Tag Archives: James Naughtie

Bookwitch bites #122

If you’re up early and you’re near St Andrews, you could still make it to this children’s books day, organised by Waterstones. I had thought I might go, but realised I need to slow down and get some real work done, and not go gadding about, having my face painted. Helen Grant will be at the Town Hall, as will Lari Don and a few others. Sounds nice.

St Andrews children's events day

While I’m in poster mode, I will show you the poster for a blog tour in early July, for Janet Quin-Harkin’s HeartBreak Café. I don’t often do this, but I have my reasons…

HeartBreak Café blog tour

Sorry to have moved away from Sefton Super Reads, which took place this week. Eleanor Updale won with The Last Minute, which is a Bookwitch favourite. Here is Eleanor with Piers Torday and Catherine MacPhail, and if my eyes don’t deceive me they are sitting in front of that rather nice fireplace I saw last year in Southport.

Sefton Super Reads - Eleanor Updale with Piers Torday and Catherine MacPhail

Eleanor is a busy woman. Today she is at the Borders Book Festival (which I won’t be going to either…) chairing an event with Elizabeth Laird, and tomorrow Mr Updale, aka Jim Naughtie will be doing an event for his book. The day after – i.e. on Monday – Jim will be appearing in Edinburgh, talking to Gordon Brown (the ‘real’ one) and Tom Devine (I have this from Son and Dodo who are going).

From historians and politicians to royalty. Keren David, Keris Stainton and Candy Gourlay were invited to Buckingham Palace this week. It was a garden party to celebrate their good work on getting authors to donate stuff for the Philippines. I’m very pleased for them, and it seems they had a lovely time. (Strangely enough, they weren’t the only ones I knew who had been invited, so I must really know the right people these days.)

Candy Gourlay, Keren David and Keris Stainton

Lucy Coats is another author with ties to Buckingham Palace, and she has been celebrating her new website. I gather she’s also celebrating something else this weekend.

Someone who is no stranger to the royals, is Carol Ann Duffy, who has been involved in making a poetry anthology – Let In The Stars – written by real grown proper poets for children. It will launch at the Manchester Children’s Book Festival on July 1st.

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Blowing bubbles and buying boats

I suppose it’s good for the constitution to start as you (don’t) mean to go on, i.e. doing lots and lots, leaving us witches totally exhausted. Although Daughter says we can sleep some other time.

Andy Mulligan

We began our Saturday book festival with an interview. Andy Mulligan has returned from the Philippines and I really wanted to catch the man behind those crazy, lovely Ribblestrop books. Sitting in typical Scottish sunshine behind the yurt was good for the soul and very entertaining.

I ordered Andy not to give anything away, since I’m only part through his third Ribblestrop, and he was reasonably good about that. If I ever have to go back to school, I want him for my teacher. As for finding out more about the boat buying you will need to arm yourselves with patience.

Jacqueline Wilson

There followed a quick dash ‘backstage’ for a photo call with Jacqueline Wilson, who was back in black, looking absolutely fabulous. She has a new book out for Puffin, and her fans lined the square as they always do.

Simon and Alex Scarrow

There was no time to hear the Scarrow brothers talk, although when I think back, I find this just isn’t true. We heard plenty, because they were very noisy indeed, in their tent event. We just didn’t pay to go in, seeing how we were more intent on wolfing down Friday’s pizza, sitting outside on the grass.

Linda Strachan

We caught the brothers at their bookshop signing session, where we also noticed Linda Strachan engaged in some furtive signing. Good for her!

Post-pizza we went to hear more from the accident obsessed Andy Mulligan, who was talking ‘health and safety’ with Vanessa Robertson. He used to play with Action Man, which taught him early on that when imagination takes over, the game starts inventing itself. Just like writing books. He was a useless theatre director until Mrs Thatcher axed funds, and he ended up in India.

Basically, Andy says we want to watch the knife thrower because he might miss, not because it is guaranteed to be safe. He is beginning to run out of ways to get rid of parents (in books). More knife throwing, maybe?

Simon Callow

Since it was a day for dashing, we caught Simon Callow’s photo call, where he posed both with a mug of something, and without. He posed for a good long time, and we now have more Callow pics than we can use in a lifetime.

This time jigsawing allowed us to catch Meg Rosoff just before her event, where she talked to Eleanor Updale about God. Meg got the idea from a dyslexic atheist joke she once heard, and managed to remember, and she unwisely let her daughter name God Bob. Meg’s books  ‘might not be great, but at least the chapters are short.’

She forgot to bring her Eck, and described how she once pulled the plot out of There Is No Dog, which is the same as pulling the skeleton out of a chicken. (I rather wish she hadn’t mentioned that.) Meg admitted that her next book was relatively easy to write, but also talked about the importance of composting when you write. (I think that means you shouldn’t be too young.)

And I had no idea that when ‘proper, adult’ authors are given wine, children’s authors get orange juice…

Cathy MacPhail

Back to the bookshop we found Cathy MacPhail signing at the table next to Meg’s. Meg spent a long time talking to all her fans, which allowed us time to chat to the Parents of Dodo, who suddenly materialised in the children’s bookshop, of all places. They were going for Alexander McCall Smith, which reminded us we needed to rush off for his photo call. It was our first time, having spent every year always missing Edinburgh’s great man.

