It is a funny experience the world and his wife staring openly at my body: both empowering and oddly disconcerting. A walking exhibition making her way through the crowds. Smiles that see my midriff first and meet my eyes second. Powerful in my large bright-green dress floating, swishing, making space for myself in this heat. It is feverish in the Authors’ Yurt. Nervous chatter and meeting of fellow creatives. Water cooler and mini pastries. Flushed cheeks.

“What do you write?”
“Do you have an agent?”
“Where are you published?”
“Are you on Twitter?”

Awe and self-consciousness and genuine happiness to be here, in-person.

My bump arrives on stage before the rest of me. I bring the mic down to my level before reading a quote I’d carefully selected. The attack on Salman Rushdie just a few days earlier sent shockwaves around the globe, especially in the literary milieu. It feels very appropriate to acknowledge the right to freedom of speech at the largest public celebration of the written word in the world. There are a few nods of appreciation as I look out to the audience. I know I’m in the right place.

I see a photographer peeping through the doorway snapping my debut with my extra curves. Sweat drips down my back. The notepad I am holding shakes almost imperceptibly. There have already been jokes about whether or not I’ll pop at the festival. The baby is certainly fully cooked. Spoiler alert: I give birth two days later within a thirty-minute window at the hospital. It is a so-almost-could-have-been moment: FESTIVAL FIRST! BABY BIRTHED ON STAGE! The audience claps as I come to the end of my short story. I am big, bigger than I have ever been, and very happy to be here.

Helen Harradine