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.