This poor old blog has been a bit neglected of late, but that’s because so much has been going on that it’s been hard to get to it. One of the local events that has taken up some of my attention recently was the Parisot Literary Festival, which took place last weekend. My impression is that it was a great success.
Last year, I was on the organising committee of this Anglo-French event. This year, I was on the other side of the fence as an author. More of that in a moment.
This was the 2nd edition of the festival. Many of the authors live in, or have a connection with, SW France. Last year, the weather was abysmal. This year was quite the opposite. That’s not necessarily a good thing. In theory, good weather can encourage people to stay at home and do the gardening. In practice, I’m glad to say that the turnouts seemed to be even higher than in 2013.
In the hot seat
After a couple of events on Friday afternoon/evening, I kicked off proceedings on Saturday morning. I had been invited to talk about my historical novel, The House at Zaronza, how it came about and how it got published. Unusually for me, I had prepared well in advance and even practised my talk a couple of times. I’m normally a seat of the pants kind of person, which is not good for the nerves.
My session seemed to go well. A lot of people turned up (some of them friends under a three-line whip), seemed to be interested in what I said, asked a lot of questions and then bought my book. What more could I ask for? Perhaps a better photographer next time. The one above is the only one of the eight or so the SF took that is worthy of reproducing. Never mind, he’s good at statistics.
After that, I was free to enjoy the rest of the weekend. And it was a cracking programme, even better than last year’s, I think. My only regret was that I couldn’t go to some of the events that ran in parallel.
In the afternoon, Amanda Hodgkinson came back to Parisot to talk about her books, including her novel Spilt Milk, which was published earlier this year.
A dinner with the authors at the local restaurant closed the day. By virtue of speaking French, I suppose, I was placed on a table with French authors. They included Daniel Crozes, whose novels based in the Aveyron are well known. I sat next to a former member of the Brigade Criminelle in Toulouse, Patrick Caujolle, who writes detective novels and poetry. He and I had a lively discussion about local history and place names.
On Sunday morning we headed for the salle des fêtes for a cookery demonstration. You might remember a UK TV series during the 1970s called Poldark. Heartthrob actor Robin Ellis played the lead. He now lives in the Tarn with his American wife Meredith and writes healthy living cookbooks, since he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 15 years ago.
Robin not only cooked but also regaled us with anecdotes from his acting life. He made a delicious pumpkin soup with a hint of cumin and cayenne and no-potato salmon fishcakes with yogurt sauce. We all got a taste.
A taste of history
Next up: Clive Ponting, former whistleblowing civil servant (the sinking of the Belgrano) and academic, who has written a number of books on modern history and now lives in the Aveyron. He talked about the origins and continuing impact of World War I. His was probably the most popular talk of the whole festival and inspired a lot of discussion.
Finally, we heard Tracey Warr, who writes novels set in the early Middle Ages. Her first novel, Almodis the Peace Weaver, is about a true character who was the great-grandmother of Eleanor of Aquitaine, married three times, had 12 children and was a formidable ruler in her own right. Tracey told us about the enormous amount of research she had done to write the book – and her second, The Viking Hostage.
Having been involved last year, I know how much effort and preparation goes into the running of an event like this. No doubt there were hairy moments behind the scenes, but it appeared to run like clockwork. If the team can keep up this standard next year, this event really will be on the map.
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