7th June, Blackwell’s bookshop, Oxford
Blackwell’s always fills me with joy. I love the way the back of the ordinary shop suddenly plummets down into the huge, unsuspected, underground Norrington Room – a bit like Moria, but with more books.
In a cosy corner of the children’s section, I gave a talk, reading and signing of my latest book, A Face Like Glass. This seemed to go down well, and at the end the audience asked lots of good questions about the difference between children’s and adult fiction, advice to young writers, Alice in Wonderland references in my book, etc. Better still, somebody gave me a box of lemon cakes. Just in case anybody was wondering, offerings of cake will always be highly acceptable.
19th June, St Nicolas School, Abingdon
Due to the aftermath of ‘flu and a hacking chest cough, I had trouble struggling out of bed that morning. I’m so glad I did. I wouldn’t have missed my St Nicolas visit for the world.
I talked to years 5 and 6 about the process of writing A Face Like Glass, read an extract and then answered questions. The pupils had researched me thoroughly, so their questions were top-notch and I had to think hard about some of the answers. Afterwards, I set an exercise designed to help each student design their own character.
From my point of view, the best part was hearing about the varied and wonderful characters that everybody created – killer robots, ghosts, a sky-dweller who lost his powers when he was underground, an angel with anger-management issues, a girl whose parents had been replaced by goblins, slaves, a were-hare seeking her family, a dragon adopted by snakes, a shape-shifting platypus and far too many others to mention.
Afterwards I found myself in the sunlit playground, signing copies of my books, pieces of paper, exercise books, lunch boxes and anything else that didn’t move away fast enough.
Many thanks to Mostly Books for arranging my visit to St Nicolas, which was tremendous amounts of fun. (Mark from Mostly Books has his own write-up of the day here.) Kudos and thanks to John Hulse and his fellow teachers for the impressive levels of effort, organisation and enthusiasm they put into the event.
21st June, Huddersfield Reading Partners Event
The wonderful Sally Oliphant and myself manned the Macmillan Stall at the Children’s Reading Partner’s Roadshow, for an enjoyable couple of hours ‘speed-dating’ librarians.
For those who don’t know how the ‘speed-dating’ works, it’s a bit like the Mad Hatter’s tea party, but with less singing about bats or pushing people into teapots. There are lots of stalls arranged round the room (think of them as the tea party chairs) and lots of librarians who are arranged into small groups (the tea party guests). Each group of librarians starts at a particular stall, listening to stallholders talk about their books, and asking questions. After ten minutes a whistle blows, each group of librarians moves along to the next stall, and the whole thing begins again.
It’s all rather fun, and an ingenious way to make sure that everyone meets everyone else, and gets to ask all the questions they want. Of course it does also mean that the people on the stalls give the same talk over and over again. By the time I’d made the same five-minute speech ten times, I was a little crazy and my mouth was on auto-pilot. Apologies to anybody who was on the receiving end of my gibbering at that stage…