Tag Archives: Nicholas Tucker

Not the diamonds! Please, not the diamonds…

I’m not a betting witch, but I’d still be willing to bet that Amanda Craig, Nicolette Jones and Nicholas Tucker don’t get review copies sent out with a teaspoonful of plastic jewels wrapped up (very prettily, I admit) with the book. I’m guessing they’re meant to put me – us – into such a good mood that not only will I read the diamond-encrusted book, but I will love it.

(As it is, I am still fuming over having to crawl around on the floor, finding the pretty, but plastic, jewels after they fell out of the tissue paper parcel. I wasn’t taking care, unwrapping it. How could I have guessed I had sunk low enough to be on the diamond/tissue paper packaging list?)

It doesn’t help that the accompanying press release (press, hah!) mentions the publicity department has a pile of books for bloggers only. So exclusive. Not.

Frequently I find that the round robin emails from PR departments assume bloggers need to be herded like children; told what’s expected in return for review copies, and occasionally accompanied by jolly cries about competitions and films and special blogger author meetings.

Back in the infancy of Bookwitch, there must have been relatively few bloggers on the publishers’ mailing lists. I recall being treated like a real person, put in the same room as the formidable reviewers I mentioned earlier. I was treated like the adult I unquestionably am.

(Please take no notice that I am having a toddler tantrum right now.)

I don’t know for certain, but I suspect the PR departments now have a press list, and they have a bloggers list. I am on the latter, because undeniably I write – and review on – a blog.

But I am actually hurt to suddenly find myself demoted to teen fandom, after years of reasonably professional contact with the fantastic and hard working publicists I have come to know. Those who have never met me can be forgiven for believing I am a starstruck twenty-something.

I don’t feel I belong in the group of people guesstimated to be twenty years old and with a disproportionate fondness for vampire/dystopian romances. Nor do I harbour too many fan style crushes on their authors. A second class type of reviewer is being created. Hopefully with all the best intentions, but still. It’s a nice little hobby.

Clearly I need a new label. Blogger has become a derogative term. Suggestions, please? At this rate I’d rather be a housewife.

Gridlock, heavy medal and stacked aubergines

You, my dear readers, are very lucky to be reading (at this very moment, in fact) the best blog in the world. Tim Bowler says so, and I don’t feel he could be mistaken. I have admired him for long enough that I’d take his word for (almost) anything. The man has taste.

So, I had eight hours in a very wet and dismal looking London yesterday. I had three events booked in, and four authors to meet up with. That was until the day before, when I saw fit to squeeze Candy Gourlay into a small gap perceived when the timetable was looked at in a slanted sideways kind of way. Candy made five. (That’s not counting waving to Jon Mayhew as our trains passed…)

Tim Bowler

I started some weeks ago by arranging to meet Tim for a very overdue interview. I mean, I’ve treated the poor man as I would a local museum. It won’t do. Then I discovered that his publishers, OUP, had a dinner thing the same evening, featuring not just Carnegie Medal winner Tim, but Sally Prue and Julie Hearn, and I invited myself and my trusted Photographer to it… I ought to be ashamed. The very patient Jennie from OUP put up with a lot and allowed us to come.

The next serendipitous thing to occur was an invitation from Andersen Press to come and meet Newbery Medal winner Rebecca Stead in the afternoon, nicely positioned between the other two meetings. It took care of that annoying period when you have time to kill and may be forced to drink tea and eat cake somewhere.

Rebecca Stead

In actual fact, Andersen’s lovely Clare made lovely tea and served it up with three kinds of cake, including ginger, so I’m a fan forever. We discovered that Daughter/Photographer was quite comfy in the chair belonging to Klaus Flugge, elephant cushion and everything. Did an interview with Rebecca, and talked about the previous night’s Waterstone’s prize event, where she had met Candy, and been introduced to David Fickling.

So that’s the heavy medals taken care of. I had joked with Tim about causing gridlock in central London. Just hadn’t expected the gridlock to happen, but the streets round his hotel were very much of the not-going-anywhere kind. OK, I know streets rarely move at all. I meant the traffic. You knew that.

