It’s becoming a habit!

Having a double book launch ought to be a once-in-a-decade kinda thing. But it happened in October 2016 and it is happening again in January 2017. And I wasn’t expecting it then and I was sure not expecting it to happen again.

Farmer Falgu Goes Kite Flying is out at the Jaipur Lit Festival on 20th January. Click here to find out more. Along with that, Karadi Tales, my publisher have confirmed that Book 4 in the Farmer Falgu series – Farmer Falgu Goes to the Kumbh Mela will also be released at the same time.

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Kumbh Mela is a special occasion in the Hindu festive calendar. It occurs once in twelve years and thousands of people congregate in Allahabad for a holy dip in the confluence of three rivers. It is one of India’s an the world’s largest religious gatherings.

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Farmer Falgu decides to visit this festival and of course typical of all his trips, this too is fraught with unexpected problems. There is one difference in this book though, the bullocks come with him only until the railway station. And then he takes the train to Allahabad – which is great because I love trains.

Check out a video about Kumbh Mela here. It is noisy, colourful and full of music and religious fervour. It is a congregation of peaceful humanity. Now why would Farmer Falgu encounter problems here? Well, you have to read to find out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQNoimABjMQ

While Farmer Falgu Goes Kite Flying has special connections to Rajasthan and Jaipur, Farmer Falgu Goes to Kumbh Mela will have connections to Allahabad and its festivities.

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Kanika Nair has created brilliant illustrations for both the titles. Her colourful yet minimalist style conveys the busy-ness of India without actually overwhelming the reader. I’m sure children everywhere are going to love these two stories full of colourful imagery from India.

The festival bookstore is run by Full Circle Books who will be stocking my other titles too. So if you are coming to the festival, you have a double treat in store. Both the titles will be available to buy and I’ll be signing your copies too.

Farmer Falgu is going places!

-on-bullock-cart_55e1e0fac0a6d._rajasthani-couple-on-bullock-cartWhen I wrote the first Farmer Falgu story, I had specific goals.

  1. I somehow wanted to convey that this earth is never quiet and Quiet is not necessarily a fun thing.
  2. I wanted to write a story about an Indian farmer
  3. I wanted music and dance in the story.

The quiet and noise thought has been rattling around my brain for years and I didn’t figure out how to tell that in a story until I found Falgu.

Falgu didn’t start out to be a Rajasthani farmer. He was a north-Indian farmer simply because I had chosen a Hindi name. I should thank Kanika Nair, the illustrator for giving him a setting, a place of his own and all the joy and colour of Rajasthan. You can find out more about the creation of Falgu here.

Like always I put something of myself into every story. Whether it is finding a home in Where is Gola’s Home? Or my Grandma in Balu’s Basket, there is a bit of me in every story.

image descriptionIn Falgu, I gave him my courage to plod on in spite of circumstances. He has an unbroken spirit, he is always thankful he’s got a glass, whether it is half-full or half-empty and he’s off somewhere doing something.

The music element of the book came from my desire to be a Karadi Tales author. They were traditionally an audio publisher and I thought musical elements in the story might pique their interest. Cunning of me? Sure!

kardiatalesWhen Karadi Tales accepted the first title Farmer Falgu Goes on a Trip, it was like a dream come true in many ways. I was a KT author now, Farmer Falgu had a home – not long after he had set out in his trademark bullock-cart as a manuscript.

indiastampThen of course, the spirit of Falgu lodged in my brain and thoughts. He was a real person. And I wrote another story for completely different reasons.

I always believed – I think my grandparents and my parents taught me – to turn problems into opportunities. What can you do with the situation you’ve got? And my dislike of eggs and my fascination towards omelets.

I grew up hating eggs. But the thought of an omelet always fascinated the chef in me. I can see why an Indian omelet can be a great treat – it’s got all the spices, chillies, tomatoes and onions. I came close to eating an omelet so many times – simply because I liked it as a recipe. Alas, I don’t like eggs. The next best thing – put it in a story. Find out more about this story here.

