Tag Archives: Michelle Lovric

Bookwitch bites #56

All together now.

How I wish I could have popped over to Dublin last week. It was positively teeming with crime writers. I know it’s the latest vogue but this strikes me as exceptional. It was the launch of crime anthology Down These Green Streets; Irish Crime Writing in the 21st century, edited by our very favourite Declan, Declan Burke. (Sorry Hughes.)

Down These Green Streets

And I do realise some of you will find it a little hard to drop everything and pop in the Belfast direction for the NI launch tonight. But do try. I would. If I could. There are multi-signed copies of the book for sale from The Gutter Bookshop (which I believe is a lot nicer than the name suggests). I want one. It’d be the next best thing to having been there. But it’s this idea of actually paying…

It’s not just those criminally minded Irish who are ganging up. We have the History Girls. I’ve been hearing rumours for a while, and now they have got their act together. Almost. You can get them on facebook already. And from the 1st July you can enjoy their new blog.

The History Girls

They are girls who write historical fiction. I’m amazed they managed to get so many together for a photo, and very nice they look too. I understand they launched with a lunch, or possibly vice versa, at the home of Michelle Lovric. Should have known someone like Michelle would have an interesting house!

I suppose I shouldn’t ignore that large group of people who have their day tomorrow. The Daddies. We are an unfriendly kind of witch family, so don’t celebrate this kind of event at all. Not even with socks. (And he got a tie for his birthday, so there.) But can you really not go wrong with the books ‘advertised’ below?

Father's Day Penguins

Barnaby Booth

Feeling the need to finish on a softer note; here is Barnaby Booth. Barnaby’s human Daddy is Stephen Booth. I believe Barnaby (I trust you can work out who Barnaby is named after?) helps with the murdering around the house.

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Bookwitch bites #42

In honour of the day I was going to link to a post on Alan Gibbons’s blog, but on consideration I feel he writes so much about libraries and it’s all so worthwhile that I’ll just put in a link to the whole blog instead and you can look at anything you like. And then go out there and save a library. After all, even old Andrew Carnegie is out protesting in Edinburgh. If he can, you can.

So much depends on libraries, when you think about it. This blog, for instance. Would it have got started if I hadn’t spent so much time in my first library? And would Meg Rosoff have become an author and told me what to do if she hadn’t had a library?

My interview colleague Charlie has been out and about again. His latest pursuits can be found over on CultureWitch this time, and I’d like to think that the boy’s reading fervour has something to do with libraries. He’s almost as crazy as I am.

Those crazy – but charming – mermaids of Michelle Lovric’s can now be seen in this short video clip.

It’s taken me a few years, but I’m finally dreaming Bookwitch. Usually the stuff you fill your time and thoughts with tend to feature in dreams, but it’s only very recently that I started filling my dreams with books. There was a good one last week. Except I’ve forgotten it. But before you draw a sigh of relief I need to mention the one where Random’s MD Philippa Dickinson made a house call (so hardworking, those publishing types) to hand over a new proof to me. It was green. It was also 1480 pages, which is a lot. I’m relieved it was only a dream, albeit an awfully precise dream. 'Carrot'

And last but not least, it’s The New Librarian’s birthday today. Happy 27th and may there be enough libraries for you to work in for years to come!

Authors in the kitchen

The 2011 author calendar has landed. I know. It’s late. I put my order in late. The calendar maker was busy. After which the calendar maker made, and I was too busy to proofread. There were two 27th of Februarys. No 28th. That’s been fixed.

Then there was the printing of. Ran out of time. Then ran out of legs. Eventually stashed laptop in bag on back and dragged myself upstairs towards printer. And printed. And guillotined. Even worked out a way for authors not to have their heads stapled.

No, I mean hole punched. It always used to look so uncomfortable with the little hole at the top of their heads. And heads are useful things for authors to have.

