Festival du Premier Roman
A couple of weeks ago I was went to Chambéry in France, where I had been invited to speak at the Festival du Premier Roman, an annual literary festival all about debut novels. The organisers bring together 15 French authors, as well as writers from Spain, Portugal, Romania, Italy, Germany and Great Britain.
The list of British first novels is provided for the festival organisers by the literary director of the Desmond Elliott Prize (the premier UK prize for debut fiction), who adds another two books to the prize’s ten-strong long-list, bringing the Chambéry reading list up to twelve books. Although my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, won the Desmond Elliott Prize in 2015, that was no guarantee that it would be one of those selected.
The Chambéry reading groups have about six months to read all twelve books before they debate and vote on their favourite. At the same time, schools in France, Portugal, Italy and Germany are also deciding on their favourite. The authors of the winning books are invited to the festival, and I was lucky enough to be one of them, with Carys Bray (one of the three short-listed authors of the 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize) being the other from Great Britain.
Before I visited, students from France, Germany, Italy and Portugal read and studied Our Endless Numbered Days in English, so that when they came together for the festival in Chambéry they were able to use the novel for inspiration for an Erasmus project about innovation in literature.
It was an intensive two days. I spoke to four groups of students (with up to 60 people in each group), as well as one group of adults where I joined Carys to talk about our books to the English book club readers.
Chambéry is a beautiful town, and I and my husband, were made really welcome. We were given a guided tour, taken out for drinks and coffees, invited to an art exhibition, met up with the Desmond Elliott Prize’s literary director for lunch, went out to dinner, and generally packed everything in that we could.
The students worked on designing alternative covers of Our Endless Numbered Days (you can see them here), asked me lots of amazing (and difficult) questions in English, and then went off to act out some of the scenes from my book which were videoed and edited.
If you’re interested in the whole Erasmus project you can see a video about it here (click on
the picture), including a short clip of me being interviewed.
The videos the students made of them acting scenes from Our Endless Numbered Days are available online. Here are a couple (click on the images to view).
It was a wonderful experience; all they need now is a festival for second novels.