Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Sefton ScareFest 2

Skeleton 2

Barry Hutchison and I are doomed. At least photo wise. I press. He blurs. Happily he’s not as doomed as some. Whether this is a former performer or an ex-member of the audience, I’m not sure. But almost anything can happen at ScareFests.

My train travel was a wee bit doomed yesterday. But I suppose there has to be a first time for waiting for a train on the opposite platform. (I blame Liverpool South Parkway. I have rarely seen a more confusing station. Apart from Edgware Road, of course.)

Tommy Donbavand, Joseph Delaney, Barry Hutchison, Jon Mayhew and Curtis Jobling behind the fire at Sefton ScareFest

Which will be why when I arrived at Crosby Civic Hall, Tony of Formby Books had taken his performing authors and gone to the pub. This much was clear from what the locked-in technician could tell me. ‘I have no keys. They have gone to the pub.’ Thanks to my Resident IT Consultant Tony’s mobile number was found and the scary authors were found and I was found and so on.

Curtis Jobling, Sefton ScareFest

Facebook is such an introducer of perfect strangers, that I almost didn’t say hello properly to Tommy Donbavand. We’ve shaken hands now, so must know each other. And Curtis Jobling I didn’t know at all. He seemed like a perfectly nice looking man until he did this.

Philip Caveney, Sefton ScareFest

As I mentioned earlier, we were fed. Some clowning around was done for the benefit of the photographers. The authors forced chocolate cake down and worried about laptop support for their performances. I admired Philip Caveney’s red Converses. (This thing with grown men wearing cool red shoes has to stop!)

Then it was time to descend to the level of the waiting throngs, where Philip was first to be thrown to the wolves. He survived by reading from his new book The Eye of the Serpent, and if I never hear about crawling beetles in ancient Egyptian tombs again it will be too soon.

Philip Caveney, Sefton ScareFest

Second out was Tommy who cheated by wrapping a member of the audience in toilet paper, assisted by Barry, and terrorising a perfectly good egg. Sorry, this was a nice girl, who was made to act the part of the dragon’s egg. But we had fun. Even the pumpkin had fun. It looked far too happy for a ScareFest.

Tommy Donbavand with dragon and others at Sefton ScareFest

Curtis Jobling, Sefton ScareFest

Scarecrow by Curtis Jobling

Last before the interval was Curtis, who was cooked to a crisp by then, having been made to sit more or less right inside the flames on the right of the stage. He’s a jack of all trades who can write books but also draw pretty pictures and does animation. Cool. (Well, he was hot, but you know…) It’s a neat party trick that; being able to draw scarecrows with parsnip noses, not to mention Were-Bob the Were-Builder. Who was raffled for charity. (I’d have liked him. I suppose if I’d bought a ticket I would have stood a small chance.)

Tommy Donbavand, Sefton ScareFest

Joseph Delaney, Sefton ScareFest

In the interval sweets were eaten and books were bought and signed. And people generally thronged. They could only be tempted back by the promise of having won Were-Bob and other goodies. There were prizes for best costume, and that was a hard choice, so it was lucky someone like Tommy got to pick the little cat.

Sefton ScareFest

Joseph Delaney, Sefton ScareFest

Joseph Delaney set a cracking pace after his ‘rest’, talking about book covers and what he thinks of them. He’s got a lot of book covers, and some of the more foreign ones don’t get anywhere near Preston or Lancaster in looks. Oh well.

Next was Jon Mayhew, who told us what we should ask for when the angels and the devil come calling. And then he read us the prologue to his new book, The Bonehill Curse. (It’s not out yet.) It won’t have a prologue, which will be why Jon read it and then gave it away. Authors!

Jon Mayhew, Sefton ScareFest

Last out was Barry who is still scared of squirrels. (So he should be…) There was also the small matter of scary milk cartons and cream eggs. Being a boy at heart, Barry managed to mention both number ones and number twos in his little act. It involved the kitchen sink (ew) and imaginary friends, possibly by the name of Derek. With or without knives. If the book trade runs dry he should have a go at stand-up.

