Niel Bushnell takes some Northern Promise to Sweden

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When New Writing North asked me if I’d like to go to the Gothenburg Book Fair my first impulse was to look up exactly where Gothenburg was. I’ll admit I had no idea. It sounded like it could be in Germany, or maybe even the home to a well known Caped Crusader. I quickly discovered it’s in Sweden, has no known masked vigilantes and is in fact a very beautiful city, so I agreed to go.

I was reliably informed by Wikipedia that The Gothenburg Book Fair is an annual event held in Gothenburg, Sweden, since 1985. It started primarily as a trade fair (for librarians and teachers), but is now the biggest literary festival in Scandinavia and the second biggest book fair in Europe after the Frankfurt Book Fair. As a newly-published author, and a newbie to literary festivals, it sounded like the perfect place to go!

Before I knew it I’d arrived alone in an unfamiliar city, not knowing any of the 100,00 visitors to the fair, and not speaking any Swedish. But I soon realised how friendly everyone was, and they all spoke perfect English. New Writing North had already introduced me via email to the organisers of the fair and I was looked after from arrival to departure – I even had a driver waiting for me at the airport!

I took part in three talks and a book signing at the fair, and a presentation for the Anglo-English Society nearby in Gothenburg. I made some really good contacts, especially with Scandinavian publishers, and I’m hopeful that the trip will prove to be beneficial to my writing career. But sometimes it’s the strange unplanned encounters that can be the most interesting. Late one night I began chatting to a group of American tourists who, having discovered I was a writer, were very keen to buy copies of my book as gifts for their children. I’m not yet published in America so I reckon I’ve increased my US readership by a huge factor! Who knows what impact those three new readers might have…

I returned home exhausted but invigorated by the experience. It was a fascinating trip and somewhere I’d love to go to again.