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And so, Farmer Falgu set out to the Market. With eggs. And of course all picture books believe in the power of three. So Falgu had to take with him – white eggs, brown eggs and duck eggs. I researched duck eggs a lot – I didn’t know what colour they were. I realized they come in all sorts of colours. I’m sure Kanika wasn’t too pleased with my egg choices.

Get the Fatafat Omelet recipe here.

Now there are 4 Farmer Falgu stories. The third one is almost ready and the fourth one is still being created by fabulous co-conspirator Kanika Nair. keepcalmLook out for the cover reveals and the story behind the story right here at www.chitrasoundar.com soon.

So Farmer Falgu as far as I’m concerned has already gone places, right? From one story to four, from paper to real life, hetwitter has come to life for me in so many ways.He is a real person with a twitter account and all. Follow him @FarmerFalgu. But that’s not all.

 

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She’s always showing off Falgu to someone – this was taken in the Beijing Book Fair

Farmer Falgu captured more hearts at the various trade fairs where my publisher Shobha showed him off to lots of people. Her love for Falgu is second only to mine, I’d think. She’d argue it is the other way around.

And now Farmer Falgu is in Japan already. He’s called Farga in the Japanese books (thank you Google Translate) and he’s still going places.

Japan grunge rubber stamp, vector illustration

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Et croyez-le ou non , il est là en Europe continentale trop , en France. Maybe I should set a new story in Paris for Farmer Falgu. The power of bullock-carts and his positive spirit has brought him to so many countries.

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The kids in Japan and Paris are lucky – they’d have Farmer Falgu in their own languages and can enjoy the stories just like the kids in India do.

parisstamp And here is a hopeful thought – he might be coming to Germany too. Couple of weeks ago at the Frankfurt Book Fair, I dropped in on Falgu and Shobha at their stand. And lucky me, who was there? The German publisher who wants Farmer Falgu to come to Germany. Fingers crossed, the bullocks would take him across the continent to Germany.

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What would he be called in German? Would Farmer Falgu have the same name? Or a different one? Who knows? Whatever he’s called he’d be still Falgu to me and he’d still be the same positive spirit he always is.myticket

You can buy English, French and Japanese copies from here. I'm also offering a festival offer for the English language copies until 11th November. Don't miss.

Books in My Life

My reading list is growing. With new prize longlists and shortlists and books of friends, books from India, books that I read long ago that I want to read again, books I want to learn from – so many books.

I’ve got an accumulated stack of books that have been signed for me – friends, eminent friends and celebrity authors (not the kind of celebrity authors who were celebrities before they wrote a book, the kind that are celebrity to me because they write amazing books.)

So I decided I have to organise my reading, keep track of what I’m reading, perhaps recommend some books to others and I looked around for a reading journal. There are a few available in the stationery section. But I didn’t fancy giving up my reading time to update my entire history of reading and my current TO-READ list.

51VYq3bp4kL__SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Then I looked for online journals – to keep track of the books. I checked one called LibraryThing – but didn’t like it as much and they also charge after 200 books. Then of course I had a Shelfari account because they are part of Amazon and I had a GoodReads account. Choices are good that we can choose what we want. But they force you to try them out and choose – takes longer to decide.

But while researching this – I found an useful article about other book related sites and I’ve fallen in love with BookLikes. I think BookLikes is great for librarians, classroom book blogs and personal book blogs too. But as in life and in this post, I digress. For the purpose of what I came to tell you, I’ll keep it to GoodReads. I’ll be telling you all about my BookLikes adventure soon.

At this moment I’m still on GoodReads and I uploaded my entire list of books – To Read, Already Read to GoodReads. Because I uploaded 8 to 10 years worth of reading history – GoodReads assumed I had read all of them in 2015. I wish!

Just like I’m obsessed about front-facing shampoo bottles, order of keys in my keyrings, wearing matching jewelry and  such, I’m also obsessed about being honest about the “Date I finished Reading” on every book.

So that’s a lot of books to update. But I started on it bravely. As I went down the list thinking about when I would have read it – it evoked memories, emotions and emotional memories.

As I read down the list of books to mark their date, my past began to unfold in the form of a book list. I could make out the patterns of my emotional life, what happened when along with the dates for the books.

