If you have read my recent posts or are following me on social media, you might know I have spent five wonderful days in London for the annual book fair!
Truth be told, I am still pinching myself! But it did happen, and here is what I had to say about it!
First things first, I was invited to the Book Blogger Awards hosted by the fair, but I was lucky to be allowed to enjoy this fair as part of the Orenda Books team, which means I got to see the professional side of it all. I cannot thank Karen Sullivan enough for this. More thanks to come later as I am grateful so many people made this week the perfect first trip to London I couldn’t never have dreamed of.
Day one : how to live on adrenaline and excitement!
Up at 5am to catch my flight, I was everything but tired when I reached the venue to set up the Orenda Books stand! I was impressed by the place. Huge doesn’t even begin to describe it. Needless to say I spent four days getting lost between the different halls and places!
My work at the bookstore has taught me the way you present your books to the public is essential, so we had fun making sure everything looked good for everyone who popped up or walked past our little corner! When I say we, I must include the fantastic Susan from The Book Trail. She took care of me, introduced me to lots of people, made sure I had the best of times, and this experience wouldn’t have been the same without her. Life offers you friends when you don’t expect it. We connected and now I feel I’ve known her for years. This was my first gift from the fair. I got a sister from another mother!
Day two : how to swim in a crowded pool and how I discovered I was a secret Londoner
I am not stupid, I knew there would be many people. I just hadn’t realized that the place was barely enough to contain us all! It was not so full that you couldn’t breathe but it was difficult to find a quiet place!
My big mission started on this Tuesday : as an Orenda Books fairy, I was to give away our beautiful babies to visitors or exhibitors to let them know who we are, what we do, and spread the book love! I walked so many kilometers!
But what made this Tuesday special was the meeting I had at 1pm. Johana Gustawsson. The French queen who had made me realize French was a beautiful language which did not have to be boring. What was supposed to be a nice lunch ended up almost four hours later! Bit of a chatter box, am I? I learned so much from this time spent with such a gentle soul, brilliant mind, and adorable person. My heart bursts with pride and happiness whenever I think about it. Thank you for allowing me to steal some of your precious time, Johana. Dream coming true, part 4!! (1 was coming to the UK, 2 was meeting THE Karen Sullivan, 3 was helping out as a #TeamOrenda member, 4 was finding my lovely Susan! So many things in two days!!!!)
So, the Londoner part… Five entire days in the city and I never got lost! I was to meet Johana downtown, found Picadilly’s line, helped a sweet editor find the book fair on my way back, met the London pavement when I fell hard because of the “look on the right” stuff written on the ground (silly idea!!!!!). I took the train, the tube, cabs, whatever, without any ounce of anxiety, worry, or hesitation. I just knew where I was going, I felt so welcome in London that it was a bit as if I were home. I’m a Londoner with a weird accent!
Ps: a big French publisher recognized me! WOW! Not over it!!!!
Day 3 : feed your boss and discover what happens once the fair closes is just as important as the fair itself!
You know you are working with the best when they don’t take time for lunch when they work! I had my first Tesco experience! Yes, it seems silly, but what made me happiest wasn’t the thought of sightseeing or whatever, it was experiencing London as though I was actually living there. So I discovered the Meal Deal, a very patient cashier, and the Cadbury section!
Apart from the food, I wandered around the French corner and mustered the courage to give my card to a few publishers. Most of them were quite busy or not interested, but it did not matter. I did it, as a professional. Why does it matter? Because until I got here and put the Orenda Books badge on my clothes, I had never felt like I truly belonged. I’d always felt I was one step behind. But thanks to Karen, West, and Susan, I was suddenly part of the industry. Swimming with the book sharks and dolphins! Talk about a boost in confidence!
Then came the pub. Of course, it’s London!!
Day 4 : surprises and a gathering of book bloggers
What is great with people who care and know you, even though you’ve only met them in real life a few days before is that they know how to help you and make you grow. This amazing Thursday saw me holding the Orenda fort on my own, something I truly loved since day one, as well as my big jump into the real deal. A professional meeting. Me with real people talking to me as if I had any idea what was going on! Shaky legs but determined to do well for my boss, I did my best, knowing I could never thank her enough for the lesson learned.
First highlight of the day, my meeting with one of the best French editor. Lilas, such a personality, such a force of nature, such an amazing person. She took the time to talk to me, to give me advice and to share views about the difference between France and the UK. I loved every minute of this unplanned meeting and I am looking forward to seeing her again!
Second highlight of the day, meeting the bloggers! I was elated to finally meet you in person! Sarah, you are the sweetest, please never lose this sparkling smile of yours. Anne, my rock, thank you for everything. Okay, not making a list here! I just enjoyed eating, drinking, and chatting about everything with you, guys. Thank you for making this day a special one. Online support becoming real life support did make me tear up, but for good reasons and I am the luckiest person ever.
Day 5 : rest, enjoy, and be grateful
I stayed in my PJs up to noon, I emailed, I read, I breathed, I lived. And almost missed my flight!!!
Note to myself and to others: This book fair is definitely for professionals, which was very surprising to me. Paris Livres is all about readers meeting authors etc, so different from what was really happening in London!
In a nutshell, until two days before the event, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to come. Magic happened. My favorite raisin came to my rescue (yes, I give weird nicknames to my friends), and I owe so much to someone in particular. I don’t wanna show off or whatever, and I have missed stuff I should have mentioned in this post but it’s all in my head, and in my heart. I left London with a smile, stronger, happier, and knowing I would be back soon.
Thank you mom, for supporting me and pushing me in the right direction when I started doubting. Thank you Orenda mama for everything and more. Thank you London for your beauty and thank you all for the love!