fun at edinburgh book festival!

This festival totally rocked! Stuart and I had so much fun, and the best thing was meeting people I’d only ever heard about. I’d been Twittering for ages with Alex T. Smith, but my publicist talked with his publicist and set up a quick tea-and-cookies session with him before he had to dash for the train. It was fabulous to see him, but part of me was dying that we couldn’t get out drawing supplies and make pictures and comics together for a few good hours. He lives all the way up in York, so I’m going to have to plot hard how to work it so we can somehow do an event together. You can just see cartoonist Steve Bell over Alex’s shoulder.

A guy named Colin Galbraith who’s been tweeting the festival set me up with a five-minute interview an hour before we left for the train back to London. Here it is! I’m reading Morris the Mankiest Monster.

Audioboo direct link

I feel a bit guilty for not mentioning my Scholastic picture book, You Can’t Eat a Princess! when Scholastic were FABULOUS at coordinating my visit. I swear, I’ve never met people so organised, my publicist, Alex Richardson, had this great printed schedule, booking me with something almost every hour, including two company dinners with other authors and two quality comedy Fringe events: The Penny Dreadfuls and Dan Antopolski. (The publicists were in hysterics watching Dan Antopolski giving an alternative Maisy the Mouse story, complete with twisted readings of all the Maisy book covers.) I didn’t have much time to go to other book events, but I did manage to catch authors Philip Reeve and Ian Beck in conversation with Marcus Sedgwick. The little girl in the chair in front of me (in the front row) spent the whole time twisted around watching me draw, so apologies to the panel for my subversion.

I got to have a quick chat with Polly Dunbar, who’s been doing a puppet show based on her amazing picture book Penguin. That’s her actor husband in the lion costume! I’d love to see that show.

Write Away’s Nikki Gamble booked a group of us onto a Ghost Tour, where we got to tour some of the underground vaults and hear about the gruesome punishments people used to inflict on each other in years past. We thought it would all be pretend, but our buxom blond guide Ella actually horsewhipped Marcus Sedgwick. And that’s when it really got scary, because she didn’t just whip him a few times, I think she gave him over 20 lashes. I think maybe they had a secret history together or something.

The two other people I was incredibly chuffed to meet for the first time were Philip Reeve and Martin Brown. I had a few meals with Martin, and a Chinese with Philip, and just before I left, Philip and I bought each other’s book at the shop. I’d only ever heard of his Mortal Engines books, not read them, but he suggested I start with Fever Crumb and I did, on the train. I’m going to finish reading it tonight, it is riveting! (Coincidentally, my studio mate Lauren has been reading Fever Crumb at the same time as me.) You can follow Philip here on Facebook.

You’re probably very familiar with the Horrible Histories books, and Martin Brown is the long-time main dude behind those. (He was very complimentary of mutual acquaintance illustrator Rob Davis, who’s been doing lots of work on his covers.) Martin’s a really lovely guy and really made Stuart and I feel so much more at ease with the whole festival experience. Here he is, eating lunch in the Speigeltent from a bowl which, I swear, was the size of a head. (It looks smaller here somehow.)

When Steve Bell interviewed Alan Moore (during one of my kids workshops), loads of comics people turned up! It was great to see Joe Gordon from Forbidden Planet International. The FPI office sits like a troll under one of Edinburgh’s bridges, and Joe does his prolific blogging from this lair. (Joe’s the dude in the bandana.) Comics artist Garen Ewing and his wife Elyssa were staying at the same hotel as us, so we caught each other over breakfasts and briefly in the Speigletent here with the comics gang. Garen’s Volume 2 of The Rainbow Orchid looks amazing.

One of my four workshops was off-site, a festival Outreach Event, at Craigmillar Library. Scholastic has sent along printed Design-your-own-Alien sheets, but when I saw they had giant rolls of paper, we scrapped the plan and just went crazy after the storytelling drawing monsters and aliens all together on the same paper. Here’s the lovely library coordinator Colm Linnane taking a photo of the sheets pushed together. (So sad we can’t take photos of the kids for legal reasons, they were a lot of fun.)

But here you can see some of the stuff we made!

At last year’s SCBWI conference in Winchester, I’d had dinner with children’s book writer Maureen Oakley, who also works as a stand-up comedian and Radio 4 scriptwriter. Unfortunately we just missed her Free Fringe act Eyes Up Here! with Lydia Parker and Daniel Carter-Hope, but Mo and Lydia came on the Ghost Tour with us and Stuart and I spent the rest of the evening having a great laugh with them in the pub. (If you’re in Edinburgh, they’re going for one more night, go see them!)

And here are a whole bunch of the members from the brilliant festival team! Thanks so much to Sara Grady and everyone who made the festival happen so magnificently, and to my publicists at Scholastic and Random House for making my trip run so smoothly. You wouldn’t believe the amount of work they do for something like this, these guys are amazing.

Clockwise from top left: Ellie Parkin (Scholastic Senior Commissioning Editor, Picture Books, Novelty and Gift) & partner Philip; Festival coordinator Sara Grady (centre) with two of the excellent assistants; Random House publicist Rosi Crawley next to Scholastic publicist Catherine Alport; me and Scholastic Group PR Director Alyx Price in the cosy Authors’ Yurt (complete with free doughnuts and whisky).

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