This past week I've chatted with John McLay, one of my lecturers on on my MA, and the co-Artistic Director. I caught up with Julia Green, amazing author and my tutor on my MA. I touched base with several other Bath Spa MA people, tutors, former students, current students, and we talked writing, books, authors, agents, life. But even more strangely, after almost four years in the UK, I know some of the authors and publishers, too. It's been like a big, wonderful writing party.
So in between all the late nights, and long buses back and forth to Bath, I figured I should catch you up on it all.
I started Saturday by volunteering at the Geraldine McCaughrean and Caroline Lawrence event. The two authors were thrown together because they have Western-themed books coming out. But it was a fascinating conversation as they discovered how different they are. McCaughrean is a pantser (though she didn't call herself that!), inspired by character, and doesn't think much of sequels (though she acquiesced to writing this one because she loved her characters so much). Lawrence has of course made her name with her Roman Mysteries stories, she's inspired by setting, and is a total plotter. Lawrence kept mentioning how she plots using 7 steps, so when I got home, I had to look up her website to see the 7 steps. Hah! She's a John Truby devotee. What a coincidence!
The second event I saw might be the best children's lit event ever. It was Kristina Stephenson, author and illustrator of the Sir Charlie Stinky Socks books. She sang about farts and beans, she danced. Her musician husband had written an entire score for her reading. She recruited her children for speaking roles. She had a complete stage set (in her former life, she was a costume and set designer) with moving parts, pop up characters, mountains, castles. Her audience of parents and toddlers were mesmerized. I was mesmerized! Later, I was told the Festival often refers to them as the Von Trapp family. You can hear (audio only, unfortunately) one of Kristina Stephenson's readings here.
But I have to say, the best part of the day was what happened between those two events. Apparently, I had been noticed when I entered the room. No, not for my sunny disposition or cute new haircut. I was the shortest volunteer. So, given my advantageous height, the Festival asked if I'd be willing to dress up as Horrid Henry, so he could make an appearance to greet his fans.
The picture isn't me, by the way, but one from Horrid Henry author Francesca Simon's website. I wish I had had a camera handy, but it all happened so quickly. One minute I was happily volunteering, the next minute I had two Festival volunteers helping me dress in this ginormous plush costume. They warned me it would be crazy hot, we practiced signals to let them know when I was getting tired, so I wouldn't pass out inside Horrid Henry. But what I didn't expect was how horrid Horrid Henry's head would be. I had to put it on sideways, where the opening was biggest, then turn it to face forward. I couldn't see ANYTHING, and was totally enveloped in this giant, close-fitting, dark head. I've always been slightly claustrophobic, so for a moment, I really wasn't sure I could do it. But I would've had to disappoint all Henry's fans. Plus, I wanted to say I had done it!
I'm so glad I stuck around. Once I got outside the green room, and got mobbed by children, it was actually easier. They were all so excited to hug me and touch me and get a high five or a photo with me (never mind that I couldn't see ANYTHING and had to pat out with my hands to find their heads--my keeper assured me I did a fine job). I danced, gave the kids bunny ears, made faces, and wished I could see and really interact with everyone. But it was definitely one of the most fun things I've ever done.
Though taking off the costume was pretty fun, too. Fresh air!
Monday I sat in on a talk by Cathy Cassidy, Joanna Nadin, Samantha Macintosh, and Karen McCombie (the Queens of Teen), and another by Meg Rosoff, David Almond, and Melvin Burgess. Then Tuesday night I went to a Bristol talk by David Almond. All of them blew me away. More posts to come, I promise!