This is an old post I wrote for the lovely Jesse at Books4Teens back in November, but I figured it would still be interesting now for anyone interested in the publishing industry.
The original, beautifully formatted post complete with pictures, can be found over in the original post, here
This is one of the busiest weeks of the year, and whilst normally I would be heading into work and checking over the press coverage our books received over the weekend, I head instead to the British Museum where one of our authors, Jamila Gavin, is giving a talk. I first went to set this up in the summer and have been looking forward to it. Jamila has written a book on Alexander the Great, but it brilliantly involves summaries of all the legends that inspired Alexander himself, so there’s a good smattering of Achilles and Hercules too. Today she’s giving a presentation to some year six students who have been studying the ancient Greeks and will be coming on to Alexander next year. Jamila and the children discuss what it means to be a hero, and look at a map that shows just what an astonishing proportion of the ancient world Alexander covered.
Back in the office, last minute details are being checked for various festivals. Both Bath and Cheltenham festivals are on at the moment and it means our PR team of three (me, the Junior Press Officer; Paul, the Senior Press Officer and Sarah, our publicity manager) are quite stretched. Add to that the fact that it’s the launch week for Anthony Horowitz’s (and Walker’s) longest ever novel, the fantastic Oblivion, and it’s a struggle to do day to-day-admin like mail outs and press clippings.
This is going to be my one full day in the office this week so I have to make it count. I spend some of this time checking our authors have all they need for events at Cheltenham this weekend, such as the workshop materials that picture book creator Petr Horacek needs for his breakfast workshop. Not only is Petr helping children make their own picture book inspired by his book Puffin Peter, but there will be a buffet breakfast, plus the Walker Bear (an incredibly cuddly costume) will be making an appearance and we have to work out a new order for Petr’s usual workshop. I also work on details for a dinner that we’re throwing for Quentin Blake in two weeks to celebrate the release of Rosie’s Magic Horse. Quentin illustrated the (absolutely stunning) book for Russell Hoban, who sadly died last year, and we want to commemorate the release properly, so I spend time discussing guests and venues. It’s a lovely book, about some discarded ice lolly sticks that decide they want to be something bigger, and form a horse that takes young Rosie on a magic adventure.
I’m up early to head out to a London secondary school where our author Atinuke is appearing. It’s Black History Month and Atinuke has been booked for the entire day, to work with groups at the school and perform for children from the school’s feeder primaries. This includes African folklore and readings from her own Anna Hibiscus and The Number One Car Spotter books, both set in different places in Africa. I’m really looking forward to it – I’ve heard Atinuke story tell before and it’s a treat. We have a slight moment of consternation as I arrive as we had expected 400 children. However, an unanticipated (by us and the school) extra 200 have also turned up, meaning there needs to be a slight reshuffle of seating and general organisation. As Atinuke and I point out though, once you get past 400 children, what’s another 200? As ever, she does wonderfully and every child is absolutely entranced all the way through.
Normally I’d stay with Atinuke for the rest of the day as she has sessions with smaller groups of children, but we have a lot of getting ready to do for Anthony Horowitz’s launch that night, and I have to leave and run into the city centre to get wrapping paper for his launch gift.
Back in the office I have the unenviable task of wrapping an enormous (but beautiful) map of Antarctica, the setting of the novel’s climax and which Anthony visited for research. Once this is done, we have to run to The Ivy, where the launch is being held. When we arrive, Paul and I arrange over 100 copies of the 668 page book into a book fort (which, let’s face it, you’ve always wanted to do) and we wait for the ice sculpture to arrive. As a surprise for Anthony, we’ve had a copy of Oblivion frozen into a block of ice, along with the Power of Five Logo and the tag line of the book ‘One Chance to Save Mankind.’ It’s brilliant, and impressively doesn’t melt everywhere during the evening.
The party is a great success, with Anthony and his editor Jane making brilliant speeches and everyone having a fabulous time.
The next morning I head off to Paddington as I’m attending the Oxfordshire Book Award, where our author Patrick Ness is headed to pick up the secondary school award for A Monster Calls. Jim Kay, the illustrator, sadly isn’t able to make it but Patrick and I head out for the award ceremony, which is being attended by several hundred school children. This is by no means the first award that A Monster Calls has won (think Carnegie, Kate Greenaway, Costa, UKLA, Red House) but as ever it’s always really exciting to win an award like this one as the winner was chosen by children. When we arrive, we meet up with the winners of the other categories, Nadia Shireen and Tony Ross, and see the amazing hand frosted cakes depicting the covers of the winning books. All authors/illustrators do amazingly and answer a great range of questions from a lot of incredibly enthusiastic children. After the ceremony we have a book signing. I sadly endure children looking at me like I’ve personally stabbed them when I say that I’ve been told by the event staff that Patrick is only able to sign books, not their programmes. Luckily, Patrick’s queue finishes more quickly that the others’ (the perks of writing, not illustrating) and I’m allowed to heal some of my wrong by letting some kids come back. We then head back to London and I hurry home to pack for Cheltenham the next day.
I only have the morning in the office – checking up on queries from the day before as well as dealing with some admin for Sarah and Paul, neither of whom are in the office. Then I get my stuff together and travel back to Paddington to get the train for Cheltenham, ready for the 4 events I’m working over the weekend.
Today I have two events with the lovely Polly Dunbar, who I’ve helped as festivals before. Her books about Tilly and Friends have just been launched as a television series and it’s sweet seeing how many children already know that it’s Hector the pig who favours the maracas whilst Pru the chicken has a handbag. Polly does lovely events where she narrates a story and draws it at the same time, letting children get on stage and help her out. She also tells us the story of Penguin, complete with puppet.
After the event we have a signing queue, where Polly kindly draws a picture in every book, and then we have time for a quick lunch before heading to her second event, a workshop about creating ideas. It’s very hands on, and I get involved, hearing one child’s story about a giant with a nose that gets made into a church steeple, and another about a bird and a cat who don’t want to live together but unite when a pig moves in. These are all generated from random shapes and pieces of paper that Polly has given them as a starting point. It’s a lot of fun.
Afterwards, I spend my evening making up party bags for the children attending the Book It Breakfast with Petr the next day, which promises a good bag for each child.
The breakfast event is lovely. The breakfast itself looks lovely, but I don’t actually get to eat any because I’m busy laying out pencils, gluesticks, workshop materials and extra activity sheets. Petr reads from his books, and as we get to the moment when everyone needs to come and get workshop materials, the Walker Bear appears. He is mobbed, and it’s adorable. Eventually the children settle to the workshop and some lovely mini picture books. Another few stories and a return from the Walker Bear later, and I have to run to my next event.
Allan and Jessica Ahlberg have created a lovely new book called Goldilocks, which doesn’t just tell about the three bears, but the 33 bears, the aliens, and the furniture. It’s an absolute delight and a wonderful event, complete with Allan and Jessica’s own bears, an opportunity for children to help draw the 33 bears, and the classical music that inspired the book in the first place. After a long signing queue for the two of them, I get my stuff together and sleep all the way back to London. I have work tomorrow.