To no surprise, writers fear discussions about their book in a foreign language. What if I can’t express myself adequately? What if I don’t understand the questions?
In addition, there are writers who love to talk about their work, and others who don’t. Some are natural performers, while others struggle to speak up.
Over the years, the Nymph and I have had many opportunities to observe the ways writers deal with stage fright. After all, we bring our authors to London to talk about their work at the Supper Club and our Salon.
There are those who pretend that they are not nervous at all, projecting their anxieties straight onto the Nymph, who then complains bitterly to me about feeling emotionally drained. Others close up and don’t even try to engage. Some get drunk and one didn’t turn up at all.
But then there are those who are able to hold their fears. They are eager to engage with the new audience. They see their trip to London as a chance to learn new things – about themselves and others.
In the Nymph’s league-table of salon performers Norwegian women come out top.
Last year, Hanne Ørstavik discussed The Blue Room. She was fiercely intellectual but also displayed a personal vulnerability. It was an enthralling talk. And last weekend Gøhril Gabrielsen launched The Looking-Glass Sisters. Her gift? She could observe and articulate her own creative processes. She left the audience inspired. The Nymph and I were in seventh heaven.
Gøhril ought to have received all the glory for the evening. But sadly she didn’t. Judging by the audience reaction, someone else stole the show. My husband.
‘He is wonderful,’ a regular Salon attendee whispered into my ear. I smiled. Fifteen minutes later, a second one came up to me: ‘Your husband is just a lovely man.’ When eventually a third one sang my husband’s praise, I rolled my eyes.
I know his trick. While the authors, the Nymph and I work hard for the Salon, my husband has carved out a role that earns him praise without effort.
From 10.30pm onwards he sits on the carpet in the front room surrounded by a selection of Scottish whiskeys. He pours them into special glasses with ice, while in his deep voice he tells stories about Scottish highlands and islands.
At the end of the evening, even the Nymph put her tipsy head onto my shoulder. ‘Gøhril was brilliant and really inspiring. But your husband’s Scottish whisky…,’ she didn’t manage to complete the sentence. She had gone to sleep.
By Meike Ziervogel
This blog was originally published as part of Peirene Press‘s series Things Syntactical. The Pain and Passion of a Small Publisher on 15 September 2015.