Monthly Archives: August 2009


The Ask and the Answer, by Patrick Ness. It’s an odd – but very good – title, until you read the book and see why and how. It’s a cliffhanger book. After reading The Knife of Never Letting Go last year, I wanted the sequel immediately. Then after a while I wasn’t sure I wanted it at all. I could foresee more agony and waiting. The Ask and the Answer is extra cliffhangery on account of being piggy in the middle. It hangs both before and after.

The Ask and the Answer

But, you can bear it, if I can. I read a bad review of the book in the spring, which put me off, until I changed my mind again. Sorry, Patrick. Wishy-washy witches are not a pretty sight.

It’s not what you think it will be, and as far as I’m concerned that’s good. If it had been as expected, I would have liked it less. Some bad people may not be all bad. Some are, though. Not all good people are all good. This is a story that has you thinking new thoughts all the way.

This book is about war. It’s about manipulating people. Torture. Genocide. It’s really very interesting.

In the end, I think it shows that we are all pretty good and pretty bad, and you can’t put all your eggs in one basket, or if you do, it’s not the only solution. But more than anything; people can change. They really can.

And for Meg Rosoff; there is at least a horse which is quite nice. Doesn’t make up for the dog, but it is a nice horse.


Peter No-Tail

Or Pelle Svanslös, which is his original Swedish name. You most likely won’t know him.

The Grandmother does, which goes to show how frequently we must have watched the two videos when Offspring were younger. She doesn’t exactly live with us, so will only have caught Pelle on and off. What I’m getting at is that she still remembers, more than ten years on.

We exported Son to Uppsala this week. The hard old witch wasn’t even at home to see him off when he flew out a few days ago. But luckily, he didn’t fly Pelle Svanslös style class, which was travelling outside the plane.

Son is in Uppsala to study for a year, and the connection with Pelle is that he also lived in that illustrious university town. Pelle is a cat. Did I mention that? He has no tail, as the more advanced of you will have worked out. He is the main character in a series of books by Gösta Knutsson, written over half a century ago. The books may be about cats in Uppsala, but they are based on real people. As far as I can work out, there are no books available in translation, but you might be able to get hold of the videos, which are quite good. At least they entertained Offspring, and taught Grandmother the connection with Uppsala.

The Resident IT Consultant spent a few weeks working in Uppsala when Offspring were small, but the witch has only briefly travelled through once, far too many years ago. Might get to go now, though.

We have friends who once remarked as they were moving to a new town, that it was a little strange moving to a place where the only person they knew was the bishop. In Son’s case, the only person in Uppsala he has knowingly met is the archbishop, who happens to be the same person as the aforementioned bishop. So I expect he won’t be popping in to say hi.

Uppsala and Lund are sort of the Oxford and Cambridge of Sweden. When Son was two he made a new friend at the playgroup we went to. At our second meeting the witch very narrowly avoided asking the boy’s father if he was the granddad. A witchy premonition prevented this insult. I then got to have a long conversation with this elderly father, while the boys played. On hearing I’m Swedish, he asked ‘Uppsala or Lund?’ In a room full of mothers who had most likely never been to university at all, he not only assumed that I had, but took for granted it could only be one or the other. I slunk further down my chair as I whispered ‘Gothenburg’.

So, I’m hoping Son can even the score a little. But look out for ‘mean Måns’!

Some more photos for you…

if you haven’t already had enough. In fact, here are more photos even if you have.

Ian Rankin 2

Lynne Chapman and Julia Jarman 2

Gerald Scarfe 2

Linda Strachan and friends

Judith Kerr 2

Neil Gaiman

Val McDermid 2

Debi Gliori signing 2

Henning Mankell

Michael Morpurgo

Malorie Blackman 4

Adèle Geras and Jonathan Stroud

Anne Fine

Keith Gray 2

Rachel Ward

Michael Holroyd

Steve Cole

Jacqueline Wilson

Klas Östergren

Lucy Hawking

Henning Mankell

Theresa Breslin and Adèle Geras

Nicola Morgan

Keith Charters 2

Gillian Philip 2

Marina Lewycka 2

Philip Ardagh

Patrick Ness 2

Melvin Burgess

Elizabeth Laird 2

Bali Rai 3

Louise Rennison

And that’s it. So called ‘normal’ service will resume here really soon.