Barry Hutchison, Sefton ScareFest

He just about finished on time. The reason I go on about time is that Tony thought it’d be a good thing for me not to disappear on an early pumpkin as I had planned to, but to stay and let Jon drive me (along with Philip and Curtis) to a better railway station to catch a later train.

I didn’t think it’d be possible. Philip was extricated from the proceedings. Then Curtis. No, he had more doodles to do in books. And a suitcase to pack. I found Jon and decided to hold on to him. But the man has little fans. He signed. And doodled. More books.

Now Philip had started signing. And Curtis, asked by Tony, who soon realised the error of his ways. So stop again. Then more fans for Curtis. Suitcase packed. Same fan with booklet for Jon. At this point Philip gave up all hope of ever seeing Stockport again.

Skeleton 1

It blurs. But eventually we were all squeezed into two-door car. (Ow.) Curtis sat on the windscreen liquid bottle. Nice drive into Liverpool, with lots of book talk. (And yes, I know one shouldn’t get into cars with men one has met on facebook.)

Liverpool has been so re-arranged that to get to the station you find yourself up close to the Catholic Cathedral, where you have no business being when catching trains. And then Jon missed the turning, so we went round again, not going down the one way street the wrong way as suggested by Curtis.

We decanted ourselves from small car. Hands were shaken. Witches were hugged. Philip and I headed into station despite it being five minutes too late by then. I insisted on looking at the departure board anyway, because the Resident IT Consultant has brought me up to do things like that.

Happy pumpkin

Did we catch the train?

Yes, we did. It was late. And I have not done such running for years, is all I can say. Philip ran faster, if only to make sure he didn’t have to spend an extra hour in the pub with a witch.

Curtis? Don’t know what happened to him. He wasn’t going where we went. You win some, you lose some.

Halloween – The prologue

Yes, I think it’s a bit early too. But Tony of Formby Books believes in Halloween starting early. So it did. He had that Barry Hutchison down from the Scottish Highlands, and then he looked more locally for the rest. Tony came up with Philip Caveney, Joseph Delaney, Tommy Donbavand, Curtis Jobling and Jon Mayhew.

Sefton Scarefest skull

It was their job to scare the children of Sefton, but in order to reign in their worst behaviour he fed them first. He fed me too, which was nice of him. And he bought me a drink in the pub across the road, where they had all gone to hide. Next time I will make sure I have all the mobile phone numbers I need, as well.

And this my dear readers, is as much as you get in the prologue. The whatever-logue will follow on another happy two-post day.

Vimes and me on the Wonderful F*nny

No sooner had I decided I really wanted to be a cow, when this invitation turned up, making me temporarily pause the move towards cow-hood.

(I was on the train home from Scotland – and believe me, that was by sheer luck -and I felt totally done in with travelling. Maybe I’m past it? I noticed these docile looking cows grazing in fields near the train and thought they seemed to have a most uncomplicated life. It rained. Did they worry about their hair? Don’t think so. It was just a case of standing there, on the green stuff, eating the green stuff. Ideal.)

The Elizabethan (The Wonderful F*nny)

But when Commander Vimes requests one’s company on a paddle steamer it’s hard to say no. So I said yes. And after I’d read the book about the Commander’s latest adventures I got quite worried and had to check there wasn’t going to be that kind of action on Wednesday night. Was reassured about the planned sedateness of it all. (That is if you don’t factor in seasickness. I wasn’t, though.)

Terry Pratchett - Snuff launch

Terry Pratchett - Snuff launch

Terry Pratchett

The Wonderful F*nny (The Elizabethan)

To celebrate the launch of Terry Pratchett’s 50th book, aboard the paddle steamer The Wonderful F*nny, I travelled to London and Westminster Pier where the uniformed gent on the door seemed to think I needed helping in(=down). I was OK-ish.

It was a beautiful evening! The kind of London evening I so often get, which makes me want to live in London, and also makes my camera trigger finger itch. (But you can see how good I am with that. Especially in the dark.)

Drinks and nibbles on the top deck. Spinach toast and something salmony with seeds. So that was both the spinach and the sesame seeds to adorn my teeeth dealt with pretty swiftly. I chatted to one lucky fan who had won her invitation at Terry’s talk the previous evening.