  • Oh I read that one when I moved into my new flat
  • That one was when I was sad with a breakup and wanted a Pick me Up
  • This one was during the course I did with Andy Stanton at Faber

I couldn’t believe how these books have been transplated into my memory along with life-changing events.

I remember, a few years ago, giving up writing for 6 months due to one of those yo-yo relationships – you know when someone can’t make up their mind about you. I completely broke down because that person was my first reader.

More than life, it affected my writing. 41792G6F2KLThat’s when I picked up this amazing book. And here I am with more books written and published and still writing. It really freed the writer within me.

From Faraway tree that made me tell stories to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime that showed me possibilities, the list of books that is weaved into my life is very long.

Books do so many things to people. Some movies do too. But I think books stay with you longer because they force you to imagine. The nerve cells in your brain fuse and expand trying to figure out the words on the printed page. They go to your long-term memory and emotional memory. (Those who watched Inside Out know what I’m talking about! What a movie, that would stay with me for sure. I digress again.)

When I started updating the month and year of reading a book I realized some books I read almost as soon as I bought them. Some books I bought on release day. Some books were left on their own on the bookshelf. They call out to me sometimes – “you’ve to read me!”.

I remember not just what I was feeling or experiencing when I read these books, but also what happened after. Did my life change?poemcrazy

I found this book in a NY bookstore near Wall Street nestled among the writing books. What a joy it brought me. I spent the weekend walking the riverside and writing poems – they might not be good poems, but they had a bit of me inside them.

More recently I read Gangleader for a Day, We are Completely Beside Ourselves, Us Minus Mum and Elizabeth is Missing and so many more. I loved Luminaries and I loved the silly Red Eyes at Night by Michael Morpugo.

Each time, it changes life either in the core or in the edges. Like a real experience does. That’s what I like about reading.

I watched Kite Runner in the cinema and I cried for nights. Then against my own advice I read the book. I cried for weeks. I couldn’t stop thinking about that boy. I was living his pain and I was devastated. I had always liked kites as a child. I made them at home and took them up to my terrace. But this story has now imprinted itself into the word KITE in my brain. Every time I see a kite, I think of Kite Runner.

I have a new stack of books now. Signed books from YALC, signed books from book launches and in a frenzy of catching up on authors I loved reading in the last two years. That’s what happened when I took stock – I realized I loved a book and then I checked for more books by the same author and ended up buying more than I have space for – in shelves and in life.

Well, a girl’s gotta do, what she’s gotta do. READ!

So do you have a catalog of all the books you’ve read? Do you think of them interlinked with life? Or is your life on a parallel track to the train of books that rush past you?

Tell me if a book changed your life. Tell me if it has folded a memory like a dog-ear in a book for looking back. Tell me if it has changed your outlook to life, how you see others, how you see yourself. Is it a window to you or a mirror or both? Is it a doorway to other lives, other worlds, other perspectives?

And I leave you with this wonderful video showing the power of books. Go on, I know you’ll love it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=J6zcIFUvdJ0

 

 

In the UnLikely Event – Part 2 of 2

Have you read Part 1 of this story? If not, find it here.

We were listening to Charlie Higson and Arabella Weir talk about their books. No connection to their books, but they obviously were good friends. Charlie told the story about how he scared his kid writing the zombie series. I’ve heard it before in a smaller setting three years ago – but it was still funny. He did the voices too this time. And of course he said he possibly couldn’t work on Doctor Who if they asked, because he was busy with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde series for the television. (so there, I tied one loose end from the last post, didn’t I?).

jhI loved that book as a child. I think subtly it taught me about people could be both black and white – sometimes as a young person it is hard to assimilate what you see around you unless someone put it in a book.

Anyway, there we are in the front row, tweeting and checking tweets and hoping Charlie or Arabella won’t mind us looking at our phones, right under their noses (and skirts). And I saw a tweet say – the Judy Blume / Patrick Ness conversation was in the first floor.

First floor where all those dressed up people had turned up in droves, ten times more than the first day? First floor where big sets for SyFy TV was setup and first floor where people who were afraid of sunshine moved from one merchandise shop to the other? This was Big Bang Theory coming alive in the worst possible way.

I tweeted back – but that’s not the YALC floor. Are you sure?

