Saturday, 21 April 2012

London Book Fair 2012

This was my favourite stand at the London Book Fair, where I was Monday to Wednesday. It was from Romania, who were not the official guests, but more of that anon. Cool, isn't it?

Monday was light for me with a chance to snoop around after coffee with writer friends. (Indeed there was a point where five of us* were Tweeting from smartphones or iPads that we were having coffee together, instead of talking to one another!) Earls Court 1 was very crowded and I heard many stories of people tripping over bits of stands or other people in the melée. I bumped into people myself but in a good way.

I went to a YA seminar chaired by Julia Eccleshare, with Celia Rees and Nick Lake as speakers. Asked whether it was harder to be a teenager now than in the past, Nick Lake said this was a better time to be gay, or black than at earlier periods. "We have exported horror to other countries." But Celia Rees talked about the numerous small choices young people had to make every day.

And Julia Eccleshare made the very good point that, "Big successes drive underground books we know are better."

I had to dash off just as Candy Gourlay was asking a question because I had an hour long session coming up with a publisher, which was very profitable - watch this space.

Monday night saw ten  writers, some of whom had been to the Fair and some not, gathered for a Thai meal just off Oxford Street. One man and nine women, which tells you something about writing for children and teens.

Actually it wasn't the first writerly dinner because we had assembled for one on Sunday, just five of us. I went to the Fair with two very good friends. Here is one of them, Lucy Coats, who was making a film on her iPad; I'll add the link when she has put it on her blog.

This was right opposite the Illustrators' Bar, where we seemed to start every day with a meeting over coffee. On Tuesday it was Kit Berry of Stonewylde fame. The other good friend, Anne Rooney, dashed off to collect her set of seven Vampire Dawn books (6 novels and a manual, Bloodsucking for Beginners) from the Ransom stand. It was publication day! These are for reluctant readers - no reason why they shouldn't have their own vampire series - and I'll be blogging about them when I've read them.

On her way back to the coffee bar, Anne had been accosted by a man with no shirt on who "wanted to give her something." Turned out to be a free copy of E.L.James's bestselling erotic novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. That, unlike the man, has received enough coverage.

Tuesday was my busiest day at the Fair. Meeting with a journalist, lunch with a literary agent and film scout in the US (an old friend), then a very productive meeting with the people at Frances Lincoln. Editor and Art Director as before but now joined by my illustrator for the Great Big Books of .... Ros Asquith.

Then off to a seminar on deafness and disability, with a huge panel of speakers, including Ros and Children's Laureate Julia Donaldson. Had to dash away before the end of that too in order to make the Tweet-up, which was congregating in the - guess where? - Illustrators' Bar. Now, for the benefit of those who don't use this method of communication, a Tweet-up is a meeting in real life of those who know each other on Twitter.

It was fine at the Fair but once the Exhibition Halls closed we all trooped off to a club called the mango Lounge, which was noisy and dark. After one bottle of Prosecco and meeting @FlossieTeacake, who had just been a Twittername to me before, we decamped for a nice Chinese meal and a chat to Lucy's husband, known in her blog as the Wanton Toast Eater. (We did not have Won-ton though).

Back to the Fair on Wednesday for coffee with Celia Rees and a quick dash to secure seats for what we knew would be a popular interview with Patrick Ness. Bagged seats in the front row, with Celia Rees and Beverley Naidoo, Candy Gourlay sitting behind us. Lucy filmed the whole thing and I'm sorry I don't have a photo for you. I was busy "live-Tweeting" the event and making notes so that was quite multi-tasking enough.

Patrick was Author of the Day for Wednesday, a well-deserved honour. His Chaos Walking trilogy won for each successive book, the Guardian Award, The Costa and the Carnegie Medal! His current book, A Monster Calls, his best yet in my opinion, is also shortlisted for the Carnegie and, if I were a betting woman, I'd be off to William Hill for a punt.

Anyway, this was a real highlight with very considered questions from Sunday Times journalist Nicolette Jones and brilliant answers from Patrick. Nicolette questioned him quite closely about the waterboarding scene in The Ask and the Answer and he told us that he often, as an exercise with writing studies, got them to think about someone they loved and then imagine a scene of violence against that person. He said that if there is violence required by the plot, it should always feel as horrible for the reader as if it were happened to someone close to them.

Celia asked how much he knew when he started out on a novel and the answer was "the beginning, the end and three great scenes," adding that all a good book needed was three to five great scenes and no bad ones!

I won't write more about it, as I hope to put a link to the whole talk but he was charming, articulate, modest and intelligent throughout.

Patrick's talk was in Hall 2, where there was also an App Zone and a Digital Zone. Not to mention a Digital Lounge and a Digital Zone theatre. It was clear what the theme of the future was to be, even if agents and publishers were all beavering away in Hall 1 selling Rights on primarily paper books, with electronic Rights as a sort of add-on

The Fair had been preceded by a weekend conference called Digital Minds, where it was predicted that  trade e-books sold would overttake hardbacks in 2014 and paperbacks in 1216.

The official guests at the Fair were China but I am not posting a picture of their displays, not of a country where only "approved" writers could come as guests.

Instead I'll finish with a familiar image in a new context. Little, Brown were very proud of their upcoming coup, A Casual Vacancy, the first adult novel by a certain J.K.Rowling, whose image dominated the Hachette stand:

*me, Anne Rooney, Lucy Coats, Nicola Morgan and Gillian Philip.


adele said...

Good to have a report from OUR WOMAN ON THE SPOT! Thanks very much.

Stroppy Author said...

What a full and detailed account of our jollities (and your work). I am in awe - I think most of the Fair has become a blur to me by now. I think we shd reserve 'our' table in the Illustrators' Bar for next year. It was rather fun having somewhere to hold court and regroup at intervals.

Candy Gourlay said...

terrific report, mary. i didn't manage to get in on tuesday but two days at the fair was enough for me!

Kit Berry said...

It was wonderful to meet you, Mary, and thank you very much for taking me under your wing at the London Book Fair. You certainly were a very busy woman on the two days I was there, networking like crazy and constantly bumping into people you knew. Thanks for introducing me to so many people!

Lucy Coats said...

Great stuff! Didn't we have fun? My LBF vid will be up on Monday, along with my report on Bali Rai and his panel of teen readers...