Tag Archives: Lindsey Fraser

RED 10 Book Award 2015

As I was hinting earlier, I made it to Falkirk and its 10th book award, with badge and everything (And yes, I know it says 2015. They do these things out of sync.) I rather expected to just make my way in unnoticed, and having been before, I’d know where to go. But superwoman Yvonne Manning who runs this show, was there to welcome me, give me my badge and tell me I had to have a cup of tea. (Once she’d turned her back, I was able to ignore the tea.)

RED awards Falkirk, Keren David and Lari Don

I found all four shortlisted authors – Gill Arbuthnott, Keren David, Lari Don and Ria Frances – in the lounge part of fth, and chatted to Keren and Lari, who repeatedly checked with me whether I knew the other one. Introduced myself to Gill, and we decided we had actually spoken before. I even ended up talking to the Provost, who’s at the end of his second five year stint of provosting and attending book awards. Agents Lindsey Fraser and Kathryn Ross had braved Gertrude to be there for their authors.

When it was time, Yvonne started things off, wearing tartan tights and red skirt and a special RED 10 t-shirt. Red noses were found under chairs and prizes handed out and more prizes promised. Ten schools in nine other countries had been sent the shortlisted books to read, and some of their comments were read out.

RED awards Falkirk, Ria Frances

And then, it was time for the dramatised presentations of the books, by the schools who had taken part. This involved the accidental dropping of a baby on its head (it was ‘only’ a baby doll). Much hilarity ensued and later I witnessed the doll actually being autographed…

The prizes for the best reviews were handed out, the overall winner’s review was read aloud, Yvonne swirled round in her magic red coat and Provost Reid hitched up his trouser legs to show us his red socks. So it was all quite serious stuff.

RED awards Falkirk

We had a coffee break (you need this when the award takes all day to be awarded). We discussed lukewarm hot drinks (don’t ask!), I let Lari use my very tiny Swiss Army scissors, and I returned to my seat to find the school behind me having ‘spilled’ their drinks on my row of seats. I think we can assume a good time was being had by all.

RED awards Falkirk, Keren David

The authors’ turn to entertain came next. They each had three minutes to say something profound. Gill said she made her character Jess to act braver than she was. Keren mentioned that she’d had a completely different end in mind for Salvage. Ria’s book got written at night, when she suffered from insomnia, and she told us about Albert Göring, who was a better guy than his brother. Lari explained how surprised she was to find herself writing a YA book, which she’d never expected to do.

We had a second round of dramatised books, and I decided on the spot that the one for Mind Blind was by far the best, and it had a lovely cardboard van for kidnapping characters in. There was at least one flying potato and an amusing kelpie.

To celebrate the past nine winners of the RED award, some schools had made designs for a quilt, which was then practically singlehandedly sewn by Anne Ngabia from Grangemouth High. The very beautiful quilt was held up for us to see by two extremely unreliable stagehands,  while Anne told us about the batch of 3000 books she has just packaged up for Kenya, and how helpful we’d all been. (You’re welcome.)

RED awards Falkirk, Anne Ngabia

Lunch came next, and I managed to sit with and chat to Keren and the Provost, with Lari and her agents joining us after a bit. I believe Lindsey had a dog to walk first. I learned a lot about Falkirk, and politics, from Provost Reid who, while proud of his town, could understand why my first time (in 1973) I took one look at the place and left again.

RED awards Falkirk, Ria Frances

After they’d eaten, the authors had books to sign, with long queues snaking in front of them. Even the Provost queued up.

RED awards Falkirk, Gill Arbuthnott and Provost Reid

RED awards Falkirk, Gill Arbuthnott

More prizes. Prize for best dramatisation, prizes for best red clothes. Apparently someone even wore red contact lenses. My favourite was the boy in the red tutu, but the Cat in the Hat girl was very well turned out too.

RED awards Falkirk

RED awards Falkirk

Q&A followed, with a rapid pace for questions, very ably controlled by two teachers (I think) with a nice line in comments about the pupils. Gill wants her readers sleepless as they wonder how the characters will fare, and she couldn’t give up writing. It would be like giving up eating. Ria started her career with some early praise from a teacher at school, and Lari says she absolutely must edit what she’s written. Keren reckons the first draft has to be rubbish or it can’t be edited to become really good. The beginning matters more than the ending. As for weird questions from other readers, Gill said she wants to be a cat, while Ria once went dressed as a mermaid, and Keren got asked what hair products she uses…

Getting closer to the big moment, but first Yvonne had to be thanked, so she ran away. (She is a bit crazy like that.) Provost Reid entered in his official – Father Christmas style – outfit, red all over, and flowers had to be handed over to Barbara Davidson who made the prize, and the press photographer also got flowers, and as the Provost waved the large red envelope around, he thanked the ‘shy and retiring’ Yvonne for her hard work. Organised stamping from the audience.

