Tag Archives: Philippa Dickinson

Teary about Terry

When Terry Pratchett discussed his inevitably upcoming memorial with his assistant Rob Wilkins, the one thing he wished for was to be there. He was, in as much as we all had him in our hearts last night. We talked about him. And there were a number of heartstoppingly bearded men in black, wearing hats in the bar outside the Barbican theatre. But those fans have always been there. It’s just that on the other occasions, so has Terry.

Terry Pratchett memorial ticket

Why I was included on the guest list for this outstandingly special memorial, I don’t know. But there I was. And as we were warned not to take photos or have our mobiles on, or we might end up a bit dead, I didn’t, and we didn’t, and it was mostly too dark to see to write notes, so I’ll make up a few things now instead. There was a choir. There was a display of all of Terry’s books travelling through a time glass.

Terry Pratchett: From birth to death, a writer

Lord Vetinari kicked off – after the death threats – by thanking Terry from all his characters for putting them in his books before they ended up in someone else’s books.

After a long-wished-for opportunity to utter the words ‘do not let me detain you’ to Vetinari,  Rob was there to speak for the family, introducing others, including Terry’s daughter Rhianna. There were people from Terry’s past (whom I might have known if I knew more). There was a coven of Terry’s three editors; Philippa Dickinson, Anne Hoppe and Jennifer Brehl. Only once did Philippa fear she’d gone too far in suggesting a change in one of the books, but whereas Terry wouldn’t go so far as to say she had been right, he could see some merit in what she said.

Dried Frog Pills

Larry Finlay, MD of Transworld, told about the reports Terry used to send after every author tour; what the bookshops had been like, and the hotels. You could get a four and a half star rating (frozen peas provided for his aching signing hand), but never five. And the ‘first’ hotel of the country was so bad he could well believe it was. Old floorboards, and so on.

And then there was Steeleye Span. You could hear the collective held breath of the audience as we deduced we were about to be treated to some top notch music from Terry’s favourite band.

You can’t send just anyone in after such a music display, and they didn’t. We got Neil Gaiman, who had flown in specially for his old friend, reading his foreword to A Slip of the Keyboard, including the tale of their long trek through San Francisco when they really should have been on live radio. He was also able to spill the beans on a Manchester bookshop that did get a minus star in Terry’s ratings. (It’s when the staff lock themselves in and won’t come out until the customers have gone away.)

Terry Pratchett postcards

Rob told us about the four documentaries about Terry Pratchett. The three we may have already seen; on Alzheimer’s, about the Orangutans, and about choosing to die. Currently there is work on the fourth, and I suspect some of yesterday will end up in there.

By then we’d been there for well over two hours, and Sir Tony Robinson chose to come on stage and mention bladder control. He admired us for it, as well he should.  He had the opportunity to prove again how perfect he is for reading Terry’s words out loud. This time he chose a letter Terry had written. (In fact, Terry left behind a number of letters to friends and family, written one day in October 2014 when Rob was out of the office.)

Terry Pratchett memorial brooch

Another thing Terry had arranged was for some special jewellery for special friends; the less visible people who helped make everything possible, his agent, his editor, his illustrator, his banker and so on. The ones who Terry turned to in order to find out the necessary force needed to pull the head off a troll, for instance. They are the Venerable Order of the Honeybees, and their rewards were presented in a newly made version of The Luggage.

More singing from Steeleye Span, and special thanks to Maddy Prior, who came and sang to Terry at home shortly before he died.

Terry Pratchett memorial tissues

As you can tell, this was very much not a dry eye kind of evening. Luckily there was in the ‘partybag’ left on everyone’s seat a packet of tissues. I put mine away, and then wondered what the protocol was for nicking my neighbour’s pack which he hung onto for the whole evening. But there are always sleeves that can be put to good use.

Rob was aware that the clock was ticking, but he still talked us through what the future has in store. There will be no more Discworld books, but there will be books on all sorts of things, including a biography by Rob. Films are also in the pipeline, for The Wee Free Men, Mort, and Good Omens (with screenplay by Neil Gaiman, despite his agreement with Terry that they’d always work together).

And lots more.

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Retiring Philippa

My pangs of envy and regret started even before Philippa Dickinson’s retirement festivities got under way on Monday. When you’re online you can see what everyone else is doing and quite a few people announced they were heading that way, making me wish I was too. But there are drawbacks to moving to Scotland, and the spontaneity of sudden trips south is one of them.

