Monday, 26 July 2010

Latitude 2010

Things we liked about Latitude 2010 the 5th Edition:

Books (ok, ok, so we always like these).
Our tent (provided by the good people at Angel Gardens).
Guy Bass (he's a funny man).
Caroline Juskus (she had the most fabaroony outfit EVER).
A little boy called Albie (he helped us build our Fortress of Ultimate Protection - until he had to go and get ice cream).
All the lovely people who met Guy Bass last year and were back for more (you're all his favourites).
Cider (with extra grass).
Tim Clare (he's a funny man too).
Vampire Weekend (Dancey, dancey.)

Things we didn't like:

Earwigs (most specifically their presence in our sleeping tent).
The loos (flushable does not = non-smelly).
The showers (for taunting us with their existence when there was a constant queue).

All-in-all the good FAR outweighed the bad. This year, my Latitude crew was comprised of: Anna Silva (editor extraordinaire), Guy Bass (zombalien unmasker), Caroline Juskus (undercover puzzler). We also had some excellent performances in supporting roles from Ruth (Guy's wife) and Dan (Caroline's husband). We had a fabulous time, and I'm fairly certain all the kids (and parents) that visited our lovely tent did too. Huge thanks to the smashing chaps at Angel Gardens - for providing us with said lovely tent. They are marvellous folk who travel about the festival circuit providing creative chill out areas for the young and young-at-heart. Also to the charming tribe at Latitude for making us so welcome and giving us our own pitch this year. It truly is a fabulous festival to be a part of.

As you can see, I was VERY happy with our tent!
So what did we get up to? Well, throughout the weekend we had creative activities going on in the tent. Lots of colouring and activity sheets, design your own book cover sheets, big canvasses to draw on, and a book which lots of budding young writers contributed stories to. The highlights, of course, were the author appearances.

Caroline Juskus did three sessions, explaining how to read hieroglyphics and teaching young fans how to write their own coded messages, as featured in Minnie Piper and the Chocolate Cipher. We also made scarab beetle amulets and chomped on chocolate. Caroline has lots of puzzles on her website -

Caroline's Chocolate Cipher outfit was totally fabaroony!

Guy Bass appeared on the Sunday and drew an even larger crowd than last year. (Fears regarding the threat of Zombalien invasion at Latitude were clearly even more widespread than in 2009.) But of course Mr Bass is the man for the job, where fear is concerned, and he set about giving his Zombalien Survival Guide with renewed vigour. Check out our Facebook page - - for videos of Guy in action, not to mention loads more pictures of the whole weekend.

Guy demonstrates the Zomb-o-Tron 6000 with the help of a strong-necked volunteer.

Now that I've showered about ten times and slept for about fifty hours, I can say in all honesty that I can't wait to go back next year! Throughout the weekend I was plotting tent improvements for 2011 and I hope to open it up to more of our talented authors and illustrators. I just hope we get invited back . . .

For now, I will leave you with an image of what Anna and I spent around three hours constructing on Sunday afternoon. (We nearly didn't pull it off when our foreman left us to concentrate on the more pressing task of eating ice cream, but Guy was mighty impressed with the fruits of our labours. He couldn't believe his creation had actually been realised in real life!)

Guy and the Fortress of Ultimate Protection!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

When Twitter Works

Ok, I am a lamentable blogger. You haven't heard a peep out of me since Christmas! I would say I don't have the time, but when do we ever have spare time just hanging about waiting to be filled in these busy lives of ours? What separates me from other, more dedicated bloggers is probably that I don't have the stamina. Plus, Twitter is quicker. But every now and then, something happens and 140 characters just isn't enough, and it really does need to be 'blogged'.

Just such an occasion occurred in the shape of Caroline Smailes' Like Bees to Honey launch. Now then, plenty of people will tell you what a beautiful writer Caroline is, and write spine-tinglingly delightful reviews of the book, but I haven't finished mine yet, and that would need more careful and considered crafting than a few thoughts dashed out during my lunch hour. What I'm here to talk about is, WHEN TWITTER WORKS. Twitter-deniers can't get their closed, little minds around the idea of us all tweeting about what we've had for breakfast, and I myself can't help but roll my eyes at the way pretty much every Guardian article has to reference Twitter somewhere, but at least once a week I have occasion to proclaim "You see, this is why I LOVE Twitter.

Oh Twitter, how I love thee, let me count the ways.

Aside from the PR benefits of Twitter enhancing my role as a publicist, the fact of the matter is, I have met some truly fantastic people and probably solidified a few friendships, all thanks to Twitter. And, for the most part, these people were all at Caroline's Like Bees to Honey launch at The Big Green Bookshop.

The lady herself, @Caroline_S, I met her on Twitter. I believe she was RTd (re-tweeted) by her publisher, Scott Pack (@meandmybigmouth) and I thought she seemed rather nice. Turns out we have MANY interests in common: Glee, Singstar, dancing, books, vodka, toasters, to name but a few. So imagine my delight to find she is even more fabulous in real life.

Look, look how fabulous, with all her Twitter friends.

The idea for the venue, @biggreenbooks, was largely down to the fact that Caroline is a follower of co-owner @simontkey, on Twitter. Job done.

The guests, at least most of the ones I chatted to, were all Twitter friends. Some I already know rather well, such as my beloved colleague, @silvareader, and fellow publicist extraordinaire, @ninadouglas. Others I met via Twitter, but have now socialised with in real life a few times: my partner in ginny crime, @MissCellany; the man, the legend, @benjohncock. And so, to those I was really excited about meeting, favourite, lovely Tweeters who turned out to be just as lovely in real life, such as: @FlossieTeacake (fellow Patrick Ness/festival lover); @LaraWilliamson (very lovely and helpful tap-dancing author - multi-talented!); @ya_books (I'm SURE I know her face); @beecee (soon to be fellow Salonista); @tamsyntweetie (fab kids' author who gets Twitter just right). I could go on, really, for a while, but I should stop now . . .

