Tag Archives: Frances Hardinge

Quite early on a Sunday, or Day 5 of the EIBF

I never book tickets for events starting at ten on a Sunday, having discovered in our first year that you can’t get there that early. So this year I decided we’d go and see Michael Morpurgo and Barroux at ten, on a Sunday, just because Alex Nye was doing the chairing. And she clearly wouldn’t get there on time either. We came up with various solutions, wondering if we’d have to hoist Alex over the gate so she’d get in, but she ended up being all right, and so were we.

My Photographer and I were so all right we even had a second breakfast, which sort of helps you keep going when you have events at meal times and such like. In fact, as I rushed in to collect tickets I found a relaxed Michael Morpurgo being done by Chris Close, before the rain. I’d wanted to meet Michael properly this time, and when he saw me he said hello, so I must have looked like a hello kind of witch. I was pleased to discover he was being looked after by Vicki, one of my long-standing publicists.

Barroux

We ran on to Michael’s event in the Main theatre, which was worth every one of those early minutes of trying to get to Edinburgh in time. He didn’t do a signing afterwards, but we watched Barroux painting his way through his part of the signing.

‘Backstage’ we found Ade Adepitan being photographed, in the rain, and I was introduced to Mrs Morpurgo, who had not been expecting a Bookwitch to be thrust on her.

Frances Hardinge

Marcus Sedgwick

Before going to the Moomin event with Philip Ardagh, we called at the children’s bookshop where I had estimated we’d find Marcus Sedgwick and Frances Hardinge signing after their event, and as a lovely bonus we got a Blue Peter Gold Badge winner, aka former children’s laureate Chris Riddell. He claimed he had only sneaked into the event, but there he was, at the signing table. A chair for a chair?

Chris Riddell and Marcus Sedgwick

It was time for us to go on to the Corner theatre for Philip Ardagh’s event on the Moomins, before returning to the same corner in the bookshop to chat with him as he signed his rather lovely looking book on his favourite creatures. It is expensive, though, which will be why it was wrapped in plastic, until my Photographer helped by getting her Swiss Army knife out and slashing the wrapping for Philip and his publicist, who was wishing she had sharper nails.

Philip Ardagh

Back to the yurt for a photocall with Ehsan Abdollahi, except he needed an umbrella and we decided it was too wet to snap. (You know, first he doesn’t get a visa, and then we treat him to cold rain. What a host country!)

I thought we could go and catch him at the Story Box where he was drawing, but it was busy, and we left him in peace. I’m glad so many children dropped in for some art with the book festival’s resident artist.

Our early start required us to miss a lot of people we had wanted to see, but who were on much later. And Judith Kerr had been unable to travel, leaving us with more afternoon than expected.

Cressida Cowell

Before leaving for Bookwitch Towers, we made a detour to Cressida Cowell’s signing. Her queue went a long way round Charlotte Square.

By some miracle, the Photographer and I hadn’t quite killed each other by the end of our day.

(Photos by Helen Giles)

The 2017 Gothenburg Book Fair

Next week it’s time for this year’s book fair in Gothenburg. Maybe we should refer to it more as a Swedish book fair? Because it is the book fair, and it just happens to take place in Gothenburg. People travel there from Stockholm. In fact, perhaps they need an excuse to leave.

Before I out-festivalled myself this summer I was seriously tempted. It was as if the nine-year gap from 2007 to 2016 had not been. I was there last year and although I was exhausted from the word go, it still felt as if I should – would – be going. But we all get funny notions occasionally. I started with Philip Pullman, and ended with Meg Rosoff. Not sure what the fair would need to offer to rouse me this time.

The programme, which I perused carefully, has a lot going for it, and that was before I recollected that many authors are boycotting it this year, for permitting the far right to attend. And – this might gall them, if they actually read Bookwitch – I didn’t miss them in the programme. It looked interesting enough anyway.

My new ‘pal’ Christoffer Carlsson will be there on the Saturday. There are talks on subjects such as Arabic children’s literature today, and Are there too many children’s books being published? It bears thinking about. Black Lives Matter, on politics in teen books. Quality or Quantity? on children’s publishing. Read Yourself Well. Very important. Does the Swedish school system kill the creativity of its pupils? Chapter books vs YouTube.

Jenny Colgan will be there, talking among other things about living in a castle. I didn’t know she did. How to use children’s books to talk about current affairs. And it seems Norway has never been hotter [in children’s books].

