Tag Archives: Cornerhouse

Chicken House at Cornerhouse

Not every book event can be reached by 19-minute train trips from the bottom of my garden. I almost wish they could. So, full marks to Chicken House for coming ‘up north’ in the first place, and second for picking that rather excellent watering hole Cornerhouse as their venue for breakfast on Thursday morning. Good and convenient.

Annexe at Cornerhouse

It was quite nice meeting authors there, too. Melvin Burgess, being one of our token Mancunians, I had not seen since our Christmas dinner, and newbie Fletcher Moss not since that coffee-less morning coffee a couple of months ago. They were the only advertised star turns, but there were more Chicken people present; a fact which had me resorting to stealing. (Sorry.)

Dan Smith

Fletcher introduced me to Dan Smith, whose book I had not thought to bring. So I sort of helped myself to another copy of My Friend the Enemy (out in July) in order that Dan could sign it. I had to lend him my pen – which he actually returned after some further borrowing – but at least he didn’t need to practise his signature. (By the time Fletcher had warned him that I’d head straight home to write all kinds of stuff about everyone, it was too late for Dan.)

That was one wonderful breakfast! I have rarely been so well fed at an event. By the time I’d checked out the double buns with sausages on Tony Higginson’s plate (did I mention Formby’s no. 1 bookseller was there?), I noticed Melvin and raised my camera to photograph him, which caused the poor man to pause his sausage bun eating… They had a veggie version too, meaning I could join in, and it was Very Delicious! (Now that I think about it, maybe it was Fletcher who had a double helping. Or someone.)

Melvin Burgess and Barry Cunningham

At this point Barry Cunningham started the chatshow, so the eating had to cease. First Barry told us why children’s books are so good. We knew that already. He mentioned the peculiar fact that it wasn’t raining. Apparently you can’t use the words sunshine and Manchester in the same sentence. Then he talked to Melvin about the background to The Hit, and after that Melvin read the first chapter. (He’d done some research into the willingness of teenagers to sleep with someone who was about to die a virgin…)

Fletcher Moss

Our second Mancunian was Fletcher, who talked about winning a book competition only to have to re-write the whole thing. He read the first chapter of Poison Boy, by which time I had liberated a chair to sit on, right at the back where I could do as I wanted.

Sam Hepburn

The third author was Sam Hepburn, who is a girl, despite the name. Sam writes what Barry wants most; crime for and about young people. I’ve had my copy of Chasing the Dark in my tbr pile for a while, and I knew I wanted to read it even before hearing Sam read a chapter to us. She told us her children thought she’d based the really horrible aunt character on herself!

Stuart Hill

Author no. four was former bookseller Stuart Hill, who wrote lots of – unpublished – books before finally sitting down to write the one he really wanted to write; the one no one would read anyway, so he could do what he wanted. And that’s the one Barry published. Apparently his prequel Prince of the Icemark happened because readers wanted to know what went before Cry of the Icemark. And you know, I don’t exactly love zombies and werewolves, but I liked what Stuart read. Even though I was under the impression he had a witch called Cadwallader. It turned out to be the cat.

David Massey

Dan Smith (about whose name I said some less than polite things, on account of it being a bit common) and David Massey were not there to read, but mingled nicely, and I helped myself to a copy of David’s book Torn.

Jake Hope's shoes

It was good to meet some new people, and nice to see old acquaintances like children’s books expert Jake Hope (wearing very snazzy shoes). I noticed from the un-claimed badges that I could have met up with even more old friends, and I hope they are now thoroughly regretting their absence from this culinary-literary event.

Chicken House breakfast

Then I went back for another of those sausagey things. I don’t know what I was thinking. Not only did it make my subsequent chat with Sam a little difficult, but it was very filling. As I stood staring at the cake selection, I realised just how filling. I ate a slab of carrot cake. Large piece, since it was the only size available. (I reasoned the icing made it impossible to smuggle home in a napkin.)

Cake, Cornerhouse

I witnessed someone else wrap a blueberry muffin (ginormous variety) to take home, so went to get a napkin to do the same thing, seeing as my earlier stealing of books had gone so well. Had barely touched the napkin when Tony demanded I take a photograph of him and some of his closest author pals. So I did.