But look how hot the twitter gals are!

So, in conclusion, Twitter is what you make it. If you just want to tell people what you had for breakfast, you probably won't get many followers*. Unless you're @ladygaga, over four million people want to know if she opts for Weetabix or Coco Pops. But, if you are friendly, chatty, interesting, interested, quirky, passionate, funny, fun, the world really is your oyster! So much of our lives is online now, it's hardly surprising that its opened up a whole new social network, but it is bringing this into real life which is the most exciting part!

*For the record, I really quite like hearing about what people are eating, I like food. When I was at uni, four of us once locked ourselves in a disabled toilet for about five hours (it was to facilitate our work, I did a drama degree) and we found we kept coming back to talking about food, perhaps because we didn't have any.

Friday, 18 December 2009

It's CHRRRRISTMAAAAAAAAASSSS! #1 Grumpy Badger's Christmas

Christmas is coming and everyone is so excited - except for Grumpy Badger. "PIFFLE!" he shouts. "I am going to sleep until the spring, and if anyone wakes me I shall be VERY grumpy!" But then Grumpy Badger has three visitors . . . and there is a great crisis. Will he learn the error of his ways before it's too late?

This is a brilliant new take on the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. You know how it goes, a disgruntled old loner is taught the value of friendship and generosity, through the medium of Christmas. Lovely stuff!

Tell me your favourite thing about Christmas to win a copy!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

T'was the night before Christmas . . . #2 Santa's Noisy Night

It's Christmas Eve, and Santa's favourite time of year. "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!" he sings noisily. Will Santa's high spirits waken the children?

This is a spectacular pop-up edition of one of our most popular Christmas stories. With durable pop-up pages suitable for inquisitive young readers, this comic story is perfect for sharing at Christmas time.

To win a copy, tell me what treats you will be leaving out for Santa and his reindeer on Christmas Eve!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

On the third day of Christmas, Bertie gave to me - three green bogieeeees! #3 Dirty Bertie: Crackers!

Meet Dirty Bertie - a boy with nose-pickingly DISGUSTING HABITS! He's full to bursting with madcap plans and crazy ideas, and if it's TROUBLE you're after, look no further - Bertie's sure to be up to his neck in it!

This three-in-one collection of hilarious Dirty Bertie Christmas stories – “Baa!”, “Elf!” and “Crackers!” – recreates all the magic and mayhem of a family Christmas through the eyes of our favourite trouble magnet.  It includes Bertie enlisting his dog, Whiffer, for a starring role in the school nativity; an ill-fated stint as Santa's little helper and bespoke Christmas crackers, Bertie-style (think a set of dracula teeth, rather than a travel sewing kit.) David Roberts’s brilliantly observed illustrations and Alan MacDonald’s razor-sharp writing make these stories a cut above the rest. 

I love everything about Bertie, he is just hilarious and actually rather endearing for such a scruffy little scamp. There should be one of these in every Christmas stocking!

To win a copy I'd like to be regaled with an amusing, festive, family anecdote.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

May all your christmases be white . . . #4 One Snowy Night

One snowy Christmas, a cold little hedgehog wakes from his winter sleep to find a present from Father Christmas. It's a snug woolly red hat - just what he needs. But when Little Hedgehog tries to wear the hat his prickles get in the way and it won't fit. Then Little Hedgehog has a wonderful idea . . .

Little Hedgehog is one of our most enduring characters. Each of his adventures has something of a meteorological theme, and in this particular story it is a snowstorm which threatens to get the better of the small spiky one. But what is a little dose of extreme weather conditions when you've got good friends looking out for you? This lovely, wintry tale touches gently on themes of friendship, generosity and sharing - all important at this special time of year! Also, if that's not enough for you, Little Hedgehog's hat is touch-and-feel on every page - lovely and soft for little fingers.

To win this book I'd like you to tell me the best Christmas present you've ever been given.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Every little girl's Christmas dream come true . . . #5 Lost in the Snow

Fluff is desperate to have a home of her own like her brothers and sisters - but no one seems to want her . . .

Then Ella turns up at the farm. She falls in love with Fluff straight away and pleads with her mother to let her have Fluff, but her mother is firm - they don't want a cat.

Fluff and Ella are heartbroken . . . and Fluff is terrified. What happens to kittens that nobody wants?

I have a confession - I'm not really such a fan of cats. I seem to be in the minority, all my friends love them. I can get on board with a cat as an individual, dependent on their personality. As a child my next door neighbours had seven cats. I liked one of them, two at a push. Catherine Rayner has a brilliant cat, but that's really because she's more like a dog. Dogs on the other hand, I love. Pretty much every one I meet.

Despite this fact, I'd have to be made of stone to not find Fluff, the intrepid little star of Lost in the Snow, adorable. Unlike me, most little girls are obsessed with the idea of having their own little kitten to love, and they go completely nuts for Holly Webb's books. I get by far the most fan mail for Holly, several letters every week. In fact, I just opened three this morning! Every time we publish Holly's latest book, we cross our fingers that it will do as well as the one before, you can't take anything for granted in this business, and lo and behold we seem to have another hit on our hands. Lost in the Snow was where it all began, and remains one of our biggest sellers at Christmas.

To get your hands on a copy I'd like you to tell me about your first pet. My favourite gets the book!