Book Festivals and What They Mean to Writers

I spent a good chunk of last weekend at the Dalkey Book Festival. There was a lovely atmosphere – lots of multi-coloured bunting slung across the streets, face painting, music – a very happy, party feel to the village. I grew up in Dalkey, near the quarry, and it’s a place very close to my heart. It’s wonderful to see such a vibrant, lively festival take over the streets.

On Saturday I hosted a writing workshop for children. Billed as for age 9+, I had a 5 year old and a 7 year old ‘writing’, or more accurately drawing pictures of what they wanted to say in their work (and very good they were too). And one very brave boy who was full of excellent ideas and didn’t seem to be at all phased to be flying solo amongst so many girls.

We did several fun exercises, concentrating on using your senses in your work – especially smell – which writers starting out don’t use half enough. Certain scents transport us to different times of our life, to other countries, to sad thoughts, to happy times.

On Sunday I spoke to Amy Green readers about ideas and inspiration, and we acted out a scene from the first Amy Green book, Boy Trouble. I had a lot of fun, and I hope they did too! Meeting readers is always a pleasure and makes my ‘day job’ worthwhile.

I also got to see some of my writer friends: Martina Devlin, Don Conroy, Niamh Sharkey, Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, Judi Curtin, Conor Kostick and Sinead Moriarty. We had lunch together, chatted and caught up. It’s always lovely to talk to other writers, they truly understand the pressures and joys of living a writer’s life.

I also listened to Martina Devlin and John Waters speak about being ‘blow-ins’ in Dalkey, which was most interesting. I always learn something new at other writers’ talks and try to attend as many as I can. I greatly enjoyed Listowel Writers’ Week for that reason – and made sure to catch as many different authors and musicians as possible, from Joe Craig on the piano, to Joseph O’Connor with ‘his’ band, and Alice Sebold.

Writing can be a lonely occupation at times, and book festivals are a fantastic opportunity to get out and meet fellow readers and writers. Feeding the mind and the soul is always a good thing. And it reminds me how important books are in so many different peoples’ lives, which as a writer is heartening and inspiring to know.

I’m already looking forward to the West Cork Literary Festival in July – David Soul and Michael Morpurgo in particular. And the Mountains to Sea Festival in September in Dun Laoghaire with Oliver Jeffers, Patrick Ness, Meg Rosoff, Emma Donoghue and Edna O’Brien.

Yours in Writing,

Sarah XXX