A speaker whose name I’ve already forgotten did a talk (admirably early for these things) about how well Snuff has sold this first week and then he presented Terry with a 50-year-old bottle of something or other. And a framed picture with the sales figures on…

After all that praise Terry had to say something. Not sure he had prepared a speech, and his microphone technique left some of it inaudible to some. Not me. I was that close. He asked us to convey his thanks to Mrs P, further down the boat, for allowing him to go out and play every day. Write. Then he cried a bit and that was that. We resorted to applause to prevent ourselves from joining him.

Before The Wonderful F*nny set sail, or whatever it is paddle steamers do, some people disembarked, leaving more boat for the rest of us. Random’s Philippa came and suggested I should talk to Terry. But first I said hello to Rob, who greeted me by saying he remembered how we had met in that hotel room. Quite.

Terry thought I was smaller – or taller? – than last time. I’m not sure which. And because he is Terry – and possibly Vimes, too – I allowed that unspeakable thing to happen. Author photo, with fan attached. I apologise.

Terry Pratchett and Bookwitch

And you know, paddle steamers actually do have those paddle things, and they swirl around and paddle. I’d not stopped to think about this, so was unaccountably surprised. I stood outside on what might be called the aft deck or something similarly daft, for most of the trip. Just wish someone hadn’t thought to mention the Titanic.



Tower Bridge

London on the river in the dark is nice. Very nice. I felt very privileged, being on such a wonderful boat, being paddled all the way down past Tower Bridge and back to Westminster again. Seeing the lit up bridges, with worryingly little headroom for us, and all the sights from the National Theatre to The Globe, St Paul’s, the Tower, HMS Belfast and all the rest. Perfect.

Also just that little bit different from what goes on in Snuff. Have you read it yet? Terry thinks it’s old hat by now, because he’s busy with Happy Families (which I think is what I wasn’t supposed to tell you about last year) and the other book.

Thank you to Terry’s Lynsey who made The Wonderful F*nny do all this, and then went so far as to invite me. And thank you to Terry for writing all those books so that it happened.

Travelling interlude

If you read this – and let’s face it, would I even remove a brief masterpiece like this if I am not too half dead to blog in the early hours? – I am in bed. I’m Blue Petering again, making sure your elevenses will not be interrupted by shrieks of disappointment because the witch chose sleep over duty.

Wednesday evening had a London book event on offer, which was too good to pass up. But returning to the grim north on the last train, should it decide to not be cancelled, is truly late. And I’m being realistic. I’m old. I occasionally get tired.

Shut up witch.

Enjoy your coffee now, and if you’re lucky there will be time, not to mention energy, for me to blog before heading west later on today.

Now, when did I say I was giving up travelling? And did I happen to mention how I was intending to do it?


A very long time ago I blogged about Finns. Those romantic creatures, who don’t even mind waking authors up at night. (I’ll copy Julie Bertagna’s comment on that post at the end of this one, because it’s really very interesting. More so since I only just rediscovered it, and read all of her Soundtrack novel without remembering more than the name Finn.)

Soundtrack is the kind of marvellous little book which you’re surprised can have so much in it, because it’s only 132 pages long, and that kind of book has almost ceased to be published. Please bring back short books!

Set in a fishing village in Scotland, it shows us a divided place. There are the fishermen, and there is the naval base, and then there are the protesters who are against what the navy does there.

Finn ‘hears’ things. He skives off school. He builds weird things. But life is still almost normal, until the day everything falls apart. He doesn’t get on with his Dad, and the boundaries between the three main groups in the village are shockingly unbreachable.

I don’t want to even hint at what happens, because that would ruin it for you. It is something traumatic and powerful, and the repercussions go on and on. And Finn keeps hearing things until he wonders if he’s mad.

Julie knows about music. It is the thread through all that happens. It’s very 1990s. I would also like to think she could build me a Kickshaws if I asked her, but maybe it’s enough that she could dream it up.

Soundtrack is a great Scottish read. I just wish I knew what a coorie cove is.

