A while back I mentioned the Emirates Flight Time Stories competition which Sarah McIntyre and I have been involved with. There were loads of entries, and lots of them were brilliant, but the overall winner was a story called Monkey Goes On A Plane by 4-year-old Maddison Penney, and Sarah and I have used it as the inspiration for a picture book. Since 99% of the work is Sarah’s, I hope I can say that it’s lovely without sounding big-headed. Here’s the cover – I love the impact of that big red arrow!
You can read Sarah’s blog about it (and see some more of her pictures) here.
It’s touring time again. This week I went to Henley Literary Festival, where pupils from some of the local schools came to the beautiful Kenton Theatre to hear me talk about Railhead and Black Light Express. I’d planned a simple talk, but when I saw the Kenton’s facilities I realised it would be a pity not to show some of the videos I made last year to accompany Railhead readings, and the excellent festival technician Matt was able to link my laptop to a projector and get it going with amazing speed and efficiency. (One of the signs of a well-run festival is technicians who a) know what they’re doing, and b) don’t mind doing it.) Thank you for having me, Henley Lit Fest!
Then I was straight off to London, where I did an evening event at Waterstones Picadilly with the author L.A. Weatherley. We were both launching sequels, me with Railhead and L.A with Darkness Follows, the first sequel to her novel Broken Sky, in which a neo-1940s future world settles its differences not with war but through aerial duels between young aviators in Spitfire-like fighter planes. The idea was that we would be discussing genre: I’m not sure whether we cast much light on that subject, but it was a good talk, and a nice chance to meet a lot of people who I mainly know from Twitter. Oh, and Sarah McIntyre wore horns…
More McIntyre to end the week in Marlborough, where we did our first Jinks and O’Hare Funfair Repair show as guests of the Marlborough Lit Fest . Our event was on Saturday afternoon but, since trains were few and far between, we had to go up on Friday evening. I’m glad we did, since we were able to attend the opening party, and sit in on a talk by the fiercely funny and intelligent Lionel Shriver, and met the historian Tom Holland, who is equally funny and intelligent (but didn’t seem fierce). I’ve just been reading Tom’s book on King Athelstan, and I enjoyed the talk he gave about it on Saturday morning. He speaks and writes with great passion and affection about Athelstan as the first true King of England, and about Æthelflæd, the Lady of the Mercians, whom he convincingly hails as the most significant woman in English history. However, Sarah McIntyre has a better hat.
Meanwhile, McIntyre was doing a solo event about her work at a lovely little gallery space behind the White Horse Bookshop on the high street. And when that was over we headed back to the Town Hall to get ready for our joint event. This was the first time we’ve done a show based on Jinks and O’Hare, but I think it worked out all right, assisted by a great audience who were happy to help us hook the Ducks of Knowledge and come up with ideas for the giant funfair race game. The new outfits seemed to go down well, too! Once again, huge thanks to the tireless festival organisers and excellent technical crew.
In between Henley and Marlborough I nipped into Nicolette Jones’s book-cave to record an interview for a series of videos she’s hosting for the Sunday Times. Nicolette is one of the most respected children’s book reviewers in the country, and in times like these, when kids’ books are struggling to get any review space in the media, it’s great that she’s doing this.
Strange sights in London last week, as Reeve and McIntyre unveiled our latest look. People always assume we’re dressing up as characters from our latest book, but we don’t go there: we just aim to be eye-catching in some way which vaguely matches the theme and colour-scheme of Jinks and O’Hare Funfair Repair. Sarah painted the Jinks and O’Hare logo on the back of my new jacket (above – I think this is her photo, too.) And she couldn’t decide which hat to wear at first, so I borrowed one…
The original plan was for a photo-shoot at the carousel on London’s South Bank. Unfortunately, on the morning agreed, the heavens opened, there was thunder, lightning, torrential rain, and a falcon, tow’ring in her pride of place, was by a mousing owl hawked at and killed. The South Bank was flooded, and closed for the day, so Harriet Bayley from Oxford University Press rang round and found kind Londoners who let us take photos in their sweet shops and theatres. Then we went to the bit of the South Bank which was still above the waves and did more photos outside Foyles, where we were also presented with our Independent Bookshop Week awards for Pugs of the Frozen North.