Fancy that

Today will go down in Bennett history as a great Halloween.

This is largely because I really don’t like Halloween – or rather what it’s become, with merchandising opportunities, orange everywhere (ew), too many sweets and scary children wandering around the streets, high on E numbers, looking for trouble. But this year the eight year-old is away and I’m left with two children who are too old and sophisticated to care and one who is too young to know better (and will blame me later for all the chances he missed, but hey, that’s later and now is now).

AND tonight, for the first time ever on Halloween, my husband and I have been invited to a party, and better still, the hosts are Americans and know how to do these things properly and it’s a FANCY DRESS party. I LOVE fancy dress parties. Most of the British people I know are too cool and repressed to do fancy dress properly, but if asked nicely by Americans, I have a feeling they will make an effort, as will we.

My husband, who is six foot five, is going as a vampire, and has described his black-jacketed-white-open-necked-shirted-with-a-trickle-of-blood outfit to me and he will be gorgeous. I get the chance to wear my new sparkly Abercrombie tee-shirt and my very old Jasper Conran dinner jacket from Debenhams, and Morticia Addams hair, and I can’t wait.

So come this evening, the children will be at home watching X-Factor and the grown-ups will be out on the streets, in their fancy dress, off to a party. This is Halloween as it should be. Happy days.

Good news, bad news

First the good news.

Vogue and 10 have decided to mention the Threads hardback, with its Giles Deacon cover design, on their websites.

YAY YAY YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I simply can’t believe that, when I sat in my little library making all this stuff up last year (OK – doing lots and lots of research … but basically making up a fairy story about fashion that I wished I could have read when I was about 14) it would one day end up being talked about by Vogue. And that 10 would be inspired enough to make up their own version of Giles’s design (he’s just Giles to us, dah-lings), featuring his face. It’s beyond strange. You write a fairy tale and your own fairy tale comes true right in front of your eyes.

And I’ve just been talking to Ann Ceprynski at Matthew Williamson, and she likes book 2! And she recommended hot fashion places to visit in New York. Where I’m going next week!!!

OK, enough good news. Now for the not-so-good news.

Not doing my talk at the Hay Festival’s London weekend after all. Great shame, but these things happen. Not me pulling out and doing a diva strop, though, I promise. And won’t be at Hatchards this time. Sigh.

BUT

I will still be at Harrods, on Saturday, at 3 pm, armed with pink signing pens and wearing my neon pink tights, so if you want your very own copy of Threads with its Giles Deacon cover, AS RECOMMENDED BY VOGUE AND 10, and you don’t live on the other side of the world (sorry, Emily and Sean and FiL), and you don’t want to buy it online or at your nearest bookshop, I’d love to see you.

🙂

An Education

Nothing is more boring than when an author says ‘Oh, you should see what goes on in real life. I’ve only hinted at it in my (extremely over the top) fiction, but doing my research I discovered it’s MUCH better/worse/more depraved/whatever.’

However.

I decided to write about a twelve year-old who’s really good at something and becomes a recognised star in her field. And as the series develops, another character also gets a go at becoming an overnight sensation. It’s fiction. I’m totally making it up as I go along, because that’s what I do for a living and it’s really, really fun. But a reviewer recently said that you have to ‘suspend a certain amount of disbelief’ and the more I look into it, the more I’m coming to the conclusion that actually, you don’t. (I noticed that the same reviewer had just described Eoin Colfer’s newest addition to the Hitchiker’s Guide ‘trilogy’ which, if I’m not mistaken, includes VOGONS and TWIN-HEADED BETELGEUSIANS. No mention of disbelief suspension there. But I digress.)

I went to the London premiere of An Education this week – as you do, dah-ling – and saw Carey Mulligan give the performance that has got everyone in the film world calling her the new Audrey Hepburn (rightly), and has marked the start of what will be a stratospheric film career. Go and see her in this one, if you possibly can, but don’t worry if you can’t. She’ll be in Wall Street 2 next year, and every other movie they can shoehorn her into for the foreseeable future. And you won’t be disappointed.

Did I mention the eye makeup?