Midnight oil

This habit of sitting up half the night blogging will have to go. But right now I think I have got my photos in sufficient order to know what I’m doing, so I’ll press on.


What an experience it was to visit the Edinburgh book festival! It’s been great. I hope I will have the stamina to do it again, possibly even next year. Staying just round the corner from Charlotte Square would have been a very useful thing, but the daily walk in Stirling to the station and from Haymarket to Charlotte Square, and then back again at night, was probably good for us. Probably.

Sun over Charlotte Square


It was muddy and puddley. They had pirates on at least one occasion. There was sunshine a couple of days. Full days. Plenty of part time sun.

Pirates at Charlotte Square


They are clean living and they recycle, although I’m not sure the coffee mugs and the plastic glasses of water went into the right recycling boxes in the Press Pod at all times. There was a dead body in the pod. Or it looked like there might have been one. Not sure what went bump in the night.

The body

Photo equipment

The hole for the smoke from the fire was covered up, which was just as well since we didn’t want the coffee underneath it diluted. We had a special photographer sitting on a chair outside on most days, waiting to do ‘arty’ photos. Very impressed with his large yellow suitcase, full of ‘stuff’.

Press yurt

Prince Albert and gull

Prince Albert was kind to the birds and let them rest for a while before shaking them off. The bookshop had a cauldron – picture of – which I’m sure was in my honour.

Witch's cauldron

Never caught the amazing wellies in any photos, but Malorie Blackman’s Converses were pretty interesting. Also missed, but only just, taking the picture of the small boy who stomped forcefully in a major puddle, wearing colourful wellies and lovely Fireman Sam style waterproofs until some adult demanded he get out of the water. Pah. Adults.

Malorie Blackman and her Converses

Daughter and witch would never have got to do so much during their week at Charlotte Square had it not been for the resourcefulness of Sara Grady, who looks after children’s books/events in the festival. Sara’s skilful siphoning off of tickets was extremely helpful.

Press Pod

The Press Pod was ruled over by General Sutton, who’s only a little bit scary, and very kind, all at the same time.

General Sutton's hat

Thank you!

Over the tent tops, Charlotte Square

‘Writing novels is basically lying’

It really was Day 7 despite it being the eighth day, because the exhausted witch and her photographer took a day out. We were going to sleep all day, but didn’t quite manage it. Back to the grind, slightly recharged.

Marina Lewycka

Had hoped to shoot Marina Lewycka first thing, but she was running late, so it was her event which came first. Daughter has no interest in Ukrainian tractors, strangely enough, so it fell to your witch to hear Marina read from her third book, We Are All Made of Glue. That was after Laura Marney, who chaired, had offended most of the audience by accidentally saying she hoped all of us were born after World War II. Not judging by the amount of grey hair, they weren’t. I asked for permission to take a photo of Marina as she signed books afterwards, and she asked if she looked all right! She looked fantastic.

The official shooting of Marina came later, and unfortunately it fell to the witch to do that, too, as the photographer had gone off with Philip Ardagh.

Philip Ardagh

Philip  introduced his new Grubtown Tales, which by the looks of it required his towel again. Good thing Philip is Arthur Dent-ish in his packing. I was very, very sorry to miss the event, but splitting in two is painful. I saw Philip for the signing in the bookshop, and so did my new photographer acquaintance from the press pod, who was keen to come along when she heard who I was rushing off to see. Philip’s fans range from small boys to Queens. The Queen of Teen herself, Louise Rennison, was queueing up to get his signature. If you can call that stamp a signature?

