Friday, 31 May 2013

Today is the day ...

The day has finally arrived, the day that I set off on my travels to Cheltenham and the Wychwood Festival.  This is my first ever festival experience so I am perhaps understandably a little nervous about it all but very excited too.  Looking forward to a great weekend with a wonderful atmosphere of fun and games for the whole family ...

Arrive tonight and should have time to orient myself then get ready for a day of author events on Saturday and even more on Sunday.  Already planning to meet with Petr Horacek, hopping to meet with a few more authors too and get some great suggestions for books, reading and more.

Great programme lined up for the whole family so if you are wondering what to do now that the sun has decided to shine why not come on over to the racecourse at Cheltenham and enjoy the festival this weekend.

Hope to see many of you there, please come and say hello, you should be able to spot the tent and I may need your help taking it down and packing it away on Sunday too!

I'll be busily Facebooking and Tweeting over the weekend so if you can't make it remember to follow me there and check back here next week for news on the event.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Wychwood ... Two Days to Go

The excitement builds, with only two sleeps to go until the Wychwood Festival begins, two whole days until the Children's Literature Festival begins but only one whole day until I get my train and head on over.

So we have looked in some detail at the events for Saturday (which will now include me meeting with Petr Horacek for a chat so watch this space next week when I report back with news from him), we have touched slightly on Sunday so now here are some more hints about some of the exciting sessions that you can look forward to ...

Names that are new to me and maybe to some of you too, always a good and intriguing sign - always good to meet new authors and illustrators and in fact anyone who is helping to create great literature for children ... Jenny Smith, Giles Paley-Philips and Mike Estedium ...

Jenny takes to the stage on Saturday afternoon and if her biog on the festival website is anything to go by she will be hilarious!

Apparently she enjoys crisps, trampolining at midnight and being a nosy neighbour, the perfect ingredients for being a great writer for children - all adding up to making her slightly mad!  

Her book The Abominators contains the most mischievous and crazy characters you are likely to ever come across, they love chaos, mayhem and filling toilets with jelly but they most definitely do not like making new friends with the goody-two-shoes new boy.  I can't wait to go to her event and have a chat! 

I have also mentioned Giles Paley-Philips.  Giles is the author of The Fearsome Beastie a book which has won a number of prizes for this musician turned author ... and which is the book he will be reading from but there have been others along the way including Tamara Small and the Monsters' Ball, The Things You Never Knew ABout Dinosaurs and Princess Stay Awake.  Then there is the collection of poetry he wrote There Is a Lion in my Bathroom so I am hoping that as well as hearing Giles read we may be treated to some music and poetry too!

These new names, alongside the more established are what makes the festival so exciting and something to look forward to with a growing sense of anticipation ...  I hope you feel it too ....

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Wychwood ... Five Days to Go

Only five days to go now and still so much to share ... 

Having told you about a selection of authors and events for Saturday 1st June let me reveal a few more ...

Did I mention that Philip Ardagh will be there?  Well he will, hopefully, be reading from his hilarious and very popular Grunt series of books.  

His event is described as needing plenty of audience participation and all-round silliness which sounds just perfect to me!  Talking about how he writes, why he writes, where his ideas come from and even ... why he likes ducks?! Yes I would like to know more about this too ... this is certainly going to be one of the many highlights of the weekend.

I will be, hopefully, chatting with Petr Horacek too.  Petr is the author and illustrator of such charming books as Strawberries are Red and What is Black is White.

I hope to talk to him about his latest titles, the board books Honk Honk Ba Ba and Time for Bed.  You'll be able to read my report of this chat on the Blog and in the Armadillo Magazine after the festival of course.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Wychwood ... Three Days to Go

I think that I have given you plenty to look forward to for Saturday 1st June so here is the first taster of what to look forward to on Sunday 2nd ...

A lie in again for the events do not begin until the respectable time (for a Sunday) of 10.30am, allowing time for breakfast at least!

And the day starts with a choice of ponies (those gorgeous Shetland miniatures) or Karen Langtree - personally I am going to try and do both and would urge you to also.  Karen is coming to the festival all the way from New York to share her love of reading and writing stories, singing and writing songs, playing the piano and food!  She may find some time to tell us about her work as a primary school teacher and authors too!  

Being runner-up in a WHSmith competition at the age of 10 Karen is an inspiration to aspiring writers and her books include My Wicked Stepmother and the Fairy Rescuers which I hope to find out more about ...

Then comes Tony De Saulles alongside Mr Bloom singing (no more detail available about this one I'm afraid).  If Tony's name is not immediately familiar as soon as I mention that he is the illustrator of the Horrible Science series you will know who I mean!  Tony will hopefully be sharing some of his drawing tips with us on Sunday ...  

Then, as the day progresses, there will also be a chance to listen to and meet even more authors whose names will be revealed ... tomorrow!

Wychwood ... Four Days to Go ...

Still counting down and yet still on the events for Saturday because the programme is so packed full of amazing things for children and adults alike to enjoy.  In fact looking at the programme I wonder if there will be time to stop for breath or even lunch!?

