Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Beyond Words in North London

Spent yesterday at the Beyond Words festival in North London. Good fun in a packed festival (they have over 100 events over the week) with an audience mixing the school it was held at and the local community.

I gave talks accompanying my books Light Years and A Brief History of Infinity. The latter was rushed - it's normally over an hour, but I cut it down to 45 minutes to allow time for questions (though, unusually there were hardly any). I was a little concerned no one would come to Infinity, because it was scheduled at the same time as a talk by journalist/MP Martin Bell - but I was reassured when I mentioned this to a couple of the sixth form students who hosted me for lunch, and they had clearly never heard of him.

Lunch was surprisingly good for a school, apart from being shouted at by a dinner lady. The students had abandoned me briefly, scared of being in what they thought was the staff section, but apparently no one was supposed to be using that bit of the canteen, and I nearly committed the crime of helping myself to food, when I was supposed to be served.

Perhaps the best bit of the event for me was meeting as real people three individuals I had only known electronically or via their writing. One was a fellow member of the excellent writers' website Litopia - it was particularly good to put a face to someone who had only been a nickname on a forum. Then there was the writer Piers Bizony, whose books The Man Who Ran the Moon and Atom (the subject he was talking on) I had enjoyed reading to review for the Popular Science site. He proved an excellent conversationalist in the gap between sessions. Finally there was a book PR.

These are the people who have the thankless job of trying to get the world interested in books. Because of being editor of the Popular Science review site I have lots of email contact with book PRs (and of course I've had my fair share of dealings with them for my own books), but in this case it was one of the most helpful people I've dealt with at two different publishers, who was at the festival to support a number of her authors, so again it was great to put a face to an electronic contact.

All in all, a fun event, if not always for the expected reasons.

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