Carey is 24 now, but was 22 when she made An Education, playing a 16 year-old schoolgirl attracted by the lifestyle of a shady older man. Before that, her claims to fame were Kitty in Pride and Prejudice, parts in Bleak House and Doctor Who, and Nina in The Seagull on Broadway last year. OK, that was pretty incredible and probably her biggest highlight so far, but it was a long way away, and not many of us got to see it.

She’s in every scene of An Education, acting alongside Dominic Cooper being sexy, Rosamund Pike being breathtakingly beautiful, Emma Thompson being sharp, mature, brittle and kind, and Alfred Molina being bluff, angry and frustrated. And in every scene you’re looking at Carey, at her knowing eyes and mobile, sardonic lips, and wondering what she’s going to think next, and wanting more.

I’d have enjoyed the film anyway. It’s got the early sixties, when my parents were growing up, getting married and having me. It’s got VERY BEAUTIFUL CLOTHES, especially when worn by Rosamund Pike or Carey, and I never have a problem with that. It’s got girls wanting to go to Oxford, then not wanting to go, then wondering why they should or shouldn’t go, and wanting to go to Paris, wear black, become an existentialist and say nothing. It’s got funny bits. It’s got characters with layer after layer of vulnerability and hope and regret. And did I mention the clothes?

But more than anything, it’s got a girl you won’t remember seeing before becoming a bona fide movie star in front of your very eyes.

Carey2I watched her afterwards, when the crowds had gone, walking back through a half-deserted Leicester Square with her friends (who by the way adore her because on top of everything else she’s a Very Nice Girl), in her designer frock and heels, and nobody was looking, apart from me. They were just a group of girls, going out together, laughing.

She’s not going to have that for much longer. She’s already papped in New York on a regular basis as she travels around with her new boyfriend, Shia LaBoef. Soon it will be worldwide. Especially after the magazine shoots she’s booked for, the Anna Wintour thumbs up, and the other movies she’s got coming out soon.

Six years ago, she was a boarder at Woldingham school, applying to drama school and getting turned down. It may take slightly longer than it does in my books, but it can happen. I’ll always remember when I stood in Leicester Square and watched that moment when it was about to start.

CareySeagull

Saying of the day

Robbie Williams at the Roundhouse, introducing Feel:

‘It was my auntie’s favourite song and I’m sure she’s looking down on us now.’

Audience: ‘Aaaaaah.’

Robbie: ‘She’s not dead, she’s just really, really condescending.’

🙂

Go Robbie! Good to have you back!

For the full review in the Guardian, go here.

