I'm an Artist, Let me Into the Green Room: Hay Festival Photos!

I'm back from the Hay Festival and I survived! Just.


I'm not usually nervous about author appearances but I was nervous about the Hay Festival where I was appearing on a panel with Geraldine McCaughrean (above, right), with my pal, illustrator Sarah McIntyre (above, middle) moderating (as if there was a risk of us suddenly jumping at each other's throats).

(In fact, Sarah beat me to the blogging draw and has posted lots of cool photos from Hay - check out her blog for details of how she totally got in with Camilla Parker Bowles!)

Here's how Sarah does it (that's lovely Anne Cottringer, author of When Titus Took the Train, which Sarah illustrated)



When we arrived it was a bit rainy and the deck chairs were forlorn on the grass

The day after was gloriously sunny!

Warm enough to need a refilling station!

It was my very first time at Hay and I was such a beginner -  I booked £38 worth of tickets only to find that performers and their groupies got free tickets to events! Don't worry, the Box Office refunded my tickets, no questions asked (thank you, Box Office!).

It didn't help that I was so busy, I failed to read the information the Hay Office sent. I arrived without knowing where to park, where to go, what to do.

My minders, Random House publicists Kelly Tapper and Louise Vallant laughed and said all I had to do was say "I'm an artist" ... and I'd get parking, coffee, tickets and what have you. And they were right!

My daughter Mia at the car park entrance to the Green Room ... perhaps now I've convinced her that deep down, under all the embarrassing clothing, I'm cool.

Welcome to the Green Room!



Attached to the Green Room was this beehive of activity - with signs everywhere giving everyone # tags for tweeting. Everywhere, there were small groups of people who sounded like they were brainstorming the script of a new film.

The problem of course is, once one gets into the swing of declaring "I'm an artist!" it's very hard to stop. My husband wasn't amused when I couldn't be bothered to pass the salt. I'm an artist!

Random House put us up in a hotel in Crickhowell, 45 minutes drive from Hay-on-Wye (45 minutes too far, you say? No problem! One of the festival sponsors is Land Rover and artists get shuttled to and fro in luxury, easy peasy).


Random House likes to fatten up its authors before performances - at the dinner were publicists Kelly Tapper and Louise Vallant and that there on the right is uber award winning illustrator Mini Grey.

Imagine ME hanging out with Jonathan Stroud (Bartimaeus), Mini Grey(Biscuit Bear) and the Etherington Brothers (Monkey Nuts)!!! What's that you say? Oh yes! I'm an artist!>
Clowning around with Jonathan Stroud (left) and Robin Etherington (right)
The following morning I watched the fans swoop down on the Etherington Brothers and wondered how a nobody like me would cope seated next to Geraldine! I could pretend that I got sat next to her by mistake.


Rob and Lorenzo sign copies of Monkey Nuts for adoring fans. I overheard someone say, "They must be the most popular speakers at Hay. They are so noisy!"

In fact, my event with Geraldine McCaughrean wasn't too bad, even though the Starlight Stage (it had a dark drapy ceiling sprinkled with a gazillion stars!) was packed!

While my minders weren't looking, I nipped out to take a photo of the queue to our event


I asked the queue to wave and some of them did (you can tell from their expressions that they are wondering who this bonkers woman was)!


Here we are on stage. I look like that because I'm trying to conquer my nerves by imagining the audience naked.


That cartoon of Tall Story is fan art by Sarah ... how lucky am I to have a friend who can draw like that!


And look, Pinoy peeps, I brought Bernardo Carpio to Hay!


You can just see the stars in the ceiling above this further away shots.



Now I make it no secret that I just love, love, love Geraldine McCaughrean's writing, as does Sarah. Sarah and I kind of slobbered all over her during the event. Geraldine politely managed not to request a towel during our gushfest.

Geraldine McCaughrean
The book Geraldine was promoting was Pull Out All the Stops (to be called The Sunshine Queen in the US), which is in the same world as Stop the Train, the very first book I ever read by her. Pull Out All the Stops is a magnificent book - check out my review on Amazon. It deserves to be read and everyone deserves to read it!

I had reserved tickets to watch Fiona Dunbar do her Ghostorama act (her latest series is the Kitty Slade ghost mysteries) but I'd forgotten I was a speaker and would have to do signing and meeting and greeting at the bookshop. Thankfully, I had my retinue of Fiona Dunbar readers to send to her event.


And thankfully, we managed to meet up for dinner later so at least we have this picture of the two of us at Hay! (And thanks to Hatty Bayly, OUP publicist, for organizing the magic expanding dinner)... this is Hatty (also known as publicist of the Children's Book Nation) below.


Later, in the Green Room, who should walk in but Michael Morpurgo. He got chatting to Geraldine so I gave Sarah my camera so I could sneak behind him for a photo. But he caught me!

Stalking Michael Morpurgo

He asked me who I was and I said, I was a beginner author. To which he said, "Oh, that deserves an arm around the shoulder!"

Look! Me and Michael Morpurgo AND Geraldine McCaughrean.

The next day, we watched Michael in action on the Barclays Wealth Pavilion which seats 2,000. And he was awesome.


I still had one more event to do and I'm afraid Michael Morpurgo gave me a severe inferiority complex.

So I was feeling a bit stressed when we then watched Malorie Blackman dazzle a huge auditorium full of teenagers.

Hay's lovely Sophie Lording (who invited me to my events!) did Malorie's introduction:


Here's Malorie talking about her new book Boys Don't Cry.


Afterwards, panicking about my coming presentation, I told my daughter: "I've got to make my talk more like Michael Morpurgo's!"

She replied, "Didn't you hear what Malorie Blackman said? BE YOURSELF!"

So that's what I did. And it was good.

Later, I had to have my trophy picture with Malorie.

IMG_7173 (2)

Illustrator Layn Marlow arrived with her daughter Tegan ("It's Vegan with a T") ... do check out Tegan's cool blog Tegan on Toast.


And we managed to rope librarian Ferelith Hordon - who was there to represent the Greenaway Prize at Oliver Jeffers' event - into joining us for supper. By that time we'd run out of Artist's ("I am an Artist ... feed me!") food vouchers so we used Ferelith's to obtain bottles of wine - thank you, Ferelith!

Ferelith, Tegan and Sarah.  Marcus Sedgwick named his character Ferelith in White Crow ... I'll bet he did that to wind Ferelith up.

These were the last of our vouchers.


Performing artists got a lunch voucher, a morning snack and an afternoon snack. The lunch was steak, salmon, lamb shank, that sort of thing. The snacks were cheesecakes, tortes, mousses. And all you could drink. At one point we managed to negotiate ordering simultaneous morning and afternoon snacks. It was a bit fattening, the festival. But happy. Definitely happy.

At the end of the day, we caught Jo Brand's event in which she talked about her life as a psychiatric nurse, her feminism and what happens when your daughter comes home from school and incredulously asks you, "Mummy, are YOU Jo Brand?"


Why have I never been to Hay before? Even without the Green Room, it's an amazing experience. The slogan this year was:

Ideas may blossom

With my 12 year old daughter, I've seen Michael Morpurgo telling stories and entrancing small children, Malorie Blackman talking about her struggle to become a writer, Jo Brand's down-to-earth compassionate comedy; we've met many extraordinary and creative people we don't see everyday. And yes, we bought books.

Ideas may well blossom.