Candy had been squeezed in before this, and had to ‘put up with’ meeting Tim and being hugged, despite being wet. I felt that having Candy around made for a more writerly chat, and she is considerably easier on the eye than yours truly. The two of them made mutually admiring noises. And if David Fickling’s ears burned it’s because he was the topic of conversation twice in one afternoon.

Candy Gourlay and Tim Bowler

At the end of the day we found ourselves in the Judges Chamber with the cream of the children’s books world and I totally refrained from making a fool of myself over Nicholas Tucker again. Super-agent (book variety) Catherine Clarke was there and it was only the second time in two hours we saw her.

Sally Prue

I finally met Sally Prue, who is as lovely as she has seemed in her emails. And Julie Hearn was equally nice to meet, and both of them agreed to pose for photos, before we sat down to the stacked aubergines. Which were very tasty, I have to say. Veggie food can be so bland, and my only problem here was the discrepancy between the amount offered on the plate and my own internal capacity. The aubergines won.

Julie Hearn with Wreckers

There were talks from all three stars, but we only heard Tim’s (and he managed to avoid his ten minutes taking longer than twelve) before we dashed off to the late northbound broomstick from Euston. The advantage of seeing Tim twice in a day was that he got to hug us four times. (I need to point out that Mrs B was present. She’s just as nice as we remembered from Northampton four years ago.) Then lovely Tim saw us off the premises.

Because this is such a marvellous blog, I am writing this in the middle of the night, when sensible people are in bed. So all you get is this flimsy account of the day’s proceedings, and there may well be more. Later. Post-sleep.

Midweek trek 1b – or Professor Dame Jackie

Yesterday’s second event was the grand launch party for Hetty Feather, where Jacqueline Wilson celebrated in the company of friends, plus the witch and Daughter. This wonderful affair took place at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury, which is a thoroughly nice venue for something like this.

Jacqueline Wilson in conversation

Nicholas Tucker

The various lovely Random ladies helped look after us all, and the dainty little canapés were so nice that even Daughter could eat them. She snapped a lot, but primarily with her camera. She made me throw myself at Nicholas Tucker, at long last, to introduce myself. The poor man didn’t know what hit him, but was most charming and polite, while being given the megastar treatment from my own paparazza.

Nick Sharratt

It being a Nick sort of day, we also launched ourselves at Nick Sharratt, who was the one to make Daughter a Jacqueline Wilson fan, many years ago. She ‘read’ his Tracy Beaker pictures for a long time before any other reading could take place.

Jacqueline Wilson

And, needless to say, we tackled Professor Wilson herself. Jacqueline looked beautiful in a black dress with colourful embroidery round the neckline. Being a true professional she kept a signing pen in her pocket for those of us who were sufficiently overcome to beg an autograph. All we needed to do was hold her champagne.

The speech

Grand speech from Philippa Dickinson and another from Jacqueline, and flowers changed hands. There were thanks to Bob, Jacqueline’s driver, but we didn’t see him anywhere. And a most well deserved thanks to Naomi, doer of all things.

Then we fled, Cinderella style, on account of the trains running funny, and witches do need to get home.


Before all this, we had a great time with Meg Rosoff, who turned the tables and interviewed me, made the loveliest meringues with cream and berries, gave Daughter a DVD, made a fire (of the intentional kind), was patient with the neighbourhood children, let the dogs in and out and in and…


Juno, or is it Blue?

Then she insisted on driving us to the Hetty Feather launch, which we survived. No road rage tendencies this time. And we didn’t get lost. Or wet.

(Photos by H Giles)

Picture Book on BBC4

Did anyone watch Picture Book on BBC4 over recent weeks? We recorded it and watched later, so this comment isn’t as fresh as it should be.

Very good programme, and quite informative, even if the choice of books was a little predictable. At times it seemed as if they had decided in advance who they wanted to interview, and they had to find something of theirs that actually counted as a picture book. As you know I love Philip Pullman a lot, but to count His Dark Materials as a picture book, is perhaps not strictly correct.

All the big names in children’s literature had been interviewed, and I was startled to realise how many of them I had actually met. I discovered I had even met one of the book characters mentioned, which is a little weird, having had afternoon tea with Hatty from Tom’s Midnight Garden.