Patrick Ness tweeted back adding Judy Blume to the conversation – Yes, it is in on the first floor, take it from me, I am interviewing her and I’m sure.

Okay then, we had to make our way downstairs, through throngs of people who would be doing the same. Michael J Fox was already in session in that big hall. It was running late. Yes, we knew it would run late, because people didn’t know where to queue for the show – so they interrupted every session on Day 2 to tell us where to queue to see Michael J Fox. Everyone except those who wanted to see him knew where to go.

Christina and I decided we were going to try hardest to get to the front row seats. She said let’s a scot show you how it’s done. I laughed. I’m from India. Crowd, getting seats, jostling in sweat, I can do it. This is what I’ve trained for all my life. Leave it with me. Well, we hoped.

When the big shutters were opened and the crowd rolled out, we waited ready to pounce into the hall. Perhaps like Spiderman hauling ourselves into the stage with spider glue.

That’s when it happened. Judy and Patrick (see how familiar I’m getting, next I would be cooking lunch for them), came through. We were literally at the door. No choice, they had to go past us. Judy gave us the biggest smile and hello. We hello-ed back. I hollowed out. Then Patrick and then I thanked Patrick for tweeting back.

Then the mad rush to get seats. Ha, ha, never challenge an Indian person about getting seats. Go to India and see how creative we are with hand-kerchiefs. I found three seats for the three conference-teers. Right in front of Judy. She couldn’t miss seeing us.

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Anyway, enough of the trailer before the actual movie. The actual interview was fabulous. She was warm, funny, direct, frank and genuine. It was brilliant, she referred to her husband George often and he was in the front row seat too and he asked a question that perhaps many wanted to ask.

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Patrick was brilliant – you can genuinely see the affection and warmth between the two people and of course UKYA authors had turned out in droves and many fans.

I had told myself I wasn’t standing in queues for signing. I hadn’t bought a single book or picked up a pamphlet or a button or a sticker so far. But I decided I was going to stand in the queue and meet Judy Blume and read her book and read all her books – how come I never read any of her younger books?

I had brought money in the Unlikely Event I had to buy a book and I did buy her book (and more…, more on that later) and stood in the queue. A very friendly person perhaps from her publishers took pictures on our phones for all of us. So that was good. I have this Unlikely Moment caught on camera.

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Judy did recognize me from the encounter at the entrance and from making inevitable eye-contact from the stage and she asked – Have We Met Before? She was amazing – even if everyone knows it, I am going to say it.

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The funny thing is – if I told anyone at work or anywhere different to my book circle, people won’t understand the celebrity status of the writers we revere. Malorie Blackman, Chris Riddell, Patrick Ness, Tanya Landman and so many people I know, I’ve met, I have made friends with – they are celebrities to the children of many generations, celebrIMG_1910ities to other writers – but they are not YouTube stars or Hollywood Icons or recognizable BAFTA names or Heads of State or anything. They should be – we would have a better education policy.IMG_1911

So this moment of meeting Judy Blume and Chris Riddell and hanging out with award-winning writers after Day 2 of the conference – is special to me and those like me. Who cares if others don’t understand? Isn’t that what Comic Con is all about – we love this stuff and we get out once a year to celebrate this and who cares what you think why we are dressing up? I get it I think.

So if you thought meeting Judy Blume and Chris Riddell and listening to Malorie Blackman and two days of hanging out with now-best buddies would be the end of it – you’d be disappointed.

Again thanks to Facebook – a librarian friend said there’s a fringe party after the event at the pub- are you going? I checked it out – I saw some friendly faces in the Facebook event. So I asked if I could go and of course the friendly folks that YA authors are said Of course.

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So after Day 2 at YALC we headed to the pub. All the glitterati of the YA author scene were inside the venue in a party. We hung out in the pub until slowly people trickled in.

I met some wonderful authors, some I’ve met before a long time ago and some only on Facebook. I got to meet Anthony McGowan again and he introduced me to Caroline Green and then Jo Cotterill was there, Lucy Coats without her Cleo headgear, Lee Wetherly, Liz Kessler, Sarah Mussi, Lydia Syson and loads of other people.

yalc_tanyaTanya Landman had come down just for the YALC party and she had promised to sign my book  (well her book, I have a copy, er, you know what I mean). We ended up talking about diversity in books and jolly good she said she would help with any initiatives I might kickstart. So watch this space for that.

