I reported everything that went on from 26-28 September at Capital Crime in a previous post. Today I’m sharing some other highlights.
First though, I just want to stress again that I had the best of times at the book festival so please don’t see this post as negative because it wasn’t a negative experience, I have only happy thoughts looking back.
It only seems fair that I let you in on that other side of me when I was there, the one that nobody sees very often because I can hide it fairly well and because people don’t realise some of my thoughts. I was debating whether to do this or not but with WorldMentalHealthDay just behind us, I’m feeling strong and I want to give you a look behind the curtain.
I received really great support from my friends and the lovely Meggy (@choconwaffles) of Chocolate’n’ Waffles in particular (she’s a team on her own) but of course I had some weak moments. I didn’t want it to taint my report about the festival but it’s only fair I share the good with the bad so here’s a little more about the latter in this post. There are definitely some things that I want to do differently if there’s a next time and that I know now I shouldn’t have stressed about. It seems silly now but it is what it is. This is my journey, and there are a lot of lessons to be learned in life, this is just one of them for me.
So here were some of my stressed out-thoughts from a few weekends ago.
The first day, it went wrong quite soon. The train to get to the Eurostar was cancelled. Of course I had calculated this too into my planning (I am nothing if not prepared to the fullest) but still, it made me wonder if the rest of the day would go this way too, the start of my adventure could have been better. No real panic there yet though, I took the train in the other direction to a bigger town and then took a direct train to Brussels. I have done this once or twice before so I wasn’t too stressed. Luckily, someone told me where to find the Eurostar terminal in the trainstation because I didn’t see the signs for it. I was a little anxious though going through security because the security check is exactly the same as when boarding a flight where you have to put items on a conveyer belt. I have a fear for flying so I couldn’t shake that feeling of unease. I knew I was boarding a train but it felt as if I was going on a plane. Once seated and seeing we weren’t flying off Harry Potter-like, I was able to relax more on my two-hour ride and I was assured again that Meggy would be there waiting for me so I was ok by the time I got to my destination and in a good mood.
St. Pancras train station
I was quite overwhelmed when I arrived at London St. Pancras station. It’s really big and easy to get lost in which was what probably had happened if I were alone. I counted my lucky stars that I had Meggy to lead the way (I even tried to mislead her but she knew very well where to go haha). I had some fears beforehand about getting on the tube (the underground) as I had read up (a lot) beforehand about different cards (the oyster card or the travel card) only I didn’t know which one and where to get them, but I just had to hold my bank card next to a reader and I had paid. Who knew, so simple! Again, if she hadn’t been there I hadn’t known and would have spent at least an hour getting to the venue. We were there in no time instead so I stressed about this for nothing beforehand again.
It was lunchtime when I arrived so there were no panels and we had about an hour to kill. We went to a secondhand bookstore then where I spotted a proof copy of Will Carver’s novel Nothing Important Happened Today which isn’t out until November! I’m not going to name the bookshop because I don’t want to have anyone put it on their list to go shopping for proofs. Let’s just say that Meggy rectified it with the shop’s owner! I’m in complete awe that she did that. My style would be to tuck away that book somewhere on the lowest shelf behind other books or something but going to talk to someone about it, I wouldn’t dare.
It’s hard to speak up for yourself in any situation. I need more time to think about what to say and how to react which is why I avoid unpredictability (which is why I always avoid arguments and fights at all cost too). There’re a few situations I certainly could have handled better, if only I wasn’t so shy. One example was the goodie bag. When I received the Weekend Pass at the registration desk they didn’t give me such a cool tote bag (with 2 books and plenty of samplers in it). The lovely Meggy went back with me and asked for it. If she hadn’t I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have two more books to read.
I’m not good at talking to people I don’t know, I hate bringing attention to myself… even when ordering food or a drink in a café I always try to have the other person order for me. I’m lucky there are still some gallant men (and women) who don’t mind doing that.
On the first day I surprised myself when I initiated a conversation with an author – Deborah O’Donoghue who wrote Sea of Bones – who was waiting in line at the loo (and yes I did manage to call her by the wrong name but it’s because I wanted to be quick, I saw the opportunity and didn’t want to miss it… and I just don’t do quick very well) but all was well, she was actually super nice and we had drinks together. I couldn’t say no when she proposed, could I? Not that I wanted to do that of course. So I did and I enjoyed myself. I did have a small panic attack when she left me with another author afterwards that I hadn’t read the book and didn’t know anything about, but Merilyn Davies, the author in question, was super friendly too and made me feel very much at ease. I’m really determined to read When I Lost You soon as well.
