Tag Archives: Blue Peter

A second Saturday of EIBF 2018

Our second book festival Saturday was mostly spent chatting to author friends we’d made earlier. And that’s a very nice thing; this meeting up with people who’ve all come to the same place. It’s also a rather bad pun to indicate that the first event yesterday morning was chaired by Janet Ellis. I got slightly more excited by this than my Photographer, until I did my maths and realised she’s too young for Janet’s time on Blue Peter. But us oldies enjoyed the BP-ness of it.

Kit de Waal

We had to get out of bed really early to get to Edinburgh to hear Jo Nadin and Kit de Waal talking to Janet. But thank goodness it was in the Spiegeltent, where you can buy tea and cake to revive yourself. I reckon we survived until well past lunch on those calories. It was so early when we got to the gates that the gates were actually not open, so we joined the queue, where we were discovered by SCBWI’s Sarah Broadley. My eyes were not open enough to see anyone at all just then. (That’s Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, in case you were wondering. It is, even if you weren’t.)

Jo Nadin

Once my eyes had opened a little more, I saw Alex Nye arriving for her event chairing A L Kennedy. And when we were back by the yurts after the first event, we watched A L being given the Chris Close treatment, although I think she might actually have given Chris the A L Kennedy treatment. She had her own ideas of what to do, like covering her face with a mask.

Jo Nadin and Kit de Waal

We also hung in the signing tent while Jo and Kit did their thing, meeting young miss Nadin for the first time, and after that they were ushered out to the photocall area, which brought back fond memories for Jo. And us.

Sent the Photographer over to catch perennial weekend morning favourite Andy Stanton and his long signing queue. It’s nice with traditions.

Andy Stanton

While getting ready to cross to George Street, we spied Barry Hutchison coming away from his morning event, and I could have sworn that was Chae Strathie who turned up as well. Barry came over for a hug. Two hugs, really, but that was before my Photographer mentioned the squirrels. We were treated to an impromptu show about a banana drink and a piece of popcorn in the wrong place (Barry’s throat; the wrong part of it) before he was called on to drive his family home.

Lari Don

There was a queue for the SCBWI event with Lari Don, Candy Gourlay and Elizabeth Wein, but it was all right. We got in and we got seats.

Candy Gourlay

Elizabeth Wein

Afterwards we hung in the George Street signing tent talking to the various SCBWI members and waiting for Candy to be free to socialise. Even Mr Gourlay turned up for a moment before deciding it was hopeless and walked off again. When the wait was over and Candy had promised not to talk to anyone else – hah! – we went for tea in the yurt, where we had such a good time that we forgot that Candy was going to be photographed by Chris Close, and she had to be extricated to high-five herself and to smile at the unlikeliest props. (At least she didn’t get the head with the black and white-chequered cloth covering!)

Candy Gourlay

Finally met Barbara Henderson in person, a split second after I worked out that’s who she was, and mere hours after talking about her book at home. Chatted to a charming **illustrator, whose name I forgot immediately, and her charming son, who will go far. Caught a glimpse of Donna Moore and then Photographer and I disagreed on whether we saw Jenny Brown or not. But it was definitely Yanis Varoufakis outside.

When there were more SCBWIs round the tea table than you could shake a stick at*, we decided we needed to run for the train we had picked as reasonably safe from too many Runrig fans heading to Stirling. Seems most of the 20 000 or so had not chosen our train. Just as well.

*There is obviously no such thing. I have plenty of sticks.

** Hannah Sanguinetti!!

(Photos Helen Giles)

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Well, what a surprise!

What surprises me is that people are surprised. The Resident IT Consultant discovered an online Guardian article about foreign students at the University of Stirling. He found it interesting, and was only marginally disgusted by its accompanying photo, of a red London bus on Westminster Bridge in London. I thought that was the kind of rookie mistake made by foreigners, not Guardian editors.

So students come over here expecting it to be pretty much like it was at home. And it is, if you’re European. Sort of. It will be almost the same, unlike how it is for those from much further afield. But it will still be different. I believe that even somewhere small like Malta has ‘regional’ differences, and Sweden obviously has them, as does the UK. You can generally go somewhere in your own country where they eat funny food and speak in a way that forces you to ask again.

But then the natives that these students lived and studied with were also a bit odd, not grasping that a foreigner won’t know everything; that in their country they might not have (oh horror of horrors!) mince pies. The foreigner might politely decline eating them for years, believing the pies to be meaty (well, they were, originally). So you could explain a few things. And you, the visitor, could ask a few more questions.

