Tag Archives: David Fickling

Bridges between languages

Yeah, well, that didn’t go so well. I’d been gladdening for a couple of months because Fabio Geda was coming to Britain and I would see him a two events in the same day.

And then transport to Oxford, which was the first venue, didn’t so much dry up as become very dear, and there was ‘no room at the inn’ so to speak and when I’d decided to just go to London for the second event, the train fares had done that unpleasant thing again. And Son, my prospective events companion, needed to go off to Lund to listen to the bridging of languages across the Öresund, for purely academical reasons, even though the London event would also have been pretty educational in its own way.

So, my dears, I stayed at home. Thought about doing the ironing, but didn’t.

The Children’s Bookshow have organised two months of events around the country, and on Friday there was this translation panel event and workshops and reception in London, featuring Fabio Geda and his award winning translator Howard Curtis, and his publisher David Fickling. Kevin Crossley-Holland, translator Daniel Hahn and Nicolette Jones were also on the programme.

ACHUKAPHOTO: Found In Translation &emdash;

That sounded so very much like my kind of thing. I may not be able to tell you very much of what went on – except that apparently David Fickling arrived after his event – but can offer you some photos which the very kind Michael Thorn of Achuka offered to share with me.

ACHUKAPHOTO: Found In Translation &emdash;

The sad truth about translation is that only 3% of children’s books published in this country have been translated. Hardly surprising I found my Foreign Reading Challenge a few years ago to be so uphill. I’d thought all I would need was determination, but to read you also need books. And there weren’t many. But at least there was Fabio’s book, In the Sea there are Crocodiles, which was the Bookwitch favourite.

ACHUKAPHOTO: Found In Translation &emdash;

Until next time, Fabio…

Launching Shine

The custard creams made all the difference. They and the Coke. Halfway through the launch party for Candy Gourlay’s new book Shine, I was overcome by an urge to liberate ‘a few’ custard creams. They were looking lonely, sitting on a table at Archway Library. That sugar rush kept me going all night, more or less.

Archway Library

I arrived just in time for The Three Hundred Word Challenge. Candy read out as many entries as there was time for, and her collected authors pitched in with their thoughts. The advice was good. The fledgling stories were even better. It’s reassuring to find that young people still want to write, and that they know how.

Teri Terry, Candy Gourlay and Jane McLoughlin

While this was going on in front of an audience so numerous they ran out of chairs, people went about their business in the library, and there was a nice mix of festival special and ordinary library behaviour. (It was the first day of the first Archway With Words Festival.) The authors couldn’t always agree on their advice, which should go a long way to proving that there is no one correct way to write. (I thought they were going to come to blows. Which would have been exciting.)

Random's Clare, Simon Mason, Philippa Dickinson and Keren David

Once it was time for the launch proper, I had a job recognising people without the customary name badges. I managed some. I was discovered in my corner by Random’s Clare, who was almost on her own doorstep for this event.

There were speeches. MDs Philippa Dickinson and Simon Mason came. David Fickling, on the other hand, did not. Replacing him, Philippa and Bella Pearson spoke, but they couldn’t quite manage David’s voice, so Candy had to help out.

Candy Gourlay with Philippa Dickinson and Bella Pearson

In her own speech, Candy told us of the long hard slog to get there. What’s three years between friends? Bella went on maternity leave, and came back. Candy said nice things about her editor Simon, even after he told her that her first attempt was no repair job.

Candy’s daughter Mia and friends sang a cappella. Absolutely lovely.

Candy Gourlay at Archway Library

Dave Cousins

We mingled. There were more authors than you could shake a stick at. (Not that I’d want to, I hasten to add.) Fiona Dunbar and I met where we always seem to meet. I met several facebook friends for real. (They exist!) Teri Terry was surrounded by young fans. Dave Cousins came.I recognised Jane McLoughlin but took ages to work out who she was. Missed Joe Friedman. Ruth Eastham was over from Italy, which was very nice. She introduced me to Sarah Mussi, whose book I just ‘happened’ to be reading, so I hauled it out for an autograph. (Very scary. The book. Not so much Sarah.)

Sarah McIntyre

The other Sarah (McIntyre) also ended up signing stuff, although not for me. Keren David said hello, and then goodbye. I chatted to Inbali Iserles and Savita Kalhan. I spoke to people I have emailed with, and to people I haven’t. Sam Hepburn.

