Celebrating East African Writing!
At about 3:30pm, I was heading towards the Wales Stage for some information. I was suddenly barricaded by a long line of people who from far seemed to be disappearing into the next building – the Hay Festival Bookshop. As I approached, it was clear that this whole queue of people were lined up for a book signing. Without a doubt, I knew that whoever was at the end of this long line was quite a famous person – who had managed to draw great admiration upon himself through his works. Adding to my curiosity was the fact that this long line of people had a great mix of age-sets; an uncommon thing during book signings. There were little 5 to 6 year olds holding A4 books as well as some older people leaning on their staffs while holding onto what seemed as a painting that they were hoping to get autographed. I squeezed my way through the now-narrow entrance and finally found my way to the front of the queue…led by my curiosity.
At the head of this long queue, was a small balding man with white hair, who was bent over a book while signing it. A few seconds later, he looked up and his face matched perfectly with the online photos that I was looking at the previous day. This was the world famous Quentin Blake! He is a universally famous illustrator, author, teacher and English cartoonist, whose works span across various generations and have startled many. He has always made his living as an illustrator, and been in the teaching profession for over twenty years at the Royal College of Art, where he was head of the Illustration department from 1978 to 1986. He is known for his collaboration with writers such as Russell Hoban, Joan Aiken, Michael Rosen, John Yeoman and, most famously, Roald Dahl. He has also illustrated classic books, including A Christmas Carol and Candide and created much-loved characters of his own, including Mister Magnolia and Mrs Armitage. This being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, I quickly purchased a book and had it signed by him.
During my lunch break conversation, I was involved in a conversation that supported my curiosity in the large variety of age-sets in the signing cue. My new friend, Dominic was complaining about how he had missed an opportunity to meet Quentin Blake. Upon further enquiry into his disappointment, he said, and I quote, “He was one of 5 authors who shaped my early teenage years”. He then went on to name the other 4 authors and how the 5 of them had all helped to shape his worldview. Through this discussion, it was clear that the works of Quentin had been read and appreciated by people of all ages and had received equal appreciation by all.
It was surely a great opportunity to meet with this great man – and one that I will cherish for a long time to come, but this meeting also sparked some questions for me as a publisher and an aspiring author. What effect does/will the work that I am doing/will do have on my audience? How can I be able to deliver products that can affect the lives of many generations? These, among many other questions, still haunt my mind to date.