I do agree with this article’s findings on [Stirling] public transport. It is very hard to find out about tickets and routes and all the rest.

As for what you wear when you go out, and whether that night out starts or ends at three am, is another matter. Ask. Adapt. Or avoid. By all means, be disappointed by the lack of your favourite food in the new place, if you must.

Having a favourite Blue Peter presenter is something else, however, covered in this article on not being quite the same as others. The half this, half something else. I have two of those myself, and whereas Offspring fit in best in Britain, they are not as ‘normal’ as those who are completely home made. Nor do they fit 100% in the other place.

I can talk Blue Peter reasonably well. Not only did I watch with Offspring for years, but as a student I benefitted from living with the G family, who had a Blue Peter aged child. I never quite got it, but it was a lot easier than Doctor Who.

Basically, though, we are all strange.

Go somewhere else, and see how your normality evaporates. Only a few weeks ago, a mortified Daughter quickly opted to order the Easter Bonnet at the local café, rather than have me continue my interrogation of the waitress as to what it actually was. (She did ask me to ask..!) That was no digestive biscuit, and that was definitely no teacake.

Oh, there is another kind of teacake???

How was I supposed to know?

New Guy – to me, anyway

Ladies and gentlemen, there will be a 24 hour interval, during which you can recover from your recent Indian ordeal.

Guy Bass

‘Hello, I had barely heard of you when I was invited to come here today. Sorry. I hope you will tell me about yourself in your talk?’ This is roughly what I said to Guy Bass at MMU on Friday morning. He took it well, but I really didn’t require such a detailed account of his nappy years. I mean, there is only so much public pooing a grown witch can take in her stride. It was actually much more suited to eight or ten-year-olds.

Hang on! The MMU lecture theatre was full of children. Could it be..? Maybe Guy did it for them? I’m so relieved. He was getting rather carried away with his nappy contents.

Guy Bass with Stitch Head

This was another early taster for schools from the Manchester Children’s Book Festival. I was assured Guy would give a good performance, and he certainly did, in a Steve Cole kind of frenzied style. He performed with his whole body, standing on a chair and crawling on walls (he wants to be a superhero), pretending to cut his trousers up with scissors, and generally tried to avoid noticing how disappointing grown-up life can be for wannabe superheroes.

He’s a comics fan, and read fairly few books as a child. His favourite was Thomas Bakes a Cake. I was sitting some distance away, but I could still see this was the excellent Gunilla Wolde’s work. Good Swedish quality stuff. Guy’s parents had to read it to him every night for two years. His other old favourite was Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine, on how best to poison your grandma. So, great Nordic taste there for our Guy.

Who?

Stitch Head loses it

His own first book was Dinkin Dings, which put him in touch with illustrator Pete Williamson, and they then went on to plan Guy’s idea for his latest series about Stitch Head. He actually brought Stitch Head along. It was he who hid under the sheet (not a dead body, after all) until Guy woke him. Stitch Head was introduced to a girl in the audience, but unfortunately his hand came off. Then the other hand, soon followed by both legs. Oh well, accidents happen.

Guy finished by reading a very early story of his. So early was his Nitemare Pigs in 3D that the ‘book’ was a mere cardboard book. The moral of the tale is to have cheese in your pockets. Just in case.

Pink pirate bunting

Everything went down well with the children. That includes the pink pirate bunting which Guy himself was disgusted with. I thought it was quite fetching, if you like that kind of thing.

Guy Bass books

The audience was clearly into books and reading, and bought a lot of books afterwards and queued to have them signed. One boy even inquired about the book I’d brought to read (the new Shirley Hughes, Hero on a Bicycle, out in May).

James's Socks

I was feeling sleepy, having got up early, but that was nothing compared to mcbf’s James. Grateful that he thought of me as he got dressed, however, and wore these lovely socks. So I won’t mention what the rest of him looked like after Thursday night’s poetry event. (I knew there’s a reason I’m wary of poetry.)

He even had the nerve to suggest I go and sit at the back. Wouldn’t have dreamed of it. This kind of lecture theatre – a great hit with the children, btw – requires me to sit at the front. There is method in my madness.

Guy Bass with Stitch Head and children

And now I know who Guy Bass is. Blue Peter award winner. Nice Guy. Funny. And because he brought  his friendly publisher Paul along, I have a book to read, too. One that Guy scribbled in, so now it’s ruined…

E?

Lord's Library

I’m not entirely sure whether the – Bookwitch – jury is still out on this, or not. To e or not to e? Well, actually, I will e(book) if and when the need arises. I’d be silly not to. But I’m more or less with Blue Peter on this.

