Here’s the spring-summer edition of getting to know the writers! With loads of excitement I tell you about the online events I participated in, featuring super writers such as Pip Williams, Brit Bennett, Hafsa Zayyan, and Maaza Mengiste in conversation with Aida Edemariam.

The winter-spring edition of my online “adventures” featured the likes of Margaret Atwood, Elif Shafak, and Yaa Gyasi – for more details link here.

And I’ve just realized … I only participated in online events with female writers 😲 I have to bring some equilibrium into this topic – let me know if you plan to attend online events with male writers, I’d like to join!

Pip Williams – The Dictionary of Lost Words

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams (my review) is a fascinating book, so I couldn’t miss the opportunity to participate in the live discussion with the author.

Pip Williams is such a pleasant and joyous presence! She shared about the journey of writing the book, her insights about women’s role at that time, and the book’s complex editorial process (she collaborated with 3 editors at the same time! – Australian, British, and American).

Interestingly, Williams initially intended to only write about the Oxford Dictionary. While doing the research she realized how big was the impact of the suffragette movement and WWI, so she extended the scope of the story.

I was happy to see that I read some of the books mentioned by Williams: All the Light We Cannot See by John Doerr (my review) and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (my review).

The event took place in May and it was organized by Chatto Books and Vintage Books (link of the instagram live).

Brit Bennett – The Vanishing Half

One of my favourite books I read in 2021 is The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (my review). So I was so happy to see that Waterstones organized the online event back in May 2021- Brit Bennett in conversation with Okechukwu Nzelu.

The discussion revolved a lot around colorism – the practice of showing preferential treatment to those with lighter skin colour within groups of the same race or ethnic background. It was also discussed about the feeling of alienation from your body – not only from a colour perspective, but also from a gender perspective.

In addition, Bennett shared about her experience of writing The Vanishing Half after previously publishing The Mothers in 2016.

Maaze Mengiste in conversation with Aida Edemariam

This was my second online event with Maaza Mengiste, and it did not disappoint! Compared to the first event, which was more of a Q&A, this online session was a discussion of Mengiste with another writer – Aida Edemariam.

The fascinating part was that their books – The Shadow King by Mengiste and The Wife’s Tale by Edemariam – were both about the history of 20th-century Ethiopia through female protagonists. The key difference is that Mengiste’s book is historical fiction, while Edemariam’s book is the memoir of her grandmother.

Their discussion touched on memories, authors’ decisions on how to tell the story from women’s point of view (given that history is usually told from men’s point of view), and their extensive research.

An interesting bit of information – during the Ethiopian – Italian war, the communication network of the Ethiopians was super super efficient, based on runners and priests.

The event took place in June 2021 and it was part of Hay Festival (link here).

Hafsa Zayyan – We Are All Birds of Uganda

The most recent online event I attended was with Hafsa Zayyan, the author of We Are All Birds of Uganda (my review). Strongly motivated to submit her story to a writing competition, she wrote her debut book in a record time – 6 months – while also being a lawyer in her day-to-day life.

It was a pleasant discussion about the book – about the author’s trips to Uganda for research purposes, resonance and representation in the way the characters are built. Hafsa also shared personal experiences, and encouraged all writers to participate in writing competitions! Even though not all competitions lead to a publishing contract, getting to know editors and receiving feedback on your work is definitely worth the effort.

Hafsa is currently reading A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum, and the writer who impacted her the most is Toni Morrison.

The event took place on 21st of July 2021 and was organized by Merton Libraries.

Are you planning to participate in any online (or live) events with authors? Or have you recently participated in a discussion with a writer? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

‘Till next time … happy reading!


Cover image by Content Pixie on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “Getting to know my favourite authors via online events – Brit Bennett, Maaza Mengiste, and more!

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