Festivals are fun. There's the standing on a stage in front of an audience of hundreds with the opportunity to talk about your work. There are the sparky, quirky, occasionally hilarious audience questions. There's the acknowledgement that the way you spend your working life is worthwhile. There's the personal contact at the signing table, hearing that your books have touched people, knowing that more readers are soon to discover them (and that the on-site bookshop and your publisher will both be happy with the length of the queue). There are the formal and informal opportunities to catch up with other writers.
Festivals are peppered with incidental conversations and meetings; conversations that are both unexpected and energising. At festivals you inevitably bump into writers you haven't seen in years - old friends of the literary circuit - and new ones you might see again in two years, or four, or six.
This year's NZ Festival Writers Week was one of the best. Well done to Festival Wallah Kathryn Carmody - another excellent project and job well done.
I had two events in Wellington: a session called 'WWI Voices' on the origins of Evie's War, the stories that stand behind it, the research that supports it. Because it was held in the Embassy Theatre (home to LOTR premieres), I had the giant screen behind me - and it would have been crazy not to use it. In advance I couldn't quite imagine my images writ that large. In reality, it was fantastic. Original source material, family memorabilia, research trips, European battle sites, towns, museums, memorials, cemeteries - the images added to the power of the presentation. Will I write another WWI book I was asked. Oh, yes...
My second session was with UK author Sally Gardner. Her fantastic novel Maggot Moon challenges assumptions about YA writing, about illustration, about dyslexia. It is a riveting, emotional, thought-provoking piece of work, highly deserving of its Costa and Carnegie awards. We chatted about Sally's other work, her magical series for younger readers, Wings & Co, her wide-ranging historical and contemporary tales for older readers, her ageless and chilling retelling of a Hans Christian Anderson folktale, Tinder. The hour went incredibly fast - but Sally and I will be catching up very happily the next time our paths cross (London: watch this space!)
My events bracketed a string of wonderful writer sessions - Patrick Gale, Etgar Keret, Andrew O'Hagan, Paul Cleave, Cornelia Funke, Chris McDougall and so many more. Roll on the next festival - Christchurch August 2016.