Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The self-employed person's office party

Crack open bottle of champagne, pour self a large measure into vessel usually used for washing brushes and drink responsibly. Crank up music till windows start to throb in sympathy. Pick up fiddle and join in. Read one of one's U.S. picture books out loud and marvel at depths of one's own perception and literary brilliance. Trip over rat's nest of trailing cables and belly flop onto tottering pile of books remaindered three months ago and sent by U.S. publisher to relieve pressure in warehouse. Note that these are the same volumes of deathless prose that one was declaiming from a scant five minutes ago. Sic transic Gliori(a) mundi.

Pour another generous volume of champagne and neck in one fell swoop. Too late, discover that along with fizz, one has inadvertently necked brush cleaning paint-water awash in a hefty titration of Cadmium Red. Cadmium? Faint bell goes off in memory. Isn't that radioactive?

Crikey. Better rinse out mouth straight from bottle instead. Cut out the middleman. So to speak. Chin, chin. What ho, chaps? Bottoms up. Vaguely recall apocryphal tales of office parties where unwise dalliances are conducted in broom cupboards and wobbly bits are photocopied to the general hilarity of all and sundry.

Eye photocopier.

Decide against making a complete idiot of self. Where's the fun in doing that if there's nobody to see you do it? Instead, while away the remainder of the afternoon turning the lights on and off to see if I glow in the dark yet. Like, just how radioactive is Cadmium red ?

And later, as I fall into the embrace of a particularly thorny rosebush on my evening commute home, ( 34 seconds up the garden path, max.) I consider how useful it would be for humans in the Northern Hemisphere to really glow in the dark. That way we could light our own way home like little self-contained candlepersons, instead of stumbling around in badly lit streets, falling over kerbs and cursing the darkness.

This reads like the deranged thoughts of a woman in need of sunshine, however. It is the day before Midwinter, and I don't know about you, but I am feeling particularly lumen-lite right now. Tomorrow, the year turns, and Light slowly gains the ascendancy, and with a bit of luck, my sodden Christmas cake will have returned from detox and will be fit to wear its coat of marzipan. Right now, it's slumped in a corner of the kitchen, muttering wetly to itself, exuding brandy fumes and trying to pick a fight with everyone that walks past. I overdid it on the 'feed your cake' instructions. To be fair, it didn't exactly try and stop me. Not one word of protest did I hear. It just sat there swallowing till it fell over with an expensive splash.

Now it's the kind of cake your mother told you to avoid. Come to think of it, I should have taken it to the self-employed person's office party. It would have been the life and soul of. Dance to the myooozick. Uh huh, uh huh. Voolay voo cooshay aveck mwah. Sisswarr. Oh, god, the shame. It would've been up on the photocopier in seconds flat. And as for introducing it to the shredder? Cake and shredder in a tree. Kay, eye, ess, ess, eye....well, you know how that one goes. Sultanas to hell and back. Currants? Peel? Just don't mention the angelica.

Slainte. A Merry Christmas to all of you Out There xxx

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I am the Spoon

Or at least, I feel like I'm running flat out. Trying to get the inside artwork for my What's the Time, Mr Wolf? book ready to take to Lunnon the day after tomorrow. Gasp, pant, phew. A self-imposed deadline, I hasten to add. I mean, it's not like there's a big Dish in hot pursuit, at least not if you factor out the Domestic Debt, the impending Festive Season, the Next Project In Line, the Diminishing Number of Years Left of Functioning Eyesight....

Oh, shut up, Spoon. Just keep running, right?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

domestic bliss

When we were younger, breakfast at GlioriSchloss used to look a bit like this. Back then, we fantasized about a future time when we'd actually be allowed to read the Sunday papers cover-to-cover without constant requests from the smaller members of the family for catering services/ quarrel arbitration/ laundry facilities/ taxi services/ toy hospital/ homework-helper and all the other multitudinous tasks in tiny print that parents find they've signed up to with the final pushhhh that ejects the precious little one out into the world. It's a bit like that moment when you've finally downloaded an app, or a program and if you're as fecklessly impatient as I am, you skim all the contractual gubbins and click the blue ACCEPT button in the interests of getting your sticky little mitts on whatever it was you wanted in the first place. Click, pushhhh, DONE.

