I’m three months late with this newsletter and I apologize. Partly it’s laziness and partly the reason is: I’ve been trying to finish my novel. I can’t tell you that I have finished, but I’m at least thinking about the end of it, which has to be a good sign. Also, it’s been a time of fewer events to describe, whether because of the cold weather (didn’t fancy that snow and am glad it’s over for the moment at least!) or the aforementioned laziness, I’m not quite sure. Still, other things have been happening. I’ve seen most of the artwork for the next Tutu Tilly book (My Ballet Dream) by Shelagh McNicholas and it’s really lovely. Also, Ziegler, the production company in Germany who have made a tv movie from my first adult novel FACING THE LIGHT, has made an offer for MADE IN HEAVEN. I’m delighted by this and hope very much this time to be able to go and visit the set when they’re filming it. My latest novel for teenagers, DIDO is coming out in paperback at the end of April with the same wonderful cover by Alison Jay.
In November, which seems a very long time ago, I spoke to students at UCLAN about my novel HAPPY EVER AFTER. They were a lively crowd and full of questions. They’d been studying fairytales on their course and had a lot of good ideas and thoughts about my book. Thanks to Helen Day.
The North London Branch of the Federation of Children’s Books groups were most hospitable. We had a super lunch in Harrow and the meeting at a local primary school was well-attended and fun. Many thanks to Danielle and Vanessa for a very enjoyable day.
It’s always fun to go to Chester and I spoke to the Friends of the Literature Festival in December. After the event we had a very chatty lunch in a delightful café which also sold Rooibos teas in various delicious flavours. I bought a couple of packs which are coming to an end now...time for another visit, so I hope they’ll invite me again. Many thanks to everyone especially Pauline and Jan.
The first event of 2010 was attending a special Assembly in a primary school in North London to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27th. Thanks very much to Ursula Stone for organizing this. It was a memorable and moving occasion. Lots of schools performed and presented a variety of music and words. It was very heartening to see the exciting things that can happen when teachers and children come together to create something different. David Lammy, MP, was there to see it, too, though he had to rush off to Prime Minister’s Questions at the end.
On February 20th, I travelled down to Hatfield for the Get Writing conference run by the Verulam Writers’ Circle at the University of Hertfordshire’s Hatfield campus. I met all kinds of interesting people there and you can read about it here on the VWC website, complete with photos.
I spoke about ‘How to survive 90+ books’ and among the things I said was: don’t expect it to pay the rent...times are hard. But I wasn’t, I hope, altogether gloomy. Many thanks to Jenny Barden for a really well-organized and enjoyable conference.
On March 5th, I went to Preston for the first meeting of the young people who are going to be judging the Lancashire Book of the Year Award. Anyone who’s in doubt about the intelligence, enthusiasm and general all-round good humour and fun of what the tabloids call “young people today” could do worse than sit in on one of our meetings. They’re a terrific lot of Year 9s and we are going to have fun discussing the wonderful and varied shortlist they’ve come up with. The shortlist is decided in schools all over the county and these 24 judges will pick a winner. I’ll just chair the debate in late May. I posted an article and the shortlist on the Awfully Big Blog Adventure website. Do go over and see what you think.
This year, there’s an adult panel shadowing the award and it will be fascinating to see if they come to the same conclusion as the real judges. Watch this space.
During the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a bit of sense of déjà-vu. I went back twice to the school where I taught French between 1968-71. I went to run poetry workshops for Year 9s and we had good fun. Sue Purkiss gave me a wonderful idea for a poetry- generating exercise and the girls produced some wonderful work. Many thanks to Joel Vacara for inviting me. It was strange to be back there after so long.
On March 13th, I spoke to the Romantic Novelists’ Association in London. The Romanovs, as Sally Prue has nicknamed them, are a splendid crowd and I had a really good time. It was particularly pleasant to chat to Katie Fforde, Jane Gordon-Cumming, (Katie’s sister) Jenny Haddon, Jan Jones and Melinda Hammond who’s from my part of the world. Also good to meet Jean Fullerton who has a very exciting way of getting her plans organized before she writes, which I mean to try sometime and Lucy-Ann Holmes, whose editor at Macmillan is our younger daughter. It is, as they say, a small world. I had a very enjoyable afternoon and thanks to Katie for inviting me. I’m now looking forward to my session at the Annual Conference of the RNA which is in July at Greenwich.
I will be back in the summer! Have a good spring meanwhile.