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!