Louise Rennison

Keith Gray

A lovely thing about the book festival is that people you don’t necessarily expect, pop up. While waiting for Mr Ardagh, I turned round and found Keith Gray at the next table, so went up to introduce myself. The man’s got taste. He reads Bookwitch. He even claimed to be pleased to see me. Very charming. And no, I don’t know the identity of the blonde who was photographed with Keith, either.

There was time for tea.

Justin Richards

Then Daughter went off to see Doctor Who. Not David Tennant, sadly, but Justin Richards, who writes Who books. But Who is Who, and can’t be missed. Not having been present myself, I can’t be sure, but she claims she even asked a question. Good grief. Something about science.

Patrick Ness

As for me, I had a sort of half agreed meeting with Patrick Ness. Don’t know why, but I have been haunting the poor boy for a long time, and I expect he wanted to get it over and done with. He had a bit more hair than I had imagined, and he is even more handsome in real life than in his photos. And due to the Who situation, I had to take Patrick’s photo, so it’s not as good as it should have been. Sorry. But we bonded a little over our Nordic-ness. (Hey, that’s wittier than I realised.) Patrick was late into Edinburgh, but seemed really cool about having virtually no time to prepare. Nothing to prepare, by the sound of it.

While hanging around, I came across Vanessa of the Children’s Bookshop. The bookshop bookshop, not the festival one. Didn’t know that she was chairing my next event, which was Elizabeth Laird. Had half hoped to see her too, but running late appeared to be a pattern just then.

On our last evening in Charlotte Square I ended up two-timing Elizabeth and Patrick. My wand had broken, so I was unable to be in two places at once. It’s a nuisance when that happens. So, I spent half an hour listening to Elizabeth tell stories, which was very nice. The children sat on the floor in front of her, as she re-told some of the traditional stories in her new book, The Ogress and the Snake. Old Somalian stories, I believe, which Elizabeth had found in Africa.

Skipped across to Patrick’s discussion with Bernard Beckett, on dystopias in YA books. Patrick has a world where nowhere is quiet, which he thinks of as similar to information overload. (I so agree!) All the texting and Facebooking would have driven him mad when he was younger, or so he thinks. Bernard, on the other hand, likes all this, so they are obviously coming from totally opposite directions. A world that has ice cream is good, according to Bernard. Patrick grew up surrounded by people who had a date for when the world would end. And he’d rather we don’t ask about the dog. So maybe he feels a little guilty…

Elizabeth Laird

With a last train to Manchester to catch, we left early, as did Theresa Breslin, who had sneaked in while waiting to go to some party. We had no party invitation, but did stop briefly to chat to Elizabeth Laird on our way out of Charlotte Square.

(The quote above is Patrick’s. And today the photos are a mix. Bad ones you can blame on moi.)


So what did Anne Fine say, really? I’m of the opinion that she spoke exactly those words that were quoted in the Times yesterday, but I didn’t feel then that she meant it quite as people are interpreting it.

Anne Fine 2

My theory is that Daughter and I weren’t the only ones who thought that an event with Anne Fine and Melvin Burgess discussing the more troubled end of YA literature would be quite interesting and potentially exciting. Someone was obviously taking more careful notes than I was, but I do recognise the quote just about word for word.

It made perfect sense to me at the time (And I’m not saying this because I’m a little scared of Anne. I am, but that’s not why I’m saying it.) and it didn’t seem contentious in the least. It’s a fact. Books were different before, from what they are now.

Someone is doing that molehill thing, because there was nothing juicier to get from the discussion on Sunday evening. Anne Fine is a former Children’s Laureate, and the kind of person the press take an interest in. I simply don’t understand why there is a debate. I would also like to know whether those who have thrown themselves into this were actually there? If they weren’t, this debate risks the same fate as when Anne reviewed Doing It in a slightly one-sided manner. That time I believed her, until someone else made me look at it from both sides.

Or maybe I’m just stupid, and didn’t notice the undercurrents the other evening.

Tea with Flora MacLachlan


That is not the first word you’d associate with the Edinburgh Festival season.