2011 calendar

This year’s crop is exclusively from the Edinburgh festival, so if you weren’t there you’re not in. If you’ve been in before, you are less likely to be in this time. And in the end it was down to best photos, and then the calendar maker was allowed final say.

At the moment I have Lucy Christopher smiling away. She will be followed by Marcus Sedgwick, after whom come Francesca Simon, Stuart Neville, Eleanor Updale, Sally Gardner, Keith Gray, Debi Gliori, Philip Ardagh, Jacqueline Wilson, Theresa Breslin, Michelle Lovric and Sophia Jansson.

Yes. That is 13 names. Two share. And Ardagh has been before, but since my pet name for him is Calendar Boy, I suppose it’s OK. Fully dressed. Always.

And all the heads intact.

It’s not easy having a kitchen wall 13 cm wide. In fact, that is anything but wide. 13 cm narrow, is what it is.

Venice freezing over

Do you feel the chill? I certainly do. Michelle Lovric’s The Mourning Emporium doesn’t have lots of snow, but what it lacks in that department it more than makes up for with ice. Ice in Venice. (Well, you can see from the name of that great city that ice is part of it.) Ice in London. And ice in-between.

This sequel to The Undrowned Child starts at Christmas with very cold weather in Venice, followed by illness and death. That’s dead Venetians and a few weeks later a dead Queen Victoria.

The villain Bajamonte Tiepolo is back and he’s behind all the deaths, except possibly that of the dear old Queen. Teo’s parents have been kidnapped and the mermaids have decamped to London. Soon everybody else – of those who are still alive – are on their way to London too, on a creaky old ship.

There’s less of the lovely food this time, because the London mermaids don’t hold with curry. Unfortunately. They like patent medicines, which is less tasty on the whole. Teo and Renzo and their shipmates meet a gang of London street urchins, whose job it is to cry. Hence the Mourning Emporium. Mourning is big business, even without Victoria’s imminent funeral to look forward to.

Just as in Venice, London is dying and it’s up to Teo and Renzo and their new friends to stop Bajamonte Tiepolo.

Plenty of humour here (‘cast asparagus’) and some new loveable characters, mostly animal. Sleeping with squirrels is a new trend for the cold. Seems they can keep you warm. White rats. Ew. Fat weasels. The whole zoo.

Great story, and Teo is another of those likeable heroines in fiction.

Bookwitch bites #31

The biting isn’t going too well, but hopefully my dental ordeal will be forgotten soon, and I will bite just fine again.

For the eagle-eyed participant in the discussion about the nominees for the Astrid Lindgren Award a few weeks ago, I have unearthed some more information. Well, not me personally. I took the shortcut of emailing ALMA and asking, and someone has been slaving away trying to ascertain the reason for the Stock Exchange of Thailand to be on that list of book-worthies:

Personal finance for youth program: ”…educates students about personal financial management and economic life skills. The SET developed textbooks and instructional materials to promote understanding of basic financial ideas, enhance financial discipline and develop learning and reading skills.”

Reading club. ”Participating students are encouraged to read any kind of educational or entertaining books and report their reading record to their teachers and advisors.”

Business and Entrepreneurship program: “The program provides participating students with knowledge about entrepreneurial qualities and business operations. Through activity-based learning, students were encouraged to show their creativity and develop a positive attitude towards business and entrepreneurship.”

Book donation project.

Plearn Library: “Play” + “Learn” = “Plearn”, “provide children and their families in a nearby slum district with a learning center”.

I’m afraid the colours were my idea of fun. At least we now know why the Stock Exchange is involved, although I don’t feel it’d be right to hand over money to a foreign stock exchange, however much they encourage reading.

Involved is what you need to be to apply for the job just advertised with the Edinburgh International Book Festival. They are looking for a new Children & Education Programme Director. I think that’s the job Sara Grady has been doing, and I hope this doesn’t mean she is leaving. To me this is probably the most important job in the whole festival.

