Archive for July, 2011

Clowns and libraries and shouting BOTTOM at politicians

I’ve just done two of the weirdest author events ever. The libraries’ summer reading challenge this year has a circus theme, and so I was asked to talk about writing and words and general fun with books at a couple of libraries this week. That’s the sort of thing I do all the time. But this time, because it was a circus theme, I was doing the event with CLOWNS. I’ve only ever had one experience with a clown, when he decided it would be very amusing to interrupt me while I was telling a rather serious Greek myth to some P7s. Which wasn’t helpful. So I was a bit nervous about working with Oli and Gus in Hawick yesterday and Edinburgh today. But they were lovely. Really funny, very good at juggling with penguins, umbrellas, trumpets, hats, silver cups, and all sort of other oddly shaped things. They were really easy to work with too – we even discussed when it was ok to heckle. And I think I may have heckled them more than they heckled me.

We made up stories together – them juggling objects, and me making stories up about what they were juggling. And the harder, pokier, and more dangerous the objects the better!

So, that was fun. And slightly silly. But the silliest thing I did today wasn’t inventing, on the spot, a story about a cockerel whose alarm clock didn’t work, it was shouting ‘bottom’ in front of several politicians.

The event today was in a the gorgeous reference library in Edinburgh Central Library. It’s a huge room, with a massive high painted dome. I go there to research books (I did a lot of research for Rocking Horse War there, right under the dome) and it’s normally a very serious, quiet room full of students and researchers and if you drop a pencil or open a book loudly you worry that you’ve disturbed someone’s very important thought. So normally I’m very quiet there. But today, there were only me and the kids and lots of important politicians who’d come to see how the reading challenge worked. No desks, no researchers. So I stood under the dome, and I shouted ‘BOTTOM!!’

Now, I didn’t just do that for fun. Though it was fun. I did it because we were talking about our favourite words, and how to make stories and books out of them. And I’ve written a book about bottoms, and bottom is a pretty good word, so it made complete sense to shout ‘Bottom!’ in this very beautiful serious room.

And I got away with it! But I don’t know if they’ll ever let me back…

So, here are some pictures of me with the lovely, wonderful, talented, funny and utterly non-terrifying Oli and Gus.
Here also is a bit of footage from the Scottish Government website – the first time ever, I’m assured, that someone has said BOTTOM on the website about running the country. . .

(And please do go into your local library and see what fun things they’re doing for the Circus Stars Reading Challenge!)

Lari explains the penguin

building a story

Lari bosses the clowns about

Lari and the clowns

Archive for July, 2011

Bookshops. They sell books. And you can meet authors there too…


I’ve just done author events at six different Waterstones in a fortnight. I’ve done Newton Mearns, Stirling, Ayr, St Andrews, East Kilbride and Inverness. West, South, East, and North. All lovely shops, all with lovely (bookloving) booksellers.

But it can be fairly nerve-shredding, sitting, on your own, in a shop, waiting to see if anyone can be bothered turning up to listen to you read. (Though someone always did! Which always feels like a miracle, especially on all these beautifully sunny days we’ve been having!)

But I think it’s important to get in about bookshops and support them (and don’t worry, I’m not just doing Waterstones – the Waterstones clustered together in July, but I’m doing two independent bookshops this summer too, and more in the autumn I hope.)

I know you can buy books online, but you can’t chat to a bookseller online, or flick through the book, or just see what catches your eye on the shelf. And you can’t meet an author online either, not in the same way.

So bookshops and authors are going to have to offer bookbuyers something more than online buying can, and me sitting there reading The Big Bottom Hunt to four year olds, or telling an Inuit sea legend which inspired Storm Singing to ten year olds, is one of those ‘something more’s!

And it gives me a chance to meet you – meet readers, meet parents, meet teachers on holiday, and perhaps meet a few kids who have never heard of my books, but who heard this loud voice from the back of the store, and just wandered up to see who it was. That’s possibly one of the best reasons for visiting bookshops! (And also one of the reasons why my voice is a bit croaky today!)