And a bit more stamping. And the winner is: Lari Don, for Mind Blind. (Very worthy, if I may say so.)

RED awards Falkirk, Provost Reid, Lari Don, Gill Arbuthnott, Ria Frances and Keren David

Lari’s unprepared speech was admirably short and sweet, just the way we want it. Before the authors were spirited away, there was a lot of posing for photographs, with the prize, and the Provost, and the little red cardboard van.

RED awards Falkirk

I got on my broom and headed home.

Dragons, Selkies and Fairy Princes

Dragon at the Scottish Storytelling Centre

Roy Gill

I should have known. I was reading Lari Don’s book on the train to Edinburgh yesterday, and it features a boy called Roy (which is a less common name than you’d think). Clearly it was there to warn me that within a few hours I would behave really rudely towards another Roy (Gill) in a way that can best be described as that unpleasant way older women say things. I shall henceforth strive for young age and better judgement, not to mention hearing. Possibly thinking before I speak.

Anyway, I’ll blame it on Kirkland ‘Him Again’ Ciccone. It’s the accent. It gets me every time.

Dragons, Selkies and Fairy Princes

Dragons, Selkies and Fairy Princes

So, there we all were, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, to admire the art by three young illustrators, who have made fantastic pictures which accompany three traditional stories by Theresa Breslin (The Dragon Stoorworm), Lari Don (The Tale of Tam Linn) and Janis Mackay (The Selkie Girl), published by Floris. The exhibition will be on from today until the 24th January next year. Do go and see it, and have some tea in the café, which I’ve been assured is lovely. I’ll be trying it myself one of these days.

Lindsey Fraser and Kathryn Ross

The ‘usual’ lot of Edinburgh literary people were present. The further west you came from, the less likely you’d be to have managed to get there, seeing as we were blessed with a bit of a storm. Not so much that the ferris wheel stopped for long, but enough to flood things and prevent certain people from travelling. Kirkie even checked with me to see if I thought we’d be unable to go, but the Resident IT Consultant could foresee no problems.

Matthew Land and Theresa Breslin

Speeches were made, and crisps were eaten, washed down with wine and juice. Theresa talked about her story while her illustrator Matthew Land told us about how he went about doing the pictures. Apparently a green dragon against the green hills was, well, too green. The dragon is now red.

Lari Don and Philip Longson

Lari wanted to thank people involved in making the books, including one person who she said she didn’t know what they did, but still. Her illustrator Philip Longson was saying how he’s not used to being with people or make public speeches. Illustrators sit on their own, working quietly.

Janis Mackay

Janis is the kind of woman who has seals born in her garden. She also made sure that us short ones at the back could see a little, by making the crowd part down the middle. Her illustrator, Ruchi Mhasane, was home in India, and had sent a message, which Janis read out.

Janis Mackay

Then there was signing and pictures were bought as well as books. With my distinct lack of wall space I merely looked and admired, but I could tell that other, less afflicted, people were buying some nice prints for Christmas.

Theresa Breslin's shoes

After admiring Theresa’s shoes (New ones, again! Why Mr B doesn’t put his foot down, I don’t know. He, in turn, wore one of his very fetching ties, and I told him about the wooden ties I’d just seen in the Christmas market.) I decided it was time for tired witches to go home, before more feathers were ruffled.

Kirkland Ciccone and Roy Gill

Kirkie decided he’d walk me to the station, only to discover – to his horror – that he had to travel on the same train. That should teach him. (It was raining, so he had to stuff his faux leopard into a carrier bag, floppy ears and everything.) He really wanted fish and chips, but all I had was humble pie, so he had to starve. That’s Kirkie, not the leopard. There was no Irn-Bru, either. I did offer my tale of not going to Linlithgow, however, so there was something.

The mummies have it

To go or not to go? Well, first I needed the ‘rest.’ Then I found I needed rest from the resting. So I went. I wanted to, really, because Wendy Meddour and Mina May were debuting in Charlotte Square and I didn’t want to miss it.

Wendy Meddour and Mina May

As I arrived I first noticed Wendy’s eldest son, and only then did I see that I was walking behind the whole family. How I can recognise children of people I’ve never met, is another thing.

Secret Agent Mummy

I was early, so sat in the yurt for a bit, when at the corner of my eye I seemed to see a man covered in bandages walk past. And I mean totally covered in them. It had to be Steve Cole. No one else is quite that crazy. Worked out that I could waylay him – if it was him – close to his event. There was a photocall for Michael Morpurgo, but a bandaged Steve trumps MM. (I suppose he must have slipped in the shower this morning, or something.)

My plan was successful and the mummy said hello and gave me hug (so whoever it was, seemed to know me) and said he’d maybe forgive me later for going to someone else’s event and not his.