[Julie on the arrival of her Finn: ‘Finn Silverweed (who started out as Cathy) arrived out of nowhere one night as I was falling asleep and he was so convincing he made me get out of bed and begin to rewrite the whole damn book, Soundtrack, that I’d just finished – in his voice instead of Cathy’s. (Poor Cathy was ruthlessly disposed of – is there an alternative universe, I wonder, peopled by discarded characters? Now there’s an idea.)]

He never told me why he was called Finn. But, guess what, he’s a boy following his own heart, from a west of Scotland fishing village with a Celtic/Norse heritage…. so obviously he HAD to be a Finn.

But I couldn’t find a single other Finn in children’s fiction back in 1999. (Not that I’m staking a claim to the First Finn or anything…)’

K O Dahl, Thomas Enger & Yrsa Sigurðardóttir: Crime in a Cold Climate

It rained. That’s probably not what they had in mind when they named Monday evening’s Nordic crime event for the Manchester Literature Festival. Its other title was Scandinavian Crime Fiction. They do wobble rather between the words Nordic and Scandinavian, and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir isn’t Scandinavian, but she doesn’t mind. She’s quite pleased to be allowed to belong to this select group. Norwegians K O Dahl and Thomas Enger are both Nordic and Scandinavian, and they don’t like the fact that us Swedes are the biggest in Nordic crime.

It’s obvious to me. Bigger population. More crime novels. And as Yrsa very sensibly put it, 300 000 Icelanders can’t possibly fill Waterstone’s with books. Although, I feel they are doing their very best. Once, the only writer from Iceland anyone knew was Laxness.

Thomas Enger, K O Dahl and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Yrsa is dark, or so Barry Forshaw who chaired the event said. I could see she’s dark. Having checked them out on google images to make sure I knew what they looked like, she has gone brunette from all those blonde photos. Maybe he meant her writing. Apparently Yrsa has also written children’s books. Cheerful, humourous ones at that. Good for her. And in true Icelandic spirit, where no one can be allowed to do just the one job (remember, there’s only 300 000 of them), Yrsa is also a civil engineer.

Barry Forshaw started off by asking them about their misanthropy, but they didn’t seem to get that. And then he called Stieg Larsson controversial, which also surprised the three of them. They all claimed to be very non-violent in their books, and Yrsa mentioned her difficulty in working out how to kill people off. Must be tricky.

Thomas Enger

But she has one piece of advice for those who do want to kill off their characters. The answer is the standalone novel, because those characters are disposable and need not be saved for the next book. How true. She herself has a new horror book coming next year. Presumably there isn’t a single character standing at the end.

Thomas Enger wrote four books before he had anything published. The fact that they were about a woman in New York might have had something to do with it. Once he wrote about what he knew – being a journalist – it went a lot better. He explained to us why his character is scarred, in more ways than one.

K O Dahl

K O Dahl wrote his first novel at 15, and was so put out when it wasn’t published that he was never going to write again. But twenty years on, there he was, getting published, and doing so long before the Nordic crime wave. He said that at the time there was only him and Anne Holt.

They all avoid sex. Thomas’s character is too angry for sex, and K O prefers tension between his characters. As for Yrsa, Iceland is too small for sex. (You know, she is really quite amusing…) Having been informed that Italians and other south Europeans are the only ones who can write about food, Thomas makes a point of always having food in his books.

Speaking of food, Yrsa might have said she does the shopping for Arnaldur Indridason. Or perhaps not. The live near each other, but that’s just by coincidence. Early reading for K O was his father’s pulp fiction, whereas Thomas read the Hardy Boys and his sister read Nancy Drew. Quite normal, in other words. Didn’t quite catch what Yrsa said. Something about a Yellow Shadow, I believe.

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Translations of books are tricky. They are only able to check the English ones, but that’s enough. Yrsa has been translated into 34 languages, and when she sees how mangled the English translation can be, she worries about what happens in the other 33.

After the Q & A, it was time for book signings, and Yrsa was kept singularly busy. I just wish she wouldn’t keep putting her reading glasses on and off like that. Made the photographer’s life difficult. The Norwegian ‘boys’ on either side of her sat like angels.


