Past Features, Recap

Weekly Roundup #32 + meeting Mary Beard!

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My ‘Weekly Roundup’ is where I share the books I have received in the past week, whether bought, gifted, borrowed etc.

Bought

  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers – I think I first spotted this one through following Felicia Day on Goodreads. I’m not sure how romance-y it is, so I don’t know how much I’ll like it, but we’ll see! It is about an assassin after all…

Won

  • She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick – I won this from Goodreads. I’ve seen it around a lot recently and heard some good things about it.

On Sunday, I got to meet Mary Beard!

I also just wanted to quickly share some photos from this Sunday, when I met Mary Beard at Cheltenham Literature Festival. If you’ve not heard of her before, she is a classicist and a Don at Cambridge University. She’s written some fantastic books and made some wonderful TV shows, and I really, really admire her.



Her talk was about her recent book, Confronting the Classics, and how the ancient world is often presented in the modern day. It was really fascinating, and I plan on getting hold of her book at some point – sadly the hardback is £25 and I can’t really afford it right now. I told her that I’d studied ancient history and archaeology, and my plans for the future: I want to be a museum curator. It was so wonderful to meet a big role model of mine!

I got her to sign my copies of Pompeii and It’s A Don’s Life, and she even added in an extra message after I told her of my plans! Now all of the books that I own written by her are signed – when I was working at the festival last year I picked up a signed copy of All in a Don’s Day. That was also the last day of the Cheltenham Literature Festival – now to look forward to next year’s line-up!

Recap

Cheltenham Literature Festival 2013: Sarah J. Maas, David Levithan & Maureen Johnson

On Sunday, as part of the Cheltenham Literature Festival, I attended a panel called ‘The American Dream’, featuring three American YA authors: Sarah J. Maas, David Levithan and Maureen Johnson. I was so excited for the event, having just read and absolutely loved Sarah’s Throne of Glass series. I somehow also managed to bag a front row seat, right in the middle…
 
As with yesterday’s event, each author briefly introduced themselves and their newest releases: Every Day by David Levithan, Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas and Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson.

Maureen had laryngitis, but that didn’t stop her from making funny quips and comments! I’ve not actually read anything of hers, but may look into it now – she has a wonderful sense of humour and seems like a very warm person. She apparently has a big Twitter presence, which she often referred to (I’m now following her!) and one audience member asked her about her Coverflip project. 
 
The basic premise of the Coverflip project is to re-design a book cover, as if the author was the opposite gender. Maureen mentioned that she had noticed a certain ‘type’ of cover, depending on the gender of the author, and asked her Twitter followers to compile some opposites. She had a massive response, and Huffington Post have actually put together a gallery of the results. My particular favourites are A Game of Thrones (written by a ‘Georgette R. R. Martin’), Stardust (which really does not capture the book at all and I think works so well in the constraints of the experiment) and Heist Society (completely and utterly the opposite). Someone even did a grungy looking version of Throne of Glass, which Sarah said she absolutely loves!
 
Sarah signing away!
 
Sarah spoke about how she has been working on her series since the age of sixteen, so for eleven years now, professed a love for fanfiction and her gratitude for her fans that have been following her since she first posted on Fiction Press. She cites Garth Nix, author of Sabriel/the Abhorsen series as one of her influences, which was exciting as I absolutely love that series and have done ever since I first read it at the age of twelve. And just to top it off, Sarah is a self-professed geek who often felt alone in her interests until she found people with the same enthusiasm online – much like myself.
 
David spoke a little about how he has often had trouble with his books – banned, pulled off shelves, censored – often just because of the title (a previous novel of his is entitled Boy Meets Boy, and his newest release is called Two Boys Kissing). Which is shocking, as I believe he is a prominent author in LGBT literature, and people should not have that sort of support taken away. He said he’s been told by many people that the presence of the books alone, books about people like themselves, has made them feel represented. What I didn’t realise was that he has done a lot of editing – including for Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games.
 
Sneaky picture of David. Maureen was never quite in my sight!

We discussed social media – the host asked who in the audience had interacted with the authors some way online, and a lot of us raised our hands! As I said previously, Maureen is a frequent Twitter user, whereas David much prefers Facebook. In fact, he uses his Twitter so infrequently that his Book Lovers Dictionary project that was supposed to take four months has taken two and a half years, and he’s still only on the letter G! 
 
Sarah told us a funny story about her early experiences with social media and blogging platforms – when she was a teenager she started using Livejournal, blogging about her everyday life and writing down absolutely everything. This went on for a while, until a girl at her school told her to ‘keep a lock on her diary’ – all her classmates had been reading her Livejournal, and placing bets on who would be mentioned next!
 