Perhaps there are fewer ‘names.’ I’m not sure. But then, it’s not necessarily the ‘names’ that make for a good event. We flock to see and hear our literary stars, but occasionally they can be less good at performing than other literary professionals.

YA in Icelandic; how about that? Or there’s M G Leonard and Frances Hardinge. And does educated = well read? I suspect there won’t be any cake in the Afternoon Tea event with Jenny Colgan and Sophie Kinsella. Or even tea. An event on how reading trash could be the start of good reading sounds just like my kind of thing.

In fact, right now I am wondering why I’m still at home. (I know why, but temptation is back.) David Lagercrantz talks about his Lisbeth Salander, with Christopher MacLehose. FYI I’m still only on Saturday. One more day.

Astrid Lindgren and Jane Austen. Not together, and not in the flesh, for obvious reasons. More Val McDermid. Some [Swedish] superstars like Sven-Bertil Taube and Tomas Ledin. It gets lighter as the weekend progresses. It’s a way to tempt the masses to come on the Sunday, and it’s a way for the masses to rub shoulders with stars.

There’s Arundhati Roy. Ten years ago I grew – almost – blasé about seeing Orhan Pamuk all over the place. It’s what it’s like.

I might go next year. But I’ll – probably – never again have constant access to my favourite author as I prowl those corridors.

Meg Rosoff at Vi Läser in Gothenburg

And the YA debate rages on

My goodness how people have fought! I erroneously assumed Anthony McGowan was merely ruffling feathers on the night at the book festival, almost two weeks ago. Possibly the next day.

But still? And people are growing angrier. Oh dear.

I linked earlier to Tony’s own confession on the Barrington Stoke blog, and later Elizabeth Wein had her own blog post about the debacle. In fact, lots of people have opinions, and occasionally I almost feel that they shouldn’t. Some know very little of the topic, except that doesn’t stop them, and some have difficulty grasping that we can have many differing views and many of us can be right, all at the same time.

Then after a while Tony ‘turned into’ a misogynist, so he blogged some more about that. The Guardian added their bit, confusing matters by illustrating the article with a photo of Frances Hardinge, who was never involved, and using a headline claiming most YA books are crap, which hardly goes for Frances. Somewhere they also listed a few more authors who didn’t take part, which I suspect is the problem of editors who like to improve things by mentioning people you might have heard of, even if irrelevant.

Maybe it all began with the article in the TES shortly before the book festival debate. Or perhaps the damage had been done earlier still?

As long as you understand that I am more right than anyone else…

Here I Stand

Here is a book you should all read. Here I Stand is an anthology for Amnesty International, where a number of our greatest authors and poets and illustrators have come together and written short pieces about the injustices in life as they see them.

Here I Stand

John Boyne writes about child abuse and Liz Kessler deals with same sex love. Both stories are hard to read, but at the same time they are uplifting and they make you think.

And it is repeated in every single contribution to this volume, whether by Jackie Kay or Jack Gantos, Sarah Crossan or Frances Hardinge. Bali Rai, Neil Gaiman and Elizabeth Laird are others who have important things to say about why life is far from right for many people in the world.

People who can be jailed or executed for the most normal behavior, or those who are simply too poor or too unfortunate in various ways. People for whom we need to continue fighting.

There is much in this book to think about. Please think about it.

Mystery & Mayhem

Perfect holiday reading if you already like crime, and hopefully also if you haven’t yet discovered it. The Crime Club’s Twelve Deliciously Intriguing Mysteries is great fun.

Katherine Woodfine, Mystery & Mayhem

Twelve criminally minded authors, herded and edited by Katerine Woodfine, offer up youthful versions of traditional crime styles. You have Impossible Mysteries, Canine Capers, Poison Plots and Closed-System Crimes, all equally intriguing and entertaining. Maybe some of the crimes are not as noir as what adults read these days, but there is murder and fraud and all kinds of trickery.

I liked them all. What I especially like is the fact that younger readers get a proper introduction both to crime reading, but also to crime vocabulary. You know, schools don’t always teach useful words such as purloined.

Some are set today, some in the past. Some stories take place in other countries and others right on your doorstep. The ones by authors I know lived up to my expectations, while those by new (to me) writers were great introductions.

Put a copy in the hands of someone young and bored this summer.