This week I am loving …

Things that make me smile a happy smile

  • Reviewing Danyl Johnson’s first X-Factor audition on YouTube. Actually, it makes me cry, but it’s happy crying. That microphone bit, when he throws it from hand to hand … The bit when he bounces back to the spot he’s supposed to be standing on and grins. He’s enjoying everything about that audition. Love, love, love it. (Didn’t like his latest performance, by the way, but hey, 8 million views on YouTube can’t be wrong about that first one.)
  • Charlie Brooker’s response in the Guardian to Jan Moir’s article on Stephen Gately in the Mail. Sometimes you just have to stop prejudice and innuendo in its tracks and call it what it is. If you can be relatively funny at the same time, it helps.
  • The zine that Tavi Gevinson made for the pop up shop at Colette. (I’m so old I still call them maga-zines! Get me!) That girl is depressingly talented, but hey, I have a novel out so I can afford to be gracious.
  • Emily Gale’s kitchen. She posted a photo to show how tidy it is, pre-her temporary housework ban so she can concentrate on writing. However, the photo merely reveals how gorgeous it is. I will now post a photo of my kitchen, so readers can compare and understand why I WANT Emily’s. (And no, I haven’t been doing a housework ban. Mine is just like this. But it does include my husband emptying the dishwasher WITHOUT BEING ASKED, so maybe I get extra points for that.)DSC01132
  • Strange connections. Who would guess that an ex-pupil at my son’s school would turn out to be friends with an about-to-be-Oscar-nominated actress, who is completely fabulous, is Anna Wintour’s new favourite person and is off to the London premiere of her film tonight … AS AM I!!! As research! Go my job!
  • Girls and (their mothers) who write via the Threadsthebook website to say how much they’ve enjoyed the book. Go you!
  • MY NEW SHED. shedEmily Gale may have a kitchen to die for, but I have a shed. I’ve had it for a little while, but we only managed to get the desk into it over the weekend. It is FREEZING COLD in there, because we haven’t got round to heating it yet, but it is GORGEOUS. It’s got my pens, and my books, and my papers, and my Danielle Scutt Barbie, and a view of the garden, and peace and quiet (apart from the sound of the squirrels overhead), and no wifi yet, so I can’t get distracted by blogging. (I’m doing this in the dining room.) That big, empty space at the back is where my MOOD BOARD is going to be. Not that I’m excited or anything. Roald Dahl, eat your heart out. Virginia Woolf, it is a room of my own and you would be proud of me. OK, so it’s also storage for the lawn mower and my husband’s power tool collection, but most of it is MINE. All I have to do now is sell about fifty million novels to pay for it.
  • On the subject of homes, this table, which my brother made (and went on sale today at Purves & Purves. Oh wow). Yes, really. My brother is super-cool. Anyone who’s read Threads will suddenly be going ‘Aha!’. And you’re right.table
  • Things beginning with ‘H’. On Saturday, I’m talking at the Hay Festival event in London, then signing books in Hatchards and Harrods. I feel like a song from My Fair Lady. Please come and say hello, and tell me which are your favourite bits of the book. And whether or not you’re going to enter the competition to go to London Fashion Week and see your dress made by Tammy. And your ideas for making the world a better place.

Oh, and if you can persuade a friend to buy a book, that would be wonderful. Donations to Save The Children (hardback) or the Sophia Bennett Shed Benevolent Fund (paperback). You choose.

On reflection, I think it’s the cloak

Loving the boots

Or maybe the boots

What’s great about going to graduate shows is that you get to meet creative people who go off to exciting places to get fresh inspiration, and then send you photos to prove it.

Readers of this blog will know that I’m a fan of Angela Thurston, who made the dress I wore to my launch party and who designs bold, colourful silk fabrics that just want to make you skip around, celebrating. Angela went to Rome recently and kindly decided to share this picture of a gladiator as a memento.

Not sure what it is about it. The bootlaces? The helmet plume? The shy expression? The pink cloak? Anyway, normally I’m not exactly a gladiator person, but this gladiator was an exception.

I thought I’d pass him on, especially with Hallowe’en approaching. Happy fancy dress, everybody!

Oh, and Reader – I bought the parka. (In Selfridges, with a big yellow paper bag to prove it. Sigh happy, impoverished sigh.)

This tape will self-destruct

OK, Agent S, your misson for the day is to go into Central London (just of Regent Street) and sign 43 books without turning it into a major shopping expedition. You are on a deadline. Your time is precious. Can you do this, Agent S?

Yes I can, Control. I am a mature, sophisticated author. I used to work just of Carnaby Street and this area holds no secrets for me. I can be in and out in 90 minutes, tops.

I see. You do realise, Agent S, that the office you must reach has been cunningly placed within mere metres of French Connection, Liberty, Karen Millen, Zara Home and Hobbs? And that, to heighten the tension, we have arranged this meeting at the very moment you’ve persuaded yourself you need a new winter coat? Nothing too hot, or too formal. Possibly a parka. Something with a detachable lining would be nice … But you must not be distracted, even for a moment?

Yup. Got that, Control. No probs.

And that you might persuade yourself that, for the sake of ‘background colour research’ for one of your books, you need to return via Bond Street, where all the handbags are?

I’ll be fine, honestly.

Your time starts now. This tape will self-destruct in 5 seconds.

Er, Control, did you say French Connection? Haven’t they got a much better collection than usual, this season? And didn’t you forget that the Apple Store is even closer to the office you sent me to? And what about signing pens? I simply have to have pink signing pens and the only place to get them is from Muji in Carnaby Street, which also has a very nice line in stationery …

And Hobbs, Agent S. They’ve got a grey parka in their new NW3 line that really demands a second look.

