Tag Archives: Sarra Manning

He ‘can revert at any point’

They are all quite lovely and tremendously interesting, but aren’t they a little weird,* too? I don’t want to be indiscreet, but among Sunday’s crop of authors we found a murder suspect, someone with plans to celebrate a well known politician’s death, a sofa arsonist, a perennial teenager and a writer reluctant to do research in the south of France in winter.

Sunday was literally bursting with great writers for children, and I very nobly only went to see half of what I wanted in order to preserve what little sanity I still have.

We began our day out with a lunch to keep us going until late, and found we could access the wifi and this enabled some ‘office work’ before we walked on to Charlotte Square, which, as I said, was teeming with the great and the good. I so wanted to stop and chat to Philip Reeve as he strolled by, but had neither the time nor the courage. Chris Bradford walked round dressed in black robes, trying to entice people to come and see him.

Sophia Bennett and Sarra Manning

Having failed to keep track of Barry Hutchison through useless email all day, we suddenly found the man himself, recently arrived from the Highlands, en route for a night on the town with ‘the boys.’ My photographer found Sarra Manning and  Sophia Bennett signing in the bookshop, and also ran into Keren David who was out enjoying events before her own talk.

One event not to be missed was Theresa Breslin and Elizabeth Laird talking about writing historical novels. They both read from their latest novels, and described how they do research. Theresa had had some luck with a book belonging to Mary, Queen of Scots, which she wasn’t allowed to even see, until she came across it almost by accident.

Elizabeth admitted to an unhealthy obsession with Ethiopia. (It’s OK. We all have something to hide.) Liz told us about how breeds of dogs were totally different in medieval times. Theresa mentioned embroidered, encoded spy messages, and both thought that the middle of the book was the worst part to write.

Cat Clarke

That’s something the next pair of ladies agreed with. Keren David and Cat Clarke discussed their contemporary teen novels, and read from their books. Keren chose to read from Lia’s Guide to Winning the Lottery, and we now know more about exploding breast implants than some of us might have wanted. Cat read from Torn, which she did so well that Daughter immediately wanted to read it.

Both Cat and Keren spend too much time on social media, and reckon chocolate can cure writer’s block. You need to kill parents or divorce them, because how else could you have your characters staying out all night? For the same reason you have an abnormal number of only children in fiction. Siblings get in the way.

Keren David

Cat once wrote a book that scared her so much she had to give up after twenty thousand words, and Keren is very excited that Lia’s Guide is about to be made into a musical.

We had a full programme, so had to dash after Cat’s and Keren’s signing to set up an interview corner at the opposite side of the square. Daughter had persuaded Professor Frank Close to give her an interview, on the eve of his talk about the Higgs Boson. I’m not sure I understood all they talked about, but they do seem to have found something to laugh about. Apologies to the lady who wanted our help. We weren’t really the best people to ask right then.

Photowitch and Frank Close

The evening finished with a Masterclass with Chris Riddell, introduced by Sue MacGregor. It was very dark. Almost too dark to take notes, but I am fairly sure I wrote something about Blair as Bambi. And Clinton, and Cameron, and all the others. Amusing though cartoons are, they are unlikely to change anything, and Chris feels he is politer in colour. (Bring back black and white?)

Chris’s tutor at Brighton Polytechnic was Raymond Briggs, and that’s why he started working on children’s books. When the Economist asked him to do political cartoons on the basis of a children’s book about elephants, Chris enjoyed being allowed to draw lederhosen, onions and bulldogs (I think those signify the Germans, the French and the British…).

The darkness was to allow us to see the slideshow of holiday snaps, no, I mean cartoons, which Chris had put together with help from his clever son. Though I don’t think that’s what he (or was it Sue?) meant when saying we were there to laugh when we think of dark things. It was dark. I’m not sure any longer. Chris gets invited to all the best parties, and he does get edited, but only by being told he can’t do something. He won’t allow interference within a cartoon.

Chris Riddell

At the subsequent signing in the adult bookshop (it was late) Chris met the best kind of fan; someone who turns up with a pile of old and well worn picture books. I wished I’d had some to get signed myself.

*(And speaking of weird, what are those cut-off rabbit’s heads doing on the ends of rows of seats in the Corner theatre? Other than preventing accidents on sharp corners?)

(The title refers to Chris Riddell, who wasn’t sure he wouldn’t revert to being a children’s author, bursting into some unsuitable song.)

Spend for Japan

Please hand over your money. Author Keris Stainton set the ball rolling some time at the weekend, when she came up with the idea for an author based auction for Japan. She asked all author friends to donate something of theirs to be auctioned to help people in Japan.

Authors for Japan

Personally I had rather hoped for the opportunity to bid for an author, but even without that very attractive option, there are some nice things to bid for. Books by the dozen, obviously. Signed, obviously. Advice and courses and things.

I briefly had my eye on Ellen Renner’s picture of Charlie, but that was already out of my comfort zone when I got there. And on the whole, that is good. Let’s hope it moves much further out of my reach.

Tommy Donbavand will let me be a character in his book. I think that would suit me very well, actually. Didn’t dare see how high the bids were for that. You could have Katie Fforde be frank and fearless with you, which sounds very, very, well, nice. And frank. And fearless.

I could be mentored by Lisa Clark. Or I could be a Sarra Manning character. Though I dare say I’d fit better in Tommy’s horror setting. Maybe name a future Gillian Philip character?

And there is much more where these came from, which is Authors for Japan. In fact, there is nothing to stop you from bidding on every single item. You have until Sunday at 8pm, and I think that’s GMT.

