I do. Sort of. I was going to meet Donna Moore, author of Go To Helena Handbasket, and the best blogger in Glasgow, on Day 4, but she was attacked by migraine, so didn’t make it. I don’t mean she’s dead; just that Edinburgh was too much for her. But I didn’t quite expect to have one of Donna’s fans come up to me, knowing who I am, too. Bloggers are the next super stars, I suppose. Tim – the fan – found me in the children’s bookshop in Charlotte Square, and we had a long chat. I sort of knew who he is, seeing as he’s featured in yet another blog. Small world.
It was hard work getting out of bed on Saturday. Early start. I woke at 4.20, and just couldn’t work out if I had 30 minutes or 90 until the alarm was meant to go off at 5.50. (I don’t need answers on a post card; I know now.) First out was Debi Gliori, with her un-green dragons, whose life style threatens the survival of the planet. Recycling for the youngest readers. (Fittingly my copy of The Trouble With Dragons had arrived in my recycling bin, when the postman failed to find me in.)
Debi had some very good photos and ideas to bring environmental awareness to the young. It’s not much fun if Father Christmas has to wade in water up to his knees because the snow melted, is it? Debi drew and read and generally educated and entertained her audience.
I’m amazed that so many people turn up so early. Andy Stanton and his Mr Gum had a tremendously long queue first thing, even though adults like Tim had no idea whatsoever of who that funny looking man might be. Adults! They don’t know much.
That was proved when we discovered Malorie Blackman being photographed outside the yurt, just as we gobbled down our lunch sandwiches inside. No official photo session for her (after all, she is ‘just’ a children’s author), but we dashed out and begged to take a few more photos. Very pleased to find that Malorie’s minder was Random’s wonderful Kelly, who was more than helpful when she realised she was up against the witch. I was eager to undo the damage to Malorie’s image I caused with my poor photo skills back in November. The other photographers fell out of their own little yurt in order to find out what they were missing. Hah. It’s high time the paparazzi learn to recognise authors, too. Read books, boys!
Anyway, we left Debi’s talk a little early (sorry) to catch Henning Mankell who had agreed to face the cameras. I was surprised to find he didn’t bolt, but he’s a big fish these days, so maybe has to give in occasionally. We ran back to see Debi sign books, only for me to remember that her signings are the slowest in town, and she hadn’t got very far, what with all the friendly ‘doodling’ she does. (Debi – just joking, you know. You draw, you don’t doodle.)
This being before the previously mentioned sandwiches we were feeling a little peckish. But that’s nothing compared with the family who decided to have a picnic right on the floor in front of the unoccupied signing table in the bookshop. They all settled down and opened their bags and tucked in.
Another eye opener was the fantastic tantrum over the book Olivia by Ian Falconer. He must have just left, but his fans were still milling about in the shop. One pretty little girl was very set to have the book. Mum said no. There followed the kind of tantrum you see over the sweets in Tesco. Mum grabbed her child and threw the book on the table above the picnic and left. We stared at each other. Within minutes I caught sight of the girl again, back in the shop with another copy of Olivia in her arms. Mum explodes back as well and throws this book on top of the first, and drags her very unhappy child out. I hope there was a good reason, as you’d kind of expect people going to book festival events and visiting bookshops to be pro-book.
Apologies to the bookshop, because it must have seemed as if the witches had put down camp in the shop for the day. Emily from Bloomsbury was kept busy, too, with Sarah Dyer signing next to Debi, once the ruckus and the picnicking was over. When Tim found us, we were overseeing Malorie’s signing, and had managed to snatch a quick word with Oliver Jeffers, as well.
One signing we failed spectacularly with, was Michael Morpurgo’s. He had an interminable queue, but in the end we left it too long. We did, however, get a good photo session with him and his new friend Sarah. She’s the eight-year-old who won a competition to spend a day with Michael Morpurgo. Sarah got to introduce Michael at the start of his event, which she did very professionally. On the whole, I have to say that Morpurgo fans are very clever and capable.
Sarah likes Michael’s adjectives, and it seems he quite likes hers, too. He spoke about the three new books that are published this autumn, but I have to protest a little here, because one of them sounded very familiar to me. It must be based on the short story he wrote for the Amnesty International anthology Free. He is also improving on the traditional Nativity for Christmas, because it seems a shepherd will never leave his sheep. As a farmer, he knows this. And there is a tsunami inspired novel out soon. Michael made the children in the audience hold their breaths, and he also has opinions about the number of books J K Rowling has written. So, a pretty mixed sort of talk.
Daughter, meanwhile, listened to Malorie over in another tent, and by all accounts it was full and it was good. Malorie read to her audience, and she showed them how happy she was when her first book was accepted. And she is writing something now, but won’t say what.
By now you are all begging me to stop, and that’s what we did, too. With a heavy-ish heart I decided we didn’t have the strength to stay on to see Alexander McCall Smith in the evening. Maybe another time!
(All photos H Giles)