For most writers, writing is the secret activity that they do in the small pockets of time between rushing around doing the million other things that rank high on the list of things that absolutely need to be done.
Writing tends to get buried under the mountains of other things we do, the expectations and duties of all the other avatars that we embrace. And though writing is usually the most important thing in our minds, it is not often the first or even the second or third thing we speak about, when talking about ourselves. It is often the almost after thought that follows belatedly on the heels of all the other identities we wear. Combine this with the fact that writing is an isolated activity and the chances of meeting a fellow writer are usually extraordinarily slim, and you begin to understand exactly what a writer feels about being a writer.
These were my emotions too. Almost fifteen years of writing alone, cut off from any but the most necessary contact with the writing world, I had no real sense of where my writing and I stood. All communications with the writing world had invariably been from publishing houses. And since these had been a mix of acceptances and rejections, with a heavy tilt towards the rejections, I had no clue how to assess myself and my writing.
And then I attended my first literary festival exclusively for children’s books. Suddenly I was in the midst of people I knew and recognised from their writing, people I had admired without ever hoping to meet and people whose books had given me much joy. These were people who spoke a language I understand and who understood the frustrations of writing and publishing, of making time for oneself and one’s writing in the mad race of every single day. With so many common points established, it was difficult, almost impossible to not make friends with at least some of them.
And I came away with a few friends whose opinions I valued, whose suggestions I considered and whose encouragement I appreciated. They brightened up my day with jokes and send comforting messages when I was down. They also offered suggestions and willingly shared contacts in the publishing world.
And I understood then that literary festivals, in addition to bringing readers and writers together, also allowed writers to meet each other. Just one more act of literary significance!