Friday, 23 March 2012

A heady mixture ...

Last year, at the IATEFL conference in Brighton, I was one of four speakers at a symposium on Extensive Reading for learners of English as a Foreign Language. I had prepared a talk with a Power Point Presentation and I was nervous. I hadn't spoken at a conference for years. 

This year, however, at IATEFL in Glasgow, I was at the conference to receive my Extensive Reading Foundation Language Learner Literature award for Dragon's Eggs. So it was a heady mixture of congratulations and reminiscence with ex-colleagues. The ceremony was in a huge auditorium, with podium, banners and spotlights on stage.  

While we waited for it to begin, I discussed creative writing with a colleague from Nepal in a wonderful pale pink sari. On my other side, a complete stranger agreed to take photographs as I was given my certificate. Thank goodness I had prepared a tiny 'Oscar speech' to thank everyone involved. Our enthusiastic and revered MC, Jeremy Harmer, ushered each of us to the microphone to say 'a few words'.

There was a riotous party hosted by Macmillan on a boat on the Clyde later. People from all over the world were learning to dance the Gay Gordons and music and voices rose to incalculable decibels. I and four others left to look for food. We were all of a certain age, and so happy to pass up the younger people's habit of dancing until the wee hours. We found a delicious Indian curry house 20 metres from my hotel where we celebrated my award and the election of the new vice-chair of the IATEFL committee who was also with us. Everyone was interested in The Boy with Two Heads, who came up in conversation, of course. Two or three of the other award winners also write main-stream fiction.

Next morning, the only uncomfortable moment arrived. I was to be interviewed on the British Council's IATEFL channel. 

However, both my interviewers were relaxed and easy to talk to. I read three pages of Dragon's Eggs, about a football match that ends in tragedy when six-year-old Amos treads on an unmarked landmine. This happens near the beginning of the story, which is set in Zimbabwe. It led us into discussing serious issues in language learner literature, and how I came to live in Zimbabwe for three years (my husband was posted there). 

And then it was all over. Phew! 

I had a sandwich with some colleagues from Chile, and then set off to enjoy a few hours in Glasgow in the unexpected sunshine.

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