Tag Archives: Catherine Clarke

Seeing Catherine Clarke

Well, no, I haven’t. Not recently.

But I was pleased to hear that literary agent Catherine Clarke – responsible for Meg Rosoff, among many others – has been chosen Literary Agent of the Year. Which is very nice.

My impression is that Catherine works hard. She is ‘responsible for’ by far the most sightings of any agent I am capable of recognising when out and about. Once in London, I reckon Daughter and I managed to come across her three times in one day.

A couple of years ago Daughter reported seeing someone on the tube as she travelled through London, someone who ‘had to be an author, and who could it have been?’ I told her people look the same.

Then when she arrived in Oxford, she ran into Meg Rosoff, which made me a bit jealous. I don’t run into my favourite author, just like that. And within minutes ‘that woman off the tube’ appeared as well, at which point it became clear she really had recognised her, because it was Catherine. Who also must have accidentally run into one of her authors.

So basically, she’s everywhere, and I’m sure that helps in knowing what to do about authors and their books. If I hear that an author is looked after by Catherine, I feel that is a recommendation in itself.

Congratulations!

The Bookseller - Catherine Clarke

(Apologies to The Bookseller for borrowing their page.)

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Launching Jonathan

It’s a long way to Chelsea, even if you don’t begin your journey in Scotland. The last mile or so was the worst, but when a witch is going to a Meg Rosoff book launch, then she is. And what more interesting place to launch than on a houseboat on the Thames? I was slightly worried the boat would sink once I hopped on board, but was comforted by Anthony McGowan promising to rescue me in return for a book review. (Deal! Can’t remember if it had to be a favourable one or not.)

Jonathan Unleashed launch

Hopping. Well, not so much. It was dark, and there were gangway things over bits of water and stuff. Once on board Meg sent me down some bannister-free stairs to ‘poke around.’ (Not her boat, by the way.) Was impressed by the row of plates nonchalantly leaning against the wall. And there were books everywhere.

Jonathan Unleashed launch

Jonathan Unleashed

So, Jonathan. There were piles of copies of Jonathan Unleashed (I was under strict orders to get one for Daughter), and there was food and drink. Very nice canapés. Especially the little cheese toastie ones. Some of the salmon ones slipped onto the floor, but the only one who slipped [a little] on the salmon was Meg. So that’s ‘all right.’ She was wearing unsuitable shoes, anyway.

There was a nice mixture of people. Some I knew, others I didn’t. But I was able to chat to most of the ones I do know, and I grilled ‘Miss Rosoff’ on her university experience, the way old people tend to do, and gave ‘Mr Rosoff’ a brief lesson in Scottish geography.

Jonathan Unleashed launch

Spoke to Elspeth Graham, Mal Peet’s other half, who remembered meeting me before. Which was nice. Chatted briefly to Francesca Simon, and to Steven Butler, and winner of Bookwitch best book of 2015, Sally Gardner.

Jonathan Unleashed launch

Met the new – to me – people at adult Bloomsbury, and their Editor-in-Chief Alexandra Pringle made a nicely brief speech, mentioning that she wrote Meg a fan letter after the publication of How I Live Now, which Meg doesn’t remember. She’d better remember me doing the same thing! Though I wasn’t able to offer a publishing deal for any future books.

Meg Rosoff

As I said goodbye, Meg recalled our ‘interesting’ car journey when we first met, almost exactly ten years ago. This time I got a taxi, and the driver only had a minor brainslip and made two wrong turns before getting it right. (I got quite excited when it looked like he might drive straight through a barrier. You know, like they do in films.)

The water had disappeared by the time I left. I don’t know if that was reassuring or not. And I apologise for the very poor quality of some of the photos. I was travelling light, so used my mobile phone, which I suspect I will never get the hang of.

My hero’s hero

Meg Rosoff and K M Peyton

There was no way I couldn’t go. It’s the most fascinating thing to find that your favourite author has a favourite author. Well, no. What I mean is finding that they behave just as giddily as the rest of us when they finally make contact with the person they admire.

When I first heard Meg Rosoff wax very lyrically about K M Peyton, my reaction was ‘who?’, but I seem to be alone in that. As I said the other day, when you’re my age you simply know everything there is to know about Kathleen Peyton and her horse books and her books on many other topics. They are your childhood. And now that I’ve read two of them (only another 70 or something to go!) I know that they would have been.