They went to great trouble to test e-readers versus good old paper. It might not have been totally serious or scientific, but I was quite impressed by the exercise of letting a tank run over the two competitors. The e-reader survived, but the paper book survived more, if you can put it that way?

Take my (no longer so) recent train trip to Glasgow. Eight hours there and back. The way to justify all that time was to take books to read. Get a lot of reading done. I usually take more than one, since I never know if I’ll end up hating one. On that basis, perhaps three books, considering the length of the journey?

A Kindle would be ideal, and would prevent the bag getting too heavy (with a laptop in there, it was already too heavy) and too fat. Umpteen books in one small packet. But what if the battery ran out? Better take one paper book. So, in reality I took the equivalent of two, anyway.

And what about the funny people you encounter on planes? I have yet to find any consistency from one crew member to another, and I need to read when sitting there waiting for take-off slots, and to take my mind off bumps. So I can’t afford someone coming along demanding my electronic gadget is put away for (here you insert whatever stupid reason such people might come up with), which could be five minutes or five hours.

So, paper book it is.

Holidays. Could take ten books with little effort. Between us, the Resident IT Consultant and I could share twenty. But unless we have an e-reader each, we can’t share.

Reviews. Yes. Publishers can club together to pay for e-readers for people on their current mailing lists (except they probably wouldn’t, or couldn’t) and then send out ebooks (and that’s the death knell to Royal Mail). Handy. Except, if the book isn’t only published as an ebook, there is no way of getting all touchy-feely with some of the lovelier aspects of books where a lot of thought has gone into the design.

Suzanne Selfors, Mad Love

Loking at my (I mean the Kindle belonging to the Resident IT Consultant, of course) grey and boring e-reader I would never get those pink twinges I experienced over Suzanne Selfors’s Mad Love.

I could never do a header photograph like my new header. There would be just the one ‘book’ and no hope of rainbows anywhere.

Actually, that’s not strictly true. I gather there are skins you can buy. Sounds decadent, and not very vegetarian, but quite nice. You can even have a custom made skin. Saw a blog post by an author who tried out customised skins from her own (paper) cover designs. It looked great! And I do think that’s a nicer way to adorn an e-reader than the ever-changing pictures that pop up on the Kindle. Nice enough, but you’re not in control. And there is no colour.

I have read some ebooks now, and it’s been OK. But I find I need to remember they exist. The e-reader alone does not remind me that I have six exciting titles to read, the way six books would. That’s partly why Philip Caveney hasn’t been getting the attention his new ebook deserves. I’m not in an ebook mood.

It’s great the way you can alter the size of the font. But you never know what page you are on. (Or even how many ‘normal’ pages there are. Percentages are all very well, but if you can’t see what the 48% is 48% of…) Also, I needed to alert one author to a mistake that I was sure she would want to correct, but what page would it be at her end?

Books

There are good and bad things for both options. But I prefer books made of paper. I even prefer the mess they make on my shelves. Which is funny, because the minimalist in me ought to be more than ready for a life with one book. Like the chap at the top of this post. I’d love to have visitors admiring my ‘selection.’

Bookwitch bites #72

Today will be mainly about what happens in toilets. And I’m relieved (no, not in that way!) that some of you love me a little. Thank you to all five who like me. I’m actually ecstatic to find I have more fans than Declan Burke on Crime Always Pays, who only has ‘three regular readers.’ Or so he claims. And I’m one of them. Not sure who the other two are.

My tale about the sweet singing in the Ladies at the Lowry caused the nice press person from the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick to send me a very kind email. This in turn made me aware of the theatre’s book festival, Words by the Water. I know, everywhere does them, but it feels rather special to have something bookish in that lovely theatre setting. I just wish I could go. It started yesterday, and whereas it mainly seems to be adult authors, I did notice Annabel Pitcher in the programme.

The next toilet ‘incident’ also involves a lovely email (perhaps I shouldn’t have asked for sympathy?), from a librarian I encountered in the toilet queue at the Philippines Embassy (as you do) at the launch of Candy Gourlay’s Tall Story a year and a half ago. Her school – where she does her librarian stuff – has a novel (to me) kind of book competition to encourage reading. And I’m proud that I inspired one of the books to be picked. (That would be the one I never finished reading.) I’d like to think I’m also partly to blame for the school’s newly started blog. I wish them the best of fun with their Battle of the Books.

