Saturday, 29 August 2009

In the limelight

Photographers huddle in the rain, in the sun, under brollies and awnings and every single day, every thirty minutes or so, an author creeps from the yurt - often bashfully - to have his or her photo taken. There's a nice little area set up just behind the press pod, a backdrop of carpet held up by what looks like scaffolding poles, expertly put together by our magnificent site team and made to resemble a mini outdoor studio. And it is here those bashful authors pose for the cameras. This isn't the most comfortable moment of their visit of course - writers by nature are quite unlike the luvvies of the show-biz world - courting the limelight and showing-off in front of the cameras isn't really their style. I should add that there are of course some notable exceptions to this but I shan't divulge details... So, it takes a skillful photographer to come up with beautiful and interesting shots of our authors especially as the subject is available for no more than a few minutes before being whisked off to do their event. Murdo MacLeod is one such photographer - have a look at his brilliant photo montage from this year's Book Festival. Make sure you view it with speakers as he's also included a soundtrack of event excerpts to accompany the images:

Questions and mobiles

Events usually end with a Q & A session: house lights go up, hands fly in the air (or worse, don't) and front of house people sprint about with roving microphones. Audiences have the chance to ask the burning questions they've been chewing on ever since they clapped eyes on an author's work, and sometimes these can be very surprising indeed. 'Would you two care to come for dinner and talk to my grandchildren about history? You'd be very welcome.' and: 'Your shoes are wonderful. I wonder where they're from.'

Other spontaneous material comes from the dreaded sound of a mobile phone going off; despite the chairperson threatening custard pies in the face in the event of such a crime, there's often a gentle bleat to be heard somewhere in a tent, followed by a reddening face and a deft scurry into pockets or handbags. On one occasion, an author responded to those shrill tones with, 'Oh just answer it. I'd love you to tell them you're busy, but I'm not sure how engaged you really are', while a children's author stilled a teenage fan's embarrassment by squealing, 'oh, it's your dad! Let me speak to him! Serve him right for phoning in the middle!' Brings to mind the lovely story about the Queen, doing walkabout and stopping with one lady, whose phone proceeded to go off. 'Answer it', urged the Queen. 'Might be someone important.'