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Authors signatures - is the LongPen really necessary?

Tess writes about the invention by Margaret Atwood of a Pen that will sign books from a distance

Margaret Atwood’s LongPen

Seeing favourite authors adds a dimension to reading their books; the chance to see Margaret Atwood at the Edinburgh Book Festival, facilitating the virtual presence of Alice Munro from a bookshop in Canada, was an opportunity to be taken. Even though I had tried months before to book to see Margaret Atwood for her own session at the Book Festival, the tickets had gone before it was possible to get through online or on the phone.

Tickets had sold out long before and we queued round all four sides of the walkway constructed in Charlotte Square Gardens for the Book Festival, apparently while some last minute technical hitches were sorted out. The event was in one of the big marquees and those who had drawn lucky numbers were able to go up to the booth in the second half, ask Alice Munro a question which was transmitted so we could all hear, along with the response, and have their copy of her book signed across the Atlantic.*

So, was it worth it? In the first half Margaret Atwood facilitated discussion and questions from the audience to Alice Munro, who we could clearly see on a screen in real time – even being able to see us the audience on the monitor on Alice’s table in the Canadian bookshop.

I really enjoyed seeing both the authors and gained a sense of each of their personalities and of Alice Munro’s approach to her writing. The process was a little stilted but was basically successful and gave an opportunity to see an author almost as if she was in Edinburgh. I personally am not in general that concerned to get author’s signatures in my books, and in this case hadn’t known about the application process – no need to be sorry for me – I had been having a great time at the Edinburgh Fringe when the explanatory letter went to my home in West Yorkshire. I expect those who got their book signed by Alice and who had the chance to talk to her had an enhanced experience – but for the rest of us the event petered out as we gradually drifted away. Next time the organisers would do well to plan a more satisfactory end for the majority of the audience.


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