Category Archives: Authors

A perfectly ordinary Monday

Or was it?

As the rest of the literary world gathered in London for the announcement of this year’s Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medalists, I made my way to Edinburgh for lunch with a literary lady. It’s always nice to get out and see new places and new people and to pretend to be a proper grown-up. So over 35 years after eating at Brown’s in Oxford, I’ve now tried the more local-to-me branch north of the border.

On the way I passed Charlotte Square. It looks so small when you see it without a book festival on top. Just grass, and trees, with a fence round it. Soon, though.

For anyone who missed it, Geraldine McCaughrean is our latest Carnegie winner – second time round, I believe – for Where the World Ends, and Sydney Smith won the Kate Greenaway medal with the book Town is By the Sea. Thank goodness it was someone as senior as Geraldine who won, because who else would have the nerve to tell publishers off for dumbing down the language in children’s books?

By the time the lunch was over and my literary lady and I made our way to two different shoe shops; one for her, one for me, Son had begun his PhD viva ordeal at the nearby university. I’d have been there if they let people in to watch, but they don’t. I will simply have to assume the boy was brilliantly clever and dazzled everyone in the room, including the not one, not two, but three supervisors. And, erm, the specially flown in expert. From Norway, I believe.

I gather Son is now Dr Son.

On the train home I continued reading one of the books one of his supervisors – Peter Graves – has translated. But more about that some other day.

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If all the world were…

A little girl who loves her Grandad. What could be sweeter? Allison Colpoys shows us the world of this little girl, how she walks with her Grandad and how they play together, and the stories he tells her from his childhood in India. The love shines from both of them.

Joseph Coelho’s poetic words tell us more and we are literally there with the two of them. A year passes and then one day Grandad’s comfy armchair is empty.

I defy anyone not to cry at that point, even if the cues had warned that it would happen.

We see the girl helping her parents clear out his room, and finding mementoes of his long life, as well as a late gift from him.

It’s a book that should help children deal with a loss, whether it’s already happened, or when it does.

Joseph Coelho and Allison Colpoys, If all the world were...

Daddy Long Legs

Daddies. They can, and they will.

The little boy in this picture book by Nadine Brun-Cosme, and very French, retro illustrations by Aurélie Guillerey, gets worried after his daddy’s car won’t start one morning.

Nadine Brun-Cosme and Aurélie Guillerey, Daddy Long Legs

Eventually it does, and they get to nursery. But what shall the boy do if this happens again and his daddy can’t come and pick him up? This is a very real kind of worry for small children.

His daddy knows a solution and tells him. ‘But what if…?’ There are countless solutions that the boy can see a problem with.

But his daddy has one final plan. He will always be able to come for his little boy.

Being early

Thank goodness we were out! Son’s fourth birthday – a very long time ago – fell during the week, so I decided to have his party on the Sunday before. One of the mothers when she turned up with her son, mentioned she’d got it wrong and had brought the boy along on the Saturday. He was not best impressed. What should I have done had we been in?

My friend Esperanto Girl knows a little of this. For one of my many ‘Tupperware’ parties back then, she arrived on the dot of one hour too early. Luckily for both of us, I was frantically well prepared, so I was completely ready (this never happens now) and simply asked her to come in and we sat and chatted for an hour. It was nice. She was embarrassed and felt she should go and come back, but that would have been a waste of a good hour.

Which brings me to a book I liked a lot during the last year. I wanted the review to be on publication day, and as I’d received my copy really early, that was easy to do. I know the pattern of what days of the week books come out, and the given date fitted this.

The publicist’s email just before the day gave the ‘wrong’ date. I could tell, as it was for a Saturday. So I stuck to my original plan and reviewed on the ‘correct’ date. Was a little surprised to find that the ever so keen publicist seemed to have gone on holiday, and the [debut] author didn’t react to the review. At all.

And then, about a month later, it was actually publication day. Not the day I’d been told at first, nor the one in that late email, but another date; one fitting the pattern of day of week and everything.

The author Tweeted and Facebooked and chirped. I was bemused, and ignored.

There was presumably a reason for the delay. I feel that for a book that I was emailed about quite so many times, the date should have been right, and I could have been notified of a change.

I sometimes do review early, but then there is a reason. Maybe I want to stir up some early interest. Maybe I want to go on about the book more than once. I just want to know I’m doing it, because not even with my fondness for being early, a month is a little over the top.

This year’s Bloody [Scotland] plans

If you thought that rubbing shoulders with crime writers at the Coo in Stirling, during the Bloody Scotland weekend in late September, sounds like fun, you can forget it. The event sold out in no time at all.