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They talked and I listened most of the time. It was totally Unlikely. Here were a bunch of award-winning writers, with amazing talent and track-record and I was in the same space-time continuum with them. How Unlikely was that?

 

It was a weekend of Unlikely Events and one I wouldn’t forget. I’ve made new friends, forged new connections, learnt from the speakers and more importantly brushed shoulders with the masters of today’s UK YA scene. An Unlikely Blessing for sure.

 

 

Oh btw, I chickened out of Day 3 of YALC and I’m writing this. So the introvert did assert herself again – but I’m glad she hid away for Day 1 and 2.

In the Unlikely Event – Part 1 of 2

This entire weekend and the days before that have been unlikely. I’m not a writer of Young Adult (YA) books. I read some YA – but definitely not horror or science fiction or fantasy. Therefore it was highly unlikely I was going to attend the YALC – the Young Adult Literature Conference especially inside the London Comic Con Height of Unlikely from where I stood.

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But that’s what happened. In a moment of utter boredom at work, I was googling something when I found that the YALC was in its second year, setup by the amazing Malorie Blackman in 2014 as part of her laureateship. I didn’t go in its inaugural year as I didn’t think myself either as a YA reader or as a YA writer. Loads of my friends from Facebook and beyond did go (they are YA writers) and they loved it.

So like a typical Young Adult or in normal speak teen, I didn’t fancy getting left out this time. I wanted to be part of the buzz too. I was going to go – there was nothing planned for that weekend anyway. So I booked.

Normally I book things and don’t go to everything I booked – simply because jhI’m an introvert first and a social next. Yeah, yeah, you won’t know it when you see me. That’s me dressed up as an extrovert, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Oops, sorry, Charlie Higson, I’ll talk about it later).

 

I’ve been scouring Facebook to find others I knew who were going this year. Other than the speakers of course because you know, speakers are different. They’d be on stage and they’d have an entourage and signing queues. I found no one from my immediate comfort zone – that was going. Hmm, as Monday came the ping-pong of I’m going, I’m not going started in my head. I still hadn’t told anyone I was going.

By Wednesday, I was almost pinging on “I’m Not Going” when I saw a Facebook post that Christina Banach and Candy Gourlay were going to be at the Barbican Library to celebrate the launch of Moira McPartlin’s new book Ways of the Doomed.

Barbican Libray – I had always wanted to go back there. I live so close to this library and I work very very close to this library – I thought maybe I would go to the launch.

Kids-Library-BarbicanBut I would be gate-crashing. But it is a launch. Anyone can go and buy a book. You don’t need to know Moira. Candy knows me – so she would introduce me. So the argument went on in my head the whole day – I went to the Facebook page and said Going. Then Not Going. Then Going again… I finally changed it to Going at 6 pm that evening, printed out directions from London Wall to Barbican – which is not very tricky at all. And I set out.

When I went there, I found it was a book launch, in a library. Okay, I’ve been to events like this before. I can manage. Yes, I found Christina and rudely interrupted her chat with her friends. And I clung on to her. Then I waved to Candy and Moira McPartlin smiled and asked people to sit in the front and I sat down.

It was a brilliant launch – both Candy and Moira were funny, warm, honest and funny (did I say funny?).

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Wine, some more SCBWI people who know me from Facebook and buying of the book and signing of the book and then Moira invited all of us to the pub when the library closed.

More SCBWI people like Peter, Jenny and more time with Candy and YALC came up quite often. Moira, Christina and I were all going. Yes, I finally confessed I had a weekend pass. Gold was it? In any case it was orange in colour. So we agreed to meet up, and stay together. Phew! Now I was going. I had committed. But I also had friends to connect with.

When the time came to get down at Olympia and come face to face with a snaking queue of Comic Con goers I panicked again. YALC – not this queue, said one of the organisers, go around. First I relaxed – okay YALC queue might be shorter, maybe a different building and all. Little did I know.

