My association with the Hay Festival goes back twenty years – they championed me at the beginning of my career. So it was truly wonderful to be a part of this year’s 30th festival. And what a great event I had!! Not only was I telling ‘Bluebeard,’ one of my favourite shows, but the mighty Chris Riddell drew live as I performed. He used a visualiser to project the images onto a screen behind me –
He produced fifteen drawings in fifty minutes, and we both loved the experience so much, we are hoping to do it again 😀 There are also plans to turn the drawings and a transcript of the night into an illustrated pamphlet.
I invariably travel alone, so what joy it was to be in the fine company of authors Jonathan Coe, Kit de Waal & Stuart Maconie, and poets Jonathan Davidson & Kurly McGeachie for a British Council/ Writing West Midlands trip to this fantastic book fair and festival.
The event was held in an actual arsenal, built by Catherine the Great. One hundred and fifty publishers were present, selling their books in vast vaulted halls. So many gorgeous books, with exquisite, quirky illustrations. And such enthusiasm from the public! It was like the first day of a Debenham’s sale 😀 Endless books being bought and talked about.
I took part in a panel discussion about the UK literature scene – ‘Alternative Albion’ – talking about ‘alternative’ ways of showcasing literature and encouraging writers. I also did a family performance, alongside my fabulous translator Irina Zaytseva.
I still have some work to finish. One day, our hosts took us out into the city and set us individual challenges, to explore the city through one particular sense and write a piece about it. Mine was ‘scent,’ and I’ve been writing about a visit to the Monastery of Caves. Kyiv is a glorious city to explore…
What an extraordinary couple of months! World Book ‘Day’ became eight weeks of solid work, including three fantastic foreign trips to international schools in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Muscat in Oman and Jeju Island in South Korea.
I had wonderful hosts at all the schools. All librarians, who treated me grandly, supplying endless cups of tea and taking me out sightseeing and dining. I worked with hundreds of children, whose exuberant welcomes, enthusiasm and sheer love filled my heart daily.
And at the British International School in Jeddah, I was finally given what I have secretly long for for fifteen years – a book door!! I was impossibly thrilled 🙂
Introducing my new book… Jack’s Diamond and other stories.
It’s a collection of eight magical short stories – perfect for sharing at bedtime! There are ghostly pirates, dragons, a troll, a monster pudding – and a poem about what would happen if the world turned to chocolate…
I’ve written the stories especially for
younger children, aged 5 – 8.
The book is fully illustrated by Graham Higgins, who also illustrates Terry Pratchett books.
I have recently returned from another long trip. It began in Jaipur at the Kahaani Festival. From there I travelled across Rajasthan, to Pushkar and Jodhpur. Then I flew to Goa for Christmas and New Year … flew on to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam… on to the islands of Hong Kong… and then back to Barcelona for nine days, to acclimatise myself before heading back to the UK!
I love sitting in a cafes, with my notebook and Ipad, working on stories and ideas. In Goa, I worked in various cafes along the beach. A sweet lassi always helps, I find!
In Ho Chi Minh City, I favoured the rooftop of the iconic Rex Hotel. During the Vietnam War (or the American War, as it is known in Vietnam) the foreign journalists used to gather here at five pm every day for press briefings. They called them The Five O’Clock Follies.
In Barcelona, I spent long hours in the lobby of a fabulous nineteenth century hotel on La Rambla, called Hotel 1898. It was formerly the home of the Philippines Tobacco Company.
I am still working on my travel memoir, but also came home with twenty story plans for a book of stories for children, which was an unexpected bonus. I hadn’t planned on doing that!
The sold-out Secret Storytelling event at this year’s Birmingham Literature Festival was wonderful…
The venue was The Roundhouse – an old industrial building on the canals in Birmingham city centre. It used to be where the barge horses were stabled; now it is being renovated by the National Trust. It was a perfect place to tell ghost stories! Fabulously atmospheric and without electricity, so we finished the show in near darkness.
I was joined for the performance by four participants from a workshop I had led earlier in the week: How to Tell a Great Ghost Story.