The Bone Talk Book Tour

By Candy Gourlay

With children from Telford Priory School in Telford. Thanks to the TPS photographer.

Last week, I went on my first-ever book tour to promote Bone Talk. Over the years I have watched with envy as author friends go off on their book tours, so I was thrilled when my publisher David Fickling Books organised one via Authors Aloud, an organisation that facilitates author visits to schools.

The numbers were pretty daunting for a first timer:

1 author
2 presentations a day
3,525 children
22 schools
9 venues
8 towns
5 days
8 trains
9 taxis
6 lifts
5 Premier Inn hotels

Of course I wanted to keep a record so I tweeted a diary-thread everyday. I've embedded it below if you'd like to to check it out later, or click here.

Meeting children from (clockwise from top left) Kent, Hertfordshire, Sussex, Worcester. Thanks to the schools who tweeted these photos.

I performed in a breathtaking variety of schools – grand, ancient, worn, new, private, state, huge, small, diverse, middle class, every class – many rainbows of hope and aspiration. In the signing queues after every presentation, the children were always a little bit excited, a little bit shy, their eyes sliding everywhere, not knowing where to look, delighted with every tiny sign of interest from me. The names I dedicated the books to were a gamut! So many Madisons in Kent, Harrys, many spellings of Natasha, Sophies, a Wojtek, and many others of far away provenances.

Speaking to 500 Year 7s and 8s at Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge. Photo: Sophie Quinnell

I met four Filipino children only though I am told there were plenty more in the Catholic school I was visiting. I wondered how they felt to hear stories about children like them, to see an author wrapped in the same skin as theirs, and to hear me talk about the Philippines, the faraway home that they have not spent much time in. My heart beat faster when one girl confided that she too was writing novels.

It was a week full of librarians – indeed my first two days were spent in the care of Authors Aloud co-founder and librarian Annie Everall, who put together my itinerary. The librarians were all juggling many balls at once, meeting and greeting (sometimes also feeding) me, sorting out my tech, making sure the bookseller had arrived, inviting neighbouring schools to join the audience, and herding, always, herding. During the pauses, there were many good conversations – about the transformation a child goes through between Year 7 and Year 8, about reading for pleasure,  about library resources or the lack of it, and yes, deliciously, inevitably, about beloved books. Librarians can't help talking about books (and neither can we authors).

A big thank you to my booky hosts: Howard Aukland and Jo Davies (Telford),  Gareth Davies (Wolverhampton), Annabel Jeffery (Worcester), Rebecca Darbyshire (St Albans), Clare Woollard (Ware), Katy Day and Megan Silver (Sittingbourne), Sophie Quinnell (Tonbridge), Simon Homer (Burgess Hill) and Emily Holland (Hove).

Then there were the booksellers. There were booksellers with premises – The Book Nook in Hove, Pengwern Books in Shrewsbury, H&H Spalding Books in Barton under Needwood, Watersones in Worcester, Nickel Books in Sittingbourne ... and then there are booksellers without shopfronts, who supply directly to schools and events, like Elaine Penrose in Ware, Brenda Parkhouse in Herfordshire and Caroline Anderson in Kent.

At the beginning I wondered how effective a book tour was as a marketing tool. What was all this about, really? Was this about numbers – selling books, big audiences, number of schools? Some of the schools regularly invited authors to speak, some had to wait for tours like mine for the opportunity.

I was moved by the enthusiasm and generosity of the teachers and librarians. Over and over again, they thanked me for coming.

But at the end of the day, it seemed to me that I was the person who benefited most from the tour. In coming face to face with the young people I write my books for, I have seen all the things that my books can be, should be  – a way to escape, to seek the truth, a reason to hope, a reason to dream, a bridge to take them over gaps, a door to other worlds.

It is such a huge responsibility. And such a huge blessing.

Thank you, all, for having me.

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