe’s book Feminism Is – South Africans speak their truth. I turned back to the bulging shelves again, my eye scanning a whole hoard of books I desperately coveted and then thought to sit for a minute with the Porcupine sponsored wine in hand. Perhaps the ‘hair of the dog’ would assist my dilemma.
With my one purchase, Kate Furnivall’s Betrayal (I had to buy something relevant to one of my talks I had just attended, the wonderful panel discussion with Michelle Magwood and Kate Mosse) I sat down on the couch next to the curled up stranger and stroked the cover of my new purchase softly, like the hands of a young lover who didn’t want to wake her partner.
‘So, what do you think of that book, so far?’ I heard myself asking, noticing that she had barely started it.
‘I’m loving it’ she said, smiling an easy smile, edging her feet off the couch and getting up at the same time. She was planted right next to me, before my sip of Porcupine Rose had properly left my lips.
She pulled out her file and pen and paper and said, ‘Let’s talk’. Oh heavens, I thought. Bliss. Someone I can talk books to!
That’s the pure magic of the Franschhoek Literary Festival: books and wine and meeting new readers and engaging with authors and learning new things all the time. And in a beautiful setting.
I’ve now lost count of the number of festivals I’ve attended. Each has been different and added its riches. I recall vividly the first few, being in awe of the authors and wondering why they did it. I’ve listened to fascinating lectures on politics and law and publishing but mostly I’m fascinated by writers and how they do it. Why they do it and how they do it and what inspires them to write about the things and places and people they do. Trying to understand if fiction is really far from the truth, and what it’s like to sit on stage and talk about your book. Oh, to be one of those, I used to think.
But not anymore. That fire in my heart that burns and fuels the words that crawl out onto my page has little to do with anyone else other than what I need to write. What I’m learning about writing and books and people and life is that it’s not easy to be writer because you really do put yourself out there. Whatever it is you write about. Whether it’s historical fiction, or literary non-fiction or misery memoirs or books about some guy that went to America (‘ah, was that you?’ they ask), you expose yourself in so many ways and people start to look at you differently and dissect all the little parts of you and that’s quite hard. Not everyone will like what you write, or how you write. Or even like you.
But it matters not how many are going to like it. Yes, it would be decent if I earned a little living from what I love but of course, publishers publish books that they believe are going to earn a living for them too.
My new friend on that couch emailed me the next day and said she’d ordered my book. It’s out of print in the bookshops and badly formatted on Amazon (I got tired in the end) but she found it somewhere online. I don’t know why and I don’t know if she’s going to like it but it matters not.
It was the highlight of this festival for me. Meeting just one person who was genuinely interested in my story.
Funny how it only takes one person?
But then some other highlights:
- Meeting Tracy Going (her new book Brutal Legacy) in person. She is more gorgeous in real life than I imagined.
- Listening to Kate Mosse’s research and inspiration and family history. She was so passionate and excited about her work. She writes HUGE, long, historical fiction. I loved her!
- Getting a hug from fellow author Steven Boykie Sidley in the street when I introduced myself as a FB friend. His mission was to give all his FB friends a hug as a greeting.
- Staying at our fabulous usual spot and being greeted by the warm welcome of Ronelle who runs it. I love warm, happy, passionate people that hug.
- Did I mention dinner out with my favourite person?
‘Til next one and next time