So I wasn’t there, and now I can follow – online again – those who were, and there are more pangs. But I’m glad there was a party, and that it was good, and that – almost – everyone else was there. Because Philippa deserves to be celebrated.

Philippa Dickinson

Back in 2009 when I was introduced to her at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, it felt a bit like meeting the Queen, although perhaps more relaxed. And six months later when her publicists invited me to actually come and spend a day in Ealing, I was impressed with her again, and not only for remembering me a little.

Random House Children’s Books felt like the most active publishing house at the time. And she might have been the MD, but Philippa was still hands-on (editing Terry Pratchett, the lucky thing), working like a normal person. During our brief meeting in her office, she made a point of showing me her personal recommendation and arranging for me to have a copy of Jack Gantos’s Joey Pigza.

Philippa and I are almost the same age, and occasionally I have stopped and asked myself what I have achieved with my life, and why I couldn’t be a bit more like her. (Answers on a postcard, please.)

Sometimes when I think of Philippa and wonder what made her better or more interesting than other publishing bosses, I realise that apart from a few directors of smaller publishing houses, I didn’t meet or get even a little acquainted with anyone else.

So maybe that’s why. You need to be out there, possibly rubbing shoulders with the little fish.

Launching Shine

The custard creams made all the difference. They and the Coke. Halfway through the launch party for Candy Gourlay’s new book Shine, I was overcome by an urge to liberate ‘a few’ custard creams. They were looking lonely, sitting on a table at Archway Library. That sugar rush kept me going all night, more or less.

Archway Library

I arrived just in time for The Three Hundred Word Challenge. Candy read out as many entries as there was time for, and her collected authors pitched in with their thoughts. The advice was good. The fledgling stories were even better. It’s reassuring to find that young people still want to write, and that they know how.

Teri Terry, Candy Gourlay and Jane McLoughlin

While this was going on in front of an audience so numerous they ran out of chairs, people went about their business in the library, and there was a nice mix of festival special and ordinary library behaviour. (It was the first day of the first Archway With Words Festival.) The authors couldn’t always agree on their advice, which should go a long way to proving that there is no one correct way to write. (I thought they were going to come to blows. Which would have been exciting.)

Random's Clare, Simon Mason, Philippa Dickinson and Keren David

Once it was time for the launch proper, I had a job recognising people without the customary name badges. I managed some. I was discovered in my corner by Random’s Clare, who was almost on her own doorstep for this event.

There were speeches. MDs Philippa Dickinson and Simon Mason came. David Fickling, on the other hand, did not. Replacing him, Philippa and Bella Pearson spoke, but they couldn’t quite manage David’s voice, so Candy had to help out.

Candy Gourlay with Philippa Dickinson and Bella Pearson

In her own speech, Candy told us of the long hard slog to get there. What’s three years between friends? Bella went on maternity leave, and came back. Candy said nice things about her editor Simon, even after he told her that her first attempt was no repair job.

Candy’s daughter Mia and friends sang a cappella. Absolutely lovely.

Candy Gourlay at Archway Library

Dave Cousins

We mingled. There were more authors than you could shake a stick at. (Not that I’d want to, I hasten to add.) Fiona Dunbar and I met where we always seem to meet. I met several facebook friends for real. (They exist!) Teri Terry was surrounded by young fans. Dave Cousins came.I recognised Jane McLoughlin but took ages to work out who she was. Missed Joe Friedman. Ruth Eastham was over from Italy, which was very nice. She introduced me to Sarah Mussi, whose book I just ‘happened’ to be reading, so I hauled it out for an autograph. (Very scary. The book. Not so much Sarah.)

Sarah McIntyre

The other Sarah (McIntyre) also ended up signing stuff, although not for me. Keren David said hello, and then goodbye. I chatted to Inbali Iserles and Savita Kalhan. I spoke to people I have emailed with, and to people I haven’t. Sam Hepburn.

Steve Hartley

And then Mr Gourlay went round saying it was time to go home. So we did. To the Gourley home, where the eldest junior Gourlay was looking after food and drink. There was a lot of it.

The Gourlays

They have the loveliest of gardens! Admittedly it was dark, but it was all lit up and the evening was balmy, and there was somewhere to sit. Not the trampoline for me. Spoke to DFB basement man Simon, and the kind Tilda who once bought me a sandwich. At some point I had to admit to a fondness for the Circle Line. (Yeah, well.)

