During the last weekend in September you could find me at Svenska Mässan in Gothenburg for this years version of the Book Fair. It was a great if somewhat overwhelming experience.
Thursday and Friday were spent primarily going to teaching related seminars. From a professional development point of view it was a bit meh…mostly reinforcing things I already knew, although that is always interesting. I did get to speak to one of the leading researchers in the field I will be writing my thesis in, only briefly but he gave me some pointers. Also I was the only person in the audience to pipe up during a packed seminar on social media in schools. I have a big mouth. By far the highlight of those two days was getting to hear Alexander McCall Smith speak.
He was very funny and nice. My favourite quote from him was regarding the charge that he is a very prolific writer. His comment was that he likes spending time with his characters and because of that writing was fun. As a reader who enjoys spending time with his characters this was very gratifying to hear. I also enjoyed hearing that his characters sometimes do things that surprise even him :D. I didn’t get a book signed by him on the Friday because they weren’t selling any in English at the talk (I ended up buying the book I later got signed at the train station going back to my grandparents) but I did get my book signed on Saturday after standing in a long line :D.
Saturday was spent going to different signings and perusing book tables. I do wish I had gone to more of the seminars, especially the ones on Africa but many of these were on the stages and I am quite short and I found it hard to see and hear over the sea of people. Next year (yes I am going back) I will plan it a little bit differently. One of the reasons I regret not getting to more of the talks was that I would have liked to hear more about African literature and to have found some more books by authors from that continent. I did peruse the Africa tables but none of the books grabbed me, maybe they would have had I heard the authors. There were some author talks I would have LOVED to have seen (Nadine Gordimer and Nawal El Saadawi being the two that jump to my mind) but time just ran away for me.
So which author signings DID I get to? Well some that I had planned (the aforementioned Alexander McCall Smith) and some I ended up going to on the fly.
First up was a man I hadn’t read anything by before but whose book I really wanted to read: Mark Levengood. This picture was taken at about 10am and yes he is very dapperly dressed :D. He signed his newest book Och jag läste att det var omöjligt att leva lyckligt förutan dig (And I read that it was impossible to live happily without you) (see link for review). I wasn’t very far back in line after he had spoken about the book but it took FOREVER to get the book signed. He talked to everyone. He was such a sweetheart. When he signed my book he commented on the spelling of my name (which is different but not creative if you know what I mean) and said that it was really nice :D.
Next up was Anne Holt. She was one of my surprise picks :D My grandmother and I were watching Skavlan (a interview program) on Friday evening and Anne Holt was one of the guests. I was really impressed with her, and as she writes crime novels, one of my favourite genres. In addition to that this series features a strong female lead (I would expect no less from Ms Holt :D)
Then I got to see one of my all time favourite children’s books authors Sven Nordqvist. He writes the books about Pettson and his cat Findus. One of the books I got was Pettson tältar (Pettson goes camping) (see link for review), the other books I got are a secret (Christmas pressies). Sven Nordqvist was very gracious even though he seemed quite shy. The table where he was signing was absolutely mobbed but he did smile when I told him a story about my sister and how much she likes the advent calendar they did from his characters (she laughs so hard she cries every time she sees one of the episodes).
Apart from the signing with Alexander McCall Smith I managed to go to one more signing on Saturday, one that I had planned just not when it happened. Jo Nesbø was signing his latest book Pansarhjärtan (not sure what the English title will be) at his Swedish publishers booth. About an hour or so before I had gone off the convention floor in search of a patch of quiet. I ended up near these signing tables and I realised that one of them had Nesbø’s name on it. I asked the woman standing by the table if he was coming soon. She told me they were expecting him any minute. So I ended up second in line to get my book signed. I was so surprised by it all I forgot to ask him a question I wanted to ask. When I turned around to see if I could ask it, he was being whisked away again. I didn’t even have a chance to take his picture. As you can see from the above picture I DID by all of his books. Pocketforlaget.se had a deal where you could buy 3 books for 100SEK. A pretty good deal all round (plus I got a bunch of cool magnetic bookmarks in the shape of their logo).
The books by the authors who signed the books were however not the only books I bought. I also scored three books from a series I loved as a child: Kulla-Gulla. They are no longer in print and therefore I have to find them used in charity shops, antiquaries or (and this was a real find a couple of weeks ago) the library used book store. I was so pleased to find the three I did. I also got two (or possibly more one never does know ;D) books for my niece. One was the new Alfons Åberg (Alfie Atkins) which has a missing word at the end. I thought that was kinda funny :D I also got her a board book with a Swedish children’s song (Små Grodorna (The Little Frogs)). I love frogs so that was a no brainer :D I also got a BIG cookbook. The kind that has all sorts of recipes. I have a couple like that and I like them because they help give me cooking ideas (review forthcoming in a future Weekend Cooking post).
I found the whole experience fun but a bit overwhelming. I don’t really do well with big crowds. Although I had won my entry for all four days I didn’t go back on the Sunday, the logistics just felt overwhelming to me, so instead I spent the day hanging out with my grandparents, uncle and cousin, which was really nice.
If you are interested in seeing some of the seminars you can check them out here (I’m not sure this works outside Sweden but it is worth a try).
All that said, I will definitely be going back next year when the theme is Literature in German!