I believe I will now move swiftly and virtually seamlessly from toilets to libraries. Blue Peter was broadcasting live from the John Rylands Library in Manchester on Thursday. (And I wasn’t there! Small sob.) Both their book awards had reached a conclusion, so Gareth P Jones was there as his werewolf mystery The Considine Curse was voted Blue Peter Book of the Year. He looked quite happy.

And the Best Children’s Book of the Last 10 Years was won by Jeff Kinney for his bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid. He looked quite happy too. And like me, he wasn’t actually there. He spoke to the assembled Blue Peter children in a recorded message.

Connie Fisher, Michael Xavier and Lucy van Gasse

I really need to remember that Blue Peter broadcast from Media City in Salford these days. And that is relatively close. Oddly enough, I had been to Manchester earlier on Thursday. And to end this post in a vaguely toilet related manner, I almost passed the John Rylands after stuffing envelopes for the Hallé, in the company of a volunteer from the Lowry who was enthusing about the Media City gardens, and the ‘celebrities’ one can see there. One of the stuffings was for Wonderful Town, the collaboration between the Royal Exchange Theatre, the Hallé and the Lowry. And it was the toilet from the launch which featured in my second paragraph above, and the volunteer also experienced a slight incident with the Bridgewater Hall’s facilities on Thursday. It was a mere misunderstanding, and she wasn’t in the dark for long.

I know. Things stopped making sense about 100 words ago. Sorry.

Bookwitch bites #70

Sisters and socks and television this week. I’ve been watching far too many daytime shows for my comfort, in order to take in most of the interviews with John Barrowman and his lovely sister Carole.

Then there was Blue Peter who had ‘some sort of ‘ book programme this week. The quotation marks are there to point out that I think they could have had more on books. I now also know stuff about escorting sharks in elevators – and surviving – which I dare say might come in tremendously handy one day, but which was not fully book related. Lucy Coats was lovely, talking about one of the books I have not read. Michael Rosen and others were also there to enthuse about the various Blue Peter shortlisted books.

David Fickling

Here is an ‘almost television’ programme, a video featuring Jacqueline Wilson and her books in general, and her new The Worst Thing About My Sister in particular. Jacqueline answers questions from an audience of children, and reads from TWTAMS.

This week’s sockman, Nick Sharratt is also in there. In retrospect I began wondering whether Nick got his sock inspiration from David Fickling of red socks fame. That’s DF from David Sockling Books, you understand. And in this week’s sock relay, it was to Oxford and David Sockling/Fickling that Nick headed as he left our ‘blissful, lovely’* Sockport.

Big Book Babble with Jacqueline Wilson ans Nick Sharratt

* That’s almost a literary quotation, but I’m afraid I can’t divulge who said it, for fear of repercussions.

Bookwitch bites #69

TheSpark

Time to do things!  ‘Faber and Faber has launched THE SPARK, a place for 13 – 16 year olds who have an interest in creativity and reading. During 2012 THE SPARK, hosted on Facebook, will invite young people to take part in some exciting projects around acting, film-making, writing and music, each linked to and inspired by a Faber Young Adult title.’

Now, you know me. I’m not much of a joiner of things, but I suspect that if Facebook had been invented in the dark ages of the 1970s, I might have found myself wanting to try some of what they are/will be doing on this Spark page.

For people too old to spark there is The Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award 2013 to go for instead. Write ‘a manuscript that celebrates cultural diversity in the widest possible sense, either in terms of its story or the ethnic and cultural origins of its author.’ There is a prize of £1500, plus the option of being published.

So that’s 15,000 to 35,000 words by the 31st December 2012. Start writing, or dust off that old ms in your drawer!

If you have your eye on a very special prize, however, I can recommend the Booktrust short story competition. 500 words on the riots in 2011, and you could win a day in the company of Bali Rai. I’m tempted to pretend I’m aged 13 to 17 just for that.

Ellie Daines, Lolly Luck

An ‘ethnic’ book for fans of Jacqueline Wilson or Cathy Cassidy (I’m just quoting here…) is Lolly Luck by Ellie Daines. I was blogging about minorities last week, and it is so wrong that ‘black’ books for children should have to be considered ‘minority’ or ‘ethnic’. You wouldn’t say that about characters from Yorkshire. (Or would you?) But on the basis that young black readers might well want to read about children with darker than the British average skin, I’m glad that Lolly Luck is here.

Let there be plenty more like her.

I have heard a rumour that there is a Blue Peter book programme on Thursday next week. I’m advising you now, just so you remember to tune in, because I might very well forget as the week careers ahead in the way weeks do.

And I feel some careering coming on.