Tag Archives: Anna Perera

Three Puffins and the Anna Perera interview

It’s been a while. Sorry.

I’d like to say that I’ve agonised long and carefully about how to do my Puffin trio justice, but that would be almost completely untrue. I’m simply late. Too much got in the way.

But I did know that I wanted to publish all three interviews with Anna Perera, Morris Gleitzman and Ruta Sepetys close together. After all, they sort of came in to see me in the Tardis (room) in relay fashion. It’s been busy around here, and finding a gap large enough wasn’t easy.

I’m aware that I didn’t show you a photo from the panel discussion with Claire Armitstead, but now that I have stolen a photo from ‘somewhere’, here are all four.

The Puffin panel - Ruta Sepetys, Morris Gleitzman, Anna Perera and Claire Armitstead

And from there straight on to the Anna Perera interview. I’m guessing Anna was first because she wanted to get me over and done with. Quite understandable.

It was good to meet someone new to me, and interesting to learn the background to The Glass Collector.


The Glass Collector

The Glass Collector is a quiet book. You read and you read and then you begin to worry that there isn’t enough of the book left for the big plot development. But as I thought this, it occurred to me that perhaps we didn’t need a big exciting bang. It never got boring (and I know that’s a dreadful ‘compliment’ to make) and it was quite restful to simply coast along.

Blue glass bottle

Anna Perera has written the story about Aaron, a Christian 15-year-old living in Mokattam just outside Cairo. The Zabbaleen collect rubbish, and Aaron’s speciality is glass. He loves glass. He is good at glass, and never cuts himself when picking it up.

Aaron is an orphan, living with a not very kind stepfather and two stepbrothers. Things are bad to begin with, and they become worse. Their living more or less disappears, and Aaron’s stepbrother Lijah is cruel, the neighbour’s daughter Shareen teases him, and Aaron is secretly in love with Rachel, who looks after the horses.

Rachel wants to become a vet, and in any other book she would somehow find a way, despite her poverty. Many of the young people around Aaron have dreams. Shareen wants a rich and handsome young husband. Aaron’s friend Abe wants a jellyfish.

This book is more of a window on the lives of the people in Mokattam than a story, which might be why the Guardian’s reviewer was surprised Anna hadn’t made it a travel book instead. It’s just right as it is, and as Anna pointed out when I met her, she made most of it up. Hence the fiction label. She went to Cairo to research the lives of the Zabbaleen, but then she wove a story about them, removing many things she felt would have detracted from what she was trying to do.

It’s truly educational, and I hope it will make western readers produce less waste, and hopefully even make them want fewer things. Buy less, and recycle more. If sorting through rubbish turns you off it could be a good idea to generate less of it in the first place.

The end makes you feel quietly happy and satisfied. At least that’s how it was for me. We rarely get everlasting happy-ever-after in real life, so why expect it in every book we read? The Glass Collector has good and bad in it, just like real life. It’s not a bad thing to learn to appreciate what you have. It could always be worse.

They hear voices

That’s what they do. And then they write books.

There was talk of body fluids and worse. Ruta Sepetys, who’s just had her first book, about starving people in Siberia, published, described her style of writing as ‘projectile vomiting’ and later told of her editor advising her to ‘watch her gratuitous defecation’.

Although Morris Gleitzman said that if necessary ‘let there be defecation’.

Morris Gleitzman, Grace; Anna Perera, The Glass Collector; Ruta Sepetys, Between Shades of Gray

The witch went to London yesterday for a panel discussion at Puffin HQ between Morris Gleitzman, Anna Perera and Ruta Sepetys, and kept in beautiful order by Claire Armitstead of the Guardian. I knew I liked her!

Before the panel Puffin invited some great book bloggers to a private meeting with the three authors, so there was the old witch in the company of five bloggers all of an age to be my Offspring. Luckily for them they are not.