Michelle Lovric

Someone else who was at the festival is Michelle Lovric and she will be appearing at the Italian Cultural Institute in London for their ‘IN CONVERSAZIONE’, Talks with Anglophone authors who write about Italy and Italian Culture. Monday 6 December 2010 7pm: MICHELLE LOVRIC in conversazione with MAXIM JAKUBOWSKI. It’s free, but you need to book on rsvp.icilondon@esteri.it.

Girls rule, actually,

but I must begin with ‘my’ Irish boys, Declan Hughes and Stuart Neville. Had they known they’d only find a bookwitch and a photowitch at their photo call on Saturday, they’d have scarpered back across the Irish Sea. I had looked forward to their photo session quite eagerly, but not even I could have foreseen that all the other press photographers would have taken such a hefty break. But, we were there, and hopefully Declan doesn’t remember the stupid witch from the Bristol CrimeFest, and Stuart may have encountered me on Crime Always Pays, but that’s more anonymous. They are smiling carefully in the hopes that we’ll let them go. The photographer tried to get them to stand with their backs together and they jumped some considerable distance in the opposite direction at the mere suggestion. Oh well.

Declan Hughes and Stuart Neville

An hour later A C Grayling fared little better, getting two photographers. Both female. (Take that, photo boys!) Both Swedish, or at least 75%, to be accurate.

A C Grayling

Strange then, when you think about it, that the paparazzi so willingly marched across Charlotte Square at noon, actually leaving their safe cocoon of a yurt to snap pictures of two fat blobs behind the Corner theatre. (None of them me.)

'Mister Men'

I finished the day listening to Michelle Lovric discussing Venice as a setting for novels with Katie Hickman and Al Senter. The rain suitably chose that point to start raining. I saw both A C Grayling and Mary Hoffman in the audience, presumably checking out the competition. Michelle read from her new adult novel The Book of Human Skin, and Katie from The Pindar Diamond. They see Venice as a bit of a Hogwarts, and they both love research. In fact, I get the impression everybody enjoys researching for their books.

Michelle Lovric

The beautifully dressed Michelle is someone I barely know, but she very generously arranged tickets for me. In actual fact, it was a day of authors giving me tickets to their events, with both Mary Hoffman and Theresa Breslin doing the same. Thank you, ladies! Before rushing off for my train, I made sure of being first in the signing queue with Michelle’s next children’s book, The Mourning Emporium in my hands. Her signing of this anchovy-free book was only very slightly delayed by the kiss from Mr Lovric, who most likely is not Lovric at all, but a Mr Something-else. And it was his wife he kissed.

Mr B in Prisoner of the Inquisition t-shirt

It was also a day for husbands. Other people’s. Not mine. I have now met Mr Hoffman, who I know is not Hoffman, but when you’re married to a star, you put up with these things. And I had Mr B live up to his promise of a good t-shirt for the talk by Mrs B. That man not only wears a Nostradamus tie, but has had an Inquisition t-shirt printed specially. And he’s not averse to taking illegal photos in palaces all over the world (for the research, you understand) and getting thrown out.

Andy Stanton

Babette Cole

A day for Venice. A day for husbands. Also a day for Random encounters. Some more random than others.

In the signing tents we found Babette Cole and Andy Stanton. At least I hope so. Babette was signing Babette Cole books, and that man with no black curls looked sufficiently like Andy that he must have been Andy. You know what I think about people and new hair!

Andrea levy

Not sure what Andrea Levy did with her grubby spectacles in her talk. For her photo call Andrea handed over most of her belongings to be held by the press officer, who clearly is not a wearer of glasses, or she wouldn’t have placed her fingers all over the lenses. Andrea will not have seen clearly after that.

Jacqueline Wilson

Jacqueline Wilson and paparazzi

The signing queue for Jacqueline Wilson was long. Just imagine, then, how long it’d have been had they not raffled the places in the queue. It’s enough to make you turn to press photography. Pleased to see paparazzi also have daughters who like Jacqueline Wilson’s books.

