Michael Crummey stood outside the lecture hall at the Discovery Centre in Woody Point Friday and signed copies of his books for the dozens of readers who packed the room to hear him read from and discuss his latest novel.
The well-known and award-winning writer smiled and posed for pictures with those who eagerly lined up for the chance to meet him, to get his autograph or to tell him how much his work meant to them.
Once the line slowly drindled and the last book was signed, Crummey was asked why he keeps returning to the Writers at Woody Point Festival.
Without hesitation, the Buchans native said it’s this rare chance to mingle closely with his audience and other writers that makes the festival his favorite one.
“There’s a vibe to the festival,” Crummey said. “It’s one of the few places where the divide between sitting alone in your room writing a book and people out there reading it kind of dissolves. You’re kind of just hanging out.”
Friday’s event, hosted by Angela Antle and dubbed Up Close with Michael Crummey, served as an early launch to his fourth novel, “Sweetland,” which will be officially released Tuesday.
With a Winterset Award and Thomas Head Raddall Award to his name, as well as being shortlisted for such awards as the Scotiabank Giller prize and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, Crummey admits he’s surpassed his earliest expectations for his career.
“When I started out, I thought if I ever published a book it would be fantastic — and it was,” he said. “But to be in a room full of people who have read your material, who are engaged with it and have opinions of it is pretty surreal. I’m just thrilled people are out there reading it.”
While readers can often be passionate about his poetry and prose, Crummey said he’s learned to separate himself from outside opinions about his work.
“I recognize what a person thinks about a book says as much about them as it does the book,” he said. “So it kind of frees me up from worrying about it. I just worry about it when I write it and then try to forget about it.”
Sweetland is Crummey’s first novel since 2009’s “Galore,” a critical and commercial success which Crummey has described as a career highlight. He admits it took some time to recharge after he finished Galore and he isn’t concerned that he currently doesn’t have another project in mind.
“It takes a lot out of you but I’ve also been really busy with other things,” he said, noting he’s recently written articles for magazines and has worked on scripts for short films.
“But I hope there’s another book.”
The festival continues today before wrapping up tomorrow and for a full schedule, visit www.writersatwoodypoint.com.