‘Go well into your Saturday’

James Draper and John Brooks

I am borrowing the above quote from Jackie Kay. It’s what she wished us when we left her, after a very enjoyable poetry session. This lovely Glasgow poet taught us (well, not me, obviously) what a Sassenach is, and she was excellent on audience participation. Jackie read us a selection of poems, interspersed with chatty comments about all sorts of things from the perception of Count Dracula in China to her son’s conversations with the bath plug hole.

Jackie Kay

MCBF audience

We began the mcbf fun day with Curtis Jobling, who managed to fill the large lecture theatre with some very young fans. They were vocal as well, leaving poor Curtis shouting down his (working) microphone. It was only Raa Raa the noisy lion who temporarily silenced his audience, some of whom started to remove the decorations even as he spoke, mere inches away. (James was dreadfully alarmed by this, and wondered what happened to him being the one in charge of older people.)

Curtis Jobling

After he had read from several of his picture books, Curtis gave us a lesson in drawing, and I have to say I did a pretty passable Bob the Builder. Curtis told the same Scarecrow with a parsnip nose joke as I’ve heard before, and it’s still funny.

Post-lunch (actually, for us diehards it was more a case of munching our sandwiches as quietly as possible during the author talks) it was Liz Kessler’s turn, and she was a little taken aback by the number of cameras pointing at her from all corners of the lecture theatre.

Liz Kessler

Liz got out her bag with ready made questions for the children to ask her, and they still had energy for some of their own, including what the best thing about the book festival is (her immediate reply was being able to stay at the Midland Hotel). Her more considered answer is that mcbf doesn’t just ask people to come to them, but they go out to meet people were they are. This garnered the question whether ‘she just said that’ to sound good… They are growing up, those children!

Liz Kessler

Having overcome her airhostess dream, Liz now glues her careful plot plans before writing, and if she needs to remove a giant, then she will. The next time-travel novel is North of Nowhere, and her next book to be published will be the fifth Emily Windsnap, from which she read us a taster, shark and all.

Curtis Jobling

Then Curtis was back with a talk for teenagers about his Wereworld books. That didn’t stop him from showing us his animated Curious Cow who repeatedly finds new ways to kill itself in 30 seconds. He drew us a werewolf, before reading from the first book, in this series of four books, which has now grown to six.

Horse and child reader

I did my best to dismantle the decorations in the theatre as Steve Cole started the last talk for the day. Talk. Well, I suppose he did talk a lot. He also jumped and waved and shouted and made faces and anything else you can think of. But no chonster, much to the photographer’s disappointment. Personally I quite liked his Werecumber, which proceeded to bite him.

Steve Cole

Like the boy he is, Steve said bad things about vegetables and fruit, and discussed ‘dinonauts’ and terrible sailors and poo-fish. According to his wife there is nothing remarkable about him. I don’t know how she can say that, because Steve knows about binocular-owning potatoes, and he wears (or so I understand) gold lycra shorts.

Steve is writing a new standalone book – his first – and he is running late. His fastest Cows In Action book took him three and a half days to write, but usually he writes an Astrosaurs book in three weeks. No need to worry about the future of his characters, however, since his audience told him about some sequels they are writing for him. ‘We are all authors.’

Then this fun day was over. We hung around to chat to Steve a little, and he did that very nice thing; gave me my very own dedicated book, signed and everything.

The mcbf zombie factory

Because it was a very full fun day we never had time for the Animal Stew readings or the smoothies or even the zombie workshop (???). Or most of the rest of everything we could have done had the day been longer. On the whole it’s good it wasn’t because there wasn’t much left of poor James as it was. The photographer and I hobbled up Oxford Road to catch our train home. But we’ll be back for more, once we’ve recovered.

The mcbf camel

(Photos Helen Giles)

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