Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Writing about Arvon

In November 2008 I took an Arvon Foundation course at Totleigh Barton in Devon, and it turned out to be a real milestone in my life as an aspiring writer. That week - with tutors Louise Dean, Patrick Neate and Bidisha as guest - was the first time I ever called myself the 'W' word. It turned out to be a lot of other firsts too.  I was, therefore, delighted to get the chance to tell Arvon how much I love them in a guest blog over on their website. You can read my account of the tip-top tutors, acapella disco and a touch of rock and roll here

At my launch party last week I was thrilled that three of my dear Arvon friends - Jen, Polly and Nessy - were able to come and celebrate with me. Just before we met again, Jen sent me a picture. She'd taken it quietly, without me realising, on one of the free afternoons at Totleigh where we'd each sought our own corners of the house to work in. 

Photo credit: Jennifer McDerra

I can't remember the precise day, but I recall the feeling of sitting at that ancient table, its oak smoothed by the elbows of so many good and great writers down the years. There's a woodburner just out of shot that would have been omitting a delicious hiss and crackle, a comforting accompaniment to the hunt for words. Behind me is the kitchen, and it would have been full of the alloted chefs for the night - fellow student-writers rolling up their sleeves and attempting to follow recipe cards, feeling the weight of responsibility of cooking for the group but already giggling with too much wine. You can see from the picture that it's dark outside; it was November so it could have been as early as five o'clock, but soon I would have had to shut down my laptop, and take my books upstairs. And I'd have come back down to find the room filled with chatter. There'd have been candles lit, delicious wafts coming from the kitchen, and the pop and glug of pouring wine. And all around me there'd have been people blinking and stretching and feeling the hair on the tops of their heads as they emerged from their afternoon's solitary writing and rejoined the world; not the ordinary world, the humdrum world, but the Arvon world. Which is a very special place indeed.  

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Summer's on its way

It's official. The Book of Summers is now out in the big, wide world, sent off in style at a wonderful launch party at Daunt in Hampstead. The shop was bursting at the seams with well-wishers and dear friends - as was the pub afterwards - making it a very special night indeed. I couldn't have felt luckier. 

I owe a big, big, BIG thanks to all - especially those who came from far-flung climes (Rwanda! France! Derbyshire! Brizzle! South London!), the ever wonderful Headline for organising, and Daunt for hosting. Best. Monday. Ever.

The lovely Daunt Hampstead, with bunting and everything (think that's always there, mind).

Endless Summers...

Signing... I was even allowed to keep the inaugural Sharpie.

The word on the street? Cool kids read The Book of Summers.

Prescription for the morning after the night before? The Breakfast Club special of Chorizo & Hash Browns. Dreamy.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Kitchen poetry - a Book Slam blog

Here's a picture of my kitchen shelf, home to all of my recipe books... take out your magnifying glass and you might spot some not-so-culinary names besides the likes of Nigel and Nigella.

You can read more about sauce-splattered poetry books and overcooked chickens here - chez Book Slam.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Win a luxury cruise! Yes, really...

To celebrate the launch of The Book of Summers, Waterstones are running a cardholder competition, to win a luxury cruise through Hungary. It's an amazing prize, the trip starting in Vienna, taking you through Budapest and on into Romania. Go here to find out how to enter. And it's 'no purchase necessary.' Wait a minute, what am I saying? It's purchase very necessary, obviously...

I'll leave you with a picture of my sister and I on the banks of the Danube in 1990, with the Liberty Bridge - Szabadság hid - behind us. I'm the little one with the ropey fringe. 

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Walking on sunshine

I'll tell the story of my first Publication Day in six pictures. 

Thursday 1st March was a beautiful blue-sky day. It seemed like the first burst of spring sunshine after a bitterly cold winter. There's a nice poetry to that idea, but I'm pretty sure it's true anyway...

That evening I was bound for The Gay Hussar - a long standing institution and brilliant Hungarian restaurant in Soho - for a celebratory dinner, organised by the loveliest of all publishers, Headline. There was the dream team of Leah, Vicky and Ben from Headline and my agent Rowan, and some lovely journalists (Cortina from Book Brunch, Debs from Heat, Charlotte from The Sunday Express, and Suzi who reviews for the Indy on Sunday, FT and Time Out). It was a night filled with chatter, laughter, and that wonderful Magyar speciality, cold cherry soup. Here we all are...

Rowan and I, almost a year to the day that we first met...

The next morning - ever so slightly woozy-headed - I braved a book shop, to see if I could spot The Book of Summers. Once upon a time I used to work just off Oxford Street, so it seemed fitting that it was Oxford Street that I returned to, on an altogether different kind of business. This was the sight that greeted me... wholly unexpected and all the better for it...

Move closer...

Closer still...

There it is. Great, great joy.

I wound my way back to Bristol, my arms full of flowers from the night before, and the broadest of smiles on my face. It was a pretty perfect first publication day, and launch parties with friends and family still await... I'll be walking on sunshine for a while yet.