Monday, 18 October 2010

My Adventures at Cheltenham Literature Festival

My first ever Literature Festival experience began with locating my hotel and checking in, then walking into town for my first event. I have been a fan of Dawn French since ‘French and Saunders’ began, so I had high hopes for her talk and she did not disappoint. As well as being funny, she talked about her writing which I found fascinating. (She said that she has never touched a computer and writes everything on paper with a pencil.) She was exactly how I expected her to be; interesting and funny, and I am looking forward to reading 'A Tiny Bit of Marvellous' now. I enjoyed her memoir ‘Dear Fatty’ a lot when I read it so I have a feeling that her novel will be a good read when it is released.

During the afternoon, I went for a walk around Cheltenham. Before I left home I had been on the British Red Cross website and discovered that there was a shop there, so I found the correct road and walked up to find it. It was quite a way, but when I spoke to the manager about ‘50 Stories for Pakistan’ she was absolutely delighted and took a huge heap of my postcards to display in the shop. The shop had a huge selection of books and was full of customers, despite the ‘out of town’ location so it seemed like a very good place to be leaving the cards.

In the early evening, I met up with a friend and another friend of hers at a lovely restaurant called Namaste. Somehow my thoughts of having one glass of wine turned into the three of us sharing two bottles. The food was absolutely delicious. They went off to another event and I wobbled up the road hoping that I wasn’t going to feel rough on Sunday. (I am a very light drinker and even one glass can make me feel a bit hung-over. I know, I know.) I decided that the only way to avoid this was to re-hydrate so I went to the cinema and sat watching a random film with a large diet coke and popcorn which luckily did the trick. By the time I walked back to my hotel room I felt great, not least because the girl who sold me the munchies asked if I had a student card. Bless her.

On Sunday I went to see Harry Hill at noon. To be honest I didn’t have much expectation of this; I have enjoyed watching Harry Hill on TV but I imagined he would be sitting and talking with someone and that it could be disappointing. My worries were totally unfounded, as he took to the stage alone and was absolutely hilarious. The first half an hour he basically did a bit of stand up and it was a bit hyper but made me laugh a lot. He turned heckles and questions into funny stories effortlessly. I considered buying his book and getting it signed but the queue was so long that I would have missed my next event, so I settled for a browse around the book tent and a peer in the direction of the signing table. I then dashed off to grab a sandwich and was treated to being called ‘mademoiselle’ in a rather sexy French accent. The man obviously did a double-take as I was ‘madame’ after that but you know, for about five seconds, I did feel positively youthful.

One hour later, the event that I first signed up for began. ‘Writing Romantic Fiction,’ a three hour workshop, with Katie Fforde. We began by introducing ourselves. I said a bit about myself, but I failed to mention that I was keen to do the course as Katie has always been so lovely when I have spoken to her on Twitter. (There were only four people from Twitter in the room at the time and although the other three 'Tweeps' may have understood I thought perhaps the remaining twenty six people may have thought I was a bit mad.) Anyway, Katie Fforde can only be described as delightful and lovely. And I’m not just saying that because she started the session by passing round a big box of chocolates. She helped me to banish one of my demons from the room, as we all read out some of our work and I realised it was not as traumatic as I had been expecting. That felt good. It was lovely to be in a room with people with the same interest and we did a group exercise which I really enjoyed. I also finally met Lisa Bodenham-Mason who I have been talking with via Twitter and e-mail for a while. We have a huge amount in common and I have a feeling that we may have talked each other’s ears off if we had been together for much longer, so perhaps it was just as well that I had to dash off to another event after the workshop, but not before Katie signed my book. I am currently reading ‘A Perfect Proposal’ so as it was in my bag. Convenient, don’t you think?

Straight after that I walked rather quickly over to another venue to see, ‘Chavs, Snobs and the Afterlife,’ with Grace Dent and Tamsyn Murray. In this case I am happy to admit that I went because of my contact with Tamsyn on Twitter. However it was also because my first novel is for children and I am trying to load myself up with information on what may lie ahead for me in my future as a novelist. The highlight of this event was seeing Tamsyn read from ‘My So-Called Afterlife’ and Grace read from ‘Diary of a Snob: Poor Little Rich Girl’. I have to say they were both amazing readings, and it was fun to see the children in front of me reacting to what was being said. I would have bought both books on the strength of this if I didn’t already have them at home. As it was I bought another one of Grace’s books and she signed it for someone (I won’t say who in case they read this), and had a brief chat with Tamsyn. (I already have all of Tamsyn’s books at home, which she kindly signed the last time we met.) Both of these authors looked stunning and I was so desperate to ask Grace how she walked in her heels. They were impossibly high. Somehow though, the moment never arrived.

All in all it was a great weekend. My only regret is that I forgot to take my camera.


  1. How brilliant. I'd love to go to the Cheltenham Festival. I find that the only trouble with festivals though is that by the end of the weekend you're so 'full' you're not able to listen to another word spoken.

  2. Sounds like a lot of fun, I love Katie Fforde books, I have read all of hers bar one which I just couldn't get into. Sounds like you had great opportunities too, meeting with people and seeing different sides to them and their work.

  3. Sounds like a fantastic and productive weekend. And it must be great to meet with people you've been chatting with on twitter (especially when they give you chocolates ;-))>

  4. How fun that must have been for you, I'm so sad we don't really have these kind of events near where I live...
    Glad you shared so I can live it vicariously ;)