Hello, and happy October!
Autumn is my favourite season. I can’t get enough of crisp blue mornings, clear, starry nights, gleaming conkers and piles of crunchy orange leaves. IMHO this is the time of year for new stationery and indulging hibernation/reading addictions without feeling quite so judged – although, here on the (sometimes) sunny South Coast, I happen to know (mad) people who like to swim in the sea – sans wetsuit – all year round, which pretty much gives me vicarious consumption without so much as dipping in a toe. Blankets and Gilmore Girls (so late to the party that I am beyond shame) is far more the way to go, if you ask me.
Literature festivals are also permitted, though, and October coincides with one of my favourite bookish events of the year – the Bath Festival of Children’s Literature. This is the biggest dedicated children’s books festival in Europe and it rocks. I’ve tried my best to make it every year since I started studying in Bath in 2013. I had a fantastic time attending this month, complete with walks in the woods of Bath and an epic dinner catch up with a lovely bunch of Bath writers (two of whom can be seen below, looking suspiciously out of focus).
It struck me this time, though, that it would be my last festival before becoming a published author (!) so not only would it be a chance to hear some of my favourite authors talk about their books, but this time it would also be a great chance to really think about how they go about delivering engaging events.
My favourite event was a very inspiring talk by Katherine Rundell and Abi Elphinstone, all about adventure, childhood and the wild places that have inspired their wonderful stories. Abi and Katherine both write for a middle grade audience and they both love doing hands-on research, like me. I got some great inspiration for doing my own events, such as using photo slideshows and incorporating a ‘show and tell’ element – Abi showed the audience a catapult she’d made and Katherine showed photos of herself meeting wolves and melting woodland snow in a saucepan. The way she described the feel and smell of the wolves’ fur and the taste of tea made from snow was so magical and evocative. Who knew that snowmelt could make tea taste ‘like normal tea, but like wild animals have walked through it’?!
Another highlight of my month has been the amazing response to the bound proofs and getting to meet some of the booksellers of the Booksellers Association (children’s bookselling group). I went up to Egmont HQ and had the amazing opportunity to meet some wonderful people from various indie bookshops across the UK. They were incredibly supportive and encouraging as I made my way through a brief talk about myself and my writing before giving a reading of chapter five of The Huntress: Sea. Despite shaky hands and a scratchy voice I had a great time, and apparently my nerves didn’t even show too much. Phew!
I got some really interesting questions after the reading, from subjects such as inspiration, influences, themes and research (my favourite, because I could talk about this A LOT), to coming up with characters’ names and drawing the map and ship cross-section which feature at the beginning of the book. It was so much fun answering them and feeling a wave of fresh excitement about the book, despite my nerves (which by that point I had *almost* overcome).
After the reading I spoke to some of the booksellers and I definitely have a few more bookshops on my radar to visit when I get the chance. I was even asked to sign people’s copies of the bound proof! (I wonder when I’ll be able to stop apologizing for my squiggles/feeling like I’m desecrating the beautiful book…) As with my first reading, after I’d done it I felt so elated, and I feel better prepared for the next time.
Next month, amid final proof edits for book one, edits for books two (The Huntress: Sky) and book tour planning, I’ll also be embarking on a new adventure, involving writing workshops next to waterfalls and horse riding through the Mexican countryside…more to follow!