I've just come back from a few days in London, during which I spent an afternoon and two mornings at The London Book Fair where I was helping out at the Sunpenny Publishing stand - number 5C138 as we all came to know it. For those of you who don't know, Jo Holloway, Sunpenny's managing editor and director, published two of my books, but this was the first time I'd met her, so it was a special occasion for me on that score.
Actually, I don't think I really helped anything very much other than to dispense coffee and leaflets, but it was so good to be there as there were many of the other Sunpenny authors there too. For me, the best part was meeting these lovely people with whom I've only ever connected via Facebook, Twitter and email and I can't tell you what a difference it made to us to talk, chat, laugh and even hug each other for real.
Firstly, I have to mention the Hat, which became a symbol of our stand. This hat was a glorious, red, sort of pillar box crossed with a cloche and was borne aloft by Michelle Jayne Heatley, our social media wizz-kid, who is as sweet as she is clever and who struck upon this absolutely genius move of being the walking mascot for our stand. Michelle's lovely book, Fish Soup, is a literary novel of unusual lyrical beauty.
|The Red Hat|
Then there was Julie McGowan from Wales, whose novels, Don't Pass me By and The Mountains Between, and short stories, Close to You, are great favourites of mine. She is just terrific and I am full of admiration for her energy and talent. She includes nurse, pianist, actress, production company owner and writer among her gifts, talents and skills, not to mention a lovely, bubbly personality, sparkling wit and a great sense humour. I honestly don't know how she fits everything in and still manages to be so organised and fun with it too!
|Julie McGowan with Michelle|
Another author who I've had really good contact with on the internet was Tonia Parronchi who came over from Italy. Her sailing memoir, Whisper on the Mediterranean, is full of the flavours of her Italian home. Sadly, I only saw her for a few hours, but I know for sure we will meet again. We have so much in common and so much to talk about; a real darling as I knew for sure she would be.
Closer to home was Christine Moore, a truly lovely, gentle lady who I spent most of the time with on the Wednesday and who I also think I will have more contact with now. Christine's book, Going Astray, is one I've read and admired. It deals with what can happen when a church becomes more of a cult organisation than a place of faith. It's riveting stuff and Christine, an academic scientist by education, writes about the subject very convincingly and so well. We spent much of the morning walking round hall dishing out leaflets and just talking about everything and anything.
|Checking the intricacies of the coffee machine pads with|
|Christine Moore again. Double checking!|
And then there was Jo herself. It was a huge pleasure to meet her, and what a sweetheart she is (may I say that, Jo?). She is knowledgeable, skilled, talented and authoritative about publishing as well, so I was pretty impressed watching her and Julie work as a team in their negotiations with publishers, agents and rights buyers.
For the rest, the London Book Fair is quite awe-inspiring. It is huge and is entirely devoted to the industry, so the stands represented publishers both large and small, national and international. It also had an extensive range of agents, printers and translators. There were talks and events going on all the time throughout the day at various locations throughout the vast Olympia hall and interspersed with these were coffee bars and snack stalls. There were also people doing massages on stools up the centre aisle, so when the negotiating got too much, relief was close by and in the healing hands of this group of green clad masseurs.
And it was busy! My goodness! I was a little overawed at first, but got used to it eventually. Our stand was easy to find being straight up the centre aisle and then turn right at the Book Bus...but I'll say more about that another time. Suffice to say, with all the authors, with Michelle, Julie and Jo, it quickly became 'home', and on Thursday, I was genuinely sad to say goodbye.
|Koos and I outside Olympia|
The fair was a great experience and I'm so glad I went. It was impressive to see the event, but it was even more special to meet my fellow authors and our leading light, Jo. If I ever have the opportunity to go again; if Jo decides it's worth a repeat performance and we are invited, then I'll be there. Thank you, Jo, and thank you Michelle and Julie. You were all fantastic!