Friday 14 June 2024

Talking to the Author by Lynne Benton

 Recently I attended various sessions in the annual two-week Bath Literary Festival.  I always enjoy choosing which sessions to go to, particularly as the festival often includes some of my favourite authors – those whose books I most enjoy reading.

This year I went to hear seven authors talk about their books, which was great.   I was also able to buy copies of their latest books and queue up to talk to them and ask them to sign my copy.  It is always interesting, and in some cases a real joy, to have a chance to actually speak to a favourite author and tell them how much you enjoy their books.  Some of those I met, I found, were very happy to chat to me too, which was even nicer, and I came away on a high.

I hope they were pleased to find so many people keen to buy their latest book.  As a writer myself, I know how good it feels when someone tells me how much they’ve enjoyed one of my books.  Especially if it’s someone I don’t know.

Of course, this is why School visits are so important if you write for children.  When I was a child, way back in the fifties, I don’t remember ever meeting a writer face to face, though as an avid reader I would have been in seventh heaven if one had come to my school.  Maybe it didn’t occur to anyone in those distant days that this might be an option – or that children needed encouragement to read!  (I certainly didn’t!)  I suppose at that time the one writer who would have guaranteed to set all hearts racing would have been Enid Blyton, before the powers-that-be decided her books might corrupt young minds.  (Not that children agreed!  Whenever I went to the library as a child there were always several children waiting by the B section for the Enid Blytons to be returned so they could take them out.)  So I can just imagine the reaction of the entire school if the great lady had actually come to visit our school and talk to us!

And how wonderful it would have been if your parents had been able to afford to buy one of her books!  That would mean you might actually get to speak to her and ask her to sign it for you!  I’m afraid the cost of a new book would have been beyond most of our parents at the time, so I bore this in mind when I did my last school visit a few years ago.  Before going I had a load of bookmarks printed (with pictures of my books on), which I gave out to all the children.  This meant that as well as signing any books they bought, I could also sign bookmarks, so that every child would have a chance to come and speak to me if they wanted to, if only to tell me their name. They all seemed happy to queue for that too, which was lovely.  Clearly there’s nothing like the personal contact!

These days I suppose the only author who would guarantee the sort of hero-worship Blyton received back then would be JK Rowling, though children nowadays are much more used to reading lots of different books by different authors, and to having them visit their school.  Though I suspect that many of us who do, or have done, author visits to schools will probably have been asked if we know JK Rowling.  Children also, of course, accept that we must be very rich: at that same school visit one child asked me in awed tones, “Are you a multi-millionaire?”  Because of course, as everyone knows, all children’s authors are multi-millionaires, aren’t they? 

However, although that is, unsurprisingly, far from the case, I appreciate that these days when I go to a Literary Festival I can buy a book from a favourite author, and meet her (or him) face to face.  And talk to them.  It is still a great joy.


1 comment:

Sue Purkiss said...

Who did you see, Lynne? I must try to see some events next year - they don't send me a brochure any more, so I didn't realise it was on!