I’ve had a lovely holiday so far. On Monday 7th we drove up to Lindisfarne, or Holy Island as it is also known. I love Northumbria and I often wonder if we will eventually end up living there. This time we only had 3 full days there – but it is such a special place it felt like a real break. We walked by the sea and saw seals – one very close indeed, and we rested and ate good food. I didn’t want to leave. But on the way back my family dropped me off at Worth Abbey in Sussex for the Federation of Children’s Book Groups’ Conference. And it was as good, in its own way, as my 3 days in Lindisfarne!
Why? Well – in Lindisfarne I am in a beautiful place, on an island, with people I love. It’s like Heaven. At Worth Abbey I was at a beautiful place, in what felt like a privileged island of people who all loved something I love = children’s books. It’s like Heaven. Added to that the fact that I was able to go to Morning prayer with the monks and the whole heavenly theme felt pretty clear! I read Zoe Toft’s blog post about it here today, and so first of all I urge you to read this and look at the pictures, as I couldn’t have put it better. http://www.playingbythebook.net She even chose the same heavenly theme! So what can I add?
I suppose all I can add is why I liked it as an author. Before Zoe persuaded me on twitter to go to the conference, I had no intention of joining the Federation of Children’s Book Groups. I thought it was an organisation for teachers and librarians like http://librarymice.com or amazing bloggers like Zoe. I was an enthusiast like them, but as an author I felt a bit like I would be butting in or eavesdropping to join their organisation. It felt embarrassing. I was also a little scared! I was wrong. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and what I forgot was that before I was ever a published author ( and that has only just happened this year with ‘Girl with a White Dog’ in March and the forthcoming ‘Lucy’s Secret Reindeer’ in September) I was an enthusiast. I have loved children’s books for decades. I have admired, bought and borrowed and most importantly, READ children’s books most of my life. For some very happy years I sold children’s books in bookshops. I was a very good children’s bookseller. I even did an M.A. in Children’s Literature at the University of Roehampton. (I totally recommend this, by the way. I studied part time in the evenings 1993-1995 but now you can do it part time. It is a WONDERFUL course! http://www.roehampton.ac.uk/postgraduate-courses/childrens-literature/index.html) I LOVE children’s books. And surely that’s the prime motivation for any children’s book writer. And why anyone who loves books should go to the Federation of Children’s Books Group conference. Because everyone there is an enthusiast for children’s books. And because if you take someone – anyone- who loves children’s books, if you whisk them away from their ordinary life to a beautiful place, where they have no housework and will be plied with delicious food and drink all weekend, and will listen to talks and presentations by and interviews with (just to quote an incomplete list – and I will make sure I find my temporarily mislaid programme and list ALL the wonderful writers): Cressida Cowell, Philip Reeves & Sarah McIntyre Meg Rosoff Lynne Barber Anthony Browne and Helen Oxenbury Abie Longstaff and Ruta Sepetys – Just to cover Friday and Saturday alone!!! (more on an amazing Sunday next time!) Then you will be in Heaven.
So I am booking for next year asap. And I encourage anyone who loves children’s books to do the same – ESPECIALLY authors. I will do a special blog post soon on why authors in particular should go. It will be on 10th-12th April 2015 It will be at the Olde Barn Hotel, Marston, near Grantham. Authors already booked (though subject to confirmation and to change) include already Kjartan Poskitt Elys Dolan Simon Mayle Giles Paley Phillips Kate Wilson and Tom Moorhouse but I am confident that there will be many more added. I can’t wait! To register interest email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Jane Etheridge 0208 6418173 Hope to see you there!