Strawberries, Empathy, Electrigirl and Music!

Whew! It’s been a busy and very exciting week! So this is what’s been happening…

Last Tuesday, I travelled to Norfolk to SEE MY NEW BOOK BEING PRINTED. That deserves capitals because it was SO exciting! Authors very rarely get to see their book actually rolling off the presses, and so I need to say a huge thanks to Piccadilly Press for organising it. It was absolutely fascinating to see the printing side of the whole publishing operation. I was gutted not to be able to take photos on the factory floor but there was a Very Important Book going through that day which meant there were no cameras allowed inside – boo! However, I can tell you that it was a feast for the senses – so much to see and hear and smell too, from inks to traditional presses to digital ones (that cost £6million each!!). I also learned a Fascinating Fact about reprints which I’ll share at a later time.

Me, holding a double-book untrimmed hot off the press, and a sliced and diced finished product! A Storm of Strawberries EXISTS!

On Friday of last week, I did my very first event at the Hay Festival. It was in association with the wonderful EmpathyLab, and thanks to diligence from publisher, printer and Hay, they actually had copies of A STORM OF STRAWBERRIES to sell, right there on the shelves!

Look at all my lovely books in a row!

I was quite apprehensive about the event because it was a brand new one I’d devised with the help of Miranda McKearney (founder of EmpathyLab) and it was completely untested. I didn’t know how long the interactive exercises would take; whether I’d run out of time or out of material; or even (my biggest fear) whether I’d get any kind of message across. Would people leave the event wondering what was the point of it?

Just before my event, in my strawberry dress, pretending not to be nervous AT ALL

Thankfully, it went brilliantly, not least because of a truly fantastic sold-out audience, who embraced the spirit of the event wholeheartedly. There was no shortage of young volunteers to take part in the exercises…

Photo taken during the event by the Hay Festival team

…and pretty much everyone wanted to recommend a book that they found thought-provoking or touching as an #EmpathyRead:

Felt-tips at the ready as people scramble to write on our Empathy Paper

There were wonderful moments in the event that I’ll remember: the girl mirroring a boy’s pose, telling us it made her feel a combination of ‘bossy’ and ‘hurt’ and the boy saying she’d got it exactly right…the boy who recommended Beetle Boy as an EmpathyRead ‘because Darkus’s dad has died and I’ve lost some of my friends too…’ and the astonishing range of responses to colours: who would have thought that the colour green might make different people feel comforted, sick, crazy or excited?

Thanks for having me, Hay!

I had such a wonderful time at Hay but it was very short because as soon as I’d finished there, I drove straight to Cheltenham for the Wychwood Festival! This was my fourth year there and it was just as much fun as ever. I met up with authors MG Leonard, Ali Sparkes, Sylvia Bishop, John Dougherty, Tamsyn Murray, Gareth P Jones, Steve Cole, Christopher Edge and Philip Ardagh, as well as illustrator Ashley King. My family came up for the day on Saturday, and on Sunday I did two events: an Electrigirl one and a First Draft band performance.

In three of our songs we were joined by Alex from Little Signers who taught the audience some signs for the choruses

It was all a lot of fun and totally exhausting, and I’m quite glad to be home and hiding behind my desk again! If you came to one of my events over the past week, THANK YOU and I hope you enjoyed yourself as much as I did!

To finish, this is one of John Dougherty’s songs, which we performed for the first time on Sunday, and which is now one of my absolute favourites since I wrote a nice flute part for it. It’s about getting swept away in a book and is called SAIL AWAY. Enjoy…



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