Been up to much this week? No? Me neither.
Actually, I tell a lie. This weekend I celebrated my birthday. Not a particularly special one. 43. Neither here nor there really, just a number. Could be worse. I’m the baby of the family. I could be my sisters’ ages …
Oh yes. And I bought a bookcase. Just a small one although I bought two larger ones as well. I just need to assemble them. I did a quick job of putting the shorter one together on Wednesday night/Thursday morning while suffering a bout of insomnia so at least now all my reference books are upstairs in the office near to my desk. Also got to mount my two prints on the top temporarily, so it may be half empty but looks pretty.
Not that it will be half empty for long because I have more books. More books than you can shake a stick at. Well, you could shake a stick at them but I don’t really know why you would want to … Why? Well because I went to Harrogate this weekend, and the Theakston’s Crime Writing Festival. This is my second year and what a difference the weather makes let me tell you. Blue skies (the occasional bit of cloud and some minor rain showers) but nothing like last years torrential downpours. It made it a completely different festival for me. Really different.
Now if we are Facebook friends or you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen I was in the verge of a mini meltdown mid week about attending. Despite being in this blogging game for two years now, I still feel like a newbie, a fraud and someone who shouldn’t really be here. I know I attend a lot of festivals and launches etc, and I may appear confident and all that, but all I can say is that I am a bloody good actress. I hate group situations. I always feel as though I am being judged. On everything. I cannot make small talk. I have no idea what to say. The idea of approaching someone, even someone I have met (vaguely or in real life) and saying hi petrifies me as I think they do not want to see me and are going to be just thinking WTF are you bothering me for.
I am an insular person in real life. This being online, being public, is not something I do naturally. If you saw me at home, and my family can attest to this, I am more likely to be found on my own ignoring the whole world than I am arranging meet ups and the like. If I go to families houses I feel awkward wondering at which point they will want me to leave. I cannot settle. I don’t feel I belong.
I push myself to go to festivals etc because I know I need to change and I need to be more confident in this area of my life. Also most of the ones I attend are either more intimate with smaller crowds, or more driven by panels where you are simply a face in a small dark room, or, in the case of the book launches, it’s all about the authors so no-one cares. I may talk to a few folk (and I typically only go where I will know at least one other person) or I don’t. Went to the Orion tour the other week and it was only because Sam Eades took pity on me and introduced me to another blogger that I spoke to anyone all evening.
I am not shy in talking about my nerves – my lack of confidence – I published a long post about last years Crimefest and how I couldn’t face even going down to the bar to meet people I’d arranged to meet. Well, Harrogate is like Crimefest’s bar on steroids. the ultimate in social gatherings for the Crime (book) loving community. Everyone knows everyone, they are all in their groups chatting and you feel stupid and awkward in approaching them and saying hi, even if they have told you to do so if you see them, and even if you know them already. Well I feel awkward and stupid … I am sure I am not alone but most folk just make it look easy. I just usually stand and stare at people and probably look like a psycho ready to commit some kind of weird stalking/murdering spree. Quite possibly not far wrong but that’s an entirely different story …
But … this year I have said sod it. Well, a little bit at least. I have had my moments of itchiness (I have scratches in places you would not believe and are never, ever, going to see), my moments of refusing to go and say hello even though I know I should do, and my moments of just needing to watch the world go by. My nails are bitten beyond the quick, the skin around them raw and ragged where I have chewed them to pieces and I am now typing this post with my knuckles as the rest of my fingers are ruined. But I have also been brave. Taking a leaf out of the lovely Jill Doyle’s book and acknowledging life is just too short. Like me.
I said hi to Jenny Blackhurst like I promised after several failed attempts to do so previously. I said hello to Sarah Hilary, mostly in passing, but it’s a start as I’d normally have just snuck on by with perhaps a nod of the head or one of my trademark weird stares from afar. I had a chat with the lovely Melanie McGrath who shares my pain at social groupings and we were joined by Ann Cleeves. Ann Cleeves! I even managed to speak to her without making a complete arse of myself or exploding so that was nice.
More embarrassingly I talked about knocking myself out with my boobs and using the phrase titty lip in a review (don’t ask) with Mark Billingham … Yes I am a truly classy lady.
And I did pictures. Not a lot admittedly but still. Pictures. With me in. That I instigated. Here is the proof.
Yes. Me. With people. Going from top left, Melanie McGrath, Ann Cleeves. Rachel Abbott, Lee Child, James Oswald and Will Dean. I like how Lee Child doesn’t bend down for the picture and I can pass this off as him being really tall rather than my lack of height. Will, bless him, really can’t make it more obvious lol.
It’s okay. I really am that short.
So yes, alcohol was consumed. All that did though was stop me from sleeping so if there are typos in this post that is why. I’m tired (not drunk) and will probably suffer for the rest of the week from late nights and post festival hangover syndrome. Its a real thing! (It also helped me survive the embarrassment of having Happy Birthday sung to me in the tent but that’s something I will never get over …) But I would like to say thank you to the lovely folk at Harrogate who were so kind and welcoming and who made a point of saying hi to me. I may not have photographic evidence but there were so many great moments and great bloggers, authors and, most importantly, friends to share the weekend with, that it made it all that little bit easier. So a big shout out to Mandie (because she bought me cake and she’s my sister and I have to), Vicki Goldman, Katherine Sunderland, Joy Kluver, Jacob Collins, Abbie Osborne, Jill Doyle, Susan Hampson, Joanne Robertson, Kate Moloney, Tracy Fenton, Mary Picken, Emma Welton, Janet, Jacky, Susan, Darren, Kim, Noelle, Sharon, Kate E, Anne, Sarah, Alexina, Claire, Steph, Liz, Ellen and all the other fab folk I have forgotten (too many to mention.)
It was also great to see all the fab authors and publishing folk, especially the lovely Melanie McGrath, Libby Carpenter, Sam Carrington, Caroline England, Jack Steele, Jane Isaacs, Bernie Steadman, Tom Bale, Will Dean, James Oswald (who rather kindly stood and talked Coos even though he probably thought we were mad), Louise Mangos, Malcolm Hollingdrake, Jenny Blackhurst, Amer Anwar, Amanda Robson, Felicia Yap, Marnie Riches, Chris Whitaker, Patricia Gibney, Roz Watkins, Mel Sherratt, Caroline Mitchell, Graham Minett, Alison Belsham, Graham Smith, Jackie Baldwin, Louise Beech, Dave Sivers, Susi Holliday, Steph Broadribb, Karen Sullivan, Sarah Hilary, Sam Eades, and not forgetting Rachel Abbott. So lovely to finally meet her and to hear about my namesake in her next book. I am going to love reading the next Tom Douglas book. It will be a hoot.
That probably makes it sound like I did far more partying and interacting than I really did but Harrogate is one of those kinds of weekends where you see everyone and no one and still come away exhausted. It is mentally draining for someone who doesn’t like crowds, people, human interaction, but it is still heartwarming. Give me a few weeks and I’ll hopefully be back to normal (whatever that is) but as I have Bute noir in two weeks and Bloody Scotland a few weeks after that, I’m going to need to get my game face on again pretty quickly.
So … that was my nerves in a nutshell (coconut shell). More on the festival and the books in part two …