"It's really nice to win things occasionally, none of us is above that," declared a beaming Jeanette Winterson.
The author is dangling the medal she has just been awarded for a career in prose by Hay Festival, in honour of its 25th year.
Pointing out that "it's only a little younger than Oranges are Not The Only Fruit" - her 1985 novel which she wrote as a 25-year-old - Winterson was in a buoyant mood and enraptured the audience with readings from her new memoir Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal?
She explained that the title came from the moment she left home as a 16-year-old in love with another girl. When her obsessively religious and "flamboyantly depressive" mother asked why she was doing it, she said "because it makes me happy", and her mother replied, "Jeanette, why be happy when you could be normal?".
Winterson said she had spent the next 35 years trying to figure out "that the whole premise [of that belief] is false".
Mrs Winterson's salty sayings scattered the younger Winterson's event ("Mrs Winterson, like all Shakespeare's villains, had the best lines"), not least her telling her adopted daughter "the devil lead us to the wrong crib".
Winterson revealed a lifelong love of reading ("books became a raft and a lifeline"), not least T S Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral which reduced her to tears as a lonely teenager, and also discussed how she came to forgive her mother when writing the memoir. Apart from a happy ending, she said: "there are only three endings to a story: revenge, tragedy or forgiveness."
"Forgiveness is really hard work - revenge and tragedy are easier, I don't know why that is," she said. "We need so much energy to love and forgive - the things that really matter."
Recalling the first line of her novel Written on the Body, she said "I no longer believe that the 'measure of love is loss', and that's a huge change.
"It took me a long time to realise that love can be as reliable as the sun, that you can have a daily rising of love."
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson is published by Jonathan Cape.