It was nice to see Nicolette Jones and Nicholas Tucker, along with Davids Lloyd, Almond and Fickling, the laureates Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Rosen. Eoin Colfer was funny as usual, and it was good to get some background on Shirley Hughes’ books from Shirley herself.

Shirley Hughes illustration

If I haven’t mentioned all, and I know I haven’t, just complain. I’m used to it.

The P-Puffin p-party

London did what it does best on Monday night. It offered one of those balmy evenings, when it’s a pleasure to stroll along the South Bank, with the lights and the sights. The witch household had shivered under blankets as she left, but it’s a well known fact that it’s warmer in the south.

The people at Puffin felt compelled to express their love for the witch and a few others behind their successful publishing business, by throwing a party. The noise level at the Tate Modern rose a little too much, so most of my chatting happened early. And do you have any idea of how fast Nicholas Tucker can walk in a party crowd? He, and some other prey, will simply have to be caught some other time, when I will avail myself of a broomstick.

My technique for sidling up to people and start a conversation with the opening line that I haven’t yet read their book/s, needs some improvement. Worse still, was having to admit that I’d not got further on one book than I had at our last meeting, five months ago. Bad witch. Could always talk about the weather, I suppose.

If I name drop now, I’ll forget someone, or it could be that I just didn’t see or recognise some people. Kevin Brooks was there. So were Linda Chapman, Lauren Child, Linzi Glass, Charlie Higson, Graham Marks, Meg Rosoff and Ed Vere. And absolutely loads of the lovely Puffin ladies, some who weren’t ladies, and many others who do things that have to do with books.

And an EastEnder. I’m the kind of person who knows so little about soaps, that I was able to have a Coronation Street neighbour without knowing it. But I think Ross Kemp is in soaps. Which reminds me of the time I wanted to buy soap and googled Mitchell’s wool fat soap, and got EastEnders instead. Television! Bah!

Invite in a Jiffy

Bag, that is. It’s different – I’ll give Puffin that. I thought it might be a very thin book, when in actual fact the nice ladies at Puffin wanted to include the witch in their media book presentation for 2008. So, it being too wet to broom, I got my favourite morning train to London, which isn’t too full, and where the price of the ticket doesn’t force you to re-mortgage your house.

On arrival I shared a lift up with an author. Only I didn’t know it then, as picture book authors are not my strength. It was Jeanne Willis, and even I have had a book of hers read to me (though I do know how to read) before.

It was like Christmas come early, or maybe late, considering it’s mid January. Tables groaning under the weight of books, where you help yourself until you feel ashamed, or thereabouts. Puffin also did party bags, but seemed not to have cottoned on to the fact that you use them to get rid of people at the end. Never mind.

Very important people presented the new books for the year ahead. So I won’t tell you about those now.

Lots of people there. I didn’t quite have the nerve to introduce myself to Nicholas Tucker. Maybe I should have? I consider his voice an old friend. Talked to nice people from radio’s Go4It, and to equally nice people from book magazine Carousel.

Threw myself at Nicolette Jones to talk about her Pancakes for Findus review, and introduced myself to Julia Eccleshare, to apologise for all my “anonymous” emails. She took it well. Jellyellie from Spinebreakers was there, and not only is she one of these clever teen editors, but she’s writing a book. I sat next to someone from the Guardian, who had actually heard of me! (Fame must be round the corner.)

Ed Vere does picture books and he can talk and draw at the same time. Nearly. Something about piano playing gorillas.

Charlie Higson had been forcibly dragged to the presentation. He has a book to finish, but now we know who to blame that delay on. I’d started reading his Hurricane Gold on the train, which didn’t make me much of an expert. But he favours avoiding too much kissing for the young James Bond by having immediate and nearby explosions. And something to do with the Royal family that he couldn’t possibly talk about.

Meg Rosoff also has a book that wants finishing, but she did a good job going round kissing and hugging people, and tucking into the tasty food, and making dates for interviews and radio programmes and anything else.

To prevent myself from being the last person there, I took my leave and departed at an almost decent time. Could have done with help in the lift, though, as the buttons were totally un-intelligible. I’ve since worked out that E stands for Embankment and ST for Strand. And I only went wrong once. Bit of a challenge for a “country” witch.