Media City

I was given a yellow card on arrival. And a red one. I have a dreadful suspicion neither colour is good when it comes to football, and rugby is probably no different. Please tell me a yellow card in rugby is good! (I’m a disgrace to the formerly rugby-playing Son who at 11 had to be got into the one school where he could play.)

Tom Palmer

Sunday’s Manchester Literature Festival event was practically an all boy event, seeing as it was about rugby. Very nice to see so many boys, and only a token girl. Tom Palmer is famous for his football books, and now this Leeds United fanatic (I suppose someone has to be) has written a rugby book, which is so pc as to feature both rugby league and rugby union. (I almost understood that.)

This male event took place in the new BBC headquarters in Salford Quays, and let me tell you, it was not easy getting in. I was given a badge on arrival, and even that took a lot of thinking about before I could attach it to myself. Twirly doors had to be twirled for me, and lifts had to be started. But I got there.

Andrew Sheridan

There were big boys and small boys. There was also BBC rugby editor Carl Hicks and Sale Sharks prop Andrew Sheridan. I almost know what a prop is. (Son was a prop. I think.) It’s funny how much of a rugby player this rugby player looks like. Had I met Andrew in the street, it’s the one thing I’d have guessed.

Tom kicked off (sorry) by describing his new book Scrum! to the boys. It’s about a boy whose parents divorce and when his mother remarries he has to move, and it also involves a move from playing rugby league to rugby union.

We had a sports quiz, and some boys know a lot about their beloved sport. The one behind me spouted stats as if there was no tomorrow. Did you know Welsh rugby was at its very best in the 1970s?


Before half time Tom read a short – far too short – piece from his book. And then it was time for the penalty shots competition. Indoors. No windows were broken. The only thing that collapsed was the feeble goal Tom had arranged. (I believe it came from New Zealand.) A medium sized boy won Tom’s trophy.

Tom Palmer and the trophy winner

The second half of the event was a chatshow style discussion between Tom and Andrew and Carl. It’s very easy to be a snob. Which is why I was surprised to find that Andrew writes songs in his spare time. It makes for a nice hobby. I’ll say! Carl, unsurprisingly, decides what goes into his bit of the sports news.

Tom enjoys his life, travelling, watching sport, talking to football players and writing books about it all. He is just back from Tromsø in Norway where he did research for his next series The Squad, which apparently is about spies.

Tom Palmer

Asked what other sports they like, it turns out Tom loves fell running, Carl plays cricket and Andrew likes watching athletics. Best ever sports event for Andrew was the World Cup final in 2007. (That’s most likely the rugby one he had in mind.) Tom was very pleased when Leeds United won whatever it was they won about 20 years ago. And Carl was tremendously happy when Widnes became World Club Champions in 1989. Rugby league.

Carl Hicks and Andrew Sheridan with fans

If you really want to know, the day after a match Andrew feels like an old man. It’ll be all that jumping on top of each other. Carl’s hopes for the Olympic Games is that they will inspire the young. Tom reckons the best thing for an aspiring writer is to write about what you’re passionate about. It seems to work for him.

View from Quay House

And I only had a tiny bout of vertigo here. My broomstick tends to go lower down than the fifth floor.

Julie Bertagna, flying pigs and the future

The Midland Hotel

There is a first time for everything. I have never been womanhandled by an author before. And anyone half my size is ill advised to try it. But Julie Bertagna had a brave go on Saturday morning, and I slunk back to my favourite seat at the back. Seems I’m too much of a distraction at the front (naturally), which is why I like it at the back, and I had only been obeying orders to come nearer the front. Truly. Will never do so ever again.

Afterwards Julie said she realised I would write something like this. Too late! ; ) She blamed it on me being like family (i.e. an embarrassment). I was even warned about taking pictures…

The Midland Hotel

Julie had left the perpetual rain cloud hovering over Glasgow for sunny Manchester to give a talk on Friday evening to a large group of teachers, while missing the joys of accidentally bumping into Professor Brian Cox. (Sean Connery was quite enough for you, Julie!)

On Saturday morning the bookwitch crawled out of bed early, for eleven o’clock at the Midland Hotel. Very nice venue. I could tell that Julie’s teenage girl fans were impressed with their surroundings. Nice room, and tea and juice and biscuits. Unlike me they had dressed up a bit, too.