Steve Hartley

And then Mr Gourlay went round saying it was time to go home. So we did. To the Gourley home, where the eldest junior Gourlay was looking after food and drink. There was a lot of it.

The Gourlays

They have the loveliest of gardens! Admittedly it was dark, but it was all lit up and the evening was balmy, and there was somewhere to sit. Not the trampoline for me. Spoke to DFB basement man Simon, and the kind Tilda who once bought me a sandwich. At some point I had to admit to a fondness for the Circle Line. (Yeah, well.)

The wine flowed (the recycling men were most impressed with the bottle collection the next morning) and there was cheese beginning with the letter c, and for the carnivores pork sausages on the barbecue, very ably operated by Mr G.

It was dark. As I said. So I gave up on the camera and simply enjoyed, which is why there are no scandalous shots of anyone. I think the man who hugged me before he left long past midnight might have been Cliff McNish, despite him being underwhelmed by my drinking.

Recommended crime to beautiful blonde, who was impressed with my recent meeting with Colin Bateman… When it got too cold we repaired to the inner regions. In the end most people went home, and Candy was left with a mere five houseguests. Eldest son politely gave up his bed for an old witch, and was banished to his godmother’s ‘vomiting room.’

In the morning I got up long after the six o’clock taxi guest had departed, and people had dispersed to school and jobs and things. I met my brand newest facebook friend (less than 24 hours) in her pyjamas. And then Candy made us breakfast and we gossiped about the great and the famous.

But I had a noon train to catch, so shouldered my nightie and toothbrush and walked up the hill to the tube station hidden in mist. Once I got to Euston I encountered the Poet Laureate on the escalators, going the opposite way. Bought some treats for the Resident IT Consultant to celebrate our first 31 years, and hopped on my train.

Tired library visitor

(I know how that doll feels.)

Bs all round

It makes sense really. Who but Dave Shelton could be awarded the Branford Boase for his lovely – if stained – A Boy and a Bear and a Boat? Your Bookwitch wasn’t present, but that’s at least five Bs to start with, which is plenty.

Or you could make it the Davids, Shelton and (editor) Fickling. The latter must be getting used to winning the Branford Boase along with his new authors. He does it so often.

I won’t pretend to have understood the Boy, Bear, Boat book. It was lovely, but incomprehensible. I particularly liked the stain on the cover.

Dave Shelton, A Boy and a Bear in a Boat

Since I wasn’t there, I will have to make it up. Philip Ardagh was there as usual. (He only stays away when I’m there. Perhaps we take it in turns, Beardy and me?) I believe Jacqueline Wilson did her normal awarding stuff, and there will have been child winners of the Henrietta Branford Writing Competition.

Some, or all, of the other shortlisted writers were there, and while they didn’t have quite such a wonderful evening as Dave did, I’m hoping it was fun anyway. The Branford Boase is one of the most enjoyable events, and I’m sure this was the case yesterday as well. I hope it didn’t rain. My first time was spectacularly wet.

(I considered tweaking [doctoring] some old photos of David Fickling winning, and of Jacqueline Wilson presenting, or Anne Marley or David Lloyd speaking. And then I decided against.)

Fickle news

David Fickling Books

In the end my agonising wait resolved itself. I heard about David Fickling’s plans to set up his own publishing company back in January. I wasn’t sure I was allowed to mention it, so thought I’d ask David. I suppose I kept back from doing that, in order to save him having to tell me to mind my own business.

Not that he would be so rude, but you know what I mean.

So the official news a week or two ago was very welcome. It was out in the open. I didn’t have to ask any awkward questions (I might still, actually). The one thing that did surprise me was to find I’d got it wrong. I’d always thought David set up on his own, and was later taken in under the Random House umbrella. But it seems this is the first time David Fickling Books will be independent.

Poor, but independent.

I’ll be very interested to see how it goes. The principles for publishing should be what DFB will try to do; working with what you believe in, at the pace you decide, and with as little glancing at ‘what sells’ as possible. Please make this a success!

David Fickling Books

I wonder if they will [be able to] hang on to their lovely home in central Oxford? The place where Daughter and I encountered Simon Mason in the cellar. Now that Simon is going to be managing director, it might be unseemly to have him stashed away below street level?

We’ll see. When the news came, I’d already had witchy thoughts about tiny houses where you couldn’t even swing a kitten, because I remember David talking about modern houses with deceptively tiny furniture. I hope that doesn’t mean he needs to shrink his publishing palace, where the MD sits in the cellar and there is a dentist on top. Always so handy.

(The Book of Dust, could come in useful. Some people would be willing to hand over good money for a copy of that. In fact, my first introduction to David Fickling came through a letter I was sent while we were all waiting for The Amber Spyglass. [Long time ago!] In it David was telling the impatient fan of how wonderful the bits Philip Pullman had been reading to him from his work in progress had been. There was something about David’s enthusiasm, and the way he shared this with the fans, that suggested he was no ordinary editor.)

Fonts

Something I didn’t have a problem with when I was young were the ‘funny fonts’ and the pretend handwriting in print. I read comics every week and managed just fine.

But these days I find I just won’t read the books I receive that don’t come with ordinary print. Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid is an example. I no longer feel guilty, because the man seems to do all right even without Bookwitch reviews of his books. Daughter read the first one and loved it. I was sure I would also have enjoyed it, had it not been for the visual effects. ‘Handwriting’ and diaries with ‘hand drawn’ pictures are simply not for me.

This week I looked longingly at the new Liz Pichon book about Tom Gates. It sounds good, and looks fun, as long as I don’t have to try and read it.

Aspie book Colin Fischer by Ashley Edwards Miller and Zack Stentz contained diary sections, which I had to read if I wanted to get through the whole story. I really wanted to, so forced myself.

I have read comics in my hard-to-please adult age. Some have been better than others. It depends on how much motivation I have, and on the layout in each individual case. David Fickling’s Phoenix was actually OK. I wonder if they spent more time over design?

My Vi magazine has a regular page which I can’t tell you much about. I believe it’s a comic style political comment. But I don’t actually know, as I can neither see the pictures properly, nor even begin to hope to decipher the words. I assume someone must, or they wouldn’t – couldn’t – print the stuff.

It feels a waste to strive for the hard-to-read style, but my experience of suggesting that magazines stop printing yellow on white and similar, generally meets with surprisingly unhelpful replies. They feel it looks good. No one has complained before. They are a little sorry I can’t manage it. But not very sorry. There are many other readers, after all.

Thanks, Siobhan!

Siobhan Dowd NYC 80s-90s, by Helen Graves

Easter brought back my earliest memories of Siobhan Dowd, and of The London Eye Mystery. It was as we left the local bookshop just before Easter 2007 that Daughter grabbed the proof of this wonderful book, and once she had read it, she gave me permission to read it as well.

I’d like to think that this ‘illustrious’ blogging career of mine would have gone in much the same direction even without Siobhan and The London Eye Mystery. Hard to say. It made me do my fan email thing, which in turn meant Siobhan wrote back to me, opening up a more personal view of herself; one which I might never have encountered otherwise.

Looking back, it seems so dreadfully unreal that she would die just a few months later. And who would have thought that her work would just go on and on afterwards? I won’t be alone in blessing her strength, writing four novels in such a very short time, giving us her fantastic books to read after she was gone. And her trust, which she had time to plan, helping young people to read.

This was the very beginning of my moving in literary circles, and I marvel at how I dared get on that train to Oxford for Siobhan’s memorial service in November. I met so many people there, who I would probably have met at some point, but not quite like that. Would I have known that Siobhan’s friend Fiona Dunbar would make the perfect Bookwitch Profile as seen here last month?

The London Eye Mystery made more magic later with the stage version. Again, lots of people met up, and for me a lasting pleasure was meeting her best friend Helen who came over from New York, and who provided the photo above. (You could ask why it’s important to meet the American friend of an author you never met. I don’t know. But it feels good.)

Siobhan Dowd and Helen Graves: friends at Blenhaim Palace spring 2006

When I think back to first meeting literary people – online or in person – I can link back to Siobhan surprisingly often. It’s not just Declan Burke of Irish crime fame who popped up. He brought with him all those Irish crime writers that I’d never heard of before. Other bloggers. And in turn, these writers have taken me further in many different directions. I find paths doubling back on themselves.

Rings on the water, is what it seems like. Once this idea had come to me, the rings just grew and grew. I am not going to bore you with long lists of authors and publishers (although the lovely David Fickling must be mentioned). I started counting how many facebook friends originated with Siobhan, but gave up…

There was something in the way my brief contact with Siobhan encouraged more mad behaviour on my part. It wasn’t only meeting people. It was learning other things I could do. Was allowed to do. I owe Siobhan a lot, and I hope she’s sitting up there looking down at all of us, having a bit of fun herself. Maybe with a fluffy dog by her side, and a glass of something.

(I know. This is very much a me, me kind of post. But whenever I think ‘how did that come about then?’ my inner detective notices footprints going all the way back to this great author and person.)

Bookwitch bites #91

She lives in London now, but from her blog post for David Fickling, you can tell that much of Candy Gourlay is still in the Philippines. And who can blame her? You will never get a new past, and Candy has left five siblings behind, one of whom she writes about in the David Fickling family themed blog trail.

What is amusing is how she felt she was second fiddle to her sister Joy, while it seems Joy felt the same way about Candy. I particularly enjoyed seeing the photo of their parents, and perhaps the blatant 1980s outfit Joy wore back then. Really OTT, like the decade itself.

As for me I have just turned down yet another book launch* invite in Scotland. I do that a lot, and not because I don’t want to go. They do seem to have a lot on up there in the wilds of kilts and heather. It’s enough to make a witch want to move.

But I’m sure if I did, then stuff would start happening in Basingstoke. Maybe it already does.

Another launch I won’t be going to in Edinburgh, is Philip Caveney’s for his latest novel Crow Boy next week. The reason I’m moaning about this one is that it’s a bit much to have fellow Stopfordians launch their books ‘up there.’ Philip had a good reason for it, though, which is that the book is set in Edinburgh. I have almost forgiven him.

But one more thing like that and I’ll start looking for a house in Scotland. Just saying.

Scotland

Maybe it’s simply a case of the grass being greener and all that, but it strikes me they are very active, those Scots writers. Perhaps it’s being a smaller (I mean less populated, of course) country. You try harder.

*Linda Strachan’s Don’t Judge Me. (Don’t tell anyone, but I believe there will be cake. Waterstones, Princes St, on November 15th at 18.30.)

Rising Phoenix

I have read a lot of comics in my time. Not for a while, though, and never actually the DFC. I did try to lay my hands on a copy, but without any luck, which is why I’m especially happy to witness its reincarnation into the Phoenix.

If it hadn’t been for the sad fact that I could never persuade Offspring to understand the charm of comics, I’d have said it’s an essential part of childhood. Maybe it’s because their childhood didn’t take place while there was a David Fickling related comic? Let’s say that’s the reason.

Phoenix launch with David and Caro Fickling and assorted other people

I’ve also read quite a few bad comics, or at least iffy ones. That is not something you can say about the Phoenix, which is quality through and through, while still being fun. I knew some of the cartoonists from the comic books David has published, so that was nice. But some of the hitherto unknowns also proved to be fun.

They let me have three copies of the Phoenix, from varying stages. And I have to say that reading an exciting story which began in issue zero (honestly, zero…) and then coming back to it twelve weeks later, only to find that it ends in the most recent issue, is a bit, well… I’d have liked to see what went on in the middle. But it wasn’t to be.

And I have now left Good Dog, Bad Dog hanging in mid-air as well.

I’ll get over it.

Phoenix

An elderly witch does not have the same amount of comic-reading time at her disposal as her younger self had. If she did, there would be lots of stories to read every week and puzzles to solve and weird little comments from Tabs and Chops, the editors.

There are cleverly disguised book ‘trailers’ for new books recently or soon to be published. (That’s right. Get them hooked. Make them desperate.)

I found one adoreable spelling and one spelling error. The error was mine and I wonder how they knew I’d need to be told. It has now been edited out, and most of you will be none the wiser.

If I was young I’d want the Phoenix every week. If Offspring were younger they’d get the Phoenix every week, whether or not they wanted it. Anything that starts children off reading is good. And this is good.

Bookwitch bites #70

Sisters and socks and television this week. I’ve been watching far too many daytime shows for my comfort, in order to take in most of the interviews with John Barrowman and his lovely sister Carole.

Then there was Blue Peter who had ‘some sort of ‘ book programme this week. The quotation marks are there to point out that I think they could have had more on books. I now also know stuff about escorting sharks in elevators – and surviving – which I dare say might come in tremendously handy one day, but which was not fully book related. Lucy Coats was lovely, talking about one of the books I have not read. Michael Rosen and others were also there to enthuse about the various Blue Peter shortlisted books.

David Fickling

Here is an ‘almost television’ programme, a video featuring Jacqueline Wilson and her books in general, and her new The Worst Thing About My Sister in particular. Jacqueline answers questions from an audience of children, and reads from TWTAMS.

This week’s sockman, Nick Sharratt is also in there. In retrospect I began wondering whether Nick got his sock inspiration from David Fickling of red socks fame. That’s DF from David Sockling Books, you understand. And in this week’s sock relay, it was to Oxford and David Sockling/Fickling that Nick headed as he left our ‘blissful, lovely’* Sockport.

Big Book Babble with Jacqueline Wilson ans Nick Sharratt

* That’s almost a literary quotation, but I’m afraid I can’t divulge who said it, for fear of repercussions.

My hero’s hero

Meg Rosoff and K M Peyton

There was no way I couldn’t go. It’s the most fascinating thing to find that your favourite author has a favourite author. Well, no. What I mean is finding that they behave just as giddily as the rest of us when they finally make contact with the person they admire.

When I first heard Meg Rosoff wax very lyrically about K M Peyton, my reaction was ‘who?’, but I seem to be alone in that. As I said the other day, when you’re my age you simply know everything there is to know about Kathleen Peyton and her horse books and her books on many other topics. They are your childhood. And now that I’ve read two of them (only another 70 or something to go!) I know that they would have been.

K M Peyton

So, when Meg not only met Kathleen, but rashly decided to invite her to her house, and then to ask many of her own admirers to witness this; how could I not want to go? Hence my trip south yesterday, for a day of many literary encounters, starting with Sally Gardner (who only refrained from meeting her friend Meg’s hero because she and I seem to be the only two people in the world not to have grown up with Flambards and the rest).

Flowers for K M Peyton

The 'staff'

Kate Agnew, David Fickling and Annie Eaton

Blinis

Kathleen is so refreshingly different that she doesn’t even know what a blogger is, and why should she? She’s very brave, because she must have known she was in for lots of people flinging themselves at her, prostrating themselves at her feet and generally doing the ‘Beatles scream.’

The kitchen where Bookwitch was conceived is no more, and much as I mourn its passing, I have to say that the replacement facilitated Meg’s inviting quite so many KMP fans, and we were only in danger of expiring from the heat (London was wet, but very warm) as we munched our way through some of the best canapés I’ve come across in a long time, served by some unusually pleasant helpers. Meg had sensibly got the help of super efficient Corinne Gotch and it all worked like clockwork. (Except possibly for their debate as to who was going to open the door for me when I arrived… I heard that!)

I knew the guest list was full of lovely people, authors, publishers, agents, publicists, bookshop people and writers-about-children’s-books. And then there was me.

Meg climbed up on a chair and did her fan speech, starting with saying how surprised she’d been when she found Kathleen was still alive. And without climbing onto anything, Kathleen countered with thanks for her ‘sending off’, which she much preferred to a launch. At least this recognised things achieved, rather than making hopeful demands for things to come. She has written her last book, for which Meg was grateful, but only because there are so many still to read (and I think she mentioned the time she herself takes over writing her own books, which are slightly fewer than 70). Kathleen was very amusing in her thank you speech, remembering a young Terry Pratchett, who she had suspected might do well…

Listening to K M Peyton

David Fickling, Geraldine Brennan, Ian Beck and Lucy Coats

'Mr Rosoff'

Blue

Catherine Clarke and Graham Marks

Among the fans were Tabitha Suzuma (who used to write long letters to her favourite author, receiving long replies back), Keren David and Lucy Coats. Ian Beck was there, seemingly taking photographs with his chequebook, and I recognised Graham Marks, as I do every time, before I have to work out who he is, and that David Fickling was there. I queried why – being a boy – he had turned up and was informed he edits Kathleen’s books. Of course he does. Silly me. And Mrs F recommended her favourite K M Peyton book.

Speaking of books, there were some on display and we were allowed to take one home with us! So, now I have my own – signed – copy of Flambards (seeing as how I’ve been told I must read it.)

Blue, Meg’s lurcher, kept us company all evening. I’m surprised any dog would stay sane and quiet in such a human din. And the Eck made an appearance. He was slightly bigger than I had visualised, but otherwise just as I thought he’d be.

And as the party was at its best, the bookwitch slunk out the door to catch that famous 21.40 back home. The walk to the station was never six minutes (who dreamt that up??), but the 15 minutes there took me 20 on the return. And it was downhill.

Cow-hood, here I come!

(Apologies for any untruths told. I have discovered – via Wikipedia – that there were actually three K M Peyton books in translation before I was past the horse book stage. The next thing I know will be finding that I actually read them.)

Tabitha Suzuma

Eck

Thanking K M Peyton