Monthly Archives: June 2008

When the witch met Kate Ellis

The interview with Kate Ellis is up. Read all about her here.

When in Rome

Caroline Lawrence is a determined woman, and she may well be the one to get me to go to Rome or Greece. At least, if I ever have the time. Her new guide book From Ostia to Alexandria with Flavia Gemina makes for tempting reading. Despite few photos the book manages to sell Ostia and Greece and North Africa in a way most glossy travel supplements fail to do.

Caroline is bossy, too. Rather like Flavia. She sets her reader tasks to do, just like a teacher. I do think learning to say “toilet” in Italian is a useful skill. She prescribes eating ice cream. And you should always carry an apple, just in case.

I like the idea of buying a chickpea pancake, but this can only be pretend. You should sniff Vesuvius for the smell of rotten eggs. Caroline is even suggesting you take your first steps on the road to drink, with your parents’ blessing. Learn to say “no”, Greek style. Eat goat or kalamari. Say “toilet” in Greek, and find a baby’s ceramic potty.

Personally I would like to avoid watching the killing of a ram, but some might enjoy it. Smell the tanneries, or sketch a snake charmer. Use a two-feet-and-a-hole toilet. Make friends with a Libyan.

“See how many smells you can list in a day.” Quite. But it’s different. And it’s a nice touch with the extracts from Caroline’s notebooks; a new one for each trip. Worth copying as an idea, if only for your collection of toilet related words.

Just not sure about the pronunciation of HELP! in Italian. A bit American?

Mixed characters

Was I alone in thinking of the Muppet Family Christmas while watching Doctor Who last night? There’s something about mixing the characters from more than one favourite television programme. It’s like a massive family get-together, of the fun kind.

Those Daleks make me think of cheese-graters with Christmas tree lights. Their leader – if that’s who he was – reminded me of Voldemort, which probably makes the good Doctor the Harry Potter of this adventure. And it’s always embarrassing when all your lady friends suddenly meet up together.

Rat urine

I think that’s what I read yesterday, unless I’m more confused than I think I am. Emily Gravett, who has just won the Kate Greenaway medal, used the stuff for her latest book Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears. And yoghurt, or something.

The young reviewers at the local bookshop, who read the book before publication, all loved it. And it’s worth remembering here that they are all rather old for this kind of book, which I think means it must be very good. I intend to find out as soon as possible, as Emily is coming here next week, and it would be a good move to be prepared.

Emily will be doing a hands on-session with 4 to 7-year-olds. I hope that doesn’t mean what I’m thinking right now, as regards the yoghurt and the rat number one.

It’s Arthur

Will I give up my subconscious avoidance of books on Arthur now? I don’t know, but congratulations to Philip Reeve on being awarded the Carnegie medal for Here Lies Arthur. Everyone says what a good book it is, and last year’s winner Meg Rosoff predicted Philip would win this time.

There is something about Arthur that stops me reading. It must be some inexplicable, early prejudice, which causes this to happen.

The only Arthurian book I have read is Joan Aiken’s The Stolen Lake. Even midway through her Wolves of Willoughby Chase series, the mention of Arthur in the blurb very nearly stopped me. So irrational.

I will work on this.

More on Sovay in the Guardian

This almost turned into age-banding again in some sort of way. The witch is airing Sovay and her brothel experience in the Guardian today, but don’t get too excited.

PP on JKR and stuff

Around here we tend to refer to Philip Pullman as PP, because it’s more convenient, and we all know who we mean. I was very pleased to see yesterday that Philip agrees with me on hyped books and other unnatural things in the publishing world. He also seems to favour J K Rowling, surprisingly enough.

I subscribe to this children’s literature email list, which is people interested in books discussing them with each other and asking for help and ideas and anything else. And anyone can email in with their thoughts. So far I’ve only jumped in twice, and that was when someone had got things wrong, and we know how I feel about people being wrong. Unless it’s me who’s wrong…

The question this time was someone who simply wanted to know how to do good characters and good plot, and Philip suggests that she just starts writing, without thinking too much about it. Then he goes on to say:

“One other thing: you don’t need to think about marketing at all. Few people
agree with me about this, but consider: what do the marketing experts say?
“We need the next Harry Potter!” No originality, you see. Marketing people
never lead – they always follow. The person you should be emulating is the
one who thought about Harry Potter in the first place. No marketing expert
would have advised her to do that. Do exactly what you want to do, and the
marketing will take care of itself.”

Now that I’ve insulted the marketing people, the very people who send me books, I had better finish for today. But I’ve said this before, and it’s worth repeating; publishers can’t decide in advance what’s going to be a popular book. It just happens. And I hate it when it’s taken for granted that a book will be a big hit because someone said so.