Almost too warm. That’s another unlikely description. (Meg Rosoff; it may not be NYC hot, but then we can’t all be over there.)

Nice day. No rain. Warm. Sunny.

No events either, so although we had to crawl out of bed to get to Edinburgh for the morning of Day 6, it was purely pleasure. Not that the other days weren’t pleasure, I hasten to add.

Gillian Philip, of Crossing the Line and Bad Faith fame, had an educational encounter with 96 school visitors and survived. I knew she would, because we had agreed to meet up afterwards, and I didn’t want to just mop up the remains.

First, however, we had an assignation with Nicola Morgan outside the children’s bookshop. Not too busy there on a Monday morning, but I still took Donna’s Tim’s advice and looked for interesting shoes. They were. Lime green suedy things, beautifully set off with purple shirt and green scarf. That’s my kind of dressing. Nicola being a capable sort of woman determinedly smuggled us into the authors’ yurt, so we hastily hid the red neck ribbons and exchanged them for green ones.

Nicola Morgan

Did I mention the sunshine? We sat out on the authors’ deck area and talked and gossiped for an hour. Nicola does a lot of events at the festival, and was halfway through this year’s talks. She also seems to know everyone. Bali Rai turned up briefly before his school event, and Kevin Brooks sat at the next table with Mary Byrne. We talked about Tim Bowler (did your ears burn, Tim?) while we were on the Swedish connection. And as Nicola knows everyone, she came with us to help identify Gillian Philip, as there is always a possibility that someone doesn’t quite look like their Facebook photo.

Gillian Philip

Gillian was in the bookshop, just finishing chatting to some young admirers, along with Keith Charters, who wore an author badge, but seemed to be more of an enthusiastic publishing person. We trotted back to the deck and the sunshine, for Gillian to relax and for a chat. Daughter admired her ear-rings, which apparently were purchased in a very recent panic buy. Have to say that Gillian looked stunning with matching jewellery and top. (I know it shouldn’t matter, but I enjoy matching-ness and strong colours. But it probably doesn’t make anyone’s books better.) Keith did some good business moves, handing out his card, and handing out a booklet with chapter one of a book called Bree McCready and the Half-Heart Locket by Hazel Allan.

Keith Charters

Paul Dowswell

At the next table we had Melvin Burgess and Paul Dowswell of Ausländer fame, and I kicked myself for not having checked out the schools programme, in order to pack a more suitable selection of books to be signed… I could get used to this part of Charlotte Square. How do I become an author for next time? Preferably one who is allowed in without having to ‘pay’ by doing a public talk.

We skulked back to the wifi in the press yurt to sort out the case of Monday’s missing photos, and let me tell you that I may have a laptop, but my lap does not have a top suited to balancing anything like that for any length of time. Did get the photos on, with minutes to spare before we had to rush down to Waverley. We had an invitation to have afternoon tea with Flora MacLachlan, aka Debi Gliori.

Debi is so wonderfully kind that she had volunteered to have the witch and her witch baby round for tea. She collected us from the train and drove us home to her beautiful garden, and then she plonked us down in the shade in a corner and brought out a groaning tea tray. I apologise to the world for the day of book-writing that has been lost through so much baking and general kindness. But fluffy scones and the most lemony cake and shortbread in a sunny garden is beyond good.

Before we left, we got to have a very early look at the artwork for a new book. I love it already. Picture books often look very attractive, but that’s nothing compared with what they’re made from.

Just a thought; am I turning into a cross between Cheshire Life and Hello magazine?

(All photos H Giles)

‘This boy will never amount to anything’

Well, he did. Last week he received the Medal of Freedom from President Obama, accompanied by his daughter whose ‘charm is no substitute for hard work.’ I’ll get back to this father-daughter team later.