Michael Morpurgo

Michael Morpurgo was still there when I went to look, so I didn’t even have to go without. He had come to lend a hand for someone by the name of Barroux, about whom I know nothing. MM didn’t wear his customary hat, as apparently he hates it. Now we know.

Linda Strachan and Emma Barnes

Went to Wendy’s event, with her illustrator daughter Mina May. Encountered Linda Strachan and Emma Barnes outside, so we chatted. I knew Emma’s name from somewhere, but not her face. We concluded I had reviewed her (very enjoyable) book, but we hadn’t met before. Told Linda I was sorry to have missed her Hamish event on Wednesday, as I love Hamish and it was about the very topical Bannockburn.

Steve Cole

I had asked Steve (or whoever) to sign slowly, so that he’d still be there when Wendy and Mina got to the bookshop. He did and he was, and it seems as if it really must have been him all the time. (Who else would be idiot enough to wander around looking like that? He’d even crossed the road wearing his outfit, and not got arrested. I suppose August in Edinburgh makes anything look normal.)

Steve Cole, Wendy Meddour and Mina May

As there was only one of him, the Secret Agent Mummy agreed to let mummy Wendy have one of his chairs to sit on. Later, when one of Wendy’s sons wanted to buy a copy of Steve’s book she asked if he was sure he wanted to spend his money on this. He was. Sensible boy. They were all nice, actually. Funny, too. The mummies, I mean.

Secret Agent Mummy and victim

Lots of weird photos later I went home. A light workload is quite a good thing on occasion. And I like my authors funny.

‘Thank goodness I became a children’s writer’ – Jacqueline Wilson at Seven Stories

The first thing I did in Newcastle was litter the station, and I don’t mean by simply being there. Was afraid I’d be arrested if I enquired about their (seemingly non-existent) litter bins. That’s my pear core, in case you were wondering.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

Yes, I finally made my way not just to Newcastle, but to the fantastic Seven Stories. It’s shocking that I’ve taken this long, but at least I had the most incredibly good day once I went. They have a new exhibition (opens to the public on Saturday) on the life of Jacqueline Wilson, complete with her childhood bedroom, the pink chaise longue on which she writes her books, and some replica fluffy cat impostors. Even her childhood monkeys were present.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

You can also admire the green dress Sapphire Battersea wears, meet Radish the famous rabbit, and sit on the Dumping Ground sofa, fresh off the latest BBC series of Tracy Beaker.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

I very nearly said hello to someone I recognised on the press tour. Luckily I didn’t. I paused long enough to work out who she was, and the only reason I ‘knew’ Kirsten O’Brien is my misspent middle age in front of CBBC. I had also nursed vague hopes of ending up on Blue Peter (this coming Monday), but not only was it something they filmed earlier, but it was so early as to have been ‘yesterday’ even when I was there.

Insisting on your child being tidy will most likely backfire. The young Jacqueline had to put away all her dolls into her chest of drawers every evening, which will be why she now surrounds herself with dolls all over her house. And after the end of the exhibition she hopes to buy back the picture that the tireless people at Seven Stories managed to find on eBay. (Where else?)

After the press conference where Nick Sharratt needed to ‘shut up before I blub,’ we queued up to have our books signed. Nick seemed to be aware of having featured on Bookwitch before (I thought we’d been so discreet…), and Jacqueline said she also wanted to be called Bookwitch. Sorry, there can only be one and that’s me.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories with Nick Sharratt

Nick admitted to having done 170 pictures for the next book, The Worst Thing About My Sister, so that’s something to look forward to. And right now Jacqueline is seven chapters into the third Hetty Feather book, which is another nice thing to look forward to.

For the photocall I did what one has to do under these circumstances. I hid behind the pros, and piggybacked off their fancy flash equipment. It would also help if I learned the difference between the button that takes pictures and the on-off button.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

More filming and interviewing was necessary after this and us ordinary visitors had some spare time, so me and some magazine people from Dundee spent a while riding the lift up and down in a fruitless search for where we needed to go next. Random’s Philippa Dickinson was found, and then lost again. Eventually it was teatime and we repaired to the café. I’d like to think I was first in because I needed to take photos of the food before it was all eaten.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

I hid in a corner with my plate, and that’s how I met the B family from Leeds. Lovely people, despite some trouser issues… I found out why they were there, and I also learned who the two boys milling about were. I clearly haven’t been wasting as much time in front of the television as I used to. They are the stars of the current Tracy Beaker series, and the B girls were very excited. (Chris Slater and Joe Maw, if you have to know. Polite boys. They even shook hands. With each other.)

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

The tea was wonderful! So often these things look good and taste of cardboard. Here they looked good and tasted great. (I ate too much again, but only with a view to surviving until I got home late.) And the two women in front of me looked particularly Swedish, and so did the boy with them. But you can’t go around accusing people of being Swedish all the time.

