Monday, 28 April 2008

What are you reading?

I went to London today to take part in the Kingston Festival. I was booked to do a talk at Chessington Community College and trained and tubed it to Waterloo where I was met by Alice Shortland from Bloomsbury marketing. We in turn trained it over to Chessington South where we were greeted by Vanessa Howe, the enthusiastic festival organiser, and a torrential downpour.

I spoke to a large group of 11 and 12 year olds who were the usual mix of attentive and restless. I did stop the reading at one point to ask someone to be quiet, but I don't usually do that sort of thing. It is the job of the staff at a school (in my opinion) to prime the kids (so that they know who you are and what to expect) and to maintain discipline during the visit. It is the author's job to amuse and enthuse and inspire. It's best not to mix things up. I want them to enjoy the visit, not feel like it's something onerous being foisted on them.

I'm not sure I was at the top of my game today though. It is quite hard to get the right mood - and the stories do require a bit of calm and concentration. I really need a roaring fire and a wing-back armchair, but what are you gonna do? Maybe they'll invite me back when their new library is built and I'll have another go. I hope so.

They were were a nice group of kids and I would have liked longer to chat with them. They asked good questions and there were some fascinating answers to my question 'What are you reading?' One boy was reading H P Lovecraft of all people - another was reading Philip K Dick. Philip K Dick! It certainly beats the usual Anthony Horowitz and Darren Shan (though they were mentioned of course) and it was worth the journey on its own.

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