But there’s other daft stuff you could do, unless you delay so that these other events also sell out. Personally I fear this might happen more than I’d find convenient. You know, I don’t want to commit just yet. But I don’t want to be left without, either.

Bloody Scotland

There’s more than one event where crime writers do something else, like sing. Or pretend to be a television quiz show. There is even a musical, written by Sophie Hannah and Annette Armitage, which to begin with I believed to last seven and a half hours, but it’s just two ‘sittings’ so to speak. Or there’s the cast and crew of Agatha Raisin. You can go to the football. I haven’t yet, but there is no saying how long I can hold out.

If you fancy more ‘ordinary’ events where authors talk about their books, look no further. Bloody Scotland has a lot of them. I see James Oswald has a new detective. (I don’t like change!) There’s an event on breaking barriers with three Asian authors and one Icelandic one. Or there are more Icelanders in a separate event, if you prefer.

They have Swedes. Well, they have one real Swede, Christoffer Carlsson, from my neck of woods. He’s nice. Although not so sure about his murders. Then there is a French fake Swede, but who writes about Falkenberg, which I highly approve of. And someone else foreign who at least lives in Sweden.

It’s 2018, so violence against women has to be addressed. Our favourite pathologist is coming back. So is Pitch Perfect, where they let the hopefuls in. The Kiwis are coming, and Chris Brookmyre has got a new name as he writes with his wife.

They also offer some of the biggest names in the business, but you’ll need to read the rest of the programme yourselves. And come and see the torchlit procession on the Friday night!

Bloody Scotland Torchlight Procession

Home Home

Lisa Allen-Agostini’s book Home Home is a short novel about many different big topics; depression, going to live somewhere new, getting on with your parents, race, sexuality, plus the ‘normal’ teen kind of angst most of us have known. It’s a lot to put into one book.

Lisa Allen-Agostini

It’s not until the last page that the reader learns the name of the narrator. She’s Kayla, and she’s 14 and has recently moved from Trinidad to Canada to live with her lesbian aunt to get over having tried to kill herself because of depression.

As you can see, a lot to deal with.

Much as I’m glad to see depression making it into a teen novel, it’s so short, that I feel it’s mostly there to explain why Kayla has come to Canada, without her mother, to live with an aunt she barely knows, and the aunt’s partner/wife.

But it is very interesting reading about the various difficulties of ending up somewhere so different from your home home, as she calls it. Everything is new, like the weather, where Kayla feels cold when the locals undress because it’s warm. Being one of the few black faces in a white area. Coming to terms with same sex relationships.

There could – should – be more books here, or one much longer.

And I occasionally wish that part of the solution wasn’t in meeting a gorgeous boy who really likes you. It’s a fairy tale [temporary] ending to a bad situation, and one that few of us would experience. I’d like to know more about how Kayla and her depression will work out.

We’ve lost that community feeling

I had honestly forgotten about it. Totally, I mean, and not just the finer details. A while ago a freak pingback on a nine-year-old post on here made me have a look to see what it was. To begin with I didn’t even recall it as I read, but slowly it came back to me.

It, and the 27 comments, from nine authors, including the then children’s laureate Michael Rosen. Usually I remember my more successful posts, even in the past. But not this one.

The funny thing is, it started as nothing more than a disappointed review of a television programme on school libraries. A programme about Michael Rosen visiting a school. I wanted a good moan, and then I was fine.

But people commented like there was no tomorrow, and then, as I said, Michael himself pitched in with a couple of very long comments. I don’t even know how he found the post. (Until that day a few weeks ago, I’d been proud that he’d joined in a discussion on a blog I’d written for the Guardian…)

By now, it’s not just the comments on blogs that we’ve lost; it’s the school libraries too. So from that point of view, the programme is obsolete, even if our opinions are still valid.

Much as I enjoy the bantering on Facebook, it is what killed blog communities. I miss those comments and the way people returned to see what had been said and then offered up more thoughts. I get the hits, and if I hadn’t disabled the like button, people would like my posts.

But most of any chatting about anything I write on here now happens on Facebook. That’s not bad, but it happens away from the actual article we’re discussing, and it’s limited to my friends, or friends of friends, if someone shares. But you can’t do what I did that day recently, which is revisit the post, and then read all the comments from the past.

I called it a freak pingback. It really was, because it wasn’t new, it was a repeat from nine years ago, and presumably happened for some technical reason in cyberspace. But revisiting the whole thing was interesting.