Many thanks to all those who encouraged my Spanish efforts, in my last post. I am doing my best - honestly!
Last weekend, when I wasn't struggling with the language, I spent some time at the Literature Festival held, as some of you know, in the lovely market town where I live. And what fun it was, devoting time to bookish things. (Actually, I devote nearly all my time to bookish things anyway, but this time I did it with other booky people. And wonderful it was, too.)
I'm not going to review everything I saw - that would be tedious. But I've come away with a thought or two that might, just, be useful to remember when we are all famous. Some of it I knew anyway - from public speaking in my former life (I did lecturing and other learned stuff as part of my Child Protection work). But knowing something and seeing it work in practice are so very different. So here are some reflections.
The event that really didn't work was an interview with a writer who has been around for decades. I won't give names - maybe she and her interviewer had a bad day. But I felt she had no real idea what the purpose of the interview was - she had no new book to promote, no clear story to tell, and so fell back on disconnected anecdotes. But the real blame (for want of a better word) lay with the interviewer, who was unprepared. She had no list of questions, no idea of where she'd like their discussion to lead - so she said things like, 'You must tell them about the time you ...' as if she were prompting a recalcitrant student. She fluctuated between obviously floundering as she tried to think of something to say - and so suddenly asking something unrelated to the previous discussion, or interrupting because she had an idea and maybe it would fly away if she didn't use it soon.
It was the best illustration I've ever seen of what happens if you're not prepared.
This contrasts with Claire Tomalin, who spoke about Dickens and Queen Victoria. She had mislaid a page of her notes - and spent about ten seconds riffling through her papers and then carried on from memory. She knew - and loved - her subject, and she was fascinating, prompting equally fascinating questions.
And the star - Jackie Kay. She is a real presence on a stage (I'm not sure we can learn that - it's something some people just have), spoke with confidence and humour and compassion. She makes a point of never speaking ill of anyone - which is a huge achievement when writing a memoir. And I felt this was not simply a device so she could look compassionate - for instance, her birth father refuses to have anything to do with her (though she sees her siblings), yet she is still able to talk of him without resentment. She seeks to understand rather than pass judgement. She spoke about being adopted, about her race and sexuality, with such refreshing openness - she's the sort of woman you'd like to live next door to. The hour passed too quickly, and we all left wanting more.
So the big lessons - to share with any of my followers destined to win the Booker Prize - know your stuff. And make a point of being kind. (Can it really be that difficult?)