I mean, did any of us who are lucky enough to be parents really know what we'd let ourselves in for? Hostages to fortune doesn't even come close.

I've been trawling through my artwork archives for the past few days ; ostensibly to locate some artwork for a publisher who wants to re-jacket a picture book, and also to put together a retrospective powerpoint presentation to try and give some idea of what my work has been about. In the trawl, I've been struck by how many of my books are about families. In fact, just about every single thing I've written and illustrated has a family at its core. And looking at the illustrations, I can trace the progression of my own family ; how we grew up, added new members, fell apart and remade ourselves into a new form. Seventy odd picture books, six novels and four works of junior fiction and they're pretty well all about families.

And then...a little bomb went off inside my head yesterday. I was reading the Saturday Guardian in which there was a heartbreaking article about growing up to become a writer by Jeanette Winterson in which she said, 'Unhappy families are conspiracies of silence. The one who breaks the silence is never forgiven. He or she has to learn to forgive him or herself.'

Winterson's story comes straight out of Grimm ; mine is more Hans Christian Andersen, but as I read on, I acknowledged a degree of kinship with this woman whose writing life has been the only way she could make sense of a world from which all sense appeared to have gone. I write about families because the family I grew up in was so fractured and desperately unhappy that try as I might, I still cannot make sense of it. So I'm making up families as I go along. Where do I get my ideas for my books from? I watch my own children, my own family and I am continually amazed by them. They are the best* people I've ever met.

*Even when they require laundry services/ taxis/ dispute arbitration/ loans/homework-helper/ catering etcetera.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Publication Day!

And a week off for me. I'm under strict instructions by Emma B. from Bloomsbury to become the bunny in the bath with the cup of tea and the magazine.

To hear is to obey, my liege.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Take a big deep breath...

I'm nearly there. The final event of eight days of events is tomorrow. I'm tucked up in a hotel in Leeds, about to go to bed, fighting off what promises to be the mother and father of all throat lurgys (lurgaes?) brought about by being up close and personal with over a thousand small children in the past week.

Small children, as if you need reminded, who hack and cough like elderly bronchitics, sneeze wetly into one's face and generally share the bliss of being in possession of more germs than the probably now redundant research facility at Porton Down. Aaaaaaakerchoooo.

Bless 'em, each and every one. I've had such a good time. I don't think I've EVER enjoyed touring with a picture book as much as I have done with this one. It works. It reads out loud like a wee dream. We all RAAAaaaaar together like we've been rehearsing for weeks. Damn, but when it's good, it's really good. We've had technology meltdowns when the promised Powerpoint facilities have failed, or been bleached out by sunshine pouring in the classroom windows ( we can't see), or failed to materialize or crashed, or interrupted themselves with vast dialogue boxes appearing unbidden onscreen in the middle of the story to remind the user to update their antivirus software ( not now for heaven's sakes, can't you see we're telling a story?) or there's been a missing VGA cable that has entailed a 90m.p.h dash to the nearest Comet only for the missing cable to miraculously appear at the same time as the newly purchased VGA cable is speeded into the library at risk to life and limb...

Regrets? We've had a few. And lunches wolfed with indecent haste? Our digestions may never be the same. And trains caught with the barest whisker of time to spare? Oy, oy, oy VEH.

