“Look mum, I’m an artist.”

I come close to sending this message to my mother as I approach a notice saying ARTIST RECEPTION on my way to the green room, but I manage to hold onto the remains of my cool long enough to resist the urge.

Hay Festival is everything and nothing like I imagined.

“It’s in the middle of nowhere,” I had been assured by London industry friends. I’m from Cornwall – my definition of ‘nowhere’ likely differs somewhat from the average Londoner’s. But the things I have heard most often – that it’s wonderful, that it’s incredibly well organised and attended, that it’s the most fun you can have in a Welsh field (the latter, I feel, is a longer and less appropriate debate for this forum) – these are all so very true.

I’m at Hay because my book The Graces has been shortlisted for the YA Book Prize, and I’ve been invited to take part in panels, and signings, and the winner’s ceremony. I had expected to be talking to a handful of people at most, but both my events are sold out. The audience is engaged, intelligent, asking the kinds of questions that usually involve late nights with whiskey and several hours of discussion.

But then again we’re all book people, and we love to pick apart the nature of everything. This is why festivals like Hay are so important. To celebrate curiosity. To celebrate knowledge. These two things are perhaps responsible for our extraordinary evolution. They will be responsible for our continued survival.

Once the last event is done and I’m travelling back to London on the train, looking at the photos people have posted of me at a podium, talking to hundreds of people about why I write at one of the biggest literary festivals in the world, I travel back in time.

In my head I go back to sixteen-year-old me, the one with the ridiculous, impossible dream of being a writer, and I tell her, “You won’t believe what happens to you in a few years.”