K M Peyton

So, when Meg not only met Kathleen, but rashly decided to invite her to her house, and then to ask many of her own admirers to witness this; how could I not want to go? Hence my trip south yesterday, for a day of many literary encounters, starting with Sally Gardner (who only refrained from meeting her friend Meg’s hero because she and I seem to be the only two people in the world not to have grown up with Flambards and the rest).

Flowers for K M Peyton

The 'staff'

Kate Agnew, David Fickling and Annie Eaton

Blinis

Kathleen is so refreshingly different that she doesn’t even know what a blogger is, and why should she? She’s very brave, because she must have known she was in for lots of people flinging themselves at her, prostrating themselves at her feet and generally doing the ‘Beatles scream.’

The kitchen where Bookwitch was conceived is no more, and much as I mourn its passing, I have to say that the replacement facilitated Meg’s inviting quite so many KMP fans, and we were only in danger of expiring from the heat (London was wet, but very warm) as we munched our way through some of the best canapés I’ve come across in a long time, served by some unusually pleasant helpers. Meg had sensibly got the help of super efficient Corinne Gotch and it all worked like clockwork. (Except possibly for their debate as to who was going to open the door for me when I arrived… I heard that!)

I knew the guest list was full of lovely people, authors, publishers, agents, publicists, bookshop people and writers-about-children’s-books. And then there was me.

Meg climbed up on a chair and did her fan speech, starting with saying how surprised she’d been when she found Kathleen was still alive. And without climbing onto anything, Kathleen countered with thanks for her ‘sending off’, which she much preferred to a launch. At least this recognised things achieved, rather than making hopeful demands for things to come. She has written her last book, for which Meg was grateful, but only because there are so many still to read (and I think she mentioned the time she herself takes over writing her own books, which are slightly fewer than 70). Kathleen was very amusing in her thank you speech, remembering a young Terry Pratchett, who she had suspected might do well…

Listening to K M Peyton

David Fickling, Geraldine Brennan, Ian Beck and Lucy Coats

'Mr Rosoff'

Blue

Catherine Clarke and Graham Marks

Among the fans were Tabitha Suzuma (who used to write long letters to her favourite author, receiving long replies back), Keren David and Lucy Coats. Ian Beck was there, seemingly taking photographs with his chequebook, and I recognised Graham Marks, as I do every time, before I have to work out who he is, and that David Fickling was there. I queried why – being a boy – he had turned up and was informed he edits Kathleen’s books. Of course he does. Silly me. And Mrs F recommended her favourite K M Peyton book.

Speaking of books, there were some on display and we were allowed to take one home with us! So, now I have my own – signed – copy of Flambards (seeing as how I’ve been told I must read it.)

Blue, Meg’s lurcher, kept us company all evening. I’m surprised any dog would stay sane and quiet in such a human din. And the Eck made an appearance. He was slightly bigger than I had visualised, but otherwise just as I thought he’d be.

And as the party was at its best, the bookwitch slunk out the door to catch that famous 21.40 back home. The walk to the station was never six minutes (who dreamt that up??), but the 15 minutes there took me 20 on the return. And it was downhill.

Cow-hood, here I come!

(Apologies for any untruths told. I have discovered – via Wikipedia – that there were actually three K M Peyton books in translation before I was past the horse book stage. The next thing I know will be finding that I actually read them.)

Tabitha Suzuma

Eck

Thanking K M Peyton

Orion’s party

Lucy Coats

The first to arrive and the last to go, is how Lucy Coats described herself last night. I have to take her word for it as Daughter and I took slight detour en route for the October Gallery (I have to admit here that it was my fault and Daughter would have made a better job of it) and arrived when things were in – if not full – then some sort of swing. And we didn’t outstay our welcome (at least I hope we didn’t) so weren’t there to witness Lucy washing up at the end.

Orion's party at the October Gallery

Lots of Orion’s very lovely and our favourite authors were there. Lucy, as I said. Caroline Lawrence, who by now will be feeling she has to put up with us every week. Nice to see Mr Lawrence again. Liz Kessler, fresh from ‘research’ along the coast of Norway. The Michelles, Lovric and Paver, and Annabel Pitcher, Angela McAllister and Viv French. I was introduced to Lauren St John, whose book I was reading on the train, getting me into a very St Ivesey mood. Daughter has obviously been around the literary world too long, seeing as she was clinging to the fire escape throwing names about; ‘there’s Francesca Simon, and that’s Tony Ross!’. Right on both counts.

Michelle Lovric and Annabel Pitcher

Boss Fiona Kennedy made a speech, praising her writers. Nina Douglas and Kate Christer had worked hard to organise things, and the October gallery, complete with bones and ‘dead babies’, not to mention glittery paintings was a good place for a party. The weather helped. We were all out in the courtyard in the mild and sunny evening. London at its best.