Steve Cole

I will never ever get teenagers. Ever. Given the choice between seeing Jacqueline Wilson or Steve Cole on Sunday morning, Daughter went for Steve’s talk about his Astrosaurs. She enjoyed it a lot, although she felt she was the oldest child there. Wrong thinking I said; she was the youngest adult. Steve was so noisy I heard him through the walls. The press people apparently wondered what was going on next door to their yoghurt pod.

Jacqueline Wilson

Meanwhile, the witch went to see Jacqueline, along with a vast number of girls and mums, and a sprinkling of dads. Jacqueline wore black jeans and a black and turquoise top, and the famous rings shone along with the bangles on her arms. She talked mainly about her teens, because the subject for the day was My Secret Diary which was out in the spring. And she did say that she might write a third autobiographical book about her time in Dundee, writing fake horoscopes and readers’ letters, as long as she can censor her diary notes a little. Sounds good to me.

Per Wästberg

As I raced along to the talk by the ‘lazy’ girl from paragraph one, Daughter was anything but lazy. Her task was to shoot Per Wästberg, part of the Meeting Sweden programme (How did they know I was going to be there this year?), when he emerged for his photo call. Except he didn’t, so when she saw a likely Swede she inquired, in Swedish, if he was Per. The poor man said he wasn’t, but took her all the way into the authors’ yurt ( a real no-no) and put her in front of this famous Swedish writer, who was even more confused with the idea of the Bookwitch blog, but posed anyway.

Lucy Hawking

When the witch goes back to school, she wants to have Lucy Hawking for her science teacher. I can’t think of anyone who can talk so well and so sensibly on physics and space and anything else related. Lucy kept the attention of her roomful of children, while explaining dad Stephen’s ideas, which they have turned into two books for children. George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt is new this year, and there will eventually be a third book about George. Lucy and Stephen are, of course, the people mentioned above. I think they turned out OK in the end.

We got to see how (not) to gargle in space. Asparagus will be a suitable crop on Mars, when the time comes. Comet’s go ‘very fast’. Robots don’t get homesick in space. The questions from the children were really very good, but not many people can say what went before the Big Bang or why it happened. Not even Lucy. And look out for the toothbrush in orbit round earth, if you happen to be up there. I asked Lucy if she wants to travel in space, and she does. Preferably to the moon. I was too shy to ask for the phone number for her co-writer for book one.

Henning Mankell

Lunch was gulped down fast, in order to catch Henning Mankell’s little publicised signing in the childrens’ bookshop. In fact, there was hardly a soul there, but I don’t think that was why he was pleased to see me. (Anyone would be pleased to see me, wouldn’t they?) He looked so morose that I addressed him in his own language, though his English is very good. The ‘mini interview’ went something like this:

‘Hello, we’ve met a few times in Gothenburg.’ ‘ Yes, I remember you.’ ‘Uh-oh, that sounds ominous’, said Daughter. ‘What do you mean?’ asked Henning. ‘Only that you may remember me for all the wrong reasons. I could be one of those bl***y old women you get everywhere.’ ‘I don’t think so. I’d have remembered. But there are a few of them around.’ ‘Yes, and I’m often one of them.’ He looked remarkably happy after this exchange. But you would, wouldn’t you, when ‘one of those’ leaves him in peace.

Klas Östergren

Next victim for a photo shoot was Klas Östergren, except he didn’t show, initially. Just as we were leaving for our next rendez vous he turned up in the rain, and as we departed he had someone’s lens half an inch from his nose. The man’s quite good looking, but that’s ridiculous.

The two witches had been invited to afternoon tea at the Roxburghe Hotel by the very, very kind Theresa Breslin, so the road was crossed, and the comfortable lounge was found. Daughter has clearly been deprived, and was very excited by the posh surroundings. Thank you Theresa, it was wonderful. The perfect respite to a busy day. And I’m not averse to similar offers, if anyone is feeling generous. Not all at once, though.

Adèle Geras

Back across the road to see Adèle Geras, and photograph her. We enticed her round the back, where all the big names get shot. As she left again, Theresa turned up, so we all trotted back to the ‘studio’, whereupon the paparazzi fell out of their little pod and descended on Theresa big time.

