Going mad for writers and books

It’s been a book/writer bonanza these past two weeks. First with the WORD festival where I thoroughly enjoyed an intimate drinking experience with Helen Garner. She was in Melbourne and I was in Christchurch – and to be fair, I never once saw a glass raised to her lips but she did talk about gin at the end of her hour long interview. All this came about because of lockdown rules specifiying things like air travel – hence the Zoom-in, and how many people could be in a room at the same time. This resulted in me and two strangers at a large table, in a darkened room at the library that had been decorated to look like a cross between a bar and a what I imagine a seedy brothel would look like. It was rather exciting until I went to the bar and shelled out $13 for a glass of Pinot Noir. I needed a sip just to get back to the table carrying that and the free paper cup of water that I agreed to take because it was free. I often do that. When faced with, ‘Do you want a receipt?’ my answer depends so rarely on me actually wanting a receipt. Mostly it’s wanting to see that pained expression as the person with the annoying attitude stands waiting forever (they’re usually young) for the long strip of paper both of us know I don’t want. But Helen Garner was everything I expected her to be. Erudite, funny, self depreciating and generous in her capacity to listen and help other writers. She writes from the heart and is one of the few authors whose books I would purchase without reading the blurb. If anyone hasn’t read any of her work I recommend starting with something like ‘True Stories.’

I also did an interesting masked event in an auditorium where we sat in bubbles with two seats separation from the closest group and an empty row between. Paul Cleave sat looking extremely cool, onstage with a moderator and the back screen showed a giant Jacqueline Bublitz Zooming-in from Queenstown. Here again I was impressed listening to them – Cleave who sells his Christchurch based thrillers all over the world and Bublitz who managed to crack the best seller/film deal on her first novel. Envy would’ve been an appropriate emotion but I couldn’t do it. They wanted so much to share their passion for words and writing and when Jacqueline (‘Yes you can call me Rocky’) told us her manuscript had been rejected 49 times, I realized this writing lark is a matter of timing and being lucky enough to get your work in front of someone prepared to take a risk on something they love. In other words – HARDEN UP

All that was last week. This week it’s been the free-for-all at Bookarama. I don’t know who thought the idea up but it’s a winner as far as I’m concerned. The Rotary Club sticks a couple of bins outside a few stores in October to collect books people don’t want. They gather them together at Addington Raceway and sell them for $3 each. What’s not to like about that? I love what I get each year. I think last year I went a bit ‘I should read that’. This year it was whatever took my fancy. I overloaded on Jane Smiley and got a good John Irvine. Sometimes I wonder why they’re ‘recycled’ but isn’t that the best thing to do? Give books away. Spread the stories. Make money for the community.

There are still two more days left and they say they’ve got a lot of books that haven’t yet made it onto the tables.

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