Julie based her talk on the Exodus trilogy, and started by going through science fiction in the olden days, from Frankenstein’s monster via H G Wells to 1984 and The Matrix. In Exodus it’s the Earth itself which is the monster of the story, when water levels rise, forcing a change in how people live. A few years ago when many places, including Glasgow, flooded, Julie found sales of her book rocketing, proving that people do want to read about dying worlds.

In her youth Julie expected the future to be robots, holidaying on the moon and other magic. Predictions usually go wrong. We do have magic these days, but not in a form you could have imagined. It’s our iPods and text messages and similar. Like my camera, when I can operate it and am allowed to…

She likes David Tennant best of the Doctors, talked about flying cows and other creatures in hurricane Katrina, the Large Hadron Collider, and how our Universe probably is like just one bubble in a bath full of bubbles. And Lord Byron was a male Lady Gaga.

Manchester Literature Festival 2011

Julie took the opportunity to help Manchester Literature Festival launch a short story competition for teenagers, featuring Manchester in the future. She came up with so many ideas, that even I could half see myself entering, were it not for those extra few years that would disqualify me. The girls in the room had lots of great plot ideas, that they were willing to share. We were reminded that Mary Shelley was a teenager when she came up with her science fiction, so there is every likelihood of this competition going well.

Julie Bertagna at the Manchester Literature Festival

They also had an unusually good selection of questions. One good way of starting a story is to write something that you then ditch, in favour of jumping straight to what matters. Julie might write a fourth book in the trilogy, but only if ideas that keep her awake at night pop up. She also likes endings that ‘infuriate you.’ I think that might mean endings that don’t spell out every little detail, leaving something to the imagination.

Poster for the Manchester Children's Books Festival

This was an especially good event. We all want Julie to come back soon; Manchester Literature Festival, Manchester Children’s Book Festival, the girls, and even me. (I’ll be the one at the back.)

(And you know why there are more pictures of posters and hotel interiors than of the star performer, don’t you? Good thing Photowitch was unavailable.)

Sapphire Battersea

The name is a bit of a mouthful. But who’s to say a romantic name isn’t quite nice for a change? Hetty Feather certainly seems to prefer the name of Sapphire, once she has found – and been found by – her real mother, who named her after the colour of her eyes.

Because this is the second instalment of Jacqueline Wilson’s trilogy about Hetty (sorry, Sapphire) from the Foundling Hospital, you can work out that there was no lasting happy ever after from the first book, and things aren’t settled at the end of this one. (But I think we can safely say we’ll get there.)

Jacqueline Wilson, Sapphire Battersea

You can’t really get away with having a secret Mum in an institution like the Foundling Hospital, so Hetty and Ida have to part again. Before long Hetty is of an age to leave and she begins her first job as a maid, with an author, no less. She is still the same old Hetty, though, and not everything goes smoothly.

And Hetty wants to see her mother again. Except things aren’t what she’d hoped they’d be. However, Hetty is strong and she will sort something out. Those skills she learned over the years prove useful. She also finds out that there really is no going back. It’s so easy to think that you can.

This is another look at Victorian life for people less fortunate than those we tend to read about in many other novels. Illness and poverty and lack of rights can come as a shock to the modern reader, but on the other hand Hetty has a freedom that the readers might not be able to experience.

We are already waiting for the last Hetty book.

‘Thank goodness I became a children’s writer’ – Jacqueline Wilson at Seven Stories

The first thing I did in Newcastle was litter the station, and I don’t mean by simply being there. Was afraid I’d be arrested if I enquired about their (seemingly non-existent) litter bins. That’s my pear core, in case you were wondering.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

Yes, I finally made my way not just to Newcastle, but to the fantastic Seven Stories. It’s shocking that I’ve taken this long, but at least I had the most incredibly good day once I went. They have a new exhibition (opens to the public on Saturday) on the life of Jacqueline Wilson, complete with her childhood bedroom, the pink chaise longue on which she writes her books, and some replica fluffy cat impostors. Even her childhood monkeys were present.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

You can also admire the green dress Sapphire Battersea wears, meet Radish the famous rabbit, and sit on the Dumping Ground sofa, fresh off the latest BBC series of Tracy Beaker.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

I very nearly said hello to someone I recognised on the press tour. Luckily I didn’t. I paused long enough to work out who she was, and the only reason I ‘knew’ Kirsten O’Brien is my misspent middle age in front of CBBC. I had also nursed vague hopes of ending up on Blue Peter (this coming Monday), but not only was it something they filmed earlier, but it was so early as to have been ‘yesterday’ even when I was there.

