A Feast of Literary Festivals in France

Written by on December 14, 2017 in Book Reviews And Interviews

Who isn’t inspired by France, with its fascinating history and culture, scenic landscapes, historic towns and villages and amazing food and wine? For writers in particular, all this adds up to plenty of material to write about.

Moving to France might provide more time, space and inspiration to write, but it can restrict access to readers and other writers. Although writers are often described as solitary creatures, I know from personal experience that they do crave interaction with like-minded people. Fortunately, the influx of Anglophone expats in recent years means that far more opportunities exist now than when I moved to southwest France in 1997. In our area alone, book groups, writing courses, creative writing groups and libraries with English book sections have sprung up to meet the demand. So, when a group of us set up an Anglo-French literary festival in the hilltop village of Parisot, Tarn-et-Garonne, we were delighted by the response.

The first annual Parisot Literary Festival was held in 2013 and we were fortunate to attract well-known authors with a link to southwest France. They included Amanda Hodgkinson (22 Britannia Road), Martin Walker (the Bruno detective series set in the Dordogne) and Daniel Crozes, a French author whose books set in the Aveyron have a huge following.

Authors and festival-goers were hugely enthusiastic and readers swarmed to buy signed copies of the authors’ books. Amanda Hodgkinson said, “It was a wonderful, interesting group of people and I felt there was a really warm ambience.”

The 5th Festilitt, as it has become known, took place in October and is now an established landmark in the literary calendar. In addition to the writer sessions, it includes a massive second-hand book sale, a dinner with the authors and an art exhibition with specially-commissioned paintings inspired by the books. I am no longer an organiser, but it’s one of the highlights of my writing year.

Move northwards a few hundred kilometres and you come to the small, but historic village of Charroux in Vienne. This delightful place is the venue for a biennial literary festival, which started in 2015. Like Parisot’s Festilitt, the Charroux festival also showcases both French and English authors. In August it attracted readers and writers from a wide area.

A hallmark of both festivals is that they make a point of promoting local authors as well as inviting those of international renown. At Charroux this year, rubbing shoulders with the historical novelist Barbara Erskine and the literary agent and biographer Andrew Lownie were a range of novelists and authors of non-fiction who all live in France, at least part-time.

French salons de livres often give space to Anglophone authors, but the number of genuinely Anglo-French festivals is increasing. Most, like Parisot, start from small beginnings. Their popularity shows what an appetite exists in la France profonde for literary interaction.

Back to that inspiration. Having lived in France for so long, I find much of my own writing is set here rather than in my native UK. To mark our 20 years here, I have put together a collection of short stories, all with France as the backdrop.

Vanessa Couchman is a novelist and short story writer and blogs at Life on La Lune. She and her husband have lived in an 18th-century farmhouse in rural southwest France since 1997. Vanessa is the author of The House at Zaronza, and the forthcoming The Corsican Widow, and has contributed to many short story anthologies. French Collection: Twelve Short Stories is a collection of her own fictional stories.

Related Articles

Eight Months in Provence by Diane Covington-Carter

American Diane Covington-Carter was obsessed with France. She had spent her youth listening to her father’s wartime tales, studying French, and saving every spare penny to go there on her junior year abroad when she finished school. Alas this was not to be, and instead she found herself becoming a young married mother. However, two […]

Continue Reading

Hosting Hapless Helpers by Karen Luff

Now you can discover the truth about what it is like to host helpers for your projects in your own home. Karen Luff, the author, left her native UK with her husband and five-year-old son for a new life in France in 2005. The large house they fell in love with is called Le Chataignier, […]

Continue Reading

Review of Minced, Marinated and Murdered by Noël Balen and Vanessa Barrot

What do you get when you have two authors, Noël Balen a writer and musician with over thirty mystery books to his name, and his corporate lawyer wife Vanessa Barrot who originates from a family of Parisian restaurant owners? The answer is: a great murder mystery story set in Lyon, the second largest city in […]

Continue Reading

A day with Marie-Antoinette book review

Marie-Antoinette, that’s all you have to say and most people will know immediately that you’re talking of the Queen of France who lost her head. She is a legend more than 200 years after her death. Famous for her fashion and her farmhouse at the Chateau of Versailles. Famous for her scented gloves and silk […]

Continue Reading

The Christmas Cottage by Patricia Dixon

The third novel by Patricia Dixon sees a festive return to the tiny French village of Pierre de Fontaine. Nestled amongst the sleepy hills and misty valleys of the Loire you will be transported to crisp, winter mornings and star filled, moonlit nights. Relax around a glowing log fire and enjoy a taste of Noël […]

Continue Reading


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.