Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival 2017

Dan JeffriesLiterary Festival, Words1 Comment

Back in 2016, I was asked to talk at Novel Nights, a monthly event in Bristol for writers. The theme: Social Media and How to Promote Yourself.

A small panel of us spoke about Facebook, Twitter, Kickstarter campaigns and more. And on the panel was a lady called Debbie Young who, coincidentally, had reviewed Me, Myself & Eye only a couple of weeks before.

After the event, she asked if I would like to be a part of a Literary Festival she was organising. I could do a reading, bring a few books and talk as part of a panel about ‘Being Different’. It was great to be asked, and of course I accepted.

Upon arriving, it was like being transported to a forgotten part of England (forgotten by me, at least). We made our way to the pop-up cafe (run by local volunteers), where each author had a space to setup their books. And then it was time for the 3rd Hawkesbury Upton Literary festival to begin.

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Sat in the local church, festival organiser Debbie Young introduced some of the speakers and readers and read from her latest book, ‘Best In Show’. And guest speaker Orna Ross, excited to be in attendance again, officially got the festival underway.

The day consisted of two streams: readings and panels. It was great to be able to dart between each session, nabbing a slice of cake along the way whilst checking in to see if any of my books had sold. I was happy to see they had!

At 2pm it was my turn to read. Usually I read a section from Chapter 4: QEH – The Early Years, but this time I decided to try something new — the start of Chapter 3. Why? Well, the writing is a bit different, plus there’s an interactive moment which – I was pleased to see – the audience engaged with.

3. EYE OF THE TIGER

By the time I was eight, Bristol Eye Hospital felt like a second home. Oddly, I used to look forward to my visits there. It made me feel a bit special, knowing that I would be the focus of everyone’s attention. I did have an incredibly rare eye condition after all, and the specialists clearly wanted to follow its developments. You could say they wanted to keep an eye on it (groan).

So every six to twelve months we’d make the hallowed trip to Bristol. My visits there usually went something like this: Get to the hospital with Mum, pick up a ticket (like you’re at the meat counter), wait a while, see a nurse, have some eye drops, then read the chart with all the different letters. Right eye fine, then get asked to do it with my left eye. Point out it was blind, have a chuckle, try it anyway, chuckle again, give up, then go back and wait. And wait. And wait a bit more.19 Realise eyes were reacting to the drops, ask Mum to have a look. “They look like saucers!” Finally hear my name being called, head off for a Field Test. Follow the lights, press the buzzer, finish the test, go back and wait for my specialist. See my specialist, then see more specialists, then get asked if it was okay for other specialists to come and see my eye. Of course it was: I was famous! Once it was over, go to the shop, get a KitKat, call Dad, tell him the news, and go back home.

For me, visiting the hospital was fun. I liked the procedure. I liked the technology. I liked the nurses. But for Mum and Dad I can imagine it was an ordeal every time. Mum would always be the one to come with me whilst Dad would stay at home — one of our few family superstitions. I think, sadly, that Dad felt possibly responsible for my eyes, because he’s partially- sighted himself. I once joked that if you held his glasses up to the sun you could burn a hole direct to the Earth’s core, but there’s no link between our conditions. None. So Dad, if you’re reading this (and you bloody well better be!), absolve yourself: it’s nature and nothing more.

Right. Enough schmaltz. Let’s play a game.

I want you to close your left eye. Look straight ahead with your right eye and, with your right hand, slowly bring one of your fingers in from the top, then the sides, and then the bottom. Keep looking dead ahead. Make a mental note when you see your finger. As soon as you do, take your finger out and bring it in again, but this time from a different angle. Make a buzzing noise when you see it if you like, though you probably shouldn’t if you’re sat on a bus.

The reading went down really well, with some great comments afterwards. And then it was straight on to the panel about ‘Being Different’, where a small group of us who faced some of the challenges life can throw at you spoke about reflecting difference in writing. It was highly engaging and quite a unique session, and I was proud to be a part of it.

By the end of the day I had met some great people, discussed the creative process, helped others who were interested in Audio Books and even managed to sell all my copies of Me, Myself & Eye.

Oh — and I ate cake. Lots of cake.

What could be better?

One Comment on “Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival 2017”

  1. It was great to meet you Dan! And thanks for this post. Let;s just say there was a lot of cake eating conducted from my end too 🙂

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