Bookworm literary festival


Two glorious weeks of the Bookworm Literary Festival have come to a close. I’m a little sad. Held in the Beijing Bookworm’s main room – maximum seating one hundred – this is an ‘intimate’ festival. The authors step off the page right into our local bookshop. What a privilege!

In the run-up to the festival, books trump television every night. I always read as many of the featured authors’ books as possible. This year I had extra ‘homework’, as I interpreted for French language writers Tahar Ben Jeloun and Jasmina Khadra. Interpreting for authors is an exhilarating challenge, one I both love and hate in equal measures.



Interpreting for Yasmina Khadra with moderator Edward Gargan


And now it’s over. Lunch breaks resume at my desk instead of the Bookworm lunch sessions. Work spills past six o’clock as I no longer have the excuse of leaving the office to sup wine at evening author sessions.

There is a plus side, though. I do have an extensive wish list of ‘must-read’ books. I’m mulling over advice graciously given by travel writer Horatio Clare. And I feel the divide between the writers and the readers is closing. After hearing so many of their life stories, it’s just possible that writing is within the grasp of us all.

Here are ten quotes I jotted down on my festival programme – words of wisdom from writers who tried to explain the wonders of writing to us, the readers!

On why they write…

“Writing is as necessary to me as bread and wine!”

Tahar ben Jelloun

“Writing is not an escape. It’s a way I connect to myself, to get to know myself better.”

Guadalupe Nettel

“I fulfil my own need for storytelling by telling my own stories…while my husband watches TV!”

Wena Poon

“I write because fiction is my way of thinking about the world.”

Madeleine Thien


Rawi Hage

“I like being mad without the possibility of becoming permanently mad!”

Rawi Hage

On how they write…


Tove Appelgren, second from left

 “Thinking is the biggest part of the writing job!

Tove Appelgren


Xialu Guo

“There shouldn’t be a shadow – or long pause – between your mind and your writing on the page.”

Xialu Guo

 “Stories shouldn’t start with a bang, they should finish with a bang!”

Tim Cope

On finishing and editing…


L to R: Brooke Davis, Guadalupe Nettel & Douglas Gibson

“You’re contractually obliged to never touch it again. Otherwise you’d continue working on it forever and ever!”

Brooke Davis

“Editing is in large part diplomacy. Diplomacy and honesty.”

Douglas Gibson, Publisher & Writer


Congratulations to The Bookworm team and volunteers for putting on yet another fabulous festival. Special thanks to Peter for making me part of the festival family.

Give me more!

If you haven’t written your book yet, you may first want to read:

Writing a Novel – The Hard Truth

And if you have written that book but still aren’t sure how to publish it, then read:

To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish?