Friday, November 13, 2020

It's all about the Pina Coladas...and the Museum of Jellyfish


Give us some of your funniest and most memorable stories from traveling to book festivals





It’s Friday again! Hope you’re all keeping well.


I’ve said it on here before, but book festivals and travelling to events are probably my favourite thing about being a writer – far more enjoyable than the actual writing, and one of the hardest things about the last year has been the enforced cancellation, or mass migration of these festivals online. They’ve still been fun, and the fact that they’re online means they’re accessible by many more people across the world, but really, they’re a pale substitute for the real thing.


For starters, I miss seeing new places, be it small towns and out of the way villages in the UK that I’d never otherwise have visited, or events overseas, sitting in my slippers on a zoom call in my basement is not quite the same.


Then there’s the people. Writers, by the nature of our work, are pretty solitary creatures. We beaver away for months on end over the autumn and winter, in our attics and studies, crafting our words and then, like butterflies, we emerge into the world, bleary eyed in the warmer months, ready to go to festivals and meet friends whom we haven’t seen for so long. The festivals offer a kind of release; a therapy; where we can get together, discuss our craft over several too many drinks and bitch about the latest young hotshot debut who’s just been given a seven figure advance.


I have quite a few wonderful stories of my time at festivals, though some of them are covered by non disclosure agreements – it seems that what goes on in Wigtown, stays in Wigtown – you know what I mean. Anyway here are some of my favourite memories from the last few years of travelling the globe in search of people who might just be crazy enough to buy my books.


·      Kiev, Ukraine – Going to the museum of Jellyfish and then having dinner and being offered a plate of 5 different types of lard.

At the world famous Museum of Jellyfish

·      Kiev, Ukraine – Attending the book festival and ending up in a scrum of reporters beside the president of Ukraine who’d just lost the election days before. 

Me and the soon to be outgoing president of Ukraine - Count all the Books!

·      St Petersburg, USA – My first ever Bouchercon – I hung around mainly with a lot of my British author pals, spending a lot of time going from bar to bar. These authors were hard men who like hard drinks. But I saw the whole thing as a holiday and kept ordering Pina coladas. In the end they were all drinking them.

Bouchercon 2019 - Loads of Americans wondering who the hell I am

·      Milan, Italy – Being asked if it was true that British people put pineapple on their pizzas. I blamed Americans.

·      Italy – Being surprised by my publishers and taken to Venice for two days


·      Spain – More pina coladas, trying to convince Booker Prize shortlistee, Graham Macrae Burnett that the drink he really wanted was a pina colada

·      Bengal, India – Ending up in a village in the jungle and playing Take That songs to the bemused villagers

·      Belfast, Northern Ireland – Ending up in a bar and being accosted by the Golden Girls

They wanted to adopt me

·      Kolkata, India – Having my face appear on a cake alongside Val McDermid

This was a first



So. Now it seems there’s a vaccine on it’s way. Hopefully we can get back to festivalling again soon. Cos I miss my pina coladas.





Brenda Chapman said...

Next time you're in Canada (the first time?),pina coladas all around!

Susan C Shea said...

In the 1970s, I was seduced by Sloe Gin Fizzes - new to me when we moved to California. I ordered them everywhere, although all I got was funny looks at the Financial District pubs in SF my husband took me to. I think pina coladas are from trhe same branch of vacation drinks. Yum

Abir said...

I'm up for that Brenda!

Abir said...

I need to try these gin fizzes, Susan!