You know when I said ’90 minutes’? What I actually meant was  ‘as long as I’m home by 5, everything will be fine – I can always catch up tomorrow.’

Oh, yes, Agent S. That makes sense.

Phew. You had me worried for a minute there.

It was definitely the pink tights

A typical day in the life of a children’s author ……….. IF ONLY!!!!

I’m woken up by my friend’s adorable three year-old, book in hand. Check watch. It’s six thirty. Ask adorable three year-old to come back later. End up reading very funny jungle story to her at seven thirty. Manageable.

Eat croissants with my friend and her family. Get ready. Catch train with less than a minute to spare after failing to store essential pick-up-tickets reference code on my phone. Practise to myself on the train and decide at the last minute to change the reading I’m doing. SO living dangerously, but that’s pretty normal. Arrive at Cheltenham Spa station to be greeted by the first in a series of professional, experienced, enthusiastic volunteers and driven straight to my venue. Loving it so far.

The sky is piercing, autumnal blue. The rain has retreated for good. Cheltenham is stunning and I luuuuurve it.

Get to venue – the Playhouse – bijou, Victorian in feel and perfect in an intimate way – in time to catch the last half of Michael Morpurgo, Julia Eccleshare and Chris Riddell talking about their favourite books. I’m on that very stage in 2 hours. Should be more nervous than this. And not enjoying myself so much.

Once Michael, Julia and Chris have done their thing to a packed crowd, I’m taken in hand by a bunch of organisers who seriously know what they’re doing and helped with props, slides, body mike (naturally, dah-ling) and basically everything I need. Later on I meet up with Barry, my publisher, and we talk shop for half an hour in the Playhouse kitchen/dressing room while someone else does their thing on stage. Like how complicated life will be if we ever do sell the film rights. Like I’m so worried about that bit.  Still enjoying it. Waiting for the nerves to take over and kill it, but they haven’t yet.

The big question is, will Lisa Armstrong, the Times Fashion Editor, be able to get across town in time to help out with my Q&A, as she has incredibly kindly offered to do at the last minute, or will I have to wing that bit and hope for the best?

The answer is, she gets there BEFORE I’VE EVEN STARTED, looking extremely pretty, thin and well-dressed, as one would expect, and sits in the front row, waiting to be helpful.

I have Lisa. I have 40 extremely gorgeous, fashion-related slides. I have three of Tanielle Lobo’s gold and sequinned outfits as props. I’m wearing neon-pink tights and a Vivienne Westwood jacket that feels like armour, in a good way. What can possibly go wrong?

It’s my turn. The fabulous Barbara introduces me delightfully. Lights go up low on the audience. There IS an audience. About 100 girls and their parents have shown up, bless their hearts, so I’m not going to be talking to just Barry and Lisa. I’ve made a strict decision to sit down and talk to my notes for the first 10 minutes, so I don’t panic and screw up too early, but actually, facing the audience, I keep remembering what I meant to say next and not going off at a tangent and next thing I know, I’ve reached the reading bit and I haven’t had to peer at the notes or turn my back to the audience to check the slides, and it seems to be going OK.

Do the reading. There were supposed to be funny bits, but no laughter. Luckily, in my earlier life I was a bit of an expert on large audiences (and this one may be small-ish for Cheltenham, but it’s huge for me), and I know that it takes a comedy genius to get 100 people laughing, so I don’t feel crushed. Actually, it’s still OK. I think they’re listening, at least. And who can’t love slides of pink water-silk Renaissance corsets and Lily Cole posing for Vogue?

I invite Lisa Armstrong on stage to join me for the Q&A, as you do. So far, Lisa and I have exchanged about 20 words about how we’re going to do this, having met for the first time 2 hours ago. However, we make, I think, a pretty reasonable double act. I do the writing stuff and she does the fashion stuff and we both do the ‘what do you like to wear’ type stuff. All we need is lots and lots of interesting questions.

AND WE GET THEM!!!

I LOVE YOU, CHELTENHAM AUDIENCE! You can come to my talks any time.

