Sunday, 11 April 2010

This week's word is: CONFERENCE

Hello dragon fans. First, we begin with a very important message, particularly for anyone in North America. It appears that DARK FIRE is published there. Gwendolen was surfing (online, not on wave) when she discovered that one of the big Internet booksellers has announced that the book is available. NOW. This is three weeks’ earlier than the planned publication date of May 1st. So go get it, fans. Let’s face it, you’ve waited long enough. Enjoy. Hrrr!

A few months ago the author received an invitation to attend a book conference near Reading (pronounced Red-ing, for those of you abroad). So we packed our bags and off we went. Well, I didn’t pack anything, just my trusty pad and pencil (newly sharpened, in case anything interesting cropped up). A dragon always travels light. After a very long drive we arrived at the venue. A wonderful private school in the heart of leafy Berkshire (pronounced Bark-shire. English: don’t you just love it?) The conference, which ran over an entire weekend, was put together by an organisation called The Federation of Children’s Book groups (FCBG) and people had come from all over the UK (and abroad) to be there. Not just any old people, either. A huge mix of librarians, booksellers, teachers, authors & illustrators and members of the general public interested in children’s books. And me! What the weekend consists of is a series of author lectures, interrupted by sessions of tea and cake. The author has eaten enough cake in two days to sink a battleship. The weighing scales will not make pretty reading (erm, that really is pronounced reed-ing, this time, not… well, you get my drift) this week.

So the author chatted to lots of people and we sat in on some very interesting (and funny) talks, including Jeanne Willis, Jenny Valentine, Jeremy Strong and William Nicholson. Our hero had his camera with him, of course, but he didn’t appear to be taking many photographs. When I asked him why, he said, “Ah, that’s for a special treat on Saturday evening, Zookie.” I’ll tell you what he meant in a moment. In the meantime, I encouraged him to take a shot of the snake door and the tennis balls on the roof and the bear on the chair (who told me his name was Theo). “Erm, why?” the author asked. Honestly, he’s hopeless sometimes. One day, I will make him understand that it’s the quirky things in life that are most inspirational. Why were those snakes put on the door, for instance? Why did Theo live in the foyer of the accommodation block? Was it him who put the tennis balls on the roof? This is the kind of intrigue stories are built on.

Anyway, what he was saving the camera for was a particular speaker. Even I blew a smoke ring or two when I realised the person in question was Adam Stower, illustrator of the Wayward Crescent books. Here is Adam, signing copies for us and other conference delegates. Adam is one of the most pleasant people you could ever hope to meet. His talk was hilarious. If I tell you it featured a drawing of a gorilla wearing a thong, then you’re part of the way to understanding what you missed. He is very keen to illustrate more of the DOWC series. So we hope the publisher takes the hint and lets us get on with it soon, particularly as Fire World is not that far off completion. Last week, I promised you an update of Gwendolen’s barometer. So here it is. That’s just one thousand words short of the finished length of Icefire – and there’s still another part to go. Till next time. Happy reading (pronounced – oh, never mind). Hrrr!

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