THREE ducklings greeted author Rachel Joyce when she gave a Swindon Festival of Literature talk about her work at the Arts Centre yesterday.

It was hoped that the ducks would have hatched for the Farmageddon event, with author Philip Lymbery, which took place on Tuesday. Unfortunately they didn’t but festival director Matt Holland knew that former actress Rachel kept chicks and ducks at her Gloucestershire home, so put them stage side to give her a warm welcome.

Rachel spoke about her two books, The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry and Perfect. She said: “I’m really enjoying being part of the festival and being pretty local I think it is important to support events in my area. It is clear to see that Matt works so hard to make the festival a success.

“I have to admit I’ve never been to a festival with ducklings before, they are very cute.”

The mother-of-four, who also writes plays for BBC Radio 4, fielded questions about balancing work with spending time with her family, the role her late father played in inspiring her work and dealing with criticism.

“Calling a book Perfect sets yourself up for a fall but what I’m trying to say is perfection implies some kind of aspirational state to reach but that isn’t the case as life is always changing. In Perfect, when people look for perfection, problems tend to follow,” Rachel said.

“I hate that we have a society where we are seeking ratings. I once got a three star rating on Amazon and then I followed what the person had given five stars to and one was a double-bladed potato masher which put things into perspective.”

Fans were treated to details about Rachel’s new book The Long Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, due to be released in October, which is a follow up to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

Matt felt that Rachel’s insights into the inspiration behind her work were fascinating. He said: “This has been a typical example of what we try to achieve when we invite authors as you get to see the person behind the book and what inspired them. I could feel the audience understanding that Rachel is just an ordinary human being with a life, like the rest of us, who also happenst to have a great talent.

“We are just over a third of the way into the Festival of Literature and the response has been brilliant. It has been great to see loyal followers as well as new faces. I think the variety of people attending different events shows we are offering something for everyone.”

Another festival event yesterday saw poet Martin Figura give a talk at the Arts Centre. The festival, now in its 21st year, runs until May 17.