Another of the topics of conversation was the stigma that comes with young adult fiction. It’s surprising how many people look down on it, or the authors, and see it as a ‘lesser’ genre because it’s aimed at teenagers. Yet Maureen made a wonderful point when she said that she thinks the young adult readership are better readers, because we accept so much within a story – we don’t go into a book expecting one thing, and one thing only, to happen. Genres can get mixed up and we’re fine with that. We’re also more likely to be vocal about things we’ve loved and hated, which is great for the author. It doesn’t matter what you read or write, it just matters that you are reading or writing.
 
There was just so much wonderful conversation, and the three authors worked really well together. I didn’t take notes this time so most of this is from memory, and to avoid a wall of text I shall move on to the signing!
 
 
I spoke to David first, and told him that I loved Every Day and that I thought it was a really unique story – my five-star review of the book is still to come. I like the little message he wrote for me, and will be looking out for Boy Meets Boy and Two Boys Kissing. Two Boys Kissing isn’t released in the UK until April though, sadly – I’ve already read some wonderful reviews of it by bloggers from over the pond.
 
 
I didn’t actually get anything signed by Maureen – I didn’t have any of her books and the queue meant that you could go between authors rather than going past each one at a time. But they were giving out some pretty promotional postcards and little badges for her new book, which you can see above.
 
 
And then I got to speak to Sarah! I told her that her books were my favourite books of the year, and she asked me to sign a hardback copy of Throne of Glass whilst she signed my books. She’s been taking it round on tour and getting fans to sign it, which I think is a lovely idea. I mentioned to her about some blogger friends of mine (Paola and Charlene!) who had been to her Crown of Midnight launch party in LA, and brought Finnikin of the Rock for her to sign (as she is a big fan of the book, and so are they). She remembered them (yay!) and said she felt almost like she was defacing the book, haha! I also told her that her writing playlist is basically exactly the same as my reading playlist, and she recommended the Oblivion film soundtrack to me.

After that, I wished her the best of luck and that was the end of the event – and how brilliant it was. I loved the chatter and found each of the authors easily approachable. Now I look forward to Charlene and Paola’s Finnikin readalong, and maybe if I meet Sarah again I’ll take that one along too!
 
 
I also bought myself an amazing book covers poster. I couldn’t decide which cover I wanted, so I did the best thing and got one with ALL the covers.

Recap

Cheltenham Literature Festival 2013: Patrick Ness & Meg Rosoff

Yes, yesterday I was lucky enough to meet both Patrick Ness and Meg Rosoff at the Cheltenham Literature Festival! I live about twenty miles from Cheltenham, and worked at the festival last year, so it’s just wonderful to have such an amazing event only a bus journey away. Today I met Sarah J. Maas, Maureen Johnson and David Levithan, but I’ll do a post about that event tomorrow.
 
Patrick and Meg were there to talk about their new books, More Than This and Picture Me Gone respectively. I originally wasn’t planning on picking up More Than This straight away – I tend to wait for the paperback – but when Patrick read the first chapter I just knew I had to get myself a copy! 
 
When I saw this photo on my phone, I was convinced I could see myself. High res on my computer showed otherwise… if Patrick had turned the camera just a tiny bit to the left then I’d have been on his Twitter!

Both authors briefly introduced their new books before reading the first chapter. This was then followed by a discussion session lead by a lady who works for the Guardian newspaper (I completely missed her name). They are both very witty people, capable of turning an anecdote into something very entertaining, and it was so nice to be able witness that – there was a real sense that they were there for their audience and fans, to talk to us about what we wanted to know, rather than just there to promote their next book.
 
Meg told the story of how her new book came into creation – she said she’d lied to her editor for months and months about having a story, and even came up with a name for the main character: Mila. Then one day, whilst walking in the park, a Bedlington terrier came bounding up to her and when she checked the nametag, it was called Mila. And so the story started from there, the character even tells the reader at the beginning of the book that she was named after a dog!
 
The book is actually a mystery, with Mila tracking down her best friend’s missing father, and Meg cited Sherlock (both Conan Doyle’s original, and the more recent BBC adaptation) as inspiration, and also mentioned that she loves adventure stories about nineteenth/early twentieth century explorers.
 
Meeting Meg! The only photo where we’re both looking at the camera too…
 
Patrick revealed that More Than This is the story he has been waiting to write since he was nine or ten years old. He’s had the idea for a long time, and said Seth is probably the closest character to himself that he has ever written. 
 