Theresa Breslin

Resting in the yurt, Klas Östergren appeared, looking for a place to be interviewed, so we offered our seats. He was also quite grateful to be encountering Swedes in a Mongolian tent in the middle of Edinburgh. He’s been brought up properly, so we shook hands.

Bali Rai

In case nobody has noticed, my social calendar for Day 5 was quite full, really. We met up with Clare from Random (a really Randomy weekend), and apart from the fact I thought she’d have blond hair, it was as good to meet her as I’d thought. Clare brought out Bali Rai for a short chat. And more photos round the back. Predictably the paparazzi emerged again, just needing reassurance that Bali was indeed a real writer and a little famous. Even my copy of his book, City of Ghosts, was photographed. Don’t think Bali knew what hit him.

Adèle Geras

Jonathan Stroud

We breathed for a few minutes before trotting off to the talk by Adèle Geras and Jonathan Stroud. Really liked the way the two of them had planned it, with short introductions, followed by a reading, and ending with them asking each other questions, before letting the audience loose. Good way of doing it.

Our final port of call for the day was back in the same tent again, for the much awaited discussion with Rachel Ward, Melvin Burgess and Anne Fine. Daughter said she didn’t want to miss the Anne-Melvin encounter for anything. I wanted to see if they’d both survive it, and I think Melvin had wondered the same thing. There were one or two references made to the blasting Anne did of Melvin’s Doing It some years ago.

Melvin Burgess, Rachel Ward and Anne Fine

They were all alive and well when we left for the day. And the discussion was good.

(Photos by H Giles)

‘Do you know Donna?’

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.

Malorie Blackman

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!

Henning Mankell

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.)

Debi Gliori, about to '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.

Oliver Jeffers

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.

Michael Morpurgo and Sarah

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.

Malorie Blackman signing

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)

‘what should have happened’

Day 3 was short, but sweet. Being in the same room as Joan Lingard is quite a bonus. And the press pod was full of people wanting to interview Griff Rhys Jones. Daughter said ‘who?’, and I tried to explain, but could come up with nothing that worked. Even seeing Griff being interviewed did nothing for her. Hopeless.

The witch and her very useful photographer had gone to some trouble to beg tickets for Friday’s event, and we were delighted to meet up with the lovely Georgia from Random, who puts lots of great books our way. We were even introduced to her equally nice Random boss. (That’s Random, not random, btw.) A bit of networking may even make me think I’m doing something grown-up, rather than just play.

Theresa Breslin 3

Just one event made the day feel almost like a holiday. Theresa Breslin had  worried she’d have no audience, seeing as she was on at the same time as Michael Morpurgo. But she did have an audience, and between you and me, the smaller venue was preferable, and the feeling of not being a sardine was beneficial. Not standing in a Morpurgo-sized queue was another bonus.

Theresa is a former librarian, who even as an adult was so scared of the librarian from her childhood library, that she crossed the road to avoid meeting her. And writing historical fiction, she has been contacted by her former history teacher, too, so her past seems intent on catching up.

The Nostradamus tie

She picks up the oddest ideas and sentences wherever she comes across them, and writes a story around them. It can be simple things like selling your alligator at a car boot sale, or the more advanced notion of collecting amputated limbs in a bucket. And stuff in-between.

We should believe in horoscopes and it’s apparently ‘normal’ to be loopy around a full moon. I think that Theresa was trying to tell us that her scientist husband can prove that the planets rule our lives, or some similarly far fetched idea. Mr B wore his Nostradamus tie, and Theresa read from The Nostradamus Prophecy, and as a witch I sort of have to agree with all that stuff. Sort of.

Theresa Breslin 2

The next book from this Dickens-reading library-ticket-cheat is about the Spanish Inquisition, and we got to hear a little from the first draft. No doubt she will now go and change it all. And her editor will find more things still that hadn’t been invented at the time, thus having no business being in Theresa’s book.

(Photos by H Giles)