Girl after girl talks quietly into the microphone to ask what our favourite colour is, what to wear to a prom, whether we think it’s important to wear colour, whether we like jeans, what my inspiration was for writing the book, whether writing the second one was easier than writing the first (it was) and on and on.

It’s fab. I could go on like this for hours. But we finish on time. So far so perfect.

Then I go offstage, to be seated at a SIGNING TABLE, and am greeted by a queue of girls, all with gorgeous names, asking me to sign my beautiful book for them. My completely wonderful publicist, Mary, (actually she’s not mine really, but I would love to own her) makes sure I even have a glass of water. I AM Meg Cabot, basically, for about twenty minutes. And loving it. And I only spell my own name wrong once. (Sorry. Hope it didn’t show.)

Go off to the Writers Room and eat the free food and drink the free drink and spot famous people. Peel off occasionally to buy books in the Waterstones tent, admire Cheltenham in the sunshine and watch other talks. Meet Cathy Hopkins and chat about houses and agents and imagine what it must be like to be on your umpteenth book. Then the wonderful Mary offers me a lift home through the dying autumn light, down the winding Cotswolds roads to London.

Why did I chose this job? Oh yes, IT’S THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD!

I wouldn’t want to do that every day. It’s a bit like eating a very large plate of chocolate meringues and cream. Followed by a second helping. But y’know, every now and again …

And to the girls who have contacted me since, thank you! The tights came from Dorothy Perkins. I recommend them. They make you feel goooooooood!

Channelling Queen Victoria

I’ve been desperate to blog about her since Fashion Week. She’s been doing her thing since she was 11, which was like, light years ago, so now she’s the grand old age of 13. And has 4 million followers. And has appeared not only at New York Fashion Week (where she was undoubtedly the star) and in Love magazine and the cover of Pop, but also in the Young Times, so you know she’s really made it.

Her name is Tavi Gevinson, better known as Style Rookie or Tavi-thenewgirlintown, and she is, without a shadow of a doubt, THE BEST FASHION BLOGGER ON THE PLANET. (see the link to her on my blogroll).

I don’t say this lightly. Or remotely patronisingly. I don’t mean ‘the best fashion blogger for a 13 year-old’, I mean ‘what are the rest of us doing even trying to write about fashion, ever, when she is the wittiest, sharpest, freshest, most on-the-ball commentator you could possibly hope for?’.

Today, she’s channelling Queen Victoria on her blog. She doesn’t seem to know she’s doing this, as QV doesn’t get a mention, which is odd, seeing that Tavi regularly spots cultural influences and connections from TWENTY YEARS BEFORE SHE WAS BORN. How does she do it? Telepathy? Osmosis? Seances?

The blog is packed with photos. Of Tavi, in her latest creations, of shows, of movie stills she finds reminiscent of the shows, of photos by the recently deceased Irving Penn – she is nothing if not current. But I’m not going to reproduce any of them here because that girl is SHARP and very attuned to people ‘borrowing’ other people’s stuff without asking. And ever so slightly scary.

If you’re remotely interested in style, creativity, good writing, teenage vocabulary, deep-seated wisdom, self-awareness, humour and great photos (oh my god – like – my whole range of professional obsessions), treat yourself to this girl. She is special. She is wonderful. She makes my ‘fairy tale’ book look like a totally normal documentary about teenage folk in London, except probably not quite hip enough. She is, along with The SartoriaList, my favourite fashion reference.

Oh, and she’s based in Chicago. One of my favourite towns.

Make that 4 million and one followers. We are amused.

Giles

The hardback version of Threads comes out today (I think – Amazon seems to disagree so far).

As I have mentioned before, it is GORGEOUS and I love every square inch of it.

Giles Deacon, who kindly did the illustration for it, is showing at Paris Fashion Week any minute now, having just won its most prestigious award for young designers (young means under 40 – yay!), which is a whopping £137,000 – yes really – to put on a show. If you want to know more about him – and you should, believe me – try here and here.

And if you want to see an example of his work in action, try this:

GDcover

Nice, huh? In all good bookshops soon. (She said, crossing her fingers).

And in Harrods and Hatchards on Saturday, 24 October, with its Vivienne Westwood-clad author signing copies frantically!