Hay Festival is a wonderful place. It is awash with life and literature: kids scuttling to see their favourite authors reading extracts from their latest books, and adults queuing up in the shop clutching books to be signed by beaming writers, who sit behind their table piled high with crisp new tomes.
I’m a first-timer to the festival circuit. For my event, which took place yesterday, I’m in a tent, up on stage, with a journalist called Rajan Datar and another author, Emma Barrett, who’s written a book called Extreme about resilience shown by adventurers. The conversation is wide-ranging and our interests don’t seem to dovetail very well – from breast cancer, to the lack of sleep at altitude, to resilience in children. And yet, the talk becomes about what makes people stronger in adversity and, somehow, we find many similarities. Being able to reflect on ‘failure’, having support, getting decent rest and food, striving and thriving whatever the conditions….
Afterwards there are questions and comments – emotional ones about people’s own traumas, or tough ones about lack of mental health provision. Then it’s off to sign books and I sit behind a desk, smiling and asking, “Who shall I sign it for?” to those lining up with my book – my book! – in their hands.
It feels so strange. Everyone will soon know all the intimate thoughts I had last year as I recovered from the double mastectomy. Every rant, every laugh, every tearful moment. I hope they take some help from it when they read my story and those of others. When they see the tips on how to sleep better or which food nourishes or how to rewire the brain away from threat and stress.
I have no idea what my readers will think or say, no clue as to whether or how the book will be reviewed. If you’re one of those who has picked up Rise, please share your thoughts and your own tips and tools with me and the others by leaving a comment below. One woman wrote to me today to say: “We are your army, you are not alone.”
None of us are. We are your army. You are not alone. Join us. Rise. We are all there to help one another.