John Dougherty, himself a reviewer for Armadillo Magazine will put in an appearance (and I hope to meet him for the first time too!).  John is the author of a number of books, perhaps the most well-known of which is Zeus on the Loose, a title that was shortlisted for the Brandford Boase Award, recognising it as an outstanding first novel for children.

Once a teacher John gave it all up for writing but still pops back into school regularly as a visiting author so his session will be well prepared I'm sure!  We are promised that John will read, sing, perform some poetry and be generally funny - great!

Ian Whybrow will take to the stage too.  An author since 1989, therefore very experienced, Ian has written over 100 books and won a number of prizes over the years.  For older children Ian will be a familiar name for his Sniff stories.  Little Wolf are a series of classic stories for 7-9 year-olds, Books for Boys are perfect for beginner readers and his picture books will be well-known to parents and toddlers which leads me nicely to reveal that Ian will this year feature Meerkats and Dinosaurs in his event ...

Yet more to look forward to for all ages ...

Wychwood ... Six Days to Go

Now we are looking towards Saturday 1st June, what will be on offer at Wychwood for the children (their families and me?) plus you, the potential visitor?

The programme for the day begins at a very respectable 10.30am (allowing some of the revellers from Friday a lie-in) with Lynne Armstrong Hobbs as well as Winnie and Kipper.

Lynne is the author of the Firwood books, there are currently 3 with a 4th being written - perhaps she will reveal a little about the story to come?

There will be Storycubes at 12.30 about which I am very intrigued and even more so by the afternoon offering of David Lloyd Music Man ... singing, slapstick and more are on offer so plenty more fun and noise is on the agenda!

There may be a crocodile making an appearance courtesy of Wendy Meddor and I am quite certain that Philip Ardagh's beard will be a suitable challenge to Mr Twits!

Fun, fun fun ...

Wychwood ... Seven days to go ...

Now there are only 7 days to go so next Friday, May 31st what will be happening at Wychwood?

The author programme launches on Saturday 1st June but the tents will be there ready and waiting so I will be able to enjoy some Dahl, storytelling, puppetry and more whilst making sure I am orientated and have a programme in hand ready for a busy Saturday!

Looking at the advance programme I think that a change of clothes will be in order and not just because of the changeable great British weather but the promise of messy crafts at the Roald Dahl story museum tent - Mr Dahl would be proud!  There will also be more than enough noise to counter all the music shows with noisy storytelling and then there may just be time for some dressing up fun with mask making activities too!

As this is truly a family festival I am quite certain that the adults won't be overlooked either so you  need to come prepared for lots of action and fun too, bedtime stories will probably not be needed but your story telling abilities may be tested and challenged by a few of the authors and you may even pick up some tips too.

So with seven days to go I now have a better idea of what I might need to pack:

change of clothes - check
ear plugs?

I can't wait ...

Thursday, 23 May 2013

One Week and Counting

It's only 8 days until I get my train to Cheltenham for the Wychwood Festival and I am getting more excited as the hours roll past.  I'm also hoping for some good weather!

What will I do when I arrive, well apart from the obvious pitching of the tent and settling in I will look around, grab my programme and highlight the events I am going to be attending, working out if I can actually get around everything - why - because there is so much to do for families and children.  

All events are taking place in the literature tent so I may well just camp ut there but if I did do that I may miss something so it will be a good base from which to explore all that is on offer in the Kids Literature Festival.

As well as all the authors I will hopefully be meeting, listening to and sharing stories with there are the Storytelling Ponies, miniature shetlands with whom children can talk, having learnt their special language.  This skill will encourage the children to listen and understand, skills that they need not just for reading but for life.

If all that is too serious or the children are all hogging the ponies then I shall make my way over to another tent, this one with the Roald Dahl Museum in it where I hope to find that some oompa loompas are nosily delivering stories from Revolting Rhymes to Dirty Beasts.

So has this whet your appetite yet?  It has mine and I am going to try and ensure my remaining 8 sleeps are good ones in preparation for all the excitement.

Don't worry though, this is not all, I will be back again in a day or two to tell you more ...

Monday, 20 May 2013

Going to ... Wychwood Festival 2013

The Wychwood Festival, Cheltenham Racecourse, Friday 31st May to Sunday 2nd June has a reputation as the original family festival and this year, for the first time, in conjunction with the Booktrust it is including a dedicated children's literature festival.  As well as this they are welcoming the Roald Dahl Museum and hosting a wide range of workshops, theatre, dance and art activities for children and for the whole family.

The programme on offer for children this year is unrivalled and this lucky editor is going along to experience it for herself so look out for Tweetings and Facebook comments as well as photos galore over the course of the weekend, plus Blog posts in advance (such as this one) and post the event with more detail!

In the meantime more about what is on offer and what visitors can look forward to...

The Children's Literature Festival at Wychwood will bring together some of the most exciting, original talent from the children's book world giving children (and adults) the chance to meet their literature heroes (there are rumours that Kipper, Winnie the Witch and the Walker Bear will all make an appearance!)

