I’ve been to Poland and I’m sorry I waited so long to go. It’s beautiful and the people are beautiful too: experts in smiling; lovers of books who take great care of the bewildered authors wandering in their midst.
I worried before leaving I wouldn’t find anything vegan to eat. I had visions of running into fields to steal carrots for myself, but that never happened. There were plenty of delicious things for a rabid muncher of plants. There were pierogi -- giant ravioli filled with mushrooms. There were cabbage leaves stuffed with barley, drowning in a spicy tomato sauce that rested over the back of the tongue like a comforting blanket. There was an ice-cream shop with a twenty-minute queue that provided what was easily the tastiest sorbet I’ve had in my life.
But I didn’t go there for the food.
My Polish publishers, Czwarta Strona, invited me over along with YA Fantasy author, Alwyn Hamilton. I’d met her a few times before, but now, I had a chance to spend quality time with her and discovered that she was witty, clever and way more advanced in the arts of author survival than I will ever be. I enjoyed every minute of her company and feel like I learned an awful lot from her too.
But one thing I didn’t learn from my fellow writer, was Polish. Neither of us spoke a word of it. Happily, our publisher provided us with a minder. I don’t know if she wants her name online, so I’ll call her B. for now. It should probably stand for “brilliant”. She looked after our every need: taxis, food, sightseeing, you name it. Our experience would not have been half as enjoyable without her.
So, what did we do?
On Saturday morning, we had an interview with the expertly prepared Wiola in a radio station. Then, we rushed off to the Warsaw Book Fair and it was... magnificent! Huge! Thousands and thousands of people excited about books, packing themselves into a huge stadium, queuing for hours in the hopes of an autograph. It was bewildering and magical at the same time.
I met a few friends I’d only ever seen online or over skype. I met our agents in Poland -- thank you! Thank you, for getting me published in such an enthusiastic market! Then, it was signing for an hour and a half with amazing fans who loved The Call and were excited to tell me all about it. I felt like a rockstar there for a while... Until I looked over at Alwyn’s line -- twice the length of mine, at least. So long, in fact, that when we ran out of there to catch a train, a few people missed their chance to get her signature.
My Polish publishers were working there for the whole weekend. They did such an amazing job of the book covers, and were so, so lovely to me, that if any author reading this gets a chance to work with them, you should jump at the chance. They are brilliant. One of them, even had a tattoo of the spiral that appears on the cover of The Call. Wow! My heart nearly stopped when I saw that.
Poznan is a gorgeous little city with a central square as lovely as any in Europe, but without the hordes of tourists. Not that I mind tourists, being one myself. But it was nice to walk around rather than barge around.
Not so nice, was the fact that a pigeon decided to take a dump on my head and into my plate of food. Why me? Why? I received no answer, but he and I are officially enemies now.
The next day, we had Pyrcon -- a Science Fiction convention comparable in size to WorldCon. For the first time in my life, I had a translator working with me on a panel. A., you did a fantastic job! You even did the Star Trek voice when asked. The audiences were full of smiles and came up afterwards to get books signed or to chat.
Afterwards, there was my official signing slot and it was pretty great to find people already there waiting for me and to banter with them all.
There was more, of course. A lot more. This is but a flavour of a weekend I’ll remember for years to come.
As for you, you should go. So much to see. To eat. Go.