So, that was my fortnight of Waterstones. Next week is my week of clowns, then after that, it’s my week of caves. (Caves and clowns? Yes, really, check out my diary if you don’t believe me!)

Archive for July, 2011

Foxes, coyotes, wolves and trains

When I’m touring round Scotland (I’m doing six different Waterstones in a this fortnight, and five libraries in the couple of weeks after that, all the way from Hawick to Portree…) what do I do on all these journeys? Isn’t travelling a terrible waste of time when I could be writing? (The next book, Lari, get on with the next book…)

I don’t think it is a waste of time, because I do most of it by train and bus, and that adds up to a lot of thinking and reading and people-watching time. And quite a lot of wild dog time too.

In the last couple of days, I’ve sat at a very crowded station watching a very odd traffic jam at the ticket machines made up of folk on their way to T-in the Park (all wellies and manky rucksacks) and some very fancy ladies on their way to a wedding; and sat in a quiet train watching a group of girls experiment to see how many people could fit round one wee train table;

I’ve discussed the riddles in the Hobbit with a very well-read taxi driver;

I’ve read a book about maths (for fun), and a book of Native American Coyote stories (for research);

I’ve gazed out the window and seen wide-eared deer in a field watching the train go past, really tall foxgloves growing by the track, and a short but lovely glimpse of three foxes standing still in a railway yard.

And I write too. I always have a briefcase full of notebooks, for scribbling down ideas, or a laptop, if I want to write entire pages. (Or blog posts – both this post and the previous one have been written on trains.) And many of my books have been written when I was travelling or at least out of the house.

The first scene of Wolf Notes was written on a train back from Aberdeen years ago, and the first page of Storm Singing was written in a corridor while I was waiting for my kids to come out of a dance class. So out and about works for me, just like it does for the fabled beasts.

So all this travelling isn’t a waste of time at all – it’s much more inspiring than sitting in my study. And with a much greater chance of seeing foxes!

Archive for July, 2011

Slightly uneven tour of Scotland

I’m visiting quite a few bits of Scotland during the summer holidays, but not on holiday!

Because I’ve had two books published in the last couple of months, my publishers are sending me round various book-y locations to read the books and chat about writing (and sign any books people want to buy!) I’m visiting bookshops, libraries and a cave. Is a cave a book-y location? It is, if you’ve written a book set in a cave!

And what am I doing in all these place? Usually I’m reading my picture books (How to Make a Heron Happy and The Big Bottom Hunt) and chatting with small people about stories, then after a quick drink of water, I’m shifting gears into Storm Singing and talking legends, myths, location research and cliffhangers with older readers.

It’s an uneven tour because it’s spread around places I know and have been before, like Skye, Ayr, Inverness; places I’ve never done an event before but thought might be fun, like East Kilbride and St Andrews; and the one place where Storm Singing is actually set, ie Sutherland. (That’s where I’m doing the event in the cave, and if you are anywhere near Smoo Cave on 28th July, it would be lovely to see you there!)

However, today wasn’t quite as exotic or dark as a cave, because I’m just back from meeting readers and families in Stirling, in the Waterstones in the Thistle Centre. And what brilliant readers they were. There was a lovely little girl who did a great grumpy heron face every time I read: “But the heron still looked….grumpy”; and then later, there was a large group of readers, lots of whom had met me at local schools, had read First Aid and Wolf Notes and were very keen to get stuck into Storm Singing. They asked the most fabulous questions I’ve been asked in a bookshop, including really complicated ones about publishing. I was very impressed with the calibre of bookbuyers from Stirling (and Clackmannanshire) and would love to go back and do more events!

So if you want to come and see me in the summer, check out my diary page and if my uneven and very unsystematic way of picking event locations means that I’m not coming anywhere near you, then do just ask your local bookshop or library or even your school to see if they can arrange for me to visit. Though I wonder if anyone else will ask such knowledgable questions as the Stirling audience?