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A rather belated blog post from the Hay Festival, which we went to last week. We saw so many wonderful and inspiring children’s writers and illustrators, we came away buzzing with ideas and ready to start writing some new books of our own.
First stop, we saw the very lovely Anthony Browne, who played the Shape Game with as many children in the audience as he could! His message was that we are all artists and to remind us how brilliant young children are at drawing in a free and uninhibited way. He also played a game based on his Bear’s Magic Pencil picture book, which again involved lots of audience members. He even drew us all a gorilla, as he said he hadn’t drawn one for several days! It was a very engaging and inspiring session and I would definitely recommend seeing him speak to readers of all ages.
Afterwards we walked into Hay (luckily it had stopped raining) and saw this:
I’m definitely not anti-Kindle but I can see why a town as full of bookshops as Hay might be! I also loved this window display in Richard Booth’s Bookshop, celebrating Penguin books:
In the afternoon we were back at the festival, half of us going to see Tracey Corderoy, who read I Want My Mummy! and Boo! to a very appreciative audience. We are huge fans of Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam – you can see a wonderful trailer for this book here: http://vimeo.com/62878355.
The other half of the family went to see Michael Morpurgo talk to an enormous crowd. He told us about the inspiration behind his latest book, A Medal for Leroy – his starting point was the true story of Walter Tull, who was not only one of the UK’s first black footballers, but he was the first black officer in the British army. He died during World War I and should be remembered as a hero. You can find out more about him in Michaela Morgan’s Walter Tull Scrapbook. Michael shared lots of advice on writing, saying that is was most important to find the right ‘voice’ and write your story as if you were telling it to someone. Even though he was unable to sign any books due to an injury, there was still an enormous queue to meet him in the bookshop afterwards – this picture just shows a small part of it!
We didn’t join the queue because we were hotfooting it across the festival site to see Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart talk about their Wyrmeweald series. These books for slightly older readers than their previous work describe a fantasy version of the United States where the local fauna is mainly made up of dragons. They told us how the idea had come about from drawings Chris had made in his sketchbook and described how they collaborate in their writing. I found this especially fascinating as I also write collaboratively with Adam, although sadly neither of us is an illustrator! Chris sat and drew scenes from the books while Paul read extracts and we were left wanting to read more!
After this exciting but exhausting day, we took the next day and a half to explore the beautiful countryside around Hay and the Brecon Beacons and caught up with friends who live there. But we were back at the festival on Friday afternoon. There were lots of children there who had been the fifty finalists earlier that day in the 500 words competition. They were obviously enjoying soaking up the festival atmosphere in the sunshine! We were there to see Dave Shelton talk about A Boy and a Bear in a Boat.
Just as Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart had used a sketch as a starting point for Wyrmeweald, Dave told us that a drawing he did in his sketchbook of a bear and a boy in a boat was the inspiration for the whole book. He had plenty of props from the story in his suitcase and even played the ukulele and sang the bear’s song. It was a lovely, relaxed session and the perfect way to round off the festival for us.
We very much hope to go back again next year!