On the other hand, when they then speak Swedish behind your back, it’s perfectly all right to accost them for a chat. At that very moment I worked out that the younger one was Brita Granström, the illustrator who I have just missed at so many events, and she was with her mother and one of her sons.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

We met in the attic, as you do, where someone had spent hours tying large bows on the chairs. As you do. Very pretty. The whole attic was lovely, with books hanging from the ceiling and special purple sofas just for me.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

It was speech time. Lots of speeches, all admirably short and to the point, and just right. We were shown an excerpt from the film a group of teenage girls had made about Jacqueline, which was excellent. I got the impression that Jacqueline and Nick both come to Seven Stories quite often, and they spoke of the work in the community done by Seven Stories.

Jacqueline’s speech was ‘short and sweet’ and then Nick started blubbing again. This time the rest of us joined in. It was good, and it was special. Time for a good cry. So it was lucky that Jacqueline once saved Nick from a herd of stampeding heifers. Working together has been good, but it’s their friendship that matters the most.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

In place of ribbons to cut, they were given flowers. Nick’s matched his orange tie and lime green shirt. And surprisingly Jacqueline was wearing black again, but what a dress! She always hoped to be a successful writer one day, but she never imagined she’d have her own exhibition.

It was a good day. Super-organiser Nicky Potter and Lindsey Fraser shared a taxi back to the station with me. Lindsey bought us tea, and to make sure we didn’t expire en route for our homes, she also equipped us with flapjacks. Large ones. The children’s books world is a nice one. Did I ever mention that?

Dead hamsters and other horrors

Joan Lennon has no business looking like the Resident IT Consultant’s cousin. But other than that, it was lovely to meet Joan on Friday morning. It was Lindsey Fraser who led her up to me and made the introductions, which was kind of her. As to the misguidedness in believing I’d be worth speaking to, I won’t make any more comments. Joan has a new website, which has been sworn over a great deal. That is often the case with such things.

Joan Lennon

Lindsey Fraser

Loitering with the intent of catching Keith Charters as he set off for Gillian Philip’s school event, was really what I was doing, of course. He’d promised me I could be Graham, which was an interesting experience. When I located Keith, he said that my photographer could be Alison, so she was. It seems Strident Publishing had a ‘Ten little what’s-its’ kind of  morning, with only Keith left standing. A real ‘shame’, that.

Gillian Philip

Gillian claimed to be nervous, but she had the tentful of teenagers gagging happily over all her gory gruesomeness. (Photographer looked slightly green, however.) She detailed, in a most detailed manner, the things done to witches in the olden days, and I almost changed persuasion there and then. Gillian read several well chosen excerpts from Firebrand, and told us how she had gone about writing it.

Backwards, by the sound of things. She loves her bad guy (knew it!) and is fond of kelpies. Of course. And did you know that the people who went round doing horrible things to witches back then, billed for travel expenses?

Gillian Philip

Keith Charters

Successful signing session over, we trooped back to the authors’ decking area where we snuck in. Again. We were there for our interview with Gillian of the witch hunt, and it ended up being half an interview with Keith as well. The more the merrier.

Philip Ardagh came up to say hello, and when he heard I didn’t have a ticket for Katie Davies later on, he went off to perform magic. Meanwhile the photographer appeared to be oblivious to the fact that Alan, Mr Katie Davies, was standing right behind her. Me not having an inkling that it was relevant, said nothing. Seems she wasn’t unaware as much as star struck and paralysed. Oh well.

Shirley Williams

Back to the press yurt for some actual work, and to do something about a late lunch. Shirley Williams was scheduled to do a photo call, but didn’t appear at the given time. Instead she came and sat down about a metre away from me, finishing off an interview she’d been doing. I have to say politicians do interview differently from authors.

I went off to hear Katie Davies on The Great Hamster Massacre, with the half of Philip Ardagh that remains as chair. Mr Davies came too, complete with baby in sling. They were the only ones to leave when baby Davies got noisy. Though there were an worrying number of bluefaced children in the audience.

Katie Davies

This was Katie’s first ever event, and she talked about selling baby hamsters for sweets as a child, which was probably less gruesome than it sounded at first. She read a number of passages selected, I suspect, by Philip, who did a good job as chair. He’s read 130 funny books recently and was slightly less keen on funny books right now, but had enjoyed Katie’s first two books. Though he protested when Katie pondered ‘working her way up’ to writing an adult book that there is no such thing, because children’s books are not lower than any other books.

But she does know how to kill off hamsters with green cashmere, even if only fictionally. I hope. The number of dead hamsters in her book had been kept artificially low to prevent upsetting readers.

As for me, I had to rush on to another dead hamster event on the fringe. These things just happen.

(Photos by Helen Giles)

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.