He’s now trying his hand at script writing, including scripts for Fox and Warner Brothers, and a film of the Chaos Walking trilogy is in the works, with a script written by Charlie Kaufman. He was hoping to give us some more updates on the film, but at the time of the event he wasn’t allowed to reveal too much, so I guess it’s just a case of keeping an ear out for as and when! What he could reveal, however, is that A Monster Calls is being adapted for the stage.
 
Me and Mr. Ness!
 
What followed was a mish-mash of discussion topics. One that we stayed on for a while was the topic of privacy and technology. So many people publish their every move online, and whilst I’m not a fan of posting about everything (I don’t post on my personal Facebook much), I share a lot of information when it comes to book-related topics – even now, I’m sharing images of myself for all to see. Meg said that she was working with a young man recently, and she Googled him – and couldn’t find a thing. She said it was a shock to realise that she actually found his lack of online presence very cool, the fact that he had no small space on the internet for himself was something rare and unique. One fan teased Patrick about his frequent selfies, and he shared his disdain for Snapchat.
 
Meg also raised an interesting point: people lament the death of the written letter, saying that children in this decade never hand-write letters. But back in the nineteenth century, people would have sent out short letters with the past day’s news: now we do it a different way, through text and email, through Twitter and Facebook.
 
As well as discussion on the potential films of the Chaos Walking trilogy, which sadly Patrick couldn’t tell us too much about, Meg discussed the new film adaptation of her novel How I Live Now. I first read this book when I was thirteen or fourteen, and I remember really enjoying it – it was quite a harrowing read at a time when I hadn’t read any sort of dystopian fiction before. Apparently the film process has been going on for a while, and Kristen Stewart was originally lined up to play Daisy, the protagonist. But then she went off to film the Twilight movies and they lost their lead. Kristen Stewart, then an unknown, was perfect for Daisy in Meg’s eyes. She admitted that Saoirse Ronan (who plays Daisy in the final version of the film) is not as she imagined Daisy, but that she has done a great job. She also said that the film isn’t quite as she imagined it – but that if she had done her own version, it probably would have been in black and white, with subtitles and had a total audience of six people! 
 
Both authors agreed that, whilst film adaptations of their novels are wonderful, it’s good that it is never quite as they would have done it – because that specific work is theirs, whereas the film is someone else’s vision.
 

After the event came a signing session, and I managed to get fairly close to the front of the queue so the wait wasn’t too long. I grabbed photos with both authors and chatted to them briefly. I told Patrick that the Chaos Walking trilogy made me cry at the end, and he told me that was good – it’s always fantastic when a book makes you feel so strongly about the characters and events. Meg asked me if I was going to see the film of How I Live Now, to which I replied that I wanted to but I wasn’t sure when – she misheard me and thought I said I didn’t want to, so of course I had to hastily correct her!
 

Overall a fantastic event, with some brilliant authors and lively chatter! Both were more than happy to engage with and chat back to the audience, and it felt like a really close gathering.

 
Recap

Last few days of the Cheltenham Literature Festival 2012

Well, the festival is finally over, and I really wish it wasn’t! It was such a fantastic two weeks that seemed to fly by, and there was never a dull moment. I last told you about the events of Tuesday 9th October, so this post will cover from Wednesday until the very end.

Wednesday got off to an exciting start: we met Dan Snow, who has presented many history TV programs, and got a team photo:

I also caught a glimpse of Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn, who work on the TV show Wartime Farm (and are archaeologists, yeahhh!). As I was working the early shift, I missed the evening events which included Adam Hart-Davis, Pam Ayres, Andrew Marr, Hilary Devey, AA Gill, Nigella Lawson and Mark Haddon.

Thursday was my day off, but notable guests included Lucy Worsley, John McCarthy, Tom and Henry Herbert (the Fabulous Baker Brothers), Ben Fogle, Caitlin Moran, Gunnar Staalesen, Stephen Mangan and Victoria Pendleton.

Welly boots signed by Caitlin Moran (apparently all guests were signing wellies – I don’t know why!)
 
Friday’s guests included Sinclair McKay, Michael Smith and Julian Baggini, all of whom I managed to see; as well as Robert MacFarlane, Rose Tremain, Erica Wagner, Sandi Toksvig, Kirstie Allsopp, Alan Garner, Dom Joly, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Paul O’Grady.
On Saturday, I saw Kathy Reichs (creator of TV show Bones) and Val McDermid (creator of Wire in the Blood), and then met Larry Lamb in the afternoon!

