Doing Time in Oxford.

Me, Candy Gourlay, and Sarah McIntyre.  It has been SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN
that Book Festivals are 87% More Fun when McIntyre is there.  She also took most
of the photos on this post. (Not this one, though. This one was taken by Alice Swan.)
Well, I never thought writing children's books would land me in PRISON, but that's where I ended up on Saturday night in Oxford.  Luckily it wasn't a working prison but a decommissioned one which has been transformed into the snazzy Malmaison Hotel, with top-notch accommodation behind every cell door.  The main hall, however, still retains something of that Porridge vibe, though I don't think Officer McKay would approve of all that carpet and the fancy little sofas.

I was in Oxford to do a Blue Peter event at the Sunday Times Literary Festival.  A Web of Air was on the shortlist for this year's Blue Peter book prize, along with Candy Gourlay's Tall Story and Deadmans Cove by Lauren St John (which wasn't just shortlisted - it won!).  So the three of us were summoned to the hall of Christchurch college (as seen in the Harry Potter films, apparently), to talk about our books, read extracts, and answer questions from the audience.  Blue Peter presenter Barney Harwood was there to keep us in line, and of course I completely forgot to ask him for his autograph, so I'm in Sam's black books now.  On the other hand I did remember to ask whether there will be another series of Bear Behaving Badly now that Barney's been elevated to the rank of BP presenter, and apparently there will, so that's a relief.

Anyway, we all did our little bits: Candy had anecdotes about earthquakes and Lauren talked about nearly being strangled by a python, and there was clearly no way I could compete with any of that so I just read my little bit of Web of Air.  Then there were lots of good questions from the floor, and some book-signing, and that was that.  Like all the best events it seemed to have lasted about 0.3 seconds.  

The panel in Hogwarts Christchurch Hall (Alice Swan again).

Barney Harwood looks on while I cleverly obscure my fellow authors. 
I do some signing while Candy ponders where to go for lunch...

Afterwards I got to have lunch with Candy and family (I've been looking forward to meeting her for ages) and then I sat in on Sarah McIntyre's event, which was built around one of the picture books she illustrated, When Titus Took The Train, and kept a crowd of small children entertained for a whole hour, which is a long time if you're a small child.  She had them making up board games based on train journeys, with some spectacular results - my favourite one started in a rabbit hole and finished at 'The Forests of Saturn'. 

Then there was gin & tonic in the green room (you see how sophisticated we authors are?), after which Sarah led me across the road to the mysterious Oxford Story Museum, where Kim Pickin was waiting to show us round.  More about what we found there in my next post... 

You can read Candy Gourlay's account of all this mularkey one her own blog, here, and Sarah's version of events is here.