Dan Smith, blogger Kate, Sam Hepburn, Tony Higginson and Fletcher Moss

Tina from Chicken House

As I got closer to the muffins again, I was waylaid by the lovely Tina who had organised the whole shebang, and we had a nice long chat, seeing as it was our first meeting in person. She was also vaguely thinking of pocketing muffins.

When I finally thought I was in the clear, Waterstones new events manager Louise came up to talk, while valiantly dealing with some carrot cake. So we talked events, we talked John Green – as you do – and books in general. Barry came up and discovered Louise had moved here from Reading, which is a most suitable place for someone involved with books. (Even when you know how to pronounce it correctly.)

Barry Cunningham

With Barry’s blessing I finally helped myself to the muffin, while he apologised for having said bad things about the Mancunian weather. Which was when I happened to glance at my watch, realising I had just enough time to catch my train home so I could make dinner. There was a Resident IT Consultant who needed feeding.

I – on the other hand – didn’t.

Bookwitch bites #104

Waterstones Children's Book Prize Winner Annabel Pitcher

When Jimmy Savile trumps US murderers, you know it’s a strange world. Very pleased for Annabel Pitcher who has gone and won something yet again. Her Ketchup Clouds won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize this week. ‘Unsettling’ story is how the press release described it. Then I read in the paper that Annabel had had a narrow escape, by abandoning plans to have her heroine write letters to Mr Savile. Death row prisoner is nowhere as awful.

El Mundo es Nuestro is about another world. Daughter and I went to see this Spanish film at Cornerhouse on Monday night, enjoying both it and the Q&A with the actors and the director and the producer that followed. The world the film is about is the [imagined] financial crisis in Spain (this was in 2009), and it is very funny. It’s been ignored by Spanish television, presumably because you don’t talk about stuff like this.

Alfonso Sánchez

The actors were relieved to find the Manchester audience laughed at the same things as they did. In fact, they have a facebook page where they were quite interested to see what the ‘English journalist’ thought of the film. (That’s me, btw…) What I think I’m trying to say here, is that we are more alike than we think. And it’s good to have learned languages, especially when visiting actors do their Q&A in Spanish. (Not to mention the DVD the week before that came sans subtitles. But ‘anyone’ can watch Spanish OAPs learn about sex…)

I did a book review over on CultureWitch yesterday. It felt more appropriate doing it there since it was the 1986 autobiography of Roger Whittaker, So far, so good, and it was Roger’s 77th birthday yesterday. I reflected on how much easier buying books from across the other side of the world is today, than back when I needed to find it (a local bookshop said they would, but failed).

On discovering Mr Decorator working down the road from Bookwitch Towers, I summoned him to come and relieve me of more books. The poor man staggered out of the house with another three bags of reading material. Not only am I trying to keep track of his children’s ages, but I’m targetting their cousins, too. Baad witch.

Lucy Hawking and Helen Giles

After a pretty lengthy delay* since she conducted her interview with Lucy Hawking, Daughter has now published their January chat. The additional wonderful news is that Lucy and her Dad are writing another two books about George. That’s the thing about trilogies. Some are longer than others.

And now Daughter’s off to chase more scientists in Edinburgh. The Science Festival begins today.

*Random House needed time to formalise all the Georgian plans before they were released.

Becoming a little retrospective about mcbf 2012

At the safe distance of nearly a week, I feel almost ready to re-visit mcbf. How about the rest of you? I guess that even James Draper might have finished sleeping by now.


There are things I didn’t do, apart from author events I just had no stamina to attend. I didn’t make it to Cornerhouse for a screening of The Witches. And it would have been so very suitable too. (Swedish witch, and all that.)

I still have the war books exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North in mind, and will do until it ends.

James had a hard eleven days of it. At one point I thought he would have to finish the festival wearing espadrilles, when his pointy shoes gave up the ghost. And was it tired eyes that caused the spectacles to emerge one day?

Kaye did all right, wearing some lovely outfits and still seeming to feel up to starting to plan mcbf 2014.

There were others who did a wonderful job as well. Claudia travelled all over Manchester, and Kevin smiled in the face of exhaustion whenever I met him. Duncan was elegant in his suit until the bitter end, and Iris continued with her bright spottiness. Anyone else I’ve omitted mentioning will just have to forgive a confused old festival-witch.

I’ll leave you with some more photos, chosen with no plan or reason whatsoever.

Holden Gallery

MCBF audience

Jackie Kay

Liz Kessler

Steve Cole

Cathy Cassidy

Jacqueline Wilson and fan

Sherry Ashworth and Philip Pullman

Josh Degenhardt and Julie Bertagna

Michael Rosen

John Sampson

Carol Ann Duffy

Sparkling and still at Cornerhouse

Yesterday’s Easter holiday entertainment for bookwitches was a grown-up sort of meet/chat with Egmont’s Vicki in the bar at Cornerhouse. It’s good to be allowed out of the house occasionally, and so handy when those southerners travel ‘up north’ to my dark and dismal (only joking!) home ground. Although when I think of it, our first meeting was actually up here in the ‘dark’ as well. Almost exactly three years ago. Where has time gone?

While waiting for Vicki  (not the whole three years, obviously) I started on the second book about Ondine and her ferret by Ebony McKenna. I snatched it as I went to catch my train, because the book I was reading wasn’t as totally enticing as it needed to be. I had forgotten quite how funny Ebony is. Also, had not noticed I had been quoted inside the book. How nice to have become so blasé. I mean, how bad of me not to have checked and then jumped up and down for joy. Some of you might have an inkling as to why jumping would be bad.

I sometimes wonder what these publishing types do, and it seems Vicki was up here to speak to a bookshop and to look at a venue or two, and possibly something else. Oh yes, talking to me.

That was a lucky thing. I had not realised it was already time for Michael Grant’s Plague. Last summer it felt like it would be absolutely ages, and now that ages have passed, it’s here. Not here here, unfortunately, but I believe Vicki will remedy that.

She wondered what blogs I read, and I barely know that myself. Not as many as I used to. We discussed blog tours. I was offered authors to speak to, and more books than I can shake a laptop at. As things are I can’t remember titles, so we had to resort to talking about the yellow proof or the red one, and the pale grey. It’s my visual memory. You could say that if it’s that visual I could simply read the title on the spine as well, but there are limits. You know.

Egmont are planning more YA novels, which is fine with me. Very good idea, in fact. With a bit of luck I may even squeeze in a few of them to read.

But right now ferrets rule.

Now we are two

years old. I’m almost beginning to feel like an old hand at this. And you know what? When I have to fill in stupid forms these days I very occasionally list myself as a writer. Just to annoy them a little, you understand. But it beats housewife. Or home maker.

Two years ago I thought I was jumping on the bandwagon a little late, but this January it looked like an awful lot of people had ‘Start a blog’ as their New Year’s resolution. And some of them did, and have made it to my bookmarked blogs list. It’s alarmingly long, this list, and I have had to prune and reorganise a little.

The nicest thing about all this, are the people I have met. Most of you I only see vague shadows of, and some leave comments, and some find themselves having to put the kettle on. But the idea of six degrees of separation feels likelier than ever. I feel I know people everywhere. A few years ago there was a programme on television about someone who tried to meet up with some random person in Mongolia. At the time I reckoned I could have got there faster, but blogging adds a dimension or two.

Now, when I need to find an answer to something, I’ve got a good idea of who to ask. You are a very useful lot, you know. But above all, you are nice.

Some of the new bloggers I mentioned are Laurie Frost, whose blog I’ll write more about in the next few days. Stephen Booth is finding time to blog, as well as everything else he does. Lucy Coats added her own blog to her daily regime, after finding blogging with the Awfully Big Blog Adventure so good she had to have more. The witch family has the blogger with a difference, with Daughter doing her Astronomy GCSE online, so that the teachers can keep track of her work. Sara Paretsky I have linked to before, and she continues with her mix of politics and    V I Warshawski. Reg Keeland who translated Stieg Larsson has also been seduced into blogging, and as languages are my interest too, I call in every so often.

Bookwitch’s little sister Culture is still a toddler, but doing well. Today I suggest you click here for some Heavy Metal. Yes, I never thought I’d say that, being thoroughly old and boring, but I saw this wonderful film about Canadian band Anvil the other day, and while you wait for its general release you can do worse than read what Culture wrote.

My dual personalities are beginning to take their toll now, so I’m off to dream about cake. Should be able to manage two candles.

And did I mention how lovely you all are?