By Ben Williams for The Sunday Times
1. When you took the N2 to get to Franschhoek and passed by the huge galleons next to the highway that were made for the movie of Kate Mosse’s novel Labyrinth, and you remembered meeting Kate at last year’s festival, and revelled in the thrill that you’ll get to meet more new authors this year, and marvelled anew at the power of the imagination: someone’s idea – Kate’s – conjured up these real and quite substantial fake ships, listing in the sand near Macassar, which is a true feat.
2. When one of the new authors you met turned out to be Thomas Keneally, best known for writing Schindler’s Ark, whose wit, charm and indomitable good humour caused you to think to yourself, “This chap could be a contender for Alexander McCall Smith’s title as Heavyweight Literary Festival Champion of the World.” He’d look good wearing the belt, too.
3. When you hosted a panel discussion with the perpetually switched on Ndumiso Ngcobo, Paige Nick and Darrel Bristow-Bovey, lost control of it immediately, and almost laughed yourself out of your chair when they sustained a bout of double-entendre banter for no less than ten minutes, the clever threesome.
4. When you hosted another panel discussion with Alison Lowry and Meg Vandermerwe on mentoring writers and learned, from Meg, about the top four lies that writers tell to their manuscripts, and were reminded, by Alison, that it’s not outlines that matter, or character sketches, or anything else, in fact, except how good the damn writing is.
5. When Gus Ferguson signed your copy of the 100th issue of his poetry magazine, Carapace, shortly after his son Dave Ferguson blew the gathered poets and poetry enthusiasts out of Franschhoek and into Louisiana with his famous blues harp bayou loops.
6. When you completed your annual ritual, observed for the eighth year in a row, of eating the filet mignon, medium-rare, at the French Connection on Huguenot Street. It’s highly recommended.
7. When you introduced your mother to Tom (because you call him Tom now) Keneally.
8. When Michiel Heyns and Damon Galgut, evergreen contenders for big literary prizes, showed up at the Elephant and Barrel, one of two places that supply the village with something resembling nightlife, and at least one of them proceeded to dance the night away.
9. When you got a bunch of authors to try out your pair of Google Glass, took pictures of them squinting through the device and posted the pictures on Twitter, in an act that’s sure to have earned you at least five new followers.
10. When outgoing festival director Jenny Hobbs give a swansong speech that caused many in the Town Hall to dab at their eyes.
11. When you saw the exceptional dedication of your Books LIVE team, who stuck fast to their task of transmitting the festival live via social media, even during its final hour, when everyone around them was ready to drop dead.
12. When you got to announce the shortlists of the Sunday Times Literary Awards, in association with Exclusive Books – the most important awards in our literature, which is what makes you tick, and which has put you in touch with great writers who do the lonely work that keeps the flames of our imagination alive. Congratulations to those who made the lists and good luck.
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