The Lie Tree

Women can. That’s the message in Frances Hardinge’s award winning The Lie Tree. Being female does not mean being feeble, even 150 years ago. I really, really enjoyed this book, and can only say I should have read it a long time ago. I’m not in the slightest surprised it won the Costa, despite it being a ‘mere children’s book.’ This is fully grown fiction.

14-year-old Faith wants to be a scientist like her father, but back in the days when Darwin was an ugly word, it was seen as laughable that a female of any age could or should be doing anything but wait to be married, and then bear children.

Frances Hardinge, The Lie Tree

The family move to a small island where the locals are suspicious of them. When her father is found dead, Faith vows to work out how he died. This is early crime fiction with a scientific angle, and Faith is young and a little naïve, but quite capable nevertheless.

Her mother tries to deal with matters in a totally different way, and Faith hates her for this. She just wants to clear her father’s name. And to be a scientist; to be allowed to be intelligent.

When she is patronised by the local doctor, also the coroner, ‘Faith wondered whether it would benefit the doctor’s investigation if he experienced a cliff fall first-hand.’ This made me laugh out loud.

Wonderful period crime novel with a twist.

And remember that women most difinitely can.

A children’s book for Costa

Time to rejoice! For only the second time ever, a children’s book has won an award in direct competition with so-called ‘real,’ adult books. I’m very pleased for Frances Hardinge who won the overall Costa award on Tuesday, for The Lie Tree.

Frances Hardinge

I have not read it, which primarily is because no one sent it to me. I have not read any of Frances’ books, but keep hearing so much good about them. I will try to get hold of a copy, and while I do, I wish Frances all the best, and much fun spending the £30,000. It’s what I call a pretty decent reward.

Statistically it must be wrong that children’s books don’t win more often. I had more or less given up hope that any other writer after Philip Pullman would ever win the ‘big’ Costa award. I rationalised it by thinking that Philip’s books appeal to adult readers as well (not saying other children’s books don’t or shouldn’t). I mean those who are not far-sighted enough to realise that children’s books are the best.

Judging by the delighted reactions online from her peers, they are happy for Frances and for children’s books as a whole. If it could happen twice, there is every reason it might happen again. And everyone who has read The Lie Tree (and they are many) say what a great book it is.

I believe them.

Some more Edinburgh author photos

As promised – threatened – here are more authors from that one, lone day in Charlotte Square.

First out is Frances Hardinge, who is the kind of person who gets away with dressing dramatically. In fact, she’s wearing the kind of outfit a witch might try if she thought it would work.

Frances Hardinge

And with Frances was China Miéville who looks very… very… Do I mean dashing?

China Miéville

I have actually met Emily Gravett, though I doubt she remembers. I love her books.

Emily Gravett

I promised you a second Jon Mayhew pic, and even without our magic photo tree he’s looking happy enough. Could be all the colours.

Jon Mayhew

Will Hill is only last because he was, event wise. I gather the photographer even had a book that got signed. All those authors, and just the one book…

Will Hill

Guardian 2011 shortlist

Two out four is – not exactly good – but not hopelessly bad, either. I’m speaking of my predictions for this year’s Guardian prize shortlist. I correctly sensed that Simon Mason’s Moon Pie and David Almond’s My Name Is Mina would be chosen.

And then I failed to see that Andy Mulligan’s Return to Ribblestrop would make it through (I’m glad it did, because I’m sure I would love it if I read it) and Frances Hardinge is one of these authors I hear so much praise for, that I’m absolutely certain Twilight Robbery is worthy.

So, as to which book will win the whole list competition thing, it will be one of the first two. David or Simon? That is the question.

While the jury fights it out in private, I will persevere in getting hold of the second Ribblestrop saga. I suspect it’s one of those doomed relationships, me and the maddest school around.

The date for the award is slipping later and later. It was once September, and then became October, and now I see this year it’s November. The longer to argue, perhaps?

Ah well, let the best book win.

(It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s ‘my man in the basement,’ Simon Mason.)

Dame in a nebula outfit

The weirdest thing was running into Andy Mulligan at Euston. Not that he knows me, but there he was. Probably going towards ‘Up North’ like Formby (for tomorrow’s event), whereas we (trusted photographer and witch) were heading for Branford Boase, which is an award and it’s in London. (There is a point to that which you will not get.) And then there was Jodi Picoult in the tube station, but she was merely a poster, if a life size one.

