You never know what you’re going to discover by following bloggers. I don’t have time (who does?) to read all the blog posts that drop into my Inbox, but I do my best. One blog I get to pretty regularly is Jen Med’s Book Reviews and, if you haven’t encountered Jen yet, do go and check out her site.
The reason I mention this is because one of her posts a few weeks ago mentioned that Orenda Books were doing a ‘Roadshow’, and she was planning to attend each stop on the tour. Bearing in mind that there were five events, stopping in Scotland, the North East, the North West and Wales, Jen was going to have to put in some travel time. I’ve only mentioned four of the stops, and that’s because the fifth one was in a small Nottinghamshire town close to Sherwood Forest. Sadly, it wasn’t the small Nottinghamshire town I live in, but it wasn’t too far away. So I decided that, if Jen was prepared to travel for all of them, the very least I could do was drive for thirty minutes or so to this one.
Jen has, herself, written about what happened on the night, and included plenty of pictures. I’m rubbish at remembering to take photos at the time so, if you want to see something more interesting than plain text, check Jen’s post here.
For my part, I’ve been aware of Orenda for a while, largely down to the amount of time I spend reading book reviews. Their marketing machine is clearly working wonders, because they feature pretty regularly. A few of the titles in particular had caught my eye, and I was becoming familiar with some of the author names. Strangely, though, the only book of theirs I can confidently say I’ve read is Steph Broadribb’s Deep Down Dead. Nevertheless, there was something of a buzz about the company and what it was doing and, having seen them at Southwell a couple of weeks ago, I totally get it.
It may be that other publishers have roadshows. I don’t know. I’ve certainly never heard of it. But I suspect this proactive approach of reaching out and connecting with readers is part of the reason for that buzz. And the authors themselves were all fully engaged in the process.
There is a perception that authors can be shy or retiring, or even downright insular. In a sense, that’s understandable – and probably some of us are – because we spend an awful lot of time sitting on our own, creating worlds and quietly (apart from the occasional outburst when we realise we’ve taken our plots up a blind alley) polishing our stories until we think they’re fit for human consumption. Ours can be a solitary occupation. So it would be very easy to imagine a line up of Father Dougal-types, staring at their feet as they shuffle awkwardly. Nothing could be further from the truth.
From Antti Tuomainen’s borderline surreal humour, to Simone Buchholz’s bleeping to spare Will Carver’s children (remarkably well-behaved on the front row) from the strong language in her reading, all of them participated with humour and good grace. A mixture of introductions and short readings allowed us readers to feel more connected to them.
Hosting it all was Karen Sullivan, the driving force behind Orenda, who did a masterful job of selling the unique features of each author and their work – and keeping everyone to time. The mix of her intros and the authors’ contributions made the evening flow easily, with never a dull moment.
It was also great to see a publisher using an event like this to support independent bookshops – in this case, The Bookcase, one of an increasingly rare breed in Nottinghamshire. Too much emphasis seems to be put on the supermarkets these days (I do get why, but it does bloody irritate me!), so having a publisher working hand in hand with a small independent is fantastic.
Of course, that means I had to support the bookshop too and, on that front, my only regret was that my budget didn’t stretch to buying a book for each author there. (Still, six wasn’t bad! And I will catch up with the others in the fullness of time.) Buying the books gave me an opportunity to talk directly with some of the authors – and I barely felt awkward at all!
You’ll gather from this that I had a great night out. I’m sorry I haven’t had chance to write about it before now (Carrion was calling – nearly there!) but, despite the delay, I wanted to share it with you. If you get the opportunity to go to one of these events in the future, do. You’ll be entertained, you’ll be educated, you’ll meet some nice people, and you’ll find something new and exciting to read. What’s not to like?