‘so I write a bit’

Wellie water

Miraculously all the seats in the middle of Charlotte Square were empty when I turned up on day 2. That’s because it was raining. Staff wore their wellies. One very nice spotty pair with dangling dogs belong to a most helpful press lady who sorted out all my ticket problems, once she had concluded she’d not come across such a bad case of ticketitis before. Her equally kind colleague personally went and got me a mug of tea. (They only have coffee for the press. Most likely to keep them awake at night.)

Val McDermid

Being photographer-less I wielded my own little pocket camera when Val McDermid popped out for a photo session. Thankfully she didn’t jump or pose as much as Gerald Scarfe and Neil Gaiman. Neither does she talk, apparently. Someone next to me wanted an interview, but Val has been gagged. The things you hear when ‘eavesdropping’.

I got up to wait for the Judith Kerr photo call, but as she never turned up, I feel safe in saying she probably didn’t feel up to it. I wouldn’t either, if I was her. I then decided to tidy away my empty mug, which was a lucky move as Neil Gaiman suddenly appeared and sat down in ‘my’ seat in the press yoghurt. Yurt, I mean.

Time for Judith Kerr’s event, which was very sold out, and sensibly scheduled to fit in with children not truanting from school to see her. Though there were a lot of previous children in the audience. We all love Judith, and it felt pretty much like an audience with a beloved aunt, who you don’t see so often. It was a shame Judith hadn’t come out for photos, as she looked particularly lovely all in pink.

The weather chose to turn extremely noisy as Judith started talking about her childhood in Berlin, so an angel on the staff knelt by her side for an hour holding a handheld microphone. Judith read from When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, and I gather she has been given a number of pink rabbits over the years.

Lots of good questions from the audience for the second half. Her first cat was called Mog, and her ninth and last cat Katinka. Judith stopped writing about Mog, because she tired of doing all those stripes. She likes having cats in her books, however, as they do much sillier things than you could ever make up.

It seems that when Judith writes her books she wishes she was drawing, and vice versa. But she does see herself as someone who draws, and only says about being an author ‘so I write a bit’. If she wasn’t an author, she’d be a painter. And she claims to read Harry Potter. Judith feels that one important thing she has learnt is knowing what it’s like to be a refugee. She says about her adopted home that ‘this is a good country’.

Judith Kerr

The signing afterwards was popular, and I noticed Julia Donaldson hovering among the many children and mothers.

With my Mog and my Pink Rabbit safely signed, I withdrew to the yurt for a sandwich while waiting for my last event for the day, with Ian Rankin and Neil Gaiman. I try not to stare too much at people, so I was digging my hands deep into the almost empty bag of ‘cool tortilla chips’ when someone came in and started reading the newspapers on the table. When I looked up I discovered it was Ian Rankin. I couldn’t think of anything interesting to say, so had some more tortilla chips instead.

I’m also too cool (= too lazy) to queue a lot, so didn’t join the queue that stretched round the whole of the square and more. There are sold out events, and then there are sold out events. This was one of the latter. I overheard one fan saying she wasn’t staying for the signing, because she had had Neil sign all her books last year. No wonder Ian had to wait so long for dinner.

My ticket came courtesy of a fervent Gaiman fan who couldn’t make it, so I’m really grateful. Denise Mina chaired the event as though she hadn’t already done an interview on the subject of graphic novels for The Culture Show. Neither Ian nor Neil managed to stay serious for long, and we quickly had a discussion about ‘magic hostess trolleys’, which is a subject that apparently works well in comics.

Boys will be boys, so Ian just had to mention the word balls (yes, that kind of balls) to see the sign language interpreter do the sign for balls. Very funny. And I don’t think we should take them too seriously on the rumours of writing for Doctor Who. JKR instead of RTD?

Under rated books, being a cult writer, reading Gilgamesh as a comic, and being reviewed in the New York Times, all came up. Neil, who incidentally talks much more than Ian, would prefer to skulk at the back of the bookshop, and doesn’t like this change where his books aren’t hidden and read by the very few.

Neil feels he needs to be original and come up with new things all the time, whereas Ian has pressure from the publisher not to change too much. It’s not easy being a best-selling author, is it?

6 responses to “‘so I write a bit’

  1. Sounds great! I went to quite a few things at the book festival last year (including the Sean Connery event, for which with hindsight I’d have been better off auctioning the ticket and making my fortune!) This year I’m short of time and money so am sticking to the odd bit of classical music. Ok, the truth is that everyone I wanted to see sold out too quickly, and the ones who didn’t clashed horribly with normal life, but I’m trying not to mind. (I think Henning Mankell on the weekend will be another of those “and there are sold out events.”)

    Are the cakes in the big bookshop tent as good as last year? They were a major highlight amidst the squelching in Charlotte Square!

    Incidentally, I don’t know if you like ballet/dance, but I can highly recommend
    the Royal Ballet Of Flanders with The Return Of Ulysses after tonight’s firsth performance.

  2. I heard from an author I know how she bumped into Sir Sean in the authors’ tent last year. She needed medical attention and had to be revived. Or so she says. So I have looked in the programme for anyone I want to bump into like that, but haven’t found him yet.

    Cakes seem very good. Not into ballet, much, I’m afraid. We can’t all be refined…

    I have asked for tickets to Mankell, but have not heard yet. So it’s a close thing, I expect. Not hopeless, but not very likely either.

  3. As a keen reader, it’s nice to see author events sold out – it’s just annoying when it means I can’t get in! On balance, though, I’ll take missing out over seeing authors try to talk cheerfully talk to five people and granny’s cat. (Which I’ve certainly experienced before.)

    It was a fun experience seeing Sir Sean last year, but as an interview subject he was less than scintillating. Although the political posturing around his appearance was hilarious if that’s your thing…the First Minister and other Scottish bigwigs were all in the front row with beaming smiles and the propaganda machine in full swing.

    On cakes, there was a donut-esque creation last year I particularly enjoyed. (It was crispy yet not stodgy.) Sandwiches were less of a high point, alas.

    Classical music is the one element of refinement I possess (I’m Australian – what can I say – elegance isn’t really in our DNA most of the time), but one of the highlights of the ballet was the mix of the serious and the hilarious. Penelope waiting patiently for Odysseus and dancing to Purcell, when suddenly an old reel-to-reel cassette player gets going, the dancers start swaying and it’s Perry Como and “Mr Lonely”!

    On a serious note, I was offered a ticket to Judith Kerr (a friend had a spare), but couldn’t face going. Two relatives , one of whom died only recently, were also refugees from Berlin as children (and my grandfather was in his case the only person from his family who did get out) and though I’ve read and enjoyed her books through sniffles, there are some things I can’t quite experience in public.

    Hmmm. On a re-read, I appear to be addicted to brackets. Sorry!

  4. It sounds wonderful! And congratulations to your photographer, also.

  5. Oh Donna, I almost feel as if I were there! What a grand, though of course wet and gagged and chippy day. 🙂 And sign language for balls. And seeing Denise Mina…and so many others! Sounds glorious, and now I have to go figure out what yurt is, and why I’ve never tried Judith Kerr! Another to my tbr list. What a wonderful time I had going to Edinburgh with you!

  6. Thank you, Bobbie. Though I’m not Donna. I was meeting her later…

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