My Wonderful Wychwood Experience!

“You were so funny!” said a teenager* in some surprise. “You’re like a cross between Michael McIntyre and Miranda!”

That was the BEST feedback of the weekend 😉 I love it when people think I’m funny. They don’t expect it. I don’t write funny books, and if you meet me in person, I don’t immediately tell jokes (in fact, I’m AWFUL with jokes. Never ask me to tell you a joke because I can never remember any). But for some reason, get me in front of a crowd and I can make fun of myself for ages. People like it when you don’t take yourself too seriously – and honestly, what could be sillier (and at the same time, more important) than making up stories for a living?

The Wychwood Festival was a really really lovely experience. Within minutes of arriving on the site, I’d run into some of my favourite author friends:

author group
Left to right: me, John Dougherty, Jo Nadin, Wendy Meddour and Mina May. Photo taken by Wendy’s son


It’s compulsory, isn’t it?

And the next thing I did was to buy myself and my two daughters flower headbands. In fact, I kind of regretted not bringing the strangest, multicoloured top I have in my wardrobe: one I don’t think I’ve ever worn in public but which would have fitted right in at Wychwood!

I did a craft event on the Saturday afternoon, which was great fun. I taught children how to make shooting star wands, and the more grown up participants had a go at making pop-up cards with stars on. I wrote out detailed instructions for everything and will put them up on my blog tomorrow so if you fancy having a go yourself you can!

Wendy and Mina - a formidable team!
Wendy and Mina – a formidable team!

I managed to catch some of Wendy Meddour and Mina May’s event (they write the hilarious WENDY QUILL books together. Mina is Wendy’s daughter and only thirteen but already a very talented illustrator!)

Wendy’s latest book, WENDY QUILL TRIES TO GROW A PET contains a very funny questionnaire to help you decide what kind of dog you are. Wendy invited three kids onto the stage to answer the questions and there was a lot of laughter!

Juggling Jo!
Juggling Jo!

I also saw a bit of Jo Nadin‘s event. Jo had picked out moments from her life and used props to illustrate them, each one wrapped in a brown paper parcel, which was opened by a member of the audience. My favourite was a parcel of three tangerines, which represented the time of her life when Jo worked for a juggling company (yes, honestly!). She then proceeded to juggle the tangerines, and managed not to hit anyone in the audience, hurrah! (something she had previously been concerned about…)

Jo read from her book PENNY DREADFUL IS A RECORD BREAKER which my daughter Jemima thought was so funny she made us buy a copy 🙂

The rain stayed away on Saturday entirely which was a nice surprise. I didn’t get to listen to a lot of music, but Jemima enjoyed dancing to whatever band was playing when we walked past the stage!

Where did all the clouds go?!
Where did all the clouds go?!

We were camping with the kids for the first time (thanks, Tess, for the loan of your tent and airbeds!) which was very exciting for them. This meant, of course, that they didn’t want to go to sleep! However, eventually we did all get to sleep and when we woke up the next morning, the sky was BLUE as blue could be!

Of course I hadn’t packed any sun hats or sun cream, nor summer clothes, so we all got a bit hot and a bit sunburned…! However, we did manage to find a bit of shade under a beautiful orange parasol for a bit…

Orange parasol from below
Orange parasol from below

The Waterstones book tent was big and beautiful with lots of bunting and the staff were so friendly and helpful:

Bunting and books - two of my favourite things!
Bunting and books – two of my favourite things!
The fab Waterstones team, led by Barbara (second from left) and their author/illustrator signing board. Can you see what animal I drew on it?!
The fab Waterstones team, led by Barbara (second from left) and their author/illustrator signing board. Can you see what animal I drew on it?!

I took the whole family in to see Philip Ardagh do his event, which was fantastic, of course!

Philip reads from The Grunts
Philip reads from The Grunts

My author event was at 2pm and I was delighted that people drifted in during my talk AND DIDN’T GO AWAY AGAIN! So I must have been QUITE interesting (and funny, according to that teenager, hurray!). I talked about my life as a writer and the whole process of getting a book made, from the starting point of an idea in my head to an actual book on a shelf.


Barbara introduces me
Barbara introduces me

There were some great questions along the way too, which I always like. If you have to wait to the end to ask your question, you usually forget it, I find! And I also taught everyone how to make wish stars…

Me demonstrating the folding technique in a wish star - you can see the powerpoint image on the screen to the left
Me demonstrating the folding technique in a wish star – you can see the powerpoint image on the screen to the left

Each audience member had a strip of paper on which they wrote their wish. And then we all folded our strips into five-pointed stars and popped them into my decorated wish jar:

The finished wish jar with some of the audience-made stars
The finished wish jar with some of the audience-made stars

I got the idea from Steve Cole’s post on Girls Heart Books a while back, and thought it tied in really nicely with my theme of LOOKING AT THE STARS. Then I read a bit from the book and took some more questions – only Barbara had to drag me off the stage because there were too many questions and we ran out of time!

So I went through to the Waterstones book tent and signed copies – and there was even a queue!

A queue of people to see me! How lovely!
A queue of people to see me! How lovely!

I was so pleased with the way my event went, not least because I had planned to do something else as well and had realised that morning that I’d left a vital prop at home! So it was just as well I wouldn’t have had time for it anyway 😉 A big HELLO to fans Maddie and Bekki and Rebecca who were ever so sweet and friendly – and to Elysia and Aymara who bought books and have possibly THE coolest names ever!

I actually have telescopic legs, you know
I actually have telescopic legs, you know

It was nearly time to head home, but I did manage to have a quick photo with Philip, who’s 6ft 7in so I stood on a chair to make myself taller than him!


And I ‘borrowed’ his Elmer the elephant, who goes on a lot of adventures, according to Philip’s Twitter feed

And then it was time to go home. Thanks so much to Barbara and her team for making me feel so welcome – and thanks to my lovely, lovely audience members for making my event such fun (despite competition from enthusiastic drumming nearby!) and thanks also to my husband and kids for coming along to support and basically being excellent company.

I’m sort of hoping they might have me back next year…!

*I have been reliably informed by Maddie on Twitter that this compliment was paid by her friend Jen – thanks Jen! 😀

PS John Dougherty has pointed out that I made no mention of GIN in this post. He’s quite right of course, and my delicious gin and tonic should have been given due respect – as should the highly scrumptious Riggs mojito which I enjoyed after my author event on Sunday. Thanks for the reminder, John! 😉


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