Charroux may be a tiny town in the middle of la France profonde, but these last few days it has been buzzing with local, national and international noise. Noise? Yes, the noise of authors talking, writers of every stripe discussing craft, poets and musicians entertaining and provoking us and playwrights dramatising. We learnt, stared in awe, ate wonderful cake, experienced the joy of meeting new friends, laughed, became thoughtful, exchanged thoughts and memories and, of course, drank wine together.
I wrote about why litfests and other events were important – this was reinforced ten times over at Charroux. It was one of the most joyous, democratic and friendly writing events I have been to – the delegates were enthusiastic and engaging and asked some very percipient questions.
After my own Roma Nova talk and the crime panel the following day, I was quizzed about religion in Roma Nova, developing historical logic, Roman sexual attitudes, women as protagonists, interweaving personal, political and professional conflicts – you name it! I was delighted that crime writers Elizabeth Haynes (former police intelligence analyst!) and Christine Collette were such supportive and informative fellow panellists.
The bookshop was run from a former workshop with plenty of room for milling and chatting. But, very cleverly, it had a cosy corner with sofas and armchairs; several writers nested there with their laptops working on their next masterpiece! And I couldn’t neglect to praise the cheery smiles of the Hope Association volunteers who served tea, cake and sandwiches for three days! In fact, they kept me sane with constant supplies…
As you can gather, I loved it (despite having to sit on the occasional hard bench in the overflow sections of each room 😉 ).
Personal highlights? International superstar Kate Mosse politely asking if we’d mind if she sat with us at our lunch table; Jacqui Lofthouse, Barry Walsh and I talking writing, sales, publishing people, categories, keywords, politics and social media manners in the shade of a pine tree in the garden; Katherine Gallagher’s common sense and clever poetry; Diana Morgan-Hill making us laugh and cry during her talk; the magical evening under the rafters of the centuries old market halles with laughter (Diana again!), falafels, wine, open mic poetry and a young local singer enchanting us all with his range and beautiful baritone voice.
Of course, it’s the attendees who make these events. Drinking litres of tea and water (it was hot!), I was grateful for the privilege of sharing my own writing journey and skills learnt with experienced, new and aspiring writers. Until recently, with only a few books under my belt, I’ve classified myself as a new-ish writer, but talking to others I realise that I have perhaps learnt some useful things that I can pass on. A strange place to be – the giving end of the spectrum – but a very pleasurable one.
Quite how organisers, Kate Rose and Christine Collette, managed to be caring, efficient and still on their feet with smiles all the time, I don’t know! As somebody who’s organised events like this before I came to novel writing, I know how much hard work was involved. Chapeau to them! I suggest you book you plane/car ferry/train tickets along with your dates for the 2017 event.
Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines…