FLF: A writer’s festival

23 May 2013

It’s difficult to come back down to earth after a weekend of non-stop celebration, but that’s what it felt like after this weekend’s Franschhoek Literary Festival. It was a whirlwind of friends, wine, good food and happy memories.

A group of us arrived early on Thursday so that Cat and I could take part in the Franschhoek Literary Festival Book Week for Young Readers. We spoke to the Grade Elevens from Bridge House and the Grade Twelves from Franschhoek High and gave away tons of books during an impromptu YA quiz. (I think our questions were far too easy for the knowledgable youngsters).

It’s always wonderful to meet kids so enthusiastic about reading and this bunch was exceptionally lovely. Thanks very much to Hevette Le Grange from Human & Rousseau who provided a box of local youth titles for us to give away (including all the recent Sanlam winners). I was tempted to keep a few, but managed to flick the devil on my shoulder away in time.

The Book Week for Young Readers is a fantastic initiative that gets the schools involved in the festival. It also provides an opportunity for a lot more local writers to take part. (If I hadn’t been invited to the school events I probably wouldn’t have made the trip out.)

We stayed at the breathtakingly beautiful Knorhoek Wine Estate in Stellenbosch that lay at the foothills of the Simonsberg Mountains and was surrounded on all sides by forest.

Everything about the family-owned wine farm had a charming country feel, from the rustic guesthouse rooms set among the rose hedges, to the quaint vegetable garden and tasting room decorated with old tins and jars.

My partner and I took a walk around the property accompanied by the farm’s resident dog, Merlot. The forests and vineyards were filled with ducks, Hadeda and peacocks. We followed the latter to the magical Towerbosch restaurant; its bedouin tent and fairy lights concealed from view by the trees.

It was hard to leave such idyllic surroundings, but the purpose of our trip was to attend the literary festival, and that kept us away for most of the day. (We did manage to squeeze a wine-tasting in before leaving though).

This year’s festival exceeded all expectations. It really was a writers’ event, with all participating authors gathering together to dine, drink and chat at every opportunity between panels. (Being a writer is a lonely job, so we tend to cluster together at events like these.) It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces, meet some new ones, and catch up with friends.

Highlights were seeing both halves of S.L. Grey discussing horror to a packed audience and walking in to Ben William’s birthday party to see the majority of Bookslive members in one room. (Richard de Nooy, we miss you.)

After three days of getting my fill of all things literary, I arrived back in Cape Town with a bag of books, a few more friends and a fridge that now contains more wine than food. It was definitely a year to remember.

I want to extend a huge thank you to the Bookslive team for the live coverage of the festival. I was glued to my phone to catch up on the panels I couldn’t get tickets to attend.

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