But I saw children kissing their copies of The Scariest Thing of All yesterday. And my son's girlfriend texted me late last night to tell me that her little boy is going as Pip at Hallowe'en, and a little girl in a signing queue today said she had every single one of my picture books and really loved them all, and one of the booksellers I met this week said I was 'masterly' and there have been conversations with people during this week that will stay with me for a long time, real conversations about big important stuff and many confidences shared and so much laughter that my sides ache even now in the quiet of my hotel bedroom....all in all so many people have been so enormously kind to me all week long that I feel as if I am floating on air, buoyed up by a huge amount of general goodwill. So this is for everyone who took part in making this week such a happy seven days ; for launching The Scariest Thing of All out into the world - THANKYOU. I hope you have had as much fun as I have. It's been one of the best weeks ever. xxxxx

Sunday, October 9, 2011

On the rabbity road

Like my small rabbit in The Scariest Thing of All, I am peering at my stomach in awe, somewhat taken aback at the noises issuing forth from its depths. Obviously it thinks I'm hungry, but does it have to be quite so loud? This is one of the problems with living an orderly life. The minute one steps outwith the tick-tock measured existence of meals at eight, one and seven respectively, and starts the on-tour nonsense of meals whenever it's convenient, or whenever you can get a table, or as soon as you roll in the door and can persuade room service to bring you anything...well, for a creature of gustatory habit ( that's me, also known to my family as The Food Fascist) it's digestive murrrderrrr.

Fortunately, for the next week I'll be in the company of small children who find rumbling tummies wildly amusing and blithely expel their excess gases with gay abandon, so I''ll have no qualms about blaming them for anything that I might let slip.

Oh dear...Was that you? Oh, well, never mind. Better out than in. Smile, turn page and read on.

And besides, my book, the Scariest Thing of All has a lot to do with rumbly tummies. The crux in fact is to do with- oh, but I mustn't give the game away. Do shut up, Gliori. It's only the first day of your book tour and already you're giving away the ending of the book.

Heavens. Must be dinnertime. Lordy, I'm rrrrrrrrravenous.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Something for the weekend

So this is what we call work. I think you'll probably agree that it barely passes muster as hard graft. A lot of chat. Even more laughter. At Wigtown, an awful lot of lobster-consumption as well. And if only I was more technologically savvy, I could do all that cool linking hyperlink stuff and people's names would come up in blue and you could click on them and whizz off to their webpages, but....

I'm still at the level of using a bit of burnt stick to draw images on the cave wall. The little video clip above is proof positive of this. So - apologies to Renita Boyle, storyteller extraordinaire, whose retelling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was masterly. Mistressly. Atmospheric. Had us all, large and small in thrall. Apologies to Shoo Rayner whose mastery of all things Youtube is stellar - I am in awe of your abilities, not to mention your dynamic and ridiculously need-a-change-of-underwear funny telling of your Olly and Olympia stories. Apologies also to Sarah McIntyre who is a complete delight, a pirate Queen of Queens, an illustrator of great wit and talent and a joy to share a stage with. I cannot wait to be entented with you all again.

And if only I had a techno-brain, all of these brilliantly talented people would be only a click away. Must learn how to do this stuff. Must. Must. Must. Aaaaargh. Beats self round head with pointy burnt stick of willow charcoal. But for now, must go feed family, water greenhouse, light fire, feed dog, gather apples, help with homework, work out how to get from King's Cross station to the Bloomsbury 25th Birthday party in Bedford Square and then back to Euston to catch the sleeper home tomorrow.

Oh, and have a wardrobe crisis. What to wear? Oh, what to wear?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wigtown is Bestown

There's a wistfulness to the season ; the summer that wasn't a summer has elided into a dreich* autumn, the field outside my window has been shaved down to stubble and across the land our sons and daughters are spreading wings and heading off to university and college and the unimaginable freedoms of young adulthood.

Leaving us in a mess of discarded twigs and grubby fluff. Or perhaps that's just the nest chez Gliori. Still two chicks left, but the nest is showing distinct signs of wear and tear if not downright decreptitude. And winter still to come...