The event was very well organised but I wished people had nametags. There was no way of knowing who everyone was. If some authors weren’t pointed out to me by the others I would have missed some of them at least. If I was there alone I would have missed out on some great intel.
I love the bloggers I met, they’re normal people, my kind of people, and so sweet and friendly really… but we were a very small group. Where were all the other bloggers? I thought the blogging community would be a real community there too who would get together but that didn’t happen. It made me realise you better do know someone who plans on going to an event… if Meggy wouldn’t have been with me, I’m also not sure I would have dared to talk to Ronnie, Zoé and Danielle by myself or hung out with them for so long, and it would have been a lovely festival anyway but pretty lonely too.
I feel almost embarrassed (ok not quite, I’m grateful) to say so but Meggy walked me to the hotel and stayed with me until I checked in at the reception. Even then, I still managed to get lost inside. I KNOW! Well in my defence the receptionist pointed to the left hallway and I needed to go right the other way. Luckily someone from security crossed me and asked where I was headed, he gave the right directions and I did find it then. The room was quite fine but then I realised that the electrical outlets were different and I couldn’t charge my phone. The phone I needed to let my father know when he needed to come and get me at the train station the next day. It suddenly felt like that phone was my life line.. cue small panic attack :-). Well I needn’t have been anyway because on the way back home I suddenly saw a screen in the train that there was a plug under the seat. I gave a shout, hit my head when bending down to see it (the person in the seat next to me did have a good laugh) and when I arrived in Brussels again on Saturday my phone was 100%. The room was ok but there was no hairdryer so I didn’t dare wash my hair if it meant going out with wet hair. The duvet was also too thin so I was cold the whole night and I didn’t bring a sweater or anything warm for an extra layer. I think I slept for two hours and was up at 5 again.
The sound of silence
I’m getting to the crux of my story now. Is it a surprise that day 2 was a bit of a struggle? I wasn’t myself and godawfully emotional by the lack of sleep. My absolute lowpoint must be that I saw the lovely publisher Karen of Orenda Books and I didn’t say a word. I want to crawl under a rock now. I feel sooo bad about it because I really wanted to tell her that I was so thankful for the blog tour invites and the books I received in the past and I wanted to say something about her great taste in the books she publishes, how much I loved them and… I didn’t say ANYTHING. I have no excuse even… it just didn’t come out of my mouth, it was like the mute button was on all of a sudden. I didn’t say anything to Antti Tuomainnen either when I stood right there and I think someone else asked for a picture for me with Will Dean because I certainly didn’t have the courage. Everything passed in a bit of a blur. The tables for the signing were crowded, there were a lot of people and everyone was wriggling there around those tables, I don’t know but it made me close up. I’m even going to spare you the embarrasement with C.J. Tudor, I had a minor breakdown in front of her but luckily she didn’t react to it. Let’s just say that Meggy deserved that novel of The Other People so much more and made me get tears in my eyes. She’s an angel really for letting me have it but I still feel incredibly guilty too.
I never want to be in any photos, be it a work thing or leisure but I had thought about it in advance and prepared myself for this eventuality. Even though I’m still happy I have photos of me with Mark Edwards, M.W. Craven, Merilyn Davies, Will Dean and C.J. Tudor, I still hate the way I look. I should have paid better attention how I presented myself on the photos. I should have lost my jacket/coat at least and I’m asking myself why I didn’t do something about my hair. I washed it the day I came to London but it looked like I hadn’t washed it in a week. I could at least have fluffed it a bit or something. Gah. Good thing nobody sees these photos.
I haven’t spoken to anybody for more than 5 minutes in English in ahum 15 years, maybe longer? So I was a bit apprehensive about that. I was determined to pay attention to my pronounciation and accent but I don’t think I was there 5 minutes before I forgot my good intentions. I know I can do it if I put an effort to it (usually I read two sentences in a book out loud that way, and that’s pretty much it) but it’s just too exhausting. Everyone did understand me though, so there’s that.
I know and I think I handled it all okayish, for me being me. In life there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think something couldn’t have gone better if done differently (perfectionist, much) or that worries me, I even exhaust myself sometimes so it’s only natural that it comes with me on my travels. Meggy’s help was amazing, but still, I wish I had a redo button and do a little better. I have absolutely no regrets of going though. Those two days were exhausting and yes overwhelming but very worth it, it also gave me a really good energy to take home with me and I did feel proud of myself for other things like being accepted in the group. I have proven to myself and hopefully to you too now that you can go to festivals and enjoy yourself, even if you’re an introvert and even if you have anxiety… seriously, if I can do it, you can do it !