First of all, thank you very much if you’ve sent me a message recently, and I’m sorry I haven’t replied yet. My inbox is full – as is my life – and I will get to you, I promise. It just might take a few days.
I got back from the Hay Festival on Saturday evening. My talk was on Friday morning, but I stayed an extra day to see as many other authors as I could. One thing led to another, and I ended up on a panel of children’s writers on Saturday morning, answering a range of questions put to us by the audience.
The most memorable of these was: ‘What do you do when you’ve just read the best book ever and you know you’ll never read another one like it again?’
(The book in question, by the way, – we asked – was Mal Peet’s ‘Exposure’. Which Julia Eccleshare, who was on the panel, sitting next to me, OMG, has helped award the Guardian Children’s Fiction Book Prize.)
Various people gave their advice, which basically amounted to Keep Calm and Carry On. It was suggested that maybe, probably, one day you’ll find something equally as good, although we could tell from the questioner’s polite face that he found it hard to imagine.
Other people on that panel included Francesca Simon, who writes the Horrid Henry stories, Patrick Ness, who wrote The Knife of Never Letting Go, and Morris Gleitzman, who wrote Once, Then and Now. OMG OMG. There was also Stephen Butler, whose ‘The Wrong Pong’ comes out next year, and Jonathan Douglas, the very funny and charming Director of the National Literacy Trust. Being in their company was simply amazing. And extremely good fun. Children’s writers are a lovely, friendly bunch of people. We all enjoyed ourselves and I think the audience did too.
And I enjoyed my proper talk just as much. The girls (and boys) and parents who came were wonderful, asked some great questions and made me feel very welcome. And also as though I’m not the only person who’s interested in fashion and ethical concerns. Which is a big relief. Plus I got to show the audience some of the pieces from my own wardrobe that have inspired me. Not something I get to do very often, and it was great. It also meant that if I had a fashion disaster (which, luckily, I didn’t) I had plenty of spare outfits to change into.
When not sitting next to Julia Eccleshare, or chatting to Morris Gleitzman, I found myself feet away from the likes of Jacqueline Wilson, Cathy Cassidy (who was great and who won the Puffin of Puffin’s debate with her choice, Goodnight Mr Tom), and also Melvyn Bragg and Camila Batmanghelidjh – who is a real Mr Tom to hundreds of children in South London, and a truly inspirational woman. I spent half the time rubber-necking in the authors’ tent and the other half listening to some fabulous talks. Oh, and I managed to have coffee with Lucy Christopher, who wrote Stolen, and who’s a Chicken House friend.
The sun shone. The coffee was delicious. The local people couldn’t possibly have been more welcoming. And waiting for me, on my laptop, was the US version of Threads, which my US editor wanted to run by me. The nicest possible ‘work’ to have to go back to.
What do you do when you’ve just had the best time ever, and you can’t imagine it being as good again?
Keep Calm and Carry On. It’s the only solution.