Larry Lamb – more like Mick Shipman than Archie Mitchell 😉
 
I also had to stand next to Ian Rankin whilst he was signing books, to stop any over eager fans from invading his personal space. One man there was obviously a massive fan – he brought practically the entire back catalogue with him, and couldn’t stop shaking whilst talking to Ian! Whilst we were waiting for Ian Rankin to turn up, I heard a customer saying he couldn’t find any T.S. Eliot – so I showed him where the books were, and he spent a good ten minutes explaining why everyone should read Four Quarters, and that your life is not complete unless you have. It was so nice to see someone so passionate about it. Later on both Jeremy Vine and Ben Miller were just wandering around the tents, browsing – I got to speak to Jeremy Vine.

Sunday, the last day of the festival proper, was just as eventful. A.C. Grayling was signing in the morning, and I took some stock over for him to sign and had a chat with him – he was lovely, and took a real interest in my degree. He was so polite and came over and personally thanked me when he left. I also saw Ian McEwan when he was doing his signing, but the biggest event of the day (at least when I was there)? David Walliams.

He signed so much – 240 stock copies before the event even started, then whatever customers took him! The queue was massive, and there were crowds of people taking photos and hanging around the signing area. He was lovely, making people laugh and chatting with them, posing for photos and just being an all round friendly guy. Finally, the last guest I saw was David Mitchell. I apologise for the awful photo…

His publicist was very stern though… me and a colleague were just about to get a photo with him when she whisked him away. I did manage to grab one of a friend with him though, so that’s something! I got the impression he was happy to be there, signing what people wanted, but his publicist wanted him to sign only his autobiography.

Autographs from Larry Lamb, Polly Findlay and Christopher Eccleston.

Yesterday was packing up day. Boxing up books, taking down shelves, tidying up the mess… and it was so fun. It was just all of us temps together, and at one point we had run out of boxes to pack books in, so had nothing to do. Instead, we sat around on the beanbags in the kid’s tent chatting for a bit, which was really great.

Meerkats surveying the clearing up…
 
This was all such a fantastic experience and I will definitely be applying to work again next year! I actually find it quite hard to write about the festival properly. I can tell you all about the famous people I met, post some photos, but honestly the bit that was the most fun was meeting new people: colleagues and customers. Meeting people who share the same passion as me: books. And it would be really hard to write those experiences down, and make them interesting to others, so I’m just going to keep them all to myself =)
Recap

Cheltenham Literature Festival: Days 3 – 5

Well… look who I had the pleasure of meeting on Sunday:

Christopher Eccleston! He was there to discuss Antigone, as he is starring in the new production directed by Polly Findlay. I joined the end of the queue (you know… to make sure no-one else joined as they only had a certain amount of time… yeah…) and grabbed an autograph from both of them, as well as a photo (or two)! I think the look on his face is because when I told him my name he looked confused and asked me to spell it – well that’s what I’m hoping…

I really didn’t know what to say to him though. I didn’t want to discuss Doctor Who because that’s not what he was there to talk about. I did tell Polly about my degree and interest in classics though, so at least I managed some sort of conversation!

That was the first exciting part of the day. The second was seeing (well catching a brief glimpse of, behind the crowds) Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl series. Although I haven’t read the books for years, and only read the first few – I didn’t realise there were so many! – it was exciting seeing an author that I was a big fan of as a child. Unfortunately, I was unable to grab a photo of him, as the tent was heaving, unsurprisingly.

I also spoke very briefly to Brooke Magnanti, author of Belle du Jour: the Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl, as her publicist wanted to know where she needed to go for signings. Other interesting people who were at the festival on Sunday, but I didn’t manage to see include Neil Oliver, Paul Hollywood, various cast/crew members of Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey, Rupert Everett and T.C. Boyle.

Mary Beard had a couple of events on Sunday but I was unable to attend them so I put aside a book for her to sign. Sadly I couldn’t get it dedicated, but I tweeted her and she replied, yay! I think she is the epitome of a classicist – eccentric and truly, truly passionate about what she does, and her recent TV series Meet the Romans with Mary Beard was great.

Monday was my day off, but looks to have been as exciting a day as any other – P.D. James, David Stuttard, Bel Mooney, Esther Rantzen, Orlando Figes, (‘what I call’) Patricia Hodge, Will Greenwood and Greg Searle, amongst others.

