So, the evenings are drawing in, Strictly is back on the telly and it seems that everyone has a book out…it must be nearly Christmas! I still find it surreal that I’m in fact in this group and have thoroughly enjoyed the marketing process as I have attempted to get Adapted as much exposure as physically possible. Last week was yet another wonderful experience in this rollercoaster ride which has been the launch of my autobiography. On Thursday afternoon I was extremely proud to take my place as a speaker at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival and couldn’t quite believe that I would be sharing the bill with household names including Alan Titchmarsh and Stanley Johnson. What was I doing there?
The obvious and most frustrating part about the prospect of me doing a talk is that there’s a chance that 95% of my audience won’t be able to understand what it is I’m saying. Thus the normal question and answer format which is common at such events is a little redundant. Therefore my good friend and broadcaster John Hannam was drafted in to present on my behalf. John is such a great communicator and has been presenting such events for the last forty years so I knew that I was in safe hands. To compliment John’s showbiz approach was my head carer James who in the past few years has become not just my carer but also my agent, producer and all-together right hand man. I knew that together John and James would be able to cover all the key aspects of the story but still felt that I wanted to contribute something in my own way. After all, that’s what the whole book is about so it would be so hypocritical of me if I didn’t.
Arriving at the venue I was greater by a lovely volunteer who handed me a speaker’s pass and told me that she had been assigned to me for the afternoon – how many people did I need in my entourage?! For a moment I felt like a bonafide celebrity but of course I wasn’t, I was just Josh Barry from East Cowes who’d written a book. I wasn’t Alan Titchmarsh or Stanley Johnson who had the substantial weight to earn their right to be there, I was just a jumped up cripple who had got lucky! Nevertheless I was determined to make the most of it and when we were shown to our exhibition room it started to sink in that my book was actually about to be presented to the public. When the volunteer directed us to our room, I saw rows and rows of dainty chairs which were facing a small stage with a huge screen in the middle…we won’t need all of them I thought!
As soon as John Hannam walked into the room wearing a fetching purple shirt which has now become his trademark, I felt reassured that all would be ok. The door promptly opened at 4:15 and people began filing in but it felt like the queue to get in was never ending…had they got the wrong room? It was quickly decided that I would in fact be up on the stage with John and James to address my public which I think was a great move. For someone who wasn’t going to do anything on the presentation, I ended up doing a lot: answering questions, chipping in and adding to the conversation like a normal speaker which felt great.
I was astonished at how much people wanted to know about me and my life and how many of them had already read the book. Suddenly the session did become a Q and A forum which I had hoped it would be but this would only be possible with the support of James who I knew would be able to translate my utterances with the greatest of ease. This in turn satisfied the needs of the audience who wanted to ask me directly about issues discussed in the book. People slowly felt that they could interact with me and more often than not were able to understand threads of what I was saying. So in short, the session was a triumph and was extremely grateful to everyone who made it possible.
After the session myself and James made our way over to the signing area and used my unique stamp to sign books. I always find a certain amount of irony in the fact that I’m a writer who can’t hold a pen and this is something that I only think about when I’m in a situation such as this where I’m required to scribble my name on something but I know I can’t. So the unique stamp is a great way to leave a personal mark on the books I sell. Being placed next to the celebrated broadcaster and journalist John Suchet in the signing area was a surreal experience. I’d grown up watching him on ITN and now we were fellow speakers – it was just a shame that I had no chance to ask him for a quick interview. Yet I had my own business to attend to and was taken aback by the vast queue of people who were waiting for my stamp. I’ve always stated that I won’t write another book but receiving such a great reaction is enough for me to rethink my stance if only for a while.
My time at the IOW Literary Festival was an altogether positive one as I received admiration from a whole range of different people. It was clear that Adapted may have stirred something in people that wasn’t really my original intention which for a writer is the ultimate dream. Who knows what’s next for my rollercoaster of a book but if I continue to enjoy such positive experiences I’m sure I can’t go wrong!