An unforgettable experience for me and my co-writer, Harry.
There are so many things to love about being a writer, but my favourite experience so far has been being invited to speak at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival in 2018. Not least because I got to take my co-author – my wonderful, little dog, Harry – with me.
My self-help book, Happy as Harry, had been published the year before and this was the first literary festival I’d been asked to speak at and I couldn’t believe my luck, or stop beaming. Harry and I would be staying at a hotel near the festival and everything had been arranged for us.
Not every dog loves change but Harry was a huge fan of anything new. Since I’d adopted him aged seven, he seemed determined to enjoy each and every new experience that came his way. This was, in large part, what Happy as Harry was about: grabbing and creating happiness, having adventures, living life to the fullest and seeing every day as something to be excited about.
We’d already done an interview with Audible in London. Harry sat on my knew whilst we recorded our talk; he was the first dog they’d ever had in their studios. I often took him to pubs and restaurants, for doggy afternoon teas, to special dog screenings at the cinema, to an assortment of beaches and on weekends away, but this festival was going to be a series of new experiences for him. And for me.
We took the train to Southampton and then the ferry across to the Isle of Wight. Harry spent the whole time looking out of the ferry’s window, taking everything in. He was made a huge fuss of at the hotel when we checked in and again when we went to the literary festival to say hello. I couldn’t quite believe they were our names on the programme and that I was giving my talk the next day.
I had practised my speech at least a hundred times and had made a Power Point Presentation to illustrate how embracing a dog's view of life might help ease depression, anxiety and general sadness, but as people filed in and sat down, Harry decided it was time for a nap. He was already snoring gently, belly-up in my outstretched arms, when it was time to begin which meant I couldn’t work my laptop for the presentation. Fortunately, the best illustration was of Harry in real-time, merrily snoozing away. That seemed to go down very well with my audience.
I hadn't known what to expect as a speaker at a literary festival, but being able to talk about Happy as Harry to people who’d read it, to people who were curious about it and to people who understood how dogs spread happiness was one of the best experiences an author could have. Initially nervous about speaking publicly, once I started talking over Harry’s pink belly, all my nerves disappeared and I smiled as people nodded and asked questions. For a first-time festival speaker, this was the perfect audience: kind, friendly and keen to share their tales of dogs who’d saved them or their loved ones. It was that most lovely and unique experience: a live and real connection between writer and readers.