But for now, hush. We shan't talk of fare-thee-wells for the best bit of the year is here. It is time to head to Dumfries and Galloway for my personal favourite and much looked-forward-to and absolute best book festival in the Western Hemisphere, if not the World. I'm referring to the Wigtown Book Festival, which is possibly the best fun a human being can have in a tent in the 21st Century. Truly. All of life is here, nestled in a picture-perfect small place. Words cannot do it justice, even though it is a festival about words and ideas and writing and thought. Suffice to say, at this time of the year, there is no better place to be than Wigtown.

So. You have to come. And bring your best friend so that you have somebody to turn to and hug and say - Well, dyamm - see that Debi what's-herface with the hideously unpronouncable surname- she speaks the truth, her.

*Translator's note. There is no other word that describes unending grey, oppressive, spitty skies better than dreich. Let the 'ch' roll out to chhhhhhhhhhh. Feel our Caledonian pain. We're rusting up here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ten thousand hours

I wonder what I was playing?

I was six in that photo and I'm fifty-two now. Pause while I scream quietly to myself. Cut to a shot of the last fast-running grains of sand in the hourglass. So much to do. So little ( sob) time. I wonder if I'm anywhere close to having put in the necessary ten thousand hours of practice yet?

Although I love my fiddle now, I absolutely detested it when I was wee. Back then I had a succession of tetchy old men as teachers, a weekly lesson, and no desire whatsoever to practice in between. In my own defence, I have to say that the fiddle is pretty unrewarding at first. Every bowstroke sounds ugly. People wince when you play to them. It's completely un-natural , not to mention painful, to clasp the buggar in your arm and twist your wrist round its stalk and somehow, sans frets, find where your fingers are supposed to fall in order to make a sweet, true note. And don't get me started on the utter horror for a beginner when your strings go out of tune and you have to turn the utterly disobedient and bloodyminded pegs all by yourself. All I can say is thank heavens for fine malt whisky - although perhaps not when one is still a primary school pupil. Meanwhile, some old tweedy grump is breathing his stale pipebreath all over you and chastising you for not slogging away and becoming note perfect on some hideous bit of monotonous musical juvenalia like three blind mice three times a day seven days a week in between lesson days.

Now if they'd only started us all off on fingermangle or any number of basic Shetland reels, I have the sneaking suspicion that I'd have enjoyed my fiddle a whole lot sooner than I did. Considering how I feel about my fiddle now, the word 'enjoy' doesn't even come close. But then...I was taught by fear and shouting. Nobody ever said 'that sounds good', undoubtedly because it didn't, but children learn best if they're encouraged. I associated music with embarassment, with exams, with never quite measuring up, with something taught by brilliant but unpleasant old men to this particularly stupid and incompetent girl. It's no surprise I couldn't wait to escape that particular tyranny.

If I could turn my personal clock back to 1974, this is the only thing I'd change. I wouldn't give up my fiddle at fifteen, thinking it was part of what I needed to run away from. With hindsight, I've realised that you can run, but you can't hide. I ran for a long time. Thirty two years it took until a fiddle found me. My partner bought me one, an electric s-shaped seriously cool beast, and I fell upon it with cries of delight. Couldn't draw a note from it at first, but I persevered. And the joy of an electric fiddle is that you can plug it into a pair of headphones and nobody else is forced to endure your early squawkings.

And now. On a different fiddle. One that my Dad made. A lovely, big blonde Strad copy that is almost too big for my left hand to span, but I love its sound, so I persevere. Every single day. Sometimes I manage to sneak in three practices a day. How long do my books take to write and illustrate? Hmmmm, that depends on whether I'm currently trying to nail a tune or not, but shhhhhh, don't tell my editor. Debi Gliori is playing truant on her fiddle. The long-dead old men would have been amazed at my diligence, but it's not diligence, it's love. I close my eyes most of the time when I play, all the better to hear where we're going, my fiddle and me.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A wolf in case

When I board the ferry to Shetland tomorrow night, I'll have a virtual wolf in my baggage ; undetectable by sniffer dogs, not requiring his own kennel in the animal enclosure, not really needing any care at all, just occasionally taken out, liberated from his digital billet and waved about a bit. Wolves just want to have fu-unn, you know?

