… author of Escape From Furnace, The Fury, The Inventors, and the brand new Devil's Engine series

Fun at the Palace

No, not Buckingham Palace, Crystal Palace! Today I was down in South London at Alex Milway’s wonderful Crystal Palace Children’s Book Festival, which he has set up from scratch for the first time this year. Now, setting up a whole festival is no mean feat, it takes a huge amount of work and passion and creativity, and is, from what I’ve heard, pretty much a full-time job. But Alex is perfect for that job, as he does have oodles and oodles of enthusiasm and creativity. He decided to set up a festival, and he just went ahead and did it! And what a fantastic job he made of it too.

There were a series of workshops throughout the day, of which mine was one. I headed down on the train (well, trains, as there were bloody ENGINEERING WORKS so one train became about three hundred, but then that was the only bad part of the day so I can’t really complain) and went straight to Upper Norwood Library, run by the lovely Fiona. I was about five minutes late, so when I arrived I saw that my workshopees were already waiting – mostly kids, but also a couple of adults who thought it was an adult workshop (one of which, I realised later, was Cristy Burne, winner of the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Award for her new novel Takeshita Demons, which looks amazing)! They were all great, and we cracked into some exercises straight away, including how to build the foundation of a horror story by looking at your worst fears. An hour later and there were some terrifying plots for horror stories doing the rounds, and I hope that everyone who was there goes off and writes a scary story! Many thanks to everybody who came, it was great meeting you all!

Afterwards I went for a delicious (but very hot) Thai lunch with Alex and some other festival folk and we chatted about books and writing and films and all sorts of other things, which is always lovely but especially so once you’ve finished a workshop and can relax. Thanks to Bookpirate for footing the bill! After that we waddled contentedly up to The Bookseller Crow for an afternoon of readings. It was a fantastic lineup, with Alex reading from his new Mousehunter book, then the marvelous Sam Enthoven reading from TIM Defender of the Earth, then me, then Sarwat Chadda with his first ever reading from his new horror Devil’s Kiss. It was the first time I’d met Sam and Sarwat, and they were both brilliant. I’m really looking forward to reading their books. Incidentally, I discovered that Sarwat’s mother-in-law lives about one minute from my house in Norwich, how weird is that?! After some signings from the DFC illustrators we headed over to Smash Bang Wallop, a lovely gallery, and enjoyed some well-earned drinks. I met tonnes of other talented people there, including Sue Eves, although I didn’t get to meet her wonderful dog.

So all in all a perfect day, and Alex should be immensely proud of himself for pulling it all together so expertly. Hopefully there will be another one next year!

And I just have to say that out of all the places I’ve ever been in London, Crystal Palace is by far the nicest. Where else can you be walking down the street, turn your head to the side and be blown away by a view like this (which, if you can’t make it out, is the WHOLE of London):

Happy Birthday Lucy!!!

Yay, 10!!!!

We had a day of shopping yesterday to celebrate, and I treated Lucy to a DSi, which are actually pretty cool. The cameras, and photo editing software, are the best thing about them, so much fun! After shopping we met Lyns and had dinner in Pizza Express, which was yummy. I really should do something about my expanding waistline though…

Anyway, have a great birthday week, Lucy!

Happy Birthday Mike!

He turns 50 today!!! I do quite like having a friend who’s old enough to be my dad, it makes me feel better whenever I start worrying about the fact I’m 30… I popped out to join him for a drink at the Adam and Eve, which is the oldest pub in Norwich. I brought my Uncle Frank with me too, which was great as he lives in Aberdeen and we hardly ever see each other, or even speak to each other, let alone go out for a drink with each other. It was great being able to have a good chat with him about writing and life, especially as he’s one of the main reasons I wanted to be an author. He once wrote a series of stories about a dragon called Whispy, who couldn’t blow fire, and I’ll never forget reading them as a kid and realising that these stories hadn’t just magically appeared in books, they had been written by somebody I know, and if my uncle could write stories, then I could too! Not to mention they were brilliant. Go on, Frank, write some more!

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