I can’t believe that it’s over six months since my last blog about World Book Day! So much for good resolutions. I’d intended to blog regularly all the way through writing the final Stonewylde book, but that just didn’t happen in the end. And now it’s due out in four weeks’ time!
But last weekend I attended the Society of Authors’ CWIG conference – this stands for Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group – and blogging was mentioned several times in various talks. Apparently I’m not alone in struggling to maintain a regular blog. One of the things recommended was to be part of a joint blog, where you have your monthly post to write (eg The History Girls, The Awfully Big Blog Adventure, etc) and that sounds like a great idea – but nobody’s invited me to join one yet!
You may wonder why I was at a children’s writers’ conference. Gollancz were intending to publish my books under their new Young Adult imprint, Indigo. However this didn’t happen, although Waterstones still keep the series in the Teen Section and much of the marketing has been aimed at this audience. Although there are many young Stonewylde readers and the books are suitable for 12+ readership, I’m sure most of you reading this are adults and I’ve had some quite disgruntled comments from older readers about finding their Stonewylde books cowering amongst shelves of dark and dripping vampire-type books and ghastly American high-school dramas. It’s not my decision! I’m hoping this will change in the future, and will keep you posted.
However, I did feel at home amongst other authors at the conference, not least because I’m hoping to write some children’s books in the future. I met some really interesting people from all ends of the scale – from famous writers such as Patrick Ness and Malorie Blackman, to others just starting out who are as yet unknown. One of the lovely things was that Kevin Crossley-Holland was there, and it was great to see him again. I first met him many years ago (2004 I think?) when I was a teacher, and helped out every year at a conference that brought authors to speak to teachers and school librarians. I was Kevin’s minder for the day and whilst he was eating lunch, he told me to tell him all about myself. I said (very shyly) that I’d written a novel and was looking for an agent. He was so charming and kind, and told me to send him the manuscript. He gave me a wonderful endorsement which I used on the self-published versions, and which Gollancz have used on their covers too. I met Kevin again at an Orion party, not having realised they published him as well. So last weekend it was brilliant to meet up with him again and have a longer chat. He really is a wonderful man and I was so glad he signed my copy of Bracelet of Bones, one of his Viking sagas.
It was also incredibly exciting to finally meet up with Jane Ray, the renowned and very gifted artist. I’ve loved Jane’s work since I first discovered it in the 90s. I bought wrapping paper and greetings cards featuring her work, and framed them to hang on my walls in my house in Weymouth. I bought as many of her picture books as I could find, and two of my absolute favourites are ‘Sun, Moon and Stars’ and ‘Song of the Earth’ (also known as ‘Earth, Fire, Water, Air’). It was the double paged spread at the beginning of the latter that really got me thinking of the whole concept of the Goddess in the Landscape, and inspired me to weave this into Stonewylde. There’s also a picture in the former book depicting the moon as a lady in a dark cloak, walking through a marsh, and I always imagined this when I refer to ‘the Bright Lady’ in my books.
Amazingly, both Jane Ray and Mary Hoffman, the lovely author who wrote all the text in both books, were at the conference! I’d previously met Mary Hoffman at the London Book Fair earlier this year, when she’d been so kind to me. And now at the conference I was thrilled to have both Jane and Mary sign my copies of these books – a dream come true!
All in all, apart from the appalling sound system in the main lecture theatre and a distinct lack of air, it was a great conference and I came home exhausted, my mind teeming with information, ideas and notes. And I made many new acquaintances whom I hope will become friends. But I have a confession to make – I’d booked into the conference months ago, thinking it was in Henley. But it turned out to be the Henley Business School at Reading University. So on Friday night, having surveyed the perfectly clean and adequate student accommodation (narrow single bed, spartan bathroom) I quietly trundled my suitcase back to the carpark and nipped home to my comfortable house and wonderful husband! I think the real deciding factor was that the (nasty) coffee machine in the canteen had broken – and there was Mr B ready and waiting to oblige with Lavazza Oro!