Alexander McCall Smith

Once she had avoided the orange juice hazard, and enjoyed something a bit more Scottishly grown-up, Meg got the Chris Close treatment and posed willingly, blowing bubbles and other stuff. I’m afraid we piggy-backed, because for a favourite author Meg always manages to escape the best photo situations. She also always disapproves of any photo we publish, so she’ll hate this one too. Except I hope not.

Meg Rosoff

We spied ‘Mr Updale,’ aka James Naughtie, who had been broadcasting from Edinburgh. All the ‘Puffins’ disappeared off for dinner somewhere, and so did we, but without much luck. Edinburgh is very busy in August, isn’t it?

(While internet connectivity remains a problem, we will post at funny hours. If we post at all. And, if we can’t blog, we can always tidy and clean. At least until the Parents of Dodo come and take over.)

Warning! Squirrels.

‘Do you enjoy murdering people?’ I asked Linda Strachan as we came out from the event with Eleanor Updale and Sally Gardner, where they had discussed killing their characters. ‘I do’ she said, far too enthusiastically for my liking. Linda has a new book out called Dead Boy Talking, and so far I’ve resisted reading it, because I’m scared. And quite frankly, her reply didn’t do much to allay my fears.

Photos at EIBF by Chris Close

Early Sunday morning started with some real Stirling haar, but by the time I was sweeping along in the wake of three Portuguese paragons in Edinburgh, the sun was shining and then it shone and shone and it got hotter and hotter. So did I, and towards mid-afternoon I was willing to kill for a cup of tea. Which isn’t free, unlike the coffee. I know I’m a moaner, but I really don’t get the difference. Other than that it’s £1.75 a cup.

Sunny Charlotte Square

Anyway, before I got so thirsty, I ran into Lindsey Fraser and introduced myself. We hadn’t met before, although I’d seen her in action here last year. As she ran off for an event, Linda Strachan strolled past, and we chatted a bit as I hung around waiting for the events ticket promised me by Eleanor. It was eventually delivered into my hand by none other than Mr Update himself, aka James Naughtie. I almost had a giddy fan moment there.

(Btw, Update is Son’s updated name for Updale. He tweeted, and got it a little wrong.)

Vivian French, Lindsey Fraser, Lauren, Eleanor Updale, Nina and Sally Gardner

Lindsey was, in fact, chairing the Historical Fiction talk with Sally and Eleanor, which was very interesting, even without those murderous thoughts. Sally was given a new surname, which came as a surprise, but I can assure you it was ‘the Gardner woman’ who was there. Updale can also cause problems, because your books can end up on the floor when bookshops run out of shelf space, although Eleanor has often been saved by the presence of Jacqueline Wilson, who’s got it even worse. They both read from their latest books, The Silver Blade and Johnny Swanson. And then they discussed Americans. (More of which later.) Sally confessed to feeling that killing a couple of her characters ‘was delicious’, and Eleanor has problems with her daughter who is furious over her killing a beloved character in Montmorency.

Eleanor Updale and Sally Gardner

In between a desperate need to eat my two-day-old sandwiches, we hung out with these killers in the bookshop for a bit, finding a few more authors hanging out as well. Took them back to the greenery at the opposite corner, and then dashed off to photograph Cornelia Funke, who got the ‘sexy’ style of photo session. Men!

Cornelia Funke

This aspiring astronaut and pilot has left her native Germany for Hollywood, and I bet that was a real sacrifice to make. The woman behind me gasped when she heard that Cornelia still writes her books in German, which personally I find isn’t odd at all. We had a world exclusive, hearing the first chapter from Reckless, her new book out in a month’s time.

Barry Hutchison

It was a relief getting to the Corner Theatre for Barry Hutchison after being baked in the main tent with Cornelia. I noticed the enormous queue trailing all round the square, which should have been a relief to Barry. And it did say outside the bookshop that he would be sighing there afterwards. Sorry, signing. Barry had been nervous about his Edinburgh debut, but it all went perfectly. He is scared of a lot of things. The squirrels are his. He’s scared of them. (Which reminds me of the story of the Shetland squirrels, which we’ll save for another day.)

Barry Hutchison fans

Barry is a good story teller, who has already managed to scare his own son witless with the latest book. He hopes to have traumatised a whole generation by book six, and considering the two fans on the right who looked normal before the event, you can tell it’s hard to escape unscathed.

I finished the day by getting thrown off the spotty table outside the yurt, as I was trying to do emergency internet stuff like posting a blog and sorting out photos. At this rate I’ll need both my own desk as well as a pot of tea to carry around.

Mairi Hedderwick

Whilst internet problems persist (We think it’s BT’s fault. Hi, BT!), my blogging behaviour will change, and I will post new blogs during the day from Charlotte Square. Always assuming spotty table is available.

Crossed the road against a red man in the company of two policemen, reckoning they’d be hit by the oncoming cars first. (I’m a caring sort of witch.) And I got off the train in Stirling right behind a piper in full tartan regalia, including the nonchalantly draped blanket nonchalantly thrown over his shoulder. As I thought about how hot HE must have been, he turned round and said something to me. I didn’t understand a word.

It can’t have been regarding my piece of smelly Brie, because I’d eaten that.