What I’m reading

A few weeks ago I read a great collection of essays published to celebrate 40 years of creative writing teaching at UEA. The collection is called Body of Work, is edited by Giles Foden, and contains some great essays. I particularly enjoyed Jane Harris’s piece, and that led me to read her novel Gillespie and I (Faber). It’s a gripping, disturbing read – and I’ll certainly read Jane Harris’s other novel, The Observations.

Brief encounters

I’ve just come back from the Aye Write! Festival in Glasgow where I had a great time. It was very well organised, and everyone was incredibly friendly. But then that’s always been my experience of events in Scotland – I’d go there any time!

The kids in my sessions were lively and very funny, as only Glaswegian kids can be. I’d been winding one class up for a while when a boy put up his hand and said he had a great idea for a story. I asked him what it was and he said it would be called The Author Who Irritated a Wee Boy. No mean city, indeed.

I also had another brief encounter that left me reeling. I’ve crossed swords on Twitter with fellow children’s author Philip Ardagh, but this was the first time I’d had a chance to chat with him. We make an interesting contrast – I’m 1 metre 65 tall (5 feet 5 inches in old money) and he’s 2 metres (6 feet 7 inches), and he sports a huge beard (which would be taller than me on its own if it ever declared independence). I might not be the shortest children’s writer in Britain, but he is definitely the tallest. Philip and I engaged each other in some pretty serious banter while a group of librarians looked on, but I have to admit I retired defeated. Mr Ardagh is one funny man. I must get around to reading his books some day…


A website… at last

I’m ashamed to admit that it’s taken me quite a long time to acquire a website of my own. I probably first started thinking about it ten years ago (that’s right, ten years!). I even talked to a couple of people and paid someone to do some development work for me. But I didn’t go beyond that point, and even though I thought about it sometimes, I couldn’t convince myself I needed one.

Of course, like all of us over the last decade I’ve learned to use the internet – e-mails, websites for research and shopping and just the ordinary stuff of daily life. All my fellow children’s authors seemed to acquire websites too, some of them absolutely brilliant. But I just kept telling myself I could do without. After all, not having a website didn’t seem to be affecting my career in any way.

And yet, and yet… a slight doubt nagged at me. Maybe my career would be even better if I did have a website. People I knew and respected said they thought it was a good idea… and gradually I began to realise that I was missing a trick.

Where to start, though? I didn’t have a clue. Should I do what others had done and use a software package to put my own site together? It might seem easy enough, but even after 20 years of using computers as the tools of my trade it’s all still a bit of a struggle. So I decided I needed to find someone who could do it for me – and I was lucky enough to get a recommendation from ALCS (see the Grown-Up Stuff page to find out more about this great organisation!).

The developer they recommended was Adam Booker, and he’s been brilliant to work with – he gets a recommendation from me too! It’s taken a while to get this site up and running, but it’s usually been me who’s held things up. I mean, I’m a writer for heaven’s sake, which means I’m always too busy and always late with my copy (if you’re one of my editors, I’m just kidding!). It was also really interesting to decide on what should go in and what should be left out. Halfway through I began to think that this kind of website isn’t a CV or an obituary, but something halfway between the two – ‘the story so far’.

I’m going to keep this one updated with regular reports about new books and new developments in my other activities. I’m also going to indulge myself by writing about whatever I want to in this blog – so watch this space for random musings and reviews of all sorts – books, plays, films, TV, art shows.

It would be good to hear back from you, too!