BEST-SELLING author Joanne Harris gave her seal of approval to the country's newest celebration of books.
She spoke at a reception which launched the four-day Huddersfield Literary Festival.
The new event on the town's calendar is organised by Huddersfield University.
Joanne, who wrote the novel Chocolat and lives in Almondbury, is the festival patron.
She told her audience: "It's lovely to be in a room full of people as excited about books as I am.
"When I was a child there weren't such things as literature festivals where I lived. When I was seven I told my mother I wanted to be a writer and she said: "Whatever for?"
"She told me about the terrible things that happened to writers, how they all died in the gutter, of syphilis."
Joanne continued: "I was in the gym today and four men were stood around talking about a book, admittedly it was The Da Vinci Code, but it was wonderful.
And it's wonderful that so many young authors have been invited to speak here."
Festival director Simon Kerr said he hoped the event would be the first of many, adding: "If you don't use it, you will lose it."
He said: "There's a need for this sort of event in the industry, to help new writers get a leg up.
"We're trying to promote reading in the area, and the reading of contemporary literature."
Authors Geoff Ryman, Simon Ings, Sarah Hall and Peter Hobbs read from their books in the university's Milton Building last night.
Events were continuing tonight with a question-and-answer session by Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson, of The League of Gentlemen.
Mil Millington and Gideon Dafoe were also reading.
One series of talks is called Helping Hands, where established authors share a bill with up-and-coming talent.
Julie Myerson, a judge for the £50,000 Man Booker fiction prize, speaks on Sunday afternoon.
In total, there will be 16 talks at the university, Huddersfield Art Gallery and Media Centre.
The 33 speakers also include John Boyne, poets George Szirtes and Paul Farley and performance poet Shamshad Khan.
There will also be a reception for invited guests tomorrow, to hear the winner and runners-up of the Examiner short story competition read.
For information and tickets, call 0870 990 5025 or go to www.litfest.org.uk
Tickets are £6 or £4 with concessions.