When I first heard about the auction I got so carried away that I wanted to donate something. But I’m no author and I don’t think it’s possible to donate a blog.

So to make up for that shortcoming, please spend.

Rennison rules

I kept thinking it was Tuesday. And of course by the time I got home it was. Three hours at Watford tends to have that effect on train travel. But I was back in time to send Daughter to school.

Arrival of the two Cathys

If you are like me and don’t know Godalming, I can tell you it’s very pretty, and so wealthy (I imagine) that the shops mainly sells things you don’t need. The Book People “live” in Godalming, and they were the ones behind the Queen of Teen award, which ended with a coronation and a great pink party in a marquee on the lawn. I was promised peacocks, but didn’t see them. Flamingos would have suited the pink theme better.

Sarra Manning

I have never seen three pink limousines all at once before. Plus a white one. The authors were driven round with a fan each in the limos, before being decanted onto the red carpet (why not pink?) by the marquee, in front of eager photographers. In the case of Sarra Manning and Grace Dent the drive lasted for hours, but at least they got to know their fans very, very well. Jacqueline Wilson said her neighbours got something to look at when her pink limo came to pick her up. Not an everyday occurrence, then. Someone, I forget who, said she was willing to pay not to go in a limo again. Ah well.

Grace Dent

The marquee was a little pink. The carpet inside was totally pink, and so uneven that we didn’t need pink champagne to stumble every now and then. The food was pink, and very lovely. Even the portaloos were posh, if not exactly pink. It could have been a wedding, except there weren’t enough men there. It was all organised by Susie from the Book People, and she can do a party for me anytime.

Grace's shoes

The invited girls queued to chat to the authors, who signed books and leaflets like mad. The tables were groaning under free books, and once the fans cottoned on to this, they disappeared very fast. The books. Not the fans. There were also party bags at the end, filled with even more goodies and books. If that doesn’t encourage reading, I don’t know what will.

Jacqueline Wilson tells stories

As this was a crowning of a queen, there were tiaras. And those bands that royals wear on posh occasions. Pink, naturally. The chosen girl for each author was invited onto the stage to put a tiara on the head of her favourite, and they all made a brief speech about why they like them so much. I was very impressed with how well the girls spoke. It must be the quality of the writers that produces such great fans.

Karen McCombie

I have not read all of them. I dipped into a few books on the way, and quite enjoyed Meg Cabot’s Princess Mia. Meg, by the way, was the only one not there, as she had some books to sign in South Africa. Had a brief look at Karen McCombie’s book, which I just happened to find on a shelf at home. As for Louise Rennison, she got to sign the strangest book of the day for me. She had to ask, but it was Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging in Swedish. I saw fit to use it for language lessons a few years ago. I remember the kissing lesson. Trying not to muscle in too much on the younger fans, I also added a few names to my quest for signatures in my anthology collections. Their stories, not mine. So, doing well on that front.

Joanna Nadin

We all agreed that to have real, live authors makes a difference between today’s readers and the Enid Blyton generation. All the writers present felt honoured to share the pink chairs with their sister authors. Karen wanted her eight-year-old self to see her now, which would have been interesting if possible. Karen, as she is now, is very pretty, and the Scottish accent is a real bonus. Joanna Nadin’s fan was particularly wonderful, and she alone could tempt me to read Joanna’s books.

Lisa Clark

Lisa Clark’s hair is fantastic. It might not influence her writing, but looks great. Jacqueline Wilson was tanned from a recent holiday, and looked very well. And, she wore pink, a dreamy muted kind of pink. Cathy Cassidy had left her favourite green clothes, and was also pink for the day. Cathy Hopkins said she didn’t have anything pink, but the scarf did the trick, and Cathy looks so fantastic these days. Must be an author thing. We didn’t see so much of Sarra and Grace, as they arrived very late, after their enforced limo ride round most of Britain (I’m making it up), but check out Grace’s shoes! Louise is a born entertainer, and was really funny. Fiona Dunbar

Sophie MacKenzie

Two more authors in the shape of Fiona Dunbar and Sophie MacKenzie, who were ladies with a mission. They were the ones who had the envelope with the name of the soon-to-be Queen of Teen. It was nearly the Oscars, and as some of you may have gathered, the new Queen is Louise Rennison. She gave up her tiara for the much grander crown, and then had to learn to walk around without it falling off. The throne really suited her, and she was pretty good at cutting the ceremonial cake, as well.

Louise Rennison

With all the books gone, the cakes eaten and photos taken, we all trooped off home. Or tried to. Godalming was harder to leave than you’d think. The witch forced herself on a very kind librarian from York with two girls, and shared a taxi. The taxi driver was friendly, but I can’t say the same for his controller. They’re weird in Surrey. Some of them, I mean. The traffic jam had to be seen to be believed, and according to the driver he had never seen it before. Must have been us, then.

Lovely day, whether it was Monday or Tuesday, or both.

Queen of Teen

A number of very popular writers have been holding their collective breaths for some time now, and crossing fingers and things, in the hope that she will be the one to become Queen of Teen at the end of September. They have each egged their fans on to vote for them, so we’ll have to see who’s been more persuasive than her colleagues. If I’ve got this right, I believe that a group of fans who nominated their favourite author, will be invited to come and meet her, and hopefully see her crowned.

Will it be Jacqueline Wilson or Meg Cabot? Maybe one of the Cathys; Cassidy or Hopkins? Louise Rennison or Karen McCombie perhaps? Or pink lady Lisa Clark, or Grace Dent, Sarra Manning or Joanna Nadin?

I haven’t voted, I must admit. I want to remain as neutral as possible, though I understand Daughter had a go.