Can't quite get my head around the fact that I've managed to dream him up so quickly. That's what happens when your publisher puts a rocket under your rear and invites you to light the blue touchpaper. Phwoarrrrrrr. We have ignition. We have lift-off.* We have...a sneak preview, without wolf, but with a fiddle because that, she said in a circular fashion, is why I'm going to Shetland tomorrow.

For a week of heaven. A week of learning fiddle tunes by 'ear', from a tribe of geniuses at Shetland's annual Fiddle Frenzy. Can't wait. All packed, me and my wolf, and rrrrrraring to go.

*We also have a decidedly sore derriere, but that's another story.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The lure of a good cake

Poor Mr Wolf. So hungry, he's been reduced to eating his hat. And then the very cake he had his eye on has been nabbed by that teeny wee sprite thingy - it's enough to make a grown wolf weep. Furry tears. Tears of furry. Oh, shut up, Gliori.

Even though this picture only exists in black and white, its overload of shweet shtuff still has the power to make me want to make a dash for the cake tins, only I happen to know that they're empty. Well, not quite empty, but the birthday cake tucked inside one of them isn't mine, it belongs to Michael, and it would be morally wrong of me to sneak into the house while he's out and nibble bits of his cake. Even if I did bake it. With my own hands. Sandwiching it together with my own greengage jam. From Michael's trees. Ah.

Sigh. Kitchen morality... Keeps you thin but boring.

Anyhoo - on another note, finally taught myself Bethany's Waltz (by Shetland fiddler and composer Jenna Reid) which I've been meaning to do for ages. Lovely, lovely, lovely tune. To add to the tottering pile of tunes that all vie for attention inside my head, some faded from disuse, some bright and shiny due to being taken out and polished frequently, and some, like fingermangle*, needing me to sprout five extra fingers and a whole new brain ( but where to put the extra appurtenances? And would my family still want to know me post-sprouting? Somehow, I doubt it) in order to even come close to being able to play the damn tune. In this lifetime.

*Mak a Kishie Needle, Dye. Well, you did ask.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A very Scottish wolf

...and then, on the next page, it rains.

Introducing Mr Wolf. Mr Wolf and basket. What d'you mean 'real wolves don't have baskets?' Jeez - do you have a lot to learn about real wolves. Come and see me later and we'll complete your education. Suffice to say, there's no room for anything as prissy as an umbrella in that bijou little shopping basket, so Mr Wolf is going to get wet. Actually, there's no room for anything in there. Whisper it, but I think it's an accessory. And he hasn't got an i-phone. Probably hasn't heard of FurBook. Or Tweeter. And he hasn't straightened his fur. Or shaved his furry little - oh, that's quite enough of that, I think. An unreconstructed Celtic wolf, then.

Savage. A little bit of RRRRRrrrrrrrrrrufff. Mmmm.

Bless. I'll have a dozen, thanks.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hack, cough, sheesh what a mess.

Dusty in here, or what? How long has it been? Two years? Oh my gorrrrd. How time flies when you're having a horrible time.

Right. First things first. A troll to evict. ExCUSE me. Just why exactly it had to post its illiterate yibblings in triplicate, I have no idea, but anyway, out. Bin. Forever cast into the Outer Darkness, but thanks for letting me know that I need to go back to Woodstock in my Prius. Oh wot laffs. And all for writing a book about climate change. Let's hope that particular troll gets a job insulating attics in the Nu Economy. With Itchwool. *

Next. Some redecoration. New pictures on the wall. From my new book called 'The Scariest Thing of All' and trust me, it's autobiographical. Oh, what a time we've had. Oh, the thinks you can think. In the middle of the night.

Anyhoo. Laters. Miles to go. Promises to keep and roughs for a new book to do and tunes to learn. The days are just packed.
*Troll beware - it has the documented side-effect of causing vascular torpor. But you've probably got that already. In spades. And other parts.