The following represents my Cliff Notes (or York Notes, for my UK readers) version for the grande finale of my spectacular UK book tour. Once again I will attempt to keep things brief, but as we’ve learned over the course of my last several blogs, this might prove difficult.
But guess what, if you’re really good and you make it all the way through this blog you will be rewarded with a wondrous photo essay of Hay on Wye. So, really, it will all be worth it.
Now, let’s get started:
Wednesday, May 25th, Day 11: Having braved ash clouds, disgruntled travellers, and delayed rail service I arrived back at my hotel in London and had a good night’s sleep. In the morning it was breakfast in “The Carvery” which included hard boiled eggs, fruit, coffee, and more hard boiled eggs. I was then driven to Liverpool Station so I could take a train out to Chelmsford. My train ride was uneventful, just the way one likes it.
I was met at the Chelmsford station by Kathleen Robb from Just Imagine Story Centre. Kathleen was kind enough to chauffeur me around for the day. Taking me to my two school visits and for a visit to Just Imagine.
Our first stop was Hylands School to meet up with librarian Carolyn Smith. Finding the entrance to Hylands School was a bit of a puzzle as we drove down several streets that looked like they would lead to the parking lot only to be confronted by an unyielding fence each time. After many failed attempts, Kathleen found the lucky street and we managed to enter the parking lot. Unfortunately, cars were double and triple parked and so we had to exit the hard-won parking lot to try to find a spot on the street.
Once inside we met Carolyn and she showed us to the gymnasium where we were to sell the books during the break. Following this we moved on to the drama room. The students were ushered in and we had a packed house. The lucky earlier arriving teens got chairs, the late arrivals had to make due with the floor.
Apparently, Hylands School has a farm. This seemed very quaint when I first arrived but became decidedly less quaint once I started my reading. If ever you have the chance to try to talk over a honking goose… don’t. The goose wins every time. It’s the long neck, you see. It channels the sound and amplifies it. Still, I soldiered on. There was laughing, though I don’t know if it was Swim the Fly they were laughing at or the upstaging goose. I’ve never been a fan of the gamey tasting goose, but I just might have to cook one next Christmas so I can exact a measure of revenge.
Following Hylands, Kathleen took me for a lunch and chat with Georgia at Just Imagine. The bookstore is very sweet and they host all sorts of wonderful events there. Book-themed birthday parties, Crafternoons, writing workshops, and book clubs.
After lunch it was off to Boswells School. Librarian Amanda Wilson showed us into their new auditorium complete with three hundred seats, television monitors, a stage, and a giant projection screen. It was very impressive to say the least. We set up my book trailer and a microphone and before I knew it the place with packed with students. I did my reading, and talk, and showed the trailer and had to leave right after the session in order to get my train back to London. There wasn’t much wiggle room as I had to return for the big book launch which was only a few hours away!
I got back to the hotel and had just enough time to take a quick shower, iron my clothes, and get dressed.
Philippa Perry from Templar picked me up at the hotel and walked me over to The Covent Garden Hotel. The room at the Covent Garden was beautifully decked out with Swim the Fly books, and flickering fairy candles, and posters of my big bald head, The evening began at 6:30 with some blue-colored cocktails (like pool water, get it?) and chatting with all the wonderful booksellers, and bloggers, and editors, and publicists, and sales reps, and journalists. My friends Diana and Richard Napper showed up and were very understanding as I made my way around the room to try to talk to everyone. I have to say, I was truly awed by the incredible event that Templar put on to launch the book. Not only was there tasty wine, and cocktails, and canapes (Mushroom risotto in parmesan cones, anyone! Tiny burgers! Mini fish and chips!) but they’d reserved the little theatre next to our party room so they could show my book trailer and then have journalist/YA author (Life, Interrupted) Damian Kelleher interview me.
Damian was the perfect host, making me feel very comfortable, and asking me some great questions. He ended the session by asking me if I’d do a short reading from the book, which I did. Thanks to my fabulous wife (and reading coach) I was able to pull this off with great success.
I really can’t express just how moved I was by all of this. It was a magical evening and one I will never forget. Of course, I didn’t bring my camera, and even if I did I wouldn’t have used it, so I’ve nicked the pictures off the Templar website to post here.
After the book launch, my good friends Diana and Richard took me out to a late French dinner just across the street where we got to catch up. It was a nice way to wind down after the excitement of the evening. It also didn’t hurt to hear how wonderful they thought the book launch was!
I fell into bed some time after midnight, filled up with all the smiles, laughter, and conversation of an amazing night.
