They warned me. My lovely publicist Mary definitely said ‘mixed audience’ and I said ‘yes, I get that’, but what I meant was ‘la la la la is that Danyl on X-Factor in 10 minutes?’, not, ‘Oh! I see! There will be BOYS at my next reading! Nearly 90 of them! Better think about that a bit.’
So when they all trooped into the hall at the Bishop of Llandaff School in Cardiff today, it was a bit of a sharp intake of breath for them and for me.
Threads is pink. It’s largely about fashion. I can’t help or hide that. Normally, it’s an advantage. Anyway, I apologised and focused heavily on the Save The Children campaign (there’s now a fundraising competition associated with the book which you can enter by clicking here: www.savethechildren.org.uk/threads) and the whole how-I-became-a-writer thing. And skipped over the pink corset slide mighty fast.
Anway, got to the bit where I asked for questions and 180 pupils and staff went very quiet. So I warned them I’d be asking again in a minute, and did another reading. Asked for questions again ….. and got LOADS. Probably more from boys than girls. All interesting (these were Year 8s, by the way. Love Year 8s), all fun to answer, all suggesting that there are a lot of would-be writers in that audience who are seriously considering career options at this stage. Several from boys asking if I’m going to write for boys. And looking disappointed when I said I’m rubbish at techno-gadgets/spies/chases/killer spiders/killer robots/fairies armed with techno-gadgets etc. Sorry to pigeonhole boys’ books (which by the way I think are brilliant at the moment), but I have an 8 year-old and read boy stuff a lot and that’s what we read.
I managed to salvage it slightly by saying that I love snakes (not sure why, but I was asked, and I do love snakes. And spiders are OK too). But despite all that, I got yet more fab creative writing later, and there was a raffle, and lots of boys ended up getting me to sign books for their mums and sisters for Christmas (and one said he liked reading and it was very definitely for himself. Go you!).
Not that the girls weren’t WONDERFUL. They were. But I was just very grateful indeed that their less pink-friendly classmates gave me a chance too.
Thank you, Bishop of Llandaff School. It was a fantastic day.
Oh, and talking of pink, on the way back Mary and I checked out the WHSmiths at Cardiff station, as you do, and found this:
Look at the very, very pink spine. It belongs to Girl Aloud, by Emily Gale, an online friend of mine, fellow Chicken House author and one of my favourite bloggers. I’ve been waiting for this book to come out for ages. And when I read it, it took me straight back to being 15. I felt as if I was there, in every scene. Even though my dad never tried to enter me into X-Factor against my will. (Note the lack of Threads in this picture. Must have recently sold out, hem hem.)
Got to Paddington. By now, I’d been up for many hours and my young family needed me (or so I like to believe). So, naturally, I had to check out the station’s rather larger WHSmith as well, before I hit the Tube. Where I found this:
Now, look here, Emily Gale. You may be a friend of mine, but your book has been out for days. Days, woman! And it is making its way up the chart with unseemly haste. Make way for the rest of us, why don’t you?
So, gentle readers, if you are tempted to buy Ms Gale’s Girl Aloud, can I just say, don’t. You may find it touching, funny and beautifully written. But Threads needs all the help it can get right now. You know where your loyalties lie.
Dudley tomorrow. I’ll be checking those bookshops again. Look out, Emily Gale, is all I can say.
* Cariad is my favourite (and some might say only) word in Welsh. Lovely language. Lovely people. Lovely trip.