As ever, I’m behind. Life does have a way of distracting me – and that’s without the added help of social media.
Anyway, having flagged up that I was attending the Tales on Trent Multi-Genre Author Event the weekend before last, I’ve barely had time to think since it happened. Some of that time was taken up with sleep, which was desperately needed by the time we got home. I’m saying ‘we’ here, because my partner – fellow writer Esther Chilton, for those who don’t know – was coming with me and we were sharing a table. With a grand total of two novels available to sell, they’d probably have looked lost if I had a whole table to myself. Esther has four, two collections of short stories, and two ‘How To’ guides for writers – she has far more strings to her bow than me.
The weekend started on the Friday. We checked in at our hotel, unpacked, showered – it was one of those hot days we’ve had recently – and had dinner before heading to another hotel, where the event organisers and several other participants had gathered for an informal get-together.
At the risk of understating the contribution made by everyone else involved in organising the event, it has to be said that Claire Birkin was the driving force behind Tales on Trent. I’d only met her in person once before, and that was before we’d even heard of Covid. Having said that, it was like being greeted by an old friend, and the same was true of her partner in crime, Hayley Bibbey. Esther had met neither of them before, but said afterwards that she felt the same.
We were immediately made to feel at ease as we were introduced to the others there. It was a great way to help break the ice, not to mention offer reassurance that we weren’t the only novices attending. In spite of the expected early start the next morning, it was close to midnight by the time we returned to our hotel and, technically, the next day before our heads hit the pillows.
We were due at the venue around 9:30am on Saturday, and the drive there, parking and access went far more smoothly than I expected. In no small part was this down to the choice of venue.
The hall was already bustling by the time we found our table and started setting up. In case you’re not sure, this is the end product. The bowl of sweets in the middle turned out to be redundant – at least in terms of attracting readers. I ended up eating them.
We had no real expectations about the day. We weren’t sure whether it’d be very busy, very quiet or something in between. With around 60 other exhibitors, there was also the chance we’d be passed by, especially as there were some very enticing stands. After all, who were we? With no expectations, though, whatever happened was going to be interesting.
And it was interesting. Not to mention busy. We’d assumed we’d have plenty of time to move around, taking a look at other stands as well as getting the opportunity to chat to the authors there. There was time, but not as much as we’d expected. Which meant we didn’t get to speak to everyone we wanted to.
The up-side, of course, was that we got to speak to readers, and were delighted at the levels of interest they expressed. In the past, I’d never really found it easy to answer the question: what’s your book about? By the end of the day, I found words flowing as I enthused about my books – and sold far more than I’d imagined.
Along the way, I even persuaded a couple who’d bought both books to stay for the panel I was on later in the day. A good job I did, really, because there was only one other audience member. Since there were four on the panel, we outnumbered them. It was still a great experience though – for me, if not them.
Our panel was the last of the day, and its end coincided with the event winding up. I can hope this was the reason for the small audience.
Fortunately, that wasn’t the end for us. Simply sloping off back to our hotel could have been anti-climactic. Instead, once we’d had another shower and dinner, we headed out again to a pub where Claire, Hayley, Donna Morfett and the rest of the volunteers, together with a selection of other attendees, were gathering to celebrate the day with drinks, music, chat and dancing. I’m delighted to say I participated in all four. And, if you search the Tales on Trent Facebook page, there’s a good chance you’ll see some photographic evidence. Just to be clear, though, I’m not the bloke in the kilt!
This time, it was after midnight before we tore ourselves away and headed back to the hotel.
We met some fantastic people, had a laugh, sold some books, and made new friends. It was an amazing weekend, and I’m so glad we were able to make it this year. There is some doubt about whether there will be another Tales on Trent. That decision must rest with Claire. To put an event like that together, and to have it run as smoothly as it did, was an incredible achievement and will have taken enormous dedication and effort. So I would completely understand any reluctance she might feel about that. But I know from talking to others there, those efforts were greatly appreciated, and there was much gratitude for everything she did. If she does decide to do it again, she’ll be inundated with people wanting to participate. And I’d like to be at the front of the queue – and not lurking. Because I don’t lurk…