Readings and activities include visits from Wendy Meddour, author of the charming Wendy Quill is a Crocodile's Bottom and Petr Horacek.  The Booktrust will be helping parents and other adults ways in which to make reading and literacy fun.  In addition Jo Empson will help the kids to make musical instruments from recycled materials there may well be some horrible science and even poets and singers!

If this is not enough for you (personally I'm wondering how to get to all the events) there is also going to be a programme of workshops covering art, history and culture.

Now all we need is a nice sunny weekend and we will be ready to go!

Keep following this blog as well as Armadillo on Facebook and @Armadillomag on Twitter for daily updates between now and May 31st followed by live reporting from the festival and if you are going come and say 'hello', this is where I will be staying ...

and you will also see me at as many events as possible ...

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Picture This

Picture This is the wonderfully titled small exhibition of the work of some of Templar Publishing's established and debut illustrators on display in The Cafe at Foyles.  Last night (Wednesday 8th May) was a private view for invited guests including librarians, book reviewers and friends as well as family, not forgetting the Templar team!

It was my first visit to The Cafe at Foyles and my first opportunity to speak to the lovely group of illustrators too.  Lovely indeed they are which is what one would expect from the small and close-knit team at Templar.  They have found some of the most talented young artists and illustrators, nurtured them and created beautiful books with them.  Not only have they created these beautiful books, they have made them readable too.  

There will be those who will collect them and love them for their art, those who do so for the words and those who just love reading and sharing them.

The pictures hanging on the walls demonstrate the skill of the illustrators, they have been chosen by Templar's art director and that is not a task I envy him having, after all how does one choose only one print from the work of an illustrator to display?  Not an easy task but one that has been done with great skill and shows off the stunning artwork to a brand new audience.

It is perhaps to be considered a stroke of genius to put this exhibition on the walls of a cafe in a bookshop.  Some would argue that those in a bookshop will be looking at books anyway but would they have considered these?  Perhaps it will open picture books and the skill of their creators to a whole new audience.

Without doubt it was wonderful to meet the talented people behind the work, speak briefly to them for this was their evening and their chance to circulate, and understand a little about how they have found themselves in the enviable position of being able to indulge in their love of art and story.

Thank you to Foyles for hosting the exhibition, to Templar for finding such wonderful talent and inviting us all along to share and of course to the illustrators themselves for giving us such stunning, evocative work and clever books too!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Sara Grant launches 2 books!

Wednesday 1st May, launching not one but 2 books, Sara Grant threw a party for friends, family, publishers and a few bloggers/press on the 2nd floor of Waterstone’s Piccadilly, London.  A lovely party it was too, refreshments included some charming little cupcakes which Sara herself declined to eat not wishing to spoil her appetite for dinner but which the rest of us tucked into with delight!  Nothing however it seems can spoil Sara’s appetite for writing!

Having spent a number of years in the US working in PR it was moving to England that encouraged Sarah to take up her pen and begin writing.  Completing an MA in creative writing she went on to write her own titles for publication whilst setting up a number of groups – which she is still part of – for authors.  It is her unstinting support for others, her selfless and generous spirit and her friendship which always goes the extra mile which stand out for her publishers and agents and it is these qualities, along with the skill to write great stories, that she imbues her fiction with.

Versatile is the word which best sums Sara up and her Orion editor explained how lucky she felt to work with Sara.  Sara’s books fill a gap, catering for two age groups she displays a skill which is not often found in authors, many prefer and feel more comfortable in only one place!  Sara began with YA fiction but found herself naturally drawn to a younger age group too.  Working simultaneously she explained can be a challenge and can turn her from a monster to a delight depending on the stage of writing and the book!  To distinguish between her two roles last night she donned a witches hat complete with pink bow to read from Magic Trix, swapping to a smiley t-shirt for Half Lives, both outfits summing up characters from the books

Sara read from both books and explained what a delight it was to write Magic Trix – book 3 was launched and there are 6 planned (more if she is allowed!).  The aim was to try and make the reader laugh, if the giggles from the assembled group were a guide then she has got it right – and we were all adults!  Erica-Jane Waters, the Magic Trix illustrator was there too and Sara not only thanked her but explained how, with Erica’s amazing talent had captured the story so expertly even prompting a change in the text at times to suit the illustrations!

Before reading from Half Lives Sara explained that this YA novel was inspired by the ability of the human spirit to adapt and survive.  She has been thinking about it since 2009 after hearing about a nuclear power plant in the US and being asked if she would write something about the issue.  Inspiration struck and the story formed as Sara, fascinated by the idea of how the future would look and how we can communicate with them, began to write.  The story is about love, survival, language, belief and understanding ...

Sara was a wonderful host, chatting to everyone and trying to recall as many names as possible.  She oozes enthusiasm and warmth, read wonderfully and looked fetching in her special outfits.

A talented lady from whom we can hopefully expect to read more and who, for the time being has left us with two brand new books to get our teeth into.

As soon as she is back from a trip to America Sara will be writing a guest blog for us here at Armadillo so watch this space!