Caroline Lawrence

Francesca Simon

The courtyard

Among the ‘non-authors’ present were the other Stockport blogger, Wondrous Reads (we’ll have to stop meeting like this, Jenny), Geraldine Brennan (about whom I had a strange but nice dream last week), Julia Eccleshare, Ted Smart, Catherine Clarke, and I am sure I have left out lots of worthy people, but I’ll stop now before I turn into Hello Magazine again. (Better class of people, but too many lists of human beings clutching champagne glasses, if you know what I mean?)

I have a dreadful suspicion that in among everyone in the photos there will lurk someone with a dark secret, or someone committing a crime or an indiscretion or something. If you find anything like that, don’t tell me. I was the one in the flower pot. I noticed a dreadful smell and realised the pot was a geranium pot and I had disturbed the leaves. I hate the smell of geraniums!

Gridlock, heavy medal and stacked aubergines

You, my dear readers, are very lucky to be reading (at this very moment, in fact) the best blog in the world. Tim Bowler says so, and I don’t feel he could be mistaken. I have admired him for long enough that I’d take his word for (almost) anything. The man has taste.

So, I had eight hours in a very wet and dismal looking London yesterday. I had three events booked in, and four authors to meet up with. That was until the day before, when I saw fit to squeeze Candy Gourlay into a small gap perceived when the timetable was looked at in a slanted sideways kind of way. Candy made five. (That’s not counting waving to Jon Mayhew as our trains passed…)

Tim Bowler

I started some weeks ago by arranging to meet Tim for a very overdue interview. I mean, I’ve treated the poor man as I would a local museum. It won’t do. Then I discovered that his publishers, OUP, had a dinner thing the same evening, featuring not just Carnegie Medal winner Tim, but Sally Prue and Julie Hearn, and I invited myself and my trusted Photographer to it… I ought to be ashamed. The very patient Jennie from OUP put up with a lot and allowed us to come.

The next serendipitous thing to occur was an invitation from Andersen Press to come and meet Newbery Medal winner Rebecca Stead in the afternoon, nicely positioned between the other two meetings. It took care of that annoying period when you have time to kill and may be forced to drink tea and eat cake somewhere.

Rebecca Stead

In actual fact, Andersen’s lovely Clare made lovely tea and served it up with three kinds of cake, including ginger, so I’m a fan forever. We discovered that Daughter/Photographer was quite comfy in the chair belonging to Klaus Flugge, elephant cushion and everything. Did an interview with Rebecca, and talked about the previous night’s Waterstone’s prize event, where she had met Candy, and been introduced to David Fickling.

So that’s the heavy medals taken care of. I had joked with Tim about causing gridlock in central London. Just hadn’t expected the gridlock to happen, but the streets round his hotel were very much of the not-going-anywhere kind. OK, I know streets rarely move at all. I meant the traffic. You knew that.

Candy had been squeezed in before this, and had to ‘put up with’ meeting Tim and being hugged, despite being wet. I felt that having Candy around made for a more writerly chat, and she is considerably easier on the eye than yours truly. The two of them made mutually admiring noises. And if David Fickling’s ears burned it’s because he was the topic of conversation twice in one afternoon.

Candy Gourlay and Tim Bowler

At the end of the day we found ourselves in the Judges Chamber with the cream of the children’s books world and I totally refrained from making a fool of myself over Nicholas Tucker again. Super-agent (book variety) Catherine Clarke was there and it was only the second time in two hours we saw her.

Sally Prue

I finally met Sally Prue, who is as lovely as she has seemed in her emails. And Julie Hearn was equally nice to meet, and both of them agreed to pose for photos, before we sat down to the stacked aubergines. Which were very tasty, I have to say. Veggie food can be so bland, and my only problem here was the discrepancy between the amount offered on the plate and my own internal capacity. The aubergines won.

Julie Hearn with Wreckers

There were talks from all three stars, but we only heard Tim’s (and he managed to avoid his ten minutes taking longer than twelve) before we dashed off to the late northbound broomstick from Euston. The advantage of seeing Tim twice in a day was that he got to hug us four times. (I need to point out that Mrs B was present. She’s just as nice as we remembered from Northampton four years ago.) Then lovely Tim saw us off the premises.

Because this is such a marvellous blog, I am writing this in the middle of the night, when sensible people are in bed. So all you get is this flimsy account of the day’s proceedings, and there may well be more. Later. Post-sleep.