Thursday, May 26th, Day 12: I got to sleep in today and I needed it. When I woke up I had to pack my bags to get ready for my trip to Hay on Wye. Then, it was a quick cup of coffee and a muffin before meeting YA author (Kai-ro, Mean Streets, Snatched) and journalist Graham Marks for an article he will be writing for Books for Keeps. Graham was a true professional, conducting the interview as a casual conversation. If I could choose who would interview me from now on I would definitely take Damian or Graham any day of the week. Both interviews felt easy and relaxed, like I was talking to an old friend.
Following the interview it was back up to my room to grab my things and catch my car to Paddington Station. As soon as I stepped outside the skies opened up and it began to pour. No big deal, though. My car was on it’s way, or so the text on my phone said.
When the car didn’t show up on time I was not worried. I had forty-five minutes to get to Paddington station and I figured I had plenty of time.
I was wrong. The car was only ten minutes late but traffic was miserable. My driver decided to take a roundabout route to avoid mid-town but this did not help matters. We pulled up to the station at exactly 12:15 which, coincidentally, was the same time my train was set to leave.
I ran like a crazy person in hopes that my train was running a little late. Why not, right? It’s not like when I wanted the trains to run smoothly they were on time. But of course, as luck would have it, my train had literally left the station. I was very lucky to get an extremely kind customer service rep at the booth and she stamped my ticket allowing me to take the next train out. Whatever the London train system is not, they DO have very nice people to help you when you need it.
And so, I got the next train and things went pretty smoothly from there. Made my connection in Newport and it was onto Hay where a car was waiting to pick me up.
My driver was pretty laconic and the girl who was sharing the ride with me was not very talkative either so I promptly fell asleep. When I woke up, forty minutes later, I felt refreshed but with a bit of a sore throat. Which meant I must have been snoring. Thankfully, my driving companions did not mention it, though they may have been quietly laughing all the way into town.
I checked into my accommodations (George House) and met Shirley and Malcolm Smith. Shirley and Malcolm run a B&B only during the Hay Festival but if they wanted to they could run a very successful one year-round. They were very lovely hosts and Malcolm cooked a mean breakfast. I’ve stayed in a lot of B&Bs and I would say that Shirley and Malcolm could give some of the best a run for their money.
Dinner was a nice pub affair with Emma O’Donovan and her sweet husband Brendan. Then it was off to sleep in a very comfy bed with nice soft sheets.
Friday, May 27th, Day 13: A tasty breakfast of fried eggs, smoked bacon, toast, orange juice, coffee, and granola. Brendan and Emma picked me up at 10 and we drove down to where the festival was being held. Emma took me to the authors green room where she introduced me to Orion publicist Nina Douglas and YA author Marcus Sedgwick. Then, it was off to the Starlight tent for my Hay Festival event. Around 150 students filed into the tent and Sophie Lording gave me a very nice introduction.
The reading and talk went absolutely brilliantly. I couldn’t have asked for a better grand finale. Lots of laughs and some really good (and different) questions. I’ve never been asked what my favorite animal was before but it made a nice lead in to my book trailer (which stars my very favorite animal, Scooter). After the talk it was off to the signing tent where many books were sold and autographed. Emma, Nina, Marcus and I retired to the food tent and had lunch.
I bid adieu to Emma and Brendan and then, since the weather was good, I strolled through Hay on Wye snapping a billion pictures (the best of which you will get to see shortly).
Saturday, May 28th, Day 14: Another London train debacle as we got delayed at one of the stops for an hour and so I missed my connection in Newport. No worries, though. Another train to London could be caught, however it, too, was running a half hour late and so I didn’t arrive into the city until three-thirty. Thirty minutes after I was supposed to meet Lesley Preston from Bounce so that we could walk over to Foyles to do some stock signing. Lesley was quite kind about the whole thing and met me at the hotel at four instead of three. We trotted over to Foyles where we met Jo and Sam in the children’s department. They had stacks and stacks of Swim the Fly ready for me to sign. Both Sam and Jo are really enthusiastic booksellers and it was great chatting with them as I autographed the books.
Lesley walked me back to my hotel, we said goodbye, and then…
That was that. The end of my UK book tour. It seemed like it was going to be such a long time but it really flew by.
I’ve already thanked everyone at Templar Publishing and Bounce Marketing but I am going to do so again here. Because I simply can’t thank them enough for all they have done to get the word out about Swim the Fly. It was a whirlwind tour and I felt incredibly well taