Lynne Harkes, author of Gabon-based memoir Spinach Soup for the Walls: Finding my spirit in Africa (Local Legend, 2012), reflects on why she turned down an invitation to speak at this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival. 

“Several months ago I was approached and asked if I’d be interested in presenting my book Spinach Soup for the Walls at the Edinburgh Book Festival. This is a very high profile event and suffice to say I was more than a little flattered to receive this very kind invitation. However, the public and promotional side of the literary world is one that stretches my backstage personality too much. I love the solitude and privacy of writing and I very quickly came up with a hundred plausible excuses for myself and reasons not to say ‘yes’.

Sadly, when the event opened its busy doors I was on the visiting side of the fence and not the presentation one. I wandered through the book sales areas and the shelves of books marked ‘authors presenting at the festival today’ and noted that my own lovely book cover could have been standing proudly in the line up with the rest. If only…..

I’ve found my self wondering…was this the door opening I’ve been waiting for and would my resistance create a permanent block for my book, or was it just not my time or the right forum for me? Time will tell. I’ve a little sadness at my inability to turn the spark of an invite into a raging and ceremonious fire. I’ve recently, however, had a lot of individual feedback from people who have read my book…somehow stumbling across it or being introduced to it via other readers which has been wonderful to hear. Many people can identify with the ups and downs and experiences in my memoir and for some they have reached the ‘end’ filled with more confidence and optimism to bring to their own lives. How lovely that sort of feedback is!

I can see options for presenting my story, but perhaps to more intimate, small groups of people…where we could each exchange experiences of our amazing yet challenging life paths. As the Edinburgh Book Festival draws to a close I’m left with the lingering thought that perhaps one day I may be there, standing confidently, presenting another book…”

Read the full blog here.




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