And that brings us to today – my shift started at 8am, which meant getting a bus at 6.20am; I am shattered! The hours go so quickly, I can barely believe I was working for seven and a half hours, and I only feel the tiredness on the journey back home. I’m working the same time tomorrow, so it’s another early night tonight… I managed to see Caroline Shenton, Head Parliamentary Archivist who has just written her first book, and the poet Simon Armitage, as well as Mark Hill (of Antiques Roadshow fame) and Judith Miller. This afternoon/evening’s guests include Clare Balding, Frankie Dettori, Emma Bridgewater, Kate Summerscale (which reminds me, I really need to read The Suspicions of Mr Whicher) and Sue Townsend, to name but a few.

I really can’t express just how much I’m loving this experience! I’ve never know a job to pass so quickly, I don’t really want it to end. I’ve met some great people, both famous, those I’m working with and customers, and I hope to meet many more before the week is up. Unless I write up another review before then, my next post will be on Friday evening, covering both Wednesday and Friday, as Thursday is my day off.
Recap

Cheltenham Literature Festival: Days 1 & 2

So instead of my usual features, I thought I’d post about the Cheltenham Literature Festival for the next two weeks, as I’m working there, and a round up post at the end would be far too long! If you want to know more about the festival, click the logo above to visit the website.


I was so excited when I found out I’d gotten a job working at the festival – and right in the Waterstones tent where all the action happens! I’m working as a bookseller, which is self-explanatory, but we also help out with queue management and chat to people queuing for events, keep the tent looking tidy, set up for events and signings, etc. I’ve already seen some interesting people!

Yay! Waterstones jumper!

We started setting up on Monday, but yesterday was the first official day of the festival. There are events spread out in various venues, and the tent I’m in is often used for book signings, meaning I get the chance to see some exciting people! Events didn’t start until 12pm, and combined with the fact that it was a weekday, it was a little calmer. The tent is heaving just before and after events – you can always tell when someone big is talking, because it’s like a ghost town for a while and then absolutely packed! 

The first person I saw yesterday was Will Gompertz, the BBC Arts Editor and former Tate Gallery director, who has recently written a volume on the history of modern art. He was doing a signing but we had a slight problem – a large amount of the stock was faulty, the second lot of photo inserts being upside down and back to front! Luckily this was soon sorted out by the editor, who offered to send a free second (and correct) copy to anyone who bought the faulty one, and Will signed bookplates for those who got faulty copies to place in the corrected ones. It was a bit of a scare, with it being the first event but I was really impressed with how easily it was handled and actually how the customers didn’t even seem to mind too much – a lot of them saw it as a bit of a novelty, actually.

Later in the afternoon, Sebastian Faulks was giving a talk as well as signing copies of his new book, A Possible Life. I managed to see him, but didn’t get to snap a photo! Paul Auster was also signing at the same time. Other guests at the festival that day that I didn’t get the opportunity to see included Salman Rushdie, Tom Holland, Pat Barker, Anthony Horowitz, Kofi Annan, Jon Ronson and Peter Serafinowicz.

Today, being a Saturday, was much busier. Michael Frayn did a signing in the morning, though I actually didn’t get a chance to catch a glimpse of him – I remember all my friends doing A Level English (which I regret not doing) having to read Spies. Later in the afternoon, Sean Borodale, Ann Gray and Adam Horovitz were all signing, after doing a panel together. I was at the tills with a colleague, who normally works in a Waterstones elsewhere, and this woman came over asking if we had Jack Straw‘s books out. We both assumed that she was asking where they were because she wanted one signed, and then Jack Straw practically materialised next to her – she was actually his publicist!

Now for the exciting bit – the big event of the day (at least where I was): Philip Pullman:


There was a HUGE queue for him, here’s just a little part of it:


And bless him, a lot of authors set a limit on how much they sign or how long they’re there for, but Philip said he would sign for everyone waiting. He was still signing when I left (stupid bus service only running until 6.45pm…). The queue snaked all through the tent and for ages down the path through the park. Luckily the Bookshop Band were there to keep customers entertained (and they’re great – check their website out!)


There were (and still are, the day isn’t over yet!) so many exciting people at the festival today that I didn’t get a chance to see: Alexander McCall Smith, J.K. Rowling, Michael Palin, Roger Moore, Benedict Cumberbatch, Iain Banks, Jung Chang and more. 

Mary Beard is there tomorrow, and I love her but I’m going to miss her event so I’ve reserved a book for her to sign for me, which I can pick up. Exciting! My next post will be on Tuesday evening, covering tomorrow and Tuesday (as Monday is my day off).