The wine flowed (the recycling men were most impressed with the bottle collection the next morning) and there was cheese beginning with the letter c, and for the carnivores pork sausages on the barbecue, very ably operated by Mr G.

It was dark. As I said. So I gave up on the camera and simply enjoyed, which is why there are no scandalous shots of anyone. I think the man who hugged me before he left long past midnight might have been Cliff McNish, despite him being underwhelmed by my drinking.

Recommended crime to beautiful blonde, who was impressed with my recent meeting with Colin Bateman… When it got too cold we repaired to the inner regions. In the end most people went home, and Candy was left with a mere five houseguests. Eldest son politely gave up his bed for an old witch, and was banished to his godmother’s ‘vomiting room.’

In the morning I got up long after the six o’clock taxi guest had departed, and people had dispersed to school and jobs and things. I met my brand newest facebook friend (less than 24 hours) in her pyjamas. And then Candy made us breakfast and we gossiped about the great and the famous.

But I had a noon train to catch, so shouldered my nightie and toothbrush and walked up the hill to the tube station hidden in mist. Once I got to Euston I encountered the Poet Laureate on the escalators, going the opposite way. Bought some treats for the Resident IT Consultant to celebrate our first 31 years, and hopped on my train.

Tired library visitor

(I know how that doll feels.)

At least they wore hats

Dodger poster

Stockport station had the right idea. It knew where I was going. (I mean, it would have, if railway stations could have ideas.)

I was somewhat less ‘with it,’ as I managed to pick the long way from Seven Dials (yes, how very Dodger appropriate) to The House of St Barnabas. But a witch has to have a hobby, and getting lost in London could be one of them.

On my eventual arrival I went where I always go; the ladies’ room. Random’s lovely Clare was there, and a Victorian lady of some kind. The Victorian lady turned out to be Philippa Dickinson in dress-up mode. She looked most distinguished. So did the many others who had entered into the Victorian spirit.

Victorians

No spirit for me, so I had a glass of elder-something with salad in it. Very nice and refreshing, on what was a pretty thirsty day. And whereas I hadn’t dressed up, I did wear black, and my jacket is so old it goes a long way towards being Victorian.

Punch, and friend

There was a Punch and Judy man in the corner of one room. He said Punch would be happy to pose for me, as long as I photographed his best side. I think I did. (Between you and me, he looked worn out. Must be hard work, all that wife beating.)

Terry Pratchett at The House of St Barnabas

After a while of drinking the salad and watching Punch punch Judy, there was a commotion at the door, and there he was; Dodger. I mean Terry Pratchett. Sir Terry! Very snazzily dressed, I have to say. Hat as usual, but not the usual hat, exactly.

He arrived in a horse-drawn carriage, bearing his own coat of arms. (There was such a crowd by the door I didn’t get a picture of the horses. Magnificent black beauties, they were.)

Clare, Philippa and Lynsey

As the Victorians circulated, us 21st century people photographed them and stared. A beautifully crinolined Lynsey, incongruously wired Terry in a most non-Victorian manner, and Philippa was similarly equipped for her speech.

The MD of Random House Children’s Books spoke about how well Dodger has been received (there is a good reason for that, people!) and that it had reached number one on some kind of list. (She pretended to be from the 19th century.) Philippa apologised for the elegant venue for this book launch, explaining that she’d had her PR ladies crawling through every sewer in town, but failing to find anything suitable down there.

Philippa Dickinson and Terry Pratchett

David Jason

Terry made a reluctant speech (odd, isn’t it, how those who have every right to blow all sorts of trumpets, rarely want to?). His pal David Jason voiced his sentiments about Dodger, although he admitted to not having read it yet…

But I do believe Terry hinted that the way to a sequel was clear and that something might happen. Yes, please!

Rob

There was more Victorian mingling and circulating – with Willikins looking most fetching as a Victorian gentleman – and I drank some more salad, watched Punch and his fellow ‘actors,’ and so on.

Terry Pratchett, A S Byatt and Larry Finlay

A S Byatt was there. (I like it to be known I rub shoulders with the best shoulders in London.) She’s a fan, I believe. Transworld’s Larry Finlay stumped me by looking terribly familiar, and I required professional help in working out who he is. (It’s my age. I know things, while at the same time I don’t know them.)

Eventually Punch quietened a bit, and I took my leave, and promptly got lost again. I should have broomed.

Dodger's horses

Dodger coach

‘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?

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

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!