Tag Archives: Sophie MacKenzie

When the witch met Sally Nicholls

Sally Nicholls could probably persuade me to read almost anything. I’ve rarely seen anyone so enthusiastic about particular books and authors.We met up for lunch in Manchester on Thursday, as Sally happened to be in town for the Manchester Book Awards. As I don’t expect to be able to make it to London for the launch of her new book, Season of Secrets, it was really quite convenient that Sally was travelling north.

I found her sitting exactly where I’d suggested, on a seat at Piccadilly station, clutching a framed picture of the winning alternative cover for Ways To Live Forever, hoping that it would identify her as the one I was looking for. It did. Also the fact that she looks just like her photo on the website. Darker hair than I had imagined, but then you know me and my silly ideas of authors and their hair. I’ll make anyone blonde in my mind, if I feel the need to. Sally’s is beautifully dark brown.

Sally Nicholls

We needed somewhere to have lunch, and from my shortlist Sally picked Café Pop, which is always a cool place to be seen. And then we talked and talked until it was time to put Sally on the train back to London. And I realise there are lots of books I must read, and some of them I will attempt. I promise. Sally waves her arms quite a lot when enthusing over the best books. But then she’s still on her Young Person’s Railcard, so she’s got the energy.

Sally didn’t win the Manchester Book Award. Sophie MacKenzie did. But she was happy to be shortlisted, and with the event on the Wednesday, which sounds like it included a lot of reader participation, with lots of competitions and stuff, like the alternative book covers. Before we met that morning Sally had visited two schools to talk to the children.

The Resident IT Consultant was pleased to hear I’d been talking to an Arthur Ransome fan. I gather Sally managed to have fairly Ransome-esque holidays when she grew up, which sounds very, very nice. Living in central London (although not actually on Waterloo Bridge, where she belongs in my mind), Sally wants to leave London and go and live somewhere with proper countryside. And since her first book has done really well, she can at least afford to do that, if she gets round to it.  Ways To Live Forever has been sold to 17 countries, which is pretty good.

Between us we sorted out English GCSEs, and if I could only remember them, I know exactly what books Sally read for her A-levels. The Importance of Being Earnest and some more … We covered the problems of buying Christmas presents, and I got to admire the very lovely rubber stamp she’s been given to use when signing books. My book is in the post, I believe, so I couldn’t get it signed. Maybe I’ll have to make that book launch after all. (Sally is the first author I’ve come across to offer her floor to sleep on. I think she may even have offered someone else’s floor. I hope they’ve been informed.)

I’m looking forward to reading Season of Secrets once it turns up. One copy has already got lost, and I’m thinking maybe that’s what the thieves who stole the postman’s load the other week, were after.

Book number three is being written, but I didn’t ask what it’s about. Never sure if writers want to discuss unfinished books, so better avoided. And by the way, that’s not how Sally was dressed yesterday, and it’s not the seat at Piccadilly. But I do like the colour of her dress.

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 sell 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.