And before that, I found myself standing in reception at Penguin, saying I was there to see Jayde Lynch. ‘And me’ whispered Anna Perera at my side. She and Ruta had got there before me and Morris arrived soon after, and they were all there because they’d been told they had to see me.

That’s what I like!

Morris Gleitzman

Anna and I agreed that Morris is much taller in real life than he looks in his photos. I had imagined someone short. Maybe I just thought Morris had to be the same size as his pal Eoin Colfer?

The Tardis Room

Jayde came for us and I was taken to the Tardis Room, which wasn’t as big inside as it might have been. But nice enough anyway. I decided on pot luck and they sent Anna in first for our ten minutes (who said I’m greedy?). Next came Morris, who could have talked for much longer than his ten minutes, followed by Ruta. As if by agreement none of them sat down in the same place as the others. I’d like to think of them waiting – NCIS style – to be interrogated and exchanging information on how horrible I’d been and what I wanted to know.

Anna Perera

Down to the 6th floor for the blogger gathering. I’ve only come across Jenny of Wondrous Reads previously, but had checked the others out before I came. She was there for Morris. Mostly, anyway. As luck would have it, he came and sat down next to her, so that was good.

The others were Sarah Gibson from Feeling Fictional and Carly Bennett of Writing from the Tub. Dwayne Halim – who is a girl – from Girls Without a Bookshelf, and last but not least Rhys of Thirst for Fiction. All very young, as I said. Lots of discussion with the authors, and a lack of agreement on e-readers.

I’m having second thoughts about Twitter now, as it seems Rhys was responsible for some successful tweeting on behalf of Ruta’s book. Morris can’t possibly tweet, as he is unable to write less than 30,000 words on anything.

The authors interviewed each other on writing technique, and Morris firmly believes in the ‘ late in and early out of scenes’ way of not dwelling too long on anything and becoming boring. And he plans meticulously. This is where Ruta’s projectile vomiting comes in.

Ruta Sepetys

People helped themselves to the books on the table, stuffing them into their choice of colour Puffin bags. I picked an orange one this time. And then on to the tenth floor, with ‘the best view in London.’ Ruta and I chatted on the way, and she was easily impressed by me actually having met Meg Rosoff. She’s got good taste.

Surprisingly I found Candy Gourlay during pre-panel drinks. Wrong publishing house, but she sneaked in to see Morris. They all love Morris. Hmm. The usual faces were there (along with their bodies, naturally). I took my life in my hands when stepping out onto the balcony thing in order to take photos of the Thames. I did it for you.

The Thames

Candy sat as close to Morris as possible, while I hid by the door in my usual fashion. And I apologise to my neighbour for my snacking. It was dinner time. Adele Minchin introduced everyone, and she made me think. She pointed out that children’s books are for children. I tend to forget they aren’t just for me.

Anna, Ruta and Morris introduced their books, and after some discussion about toilet topics, etc, it was question time. Nicholas Tucker in the audience kicked off with the comment that he felt there could be a need for counselling services after such hard punching topics. People disagreed for the most part, and maybe it is that we get softer with age. Children can be quite hard at times.

Minister Gove was mentioned, and we all felt that the three books we were there to talk about should be on his infamous list. Then we went one step better and decided the list should be much longer, if there is to be a list, which is silly in itself.

One hour can last a long time, but unfortunately last night the hour was the fast kind, so we found ourselves eating pizza slices and falafel before we knew where we were. The real fans queued up to have their books signed, with Candy getting in very early, thanks to her front row seat.

Costa Children’s Award Shortlist 2009

Siobhan Dowd, Solace of the Road

Mary Hoffman, Troubadour

Patrick Ness, The Ask and the Answer

Anna Perera, Guantanamo Boy

Three and a bit isn’t bad for this year’s Costa shortlist. So I may not have read every word on the shortlist, but I feel fully informed and know what I know and what I think. At least I think so.

Let’s see; who’s going to win this year? I’ll do my own shortlist, which has two books on it. And I’m not telling.