Jacqueline looked great in jeans and boots with a blue floral top. (Is black out?) And those rings. The boots were really great, but you’ll have to take my word for that, as newly arrived photographer no.1 omitted to snap them.

When you’ve heard someone speak before, it’s never obvious that you’ll hear something new next time. Theresa Breslin delivered the goods, despite this being her second Edinburgh outing talking mainly about her Prisoner of the Inquisition. I got to see the gas mask I’d heard about from Linda Newbery, although that was more WWI than the Spanish inquisition. Theresa had been required to bring interesting artifacts, which came as a bit of a surprise to her.

Theresa Breslin

This former librarian really likes books. They are easy to use. You can fast forward, rewind, play. Whatever you like. The French may have said about her Nostradamus Prophecy that it’s Dumas with a dash of Dan Brown, but Theresa’s happy with that. She, too, could do research the whole time and not write at all. Teaching history in schools with the aid of Blackadder strikes her as a good idea, and according to her both Queen Isabella of Castille and Catherine de Medici were far better than history writers (men) make out.

Last – although first – and by no means least, we have the Duchesa of Bellezza, aka Mary Hoffman. The event was introduced by Michael Scott, a great fan of Mary’s. Again, I have listened to Mary before, not to mention interviewed her, but this was a most interesting talk. We got a brief, but clear, summary of the five Stravaganza novels, and as a ‘completist’ Mary commiserated with fans who wanted to go on collecting hardbacks with the old covers.

Mary Hoffman

To preempt being asked where she gets her ideas, Mary told us how Stravaganza came about. It was all down to a family holiday in Venice, going on a gondola trip with old and un-handsome gondoliers. That started a ‘what if’ thought on how to get handsome young men to propel you around Venice.

I gather the reason we get such likeable characters in Stravaganza is because Mary herself becomes them, so she is the Duchesa. She is also a one woman company who will let herself have the day off if she asks, but can also be hard if there are deadlines.

There was a sigh of disappointment from next to me when Mary said book six, City of Swords will come in 2012. What’s wrong with 2011? But she did say that ‘what we all want’ will happen when we get there. And we know what that is, don’t we?

(Photos by Helen Giles)

How To Survive Summer Camp

Not only have I lost Millions (the Frank Cottrell Boyce kind, as mentioned the other week), but I can’t find my sense of humour. Which is a real nuisance, as I was going to do a fabulous blog about it. Oh, well. Some other year, perhaps.

Michelle Lovric did a nice blog post on humour on ABBA a few days ago, and I fancied doing something very similar. I have a good collection of funny somethings. Somewhere.

You’ll be wondering what all this has to do with summer camp, and the answer is that I’m in more of a muddle than usual because we’re just getting ready to go off on our summer holidays. It may not be a camp, but the witch who runs the place is not nice, and she has no sense of humour. Having just lost it. As I was saying.

So, 25 years on Jacqueline Wilson’s How To Survive Summer Camp is being republished. Unlike other similar occasions this really means that a new audience can be reached, since the target reader wasn’t born in 1985, and there is a possibility, however slight, that the parents of the new reader knows the book from childhood. Almost.

I read it a long time ago, and remembered it as less Jacqueline Wilson-y than it actually is. We still have a typical JW heroine who finds herself in a new and unwanted situation, and who has to get used to it and sort things out. Stella sorts quite nicely in the end, and summer camp isn’t as bad as she expected.

An added bonus are the activity pages at the back of the book. Tips, recipes, wordsearches, crosswords and things to make. The child who takes this on holiday is well catered for.

As for me and the witchlings, I will not have time to do all that I need to before leaving. I’m still short of a complete outbreak of hysterics, but it can’t be ruled out. I have the Cathy Hopkins interview to finish baking, and I had various chores which there is now no longer time for. And I just know there will be some discovery (and not of Millions) that will come as a nasty surprise.

Excuse me. I just have to go and do my Kermit impersonation and scream a little. Will feel better soon.

Maybe.