10am – it’s the first session for me today, and it almost feels more like I am just hanging out in a friend’s lounge. Maggie and Sarah-Kate are old friends, and this is really clear from the way they are chatting and sharing memories together. The atmosphere is warm, although the room apparently is not – Sarah-Kate feels the cold, and has packed pashminas ‘just in case’ – a red one for her and a lime green one for Maggie.
I need to point out at this stage that Sarah-Kate has hands-down won the award for best-dressed festival speaker: an impeccable LBD, perfectly accessorised bracelet, handbag, shoes and necklace, and yes, even the emergency pashmina matched. “Colour-coordinating to a fault”, as Maggie points out.
In her introduction, Maggie comments that Sarah-Kate has ” … the knack of writing books that we wish we could be in …”, and the room thoroughly agrees. Her latest book Dolci di love is about families and friendships, babies and biscotti. Set in Tuscany, it’s a warm read, with gorgeously drawn characters: “All my books are full of handsome agreeable people”, she notes; and like all of her novels, it makes you laugh and cry and laugh again. There are some tough issues to deal with in this book, but somehow, as always, hope wins out. As Sarah-Kate herself points out, “I want to believe that there’s hope and that there’s a happy ending for everybody.”
As well as talk about Dolci di love, there’s also some discussion of her next novel – set in Manhattan and Charleston, South Carolina, it’s about bees, she says. And a character called Honey, or Sugar, or something else sweet (I forget which! I am a note-taking failure!).
There’s talk about blogging – after years of disparaging blogs, Sarah-Kate has fallen under their spell, and now has her very own blog. She recommends a book (Blood, Bones & Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton), recalls her earlier days in journalism, mentions her editor’s jobs, her new role at Next magazine and her columns in Women’s Day magazine, and generally makes me feel like I am the laziest, most unachieving-est person in the world.
At the end of the session I go and introduce myself – we did an email interview a month or so ago, and it’s great to be able to go and say hi face-to-face – and I skip off to my next session a very happy festival-girl indeed.