oxford literary festival
So Sunday was a fabulous day because I got to hang out at the Oxford Literary Festival with two fab friends Candy Gourlay and Philip Reeve, who had an event the same day as mine. Philip and I are bookending Candy here to illustrate the theme of her novel, Tall Story.
Making things even more fun, it all took place at a super-cool venue, the Great Hall in Christ Church college (which you may recognise as the Hogwarts dining hall in the Harry Potter films). I was appalled to discover that Philip had only just been let out of prison that morning, but he kept his ankle tag well hidden. (Shocking whom they allow into the festival Green Room these days.)
You can take a panoramic virtual tour of Christ Church here if you’re curious. (Here’s a peek at the actual room.) My event wasn’t until late afternoon, but I caught an early train to go hear Candy and Philip give a talk with the writer Lauren St John and Blue Peter presenter Barney Harwood. Philip read from his book A Web of Air, Lauren talked about being almost squeezed to death as a child by her pet boa constrictor named Samantha, and here’s Candy talking about volcanoes and giants.
Philip Reeve, Barney Harwood, Candy Gourlay, Lauren St John
The three writers’ books had all been shortlisted for the Blue Peter Award. Note: If you’re like me and didn’t grow up in Britain, Blue Peter isn’t the colder brother of the Green Man. From what I gather, it’s a TV show with a lot of perky people jumping around and doing stunts and making things out of bits of scrap you can find around the house. And I hear adults talking about getting the badges like they’re knighthoods, or better. This time Lauren got the Blue Peter badge for her book Dead Man’s Cove. Barney pointed out a kid in the audience who was wearing his own Blue Peter badge, so I’m wondering which novel he wrote. Barney even had his own team of fan girls:
I led my When Titus Took the Train event in the Junior Commons Room, where a bunch of very young kids, their parents and I made adventure boardgames. For the game we designed and played together, they helped me come up with good and bad things that could happen on a railway journey, and the kids came up with ideas such as ‘Dragon fire’ and finding £100, and the adults suggested things like sicking up their lunch, strikes, and delays due to the driver exploding. Then they made their own board games and I saw one boy who had his curving track go from Japan to England, and a very small girl wound hers from a rabbit hole to the Forests of Saturn.
Rather oddly, the room housed three enormous golden thrones, so of course we had to have our photos taken in them. Here my fab new publicist at Oxford University Press, Jenny Younger, and I pose regally with Titus.
Another big highlight was seeing Candy’s wild and wonderful family. They really are about as fun as one family can be. (And they let me jump on their giant trampoline until I cripple myself.)
It was great to see some familiar faces from the Society of Children’s Books Writers & Illustrators, including Nick Cross and his daughter Eleanor (who proved she was a very fine knitter at my Vern and Lettuce book launch) and Anita Loughrey and Joe. Fab illustrator David Melling, who came along to the event and said he’s been following my blog, which made me very happy. (Great to meet you, David!)
Eleanor & Nick Cross at the signing session
Anita Loughrey & Joe
After very fine G&Ts with cucumber slices in the Green Room, Philip and I went on a tour of Oxford’s not-yet-opened Story Museum, but I shall blog about that next time… Thanks to Nicolette Jones and the organisers of the festival for inviting me!