Around the building meant more queues to witness – more people dressed up. More people perhaps seeing sunshine for the first time since the previous Comic Con (I’m going to leave that description there, Lee Weatherly. If I wrote everything I told you yesterday, I might be sued.)

I was almost ready to type – Something came up, go ahead. I won’t be coming to YALC as a text to Christina and Moira. But I got a text from them – we are in the queue, come around.

Anyway, after a near-panic attack and a lot of advice on Facebook from Jo Cotterill and others to keep calm and carry on, I got inside the building. Entered Level 1 – freaked out with lots of Comic Con merchandise and more sun-starved men and some women and I rushed to Level 2 and slowly relaxed.

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More of a book floor. More stalls of books (and some Comic Con stalls too). Spotted some friendly faces, found my friends. Bought myself an exorbitantly priced bottle of water and tea and it all began to unfold.

The three of us glued ourselves to the first row seats, where the speakers could make eye-contact and didn’t get up until the evening. Trust me, I’m an introvert. Even if I was in the front row seat.

I found myself listening to authors I had heard children speak about in schools – Darren Shan, IMG_1884Derek Landy – people who write scary stuff, horror and fantasy and all mixed up.

What was I doing here? I don’t read horror or write horror. I am not scared, I am just not that interested. It’s not my thing. The sound operator perfectly projected my boredom like this.

 

IMG_1879But it was fascinating to listen as a writer to the process, how they think about hunting down and killing characters. I know kids love it. For me this would be so similar to gaming but with all the imagination and levels in your head. That’s the best thing about books, isn’t it?

Now the ping-pong for the next day started – should I come back? Do I really want to sit through stuff that I won’t ever write about or read? This event is for fans – I felt as if I was an imposter. I wasn’t a fan. I can’t talk about this stuff with any authority. I don’t dress up as characters. I barely dress up as myself most days.

Did I go to the Cosplay party after Day 1 – you’re joking right? Especially Harry Potter themed –  I have to confess, I’ve only read one paragraph of the first book. I would be more of an imposter if I did go. I want to read it – but there’s such big books.

But the next day had less paranormal and more closer to normal – if you think there is something called normal for teenagers. But Malorie Blackman would be there. More authors I know and I’ve reayalc-buttonsd. And of course the big event – Judy Blume and Patrick Ness in conversation.

Anyway, as usual comrades in conference, Christina and Moira kept asking – you’re not coming then? Oh go on then, I’ll come. But I won’t come at 9 am like a fangirl. I’ll come to my first event to see Malorie at 12:30. Although Christina and Moira said I made a mistake by missing the first panel by young writers. Oh well. Trade-off for a morning of clearing my work, getting some writing done and lunch before I headed to Olympia again.
The story changes track here. It was a fabulous second day. Great speakers, fun interviews. I enjoyed the entire programme. And we were as usuIMG_1887 al seated in the front row where the official photographer wished he could be. We took some amazing pictures of the stage.

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I was tweeting all day with #YALC and engaged with so many people. Made a school visit connection, met a twitter-friend and librarian in person who has invited me to her school.

 

And now it turned Unlikely. Chris Riddell was in the building. Wow! Fantastic! Even the bookshop waIMG_1899s surprised. Oops! The official bookseller had not stocked his books because no one knew he was going to come. What a brilliant laureate and person he was. He drew individual pictures for each person who wanted to meet him. How lucky those folks were. I got a book signed – big mistake. IMG_1908 IMG_1909So I didn’t get a drawing that could go on my wall. I should have asked for a picture too – but I chickened out. I did talk to him about Prague and its spires and its Gothic architecture and he told me he felt the same. Right behind me was Holly Smalle waiting and the pressure to leave Chris Riddell in celebrity hands was high IMG_1907– so I walked away holding my book close.

 

 

 

Well I skipped over something very important between tweeting all day and meeting Chris Riddell.

IMG_1897The Unlikely Event of my meeting with Judy Blume (And Patrick Ness). I coined a new term too – BlumeNess© (All rights reserved). I’m going to have to write another blog post about that.

And of course about an after-after-party at Hand and Flower with some YA luminaries. That’s for the next instalment too because I’d be here all weekend writing about that.

Read Part 2 here.