If someone had told me in December that I would be performing at a literature festival in London a mere six months after self-publishing my debut picture book, I would have laughed at them. But that’s exactly what happened this weekend.
Along with two friends – the award-winning children’s authors Paul Ian Cross and Sylva Fae – I appeared in the free marquee at Barnes Children’s Literature Festival on Saturday afternoon. To give you an idea of how awesome this is for a newbie children’s author, other names that starred at the same event this year were Judith Kerr, Tony Ross, Axel Scheffler and Charlie Higson (although admittedly their marquee was somewhat bigger than ours).
We arrived at Barnes Pond an hour before our session was due to commence. The weather leading up to the festival had been beautiful, so it was a shame that it was overcast on our big day. ‘At least it’s dry,’ I reasoned to the others as we walked around the park, handing out Sylva’s Rainbow Monsters stickers to any children we could find. I then tweeted this rare selfie and made another fate-tempting comment about the weather holding up.
About 20 minutes later, the rain inevitably started to fall.
Luckily, it wasn’t the kind of rain that would drive people away from the festival altogether. In fact, it appeared to work in our favour. Soon after entering the marquee to start setting up our session, the seats around us started filling up quickly as people gathered. As I peered round at the audience, it seemed to be a mixture of people wearing Sylva’s stickers and others who were probably just escaping the drizzle, but either way, we had a full house, and what more could three debut festival performers have asked for?
Our session commenced with each of us reading our debut picture book. I went first.
It’s a great feeling when you read your own book to a room full of people! The parents and children were very attentive and I got a big cheer at the end, so I was very chuffed with how it went.
Paul went next, reading his award-winning debut picture book, Praxx and the Ringing Robot:
And finally Sylva read Rainbow Monsters, the first in a series of rhyming books featuring her cute, colourful characters:
All three books were well received, but we were only just getting started! The second half of the session was what the kids were really Iooking forward to. ‘Come along to our session later,’ we’d told them while handing them stickers, ‘and find out what’s inside our story generator!’
The story generator consisted of three boxes full of envelopes. My box contained characters, Paul’s contained settings and Sylva’s contained plots – three essential elements of any good story. Kids were invited one by one to take an envelope out of each box and open them, and thus, a story was generated! The children then had to try and take the story further using their imagination and quick thinking! The results were hilarious, surprising and inspiring in equal measure, and the children ended up stealing up the show, which is just what we’d hoped would happen. In fact, there were so many kids with their hands up that we decided to let each one stand on the story-telling chair to announce their story to the audience. There was quite a queue by the end of it!
The feedback we received from Jenny, the organiser of the free programme, was extremely positive and it sounds like we will be back again next year. I hope so – we all had an absolute blast!