Insisting on your child being tidy will most likely backfire. The young Jacqueline had to put away all her dolls into her chest of drawers every evening, which will be why she now surrounds herself with dolls all over her house. And after the end of the exhibition she hopes to buy back the picture that the tireless people at Seven Stories managed to find on eBay. (Where else?)

After the press conference where Nick Sharratt needed to ‘shut up before I blub,’ we queued up to have our books signed. Nick seemed to be aware of having featured on Bookwitch before (I thought we’d been so discreet…), and Jacqueline said she also wanted to be called Bookwitch. Sorry, there can only be one and that’s me.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories with Nick Sharratt

Nick admitted to having done 170 pictures for the next book, The Worst Thing About My Sister, so that’s something to look forward to. And right now Jacqueline is seven chapters into the third Hetty Feather book, which is another nice thing to look forward to.

For the photocall I did what one has to do under these circumstances. I hid behind the pros, and piggybacked off their fancy flash equipment. It would also help if I learned the difference between the button that takes pictures and the on-off button.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

More filming and interviewing was necessary after this and us ordinary visitors had some spare time, so me and some magazine people from Dundee spent a while riding the lift up and down in a fruitless search for where we needed to go next. Random’s Philippa Dickinson was found, and then lost again. Eventually it was teatime and we repaired to the café. I’d like to think I was first in because I needed to take photos of the food before it was all eaten.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

I hid in a corner with my plate, and that’s how I met the B family from Leeds. Lovely people, despite some trouser issues… I found out why they were there, and I also learned who the two boys milling about were. I clearly haven’t been wasting as much time in front of the television as I used to. They are the stars of the current Tracy Beaker series, and the B girls were very excited. (Chris Slater and Joe Maw, if you have to know. Polite boys. They even shook hands. With each other.)

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

The tea was wonderful! So often these things look good and taste of cardboard. Here they looked good and tasted great. (I ate too much again, but only with a view to surviving until I got home late.) And the two women in front of me looked particularly Swedish, and so did the boy with them. But you can’t go around accusing people of being Swedish all the time.

On the other hand, when they then speak Swedish behind your back, it’s perfectly all right to accost them for a chat. At that very moment I worked out that the younger one was Brita Granström, the illustrator who I have just missed at so many events, and she was with her mother and one of her sons.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

We met in the attic, as you do, where someone had spent hours tying large bows on the chairs. As you do. Very pretty. The whole attic was lovely, with books hanging from the ceiling and special purple sofas just for me.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

It was speech time. Lots of speeches, all admirably short and to the point, and just right. We were shown an excerpt from the film a group of teenage girls had made about Jacqueline, which was excellent. I got the impression that Jacqueline and Nick both come to Seven Stories quite often, and they spoke of the work in the community done by Seven Stories.

Jacqueline’s speech was ‘short and sweet’ and then Nick started blubbing again. This time the rest of us joined in. It was good, and it was special. Time for a good cry. So it was lucky that Jacqueline once saved Nick from a herd of stampeding heifers. Working together has been good, but it’s their friendship that matters the most.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

In place of ribbons to cut, they were given flowers. Nick’s matched his orange tie and lime green shirt. And surprisingly Jacqueline was wearing black again, but what a dress! She always hoped to be a successful writer one day, but she never imagined she’d have her own exhibition.

It was a good day. Super-organiser Nicky Potter and Lindsey Fraser shared a taxi back to the station with me. Lindsey bought us tea, and to make sure we didn’t expire en route for our homes, she also equipped us with flapjacks. Large ones. The children’s books world is a nice one. Did I ever mention that?