The tendency to say that that was the best event can obviously get a little repetitive. But I really did feel that Liz Kessler’s talk on Saturday afternoon was pretty perfect. Especially so for a newbie. I was so sure that we’d missed Liz in previous years, and then it turns out this was her first time.
OK, so Liz had a bit of a croaky voice, but that didn’t stop her. What she also had was a sold out event, and – too rarely for festivals in general – an event that was full of fans or potential fans, rather than well-meaning adults or people who have wandered into the wrong event. (Once those girls have read their first Liz Kessler book, they too will worship her.)
So, there I was with my own over-age fan, restraining herself like mad from taking part, so as not to deprive the right age girls from their moment of glory with Liz.
Liz explained how she was going to do her thing, and get us all involved. She had brought a box full of her ‘writer’s things’, and she let the girls in the audience pick them out, one by one. So there was a door, for fairies. Index cards for all those ideas, several of which she read out, realising she’d not used them in the end.
There was a watch to signify time travel, for A Year Without Autumn, which she then read an extract from, musing on how hard it was to find ‘nice’ bits. For some reason Liz then sang a line from her old school song…
All writers have to love stationery, so that’s easy. You need an emergency note book. And for some obscure reason Liz had a packet of crisps in her box, signifying Poppy, her Dalmatian. (There will be a book about Poppy next year, Poppy the Pirate Dog!) Story cubes to play with. No chocolate, because she ate it.
Liz brought along some old school reports and read out some less than complimentary comments from her teachers. And then a lovely A-level teacher of English came along and changed Liz’s school work and most likely her future. We just need one, and they can be so important. Although, having said that, Liz apparently wrote her first book at the age of eight (for her grandmother, I think).
Bribes came next. Liz had brought stuff to bribe her audience to ask her good questions, and they certainly did. None of the old tired questions you hear all the time. (So on the whole I’d recommend more authors to use bribes in future Q&As.) The best was the ‘what if’ question referring to the A-level teacher. Would we still have Liz Kessler the author without her?
And beware scrunching up daisies that you have picked. It could make them a little out of sorts the next day.
There was a satisfyingly long queue in the bookshop afterwards, and I imagine the girls bought most of Liz’s books, if they didn’t already own them. The only drawback was the long wait photographer and I had for our photo opportunity by the old tree trunk.
But this is the kind of event we want more of, and what a great Edinburgh beginning!