Walker Books employee

I’d have got lost at Vauxhall tube station. I have been before. Once. Thankfully Daughter, who has never been, put us on the right path. So we were not lost after all.

Sarah McIntyre and Candy Gourlay, Branford Boase

So, there they all were, the shortlisted authors, apart from Gregory Hughes (I deduced he was not the winner). Candy Gourlay seemed to have brought Sarah McIntyre along, which was wise, and one of the men in the Fickling basement was present. That’s Simon Mason of Moon Pie fame. So we had met before, which the clever-clogs Daughter remembered and I didn’t. You can’t memorise all men kept in basements everywhere.

Keren David, Branford Boase

Keren David was surrounded by admirers at all times so was hard to get close to. But her shoes were marvellous. And her glasses. (Sorry, is this a book blog?)

J P Buxton, Branford Boase

Had no idea what Jason Wallace looks like, but the photographer identified him with her eagle eye. There was something about her wanting his shirt for her bedroom…

J P Buxton was someone I didn’t know at all, but he turned out to be the tall guy with the impressive hair.

Pat Walsh, Branford Boase 2011

And Pat Walsh had a crutch with her that I very nearly stole. Being kind, I only held it for her during the photocall. Pat was what you have to call the experts’ favourite, so I am very interested in her book (which is another one published by someone I’m not managing to establish a – professional – relationship with).

Clare S

Klaus Flugge

David Lloyd

John McLay

Lots of other lovely book world types, including Andersen’s Clare, Nicky with the impressive memory, Philippa Dickinson, former winner Frances Hardinge and many more. Klaus Flugge, whose chair Goldilocks sat in. Super agent Hilary Delamere, Julia Eccleshare, Walker Books’ David Lloyd. And I have finally met and been introduced properly to John McLay of the Bath Festival of Children’s Literature.

And then there was Jacqueline Wilson (Dame, OBE, etc, etc) in a starry outfit that Daughter will have when Jacky is finished with it. Please.

Jason Wallace and Charlie Sheppard, Branford Boase winners 2011

Henrietta Branford winners 2011 with Jacqueline Wilson

Jason was not the only winner last night. There was a whole bunch of talented children who had won the Henrietta Branford Writing Competition. One girl was so keen to come that she’d travelled on the coach from Scotland since five that morning and going back overnight. Maybe the future of writing is safe, after all?

Anne Marley and Jacqueline Wilson

Julia Eccleshare

In her speech, Branford Boase organiser Anne Marley slipped in a Freudian Wife of Never Letting Go for Patrick Ness, son of the Walker house, which made us laugh. David Lloyd pointed out what a fun – and easy – job editing books is. Julia Eccleshare spoke about the history of the Branford Boase Award.

And then it should have been last year’s winner Lucy Christopher, but she was off on some very important business elsewhere, so had written a lovely speech to be delivered by Damien Kelleher who was one of the judges. The Branford Boase is awarded not only to authors like Jason, but to editors like Charlie Sheppard. What Lucy had to say about editors is that authors need them ‘like crazy people need therapists’. She can talk. According to Charlie, editors occasionally spend time polishing turds. I fully expect Out of Shadows not to have been anywhere near turd status.

Although, Jason did mention ‘gutted fish at feeding time’. Andersen Press is the nicest bunch of people. (I had noticed.) Jason also muttered something incomprehensible regarding cats, empty bottles and loneliness. And most importantly, he talked about Zimbabwe, where his novel is set. Things are still not good and people are still suffering. Let’s hope books like Jason’s will make a difference.

Branford Boase winning books

Anne Marley warned us off stealing the display of former winners’ books. Apparently Philip Ardagh tried it last year. (Could be why he wasn’t there?) The good thing about neither Candy nor Keren winning was – as they said – that now they don’t have to kill each other. Competing against friends is never fun.

Branford Boase 2011, authors and editors

As usual Paul Carter was taking photographs, and he is not above sharing the task with others. Which is why I brought my own picture person. As they do in real life sometimes, the photographers ended up taking pictures of each other.

We were chatting to Jacqueline Wilson just before leaving, when Candy sneaked up, wanting to be photographed with a star. One of these days she’ll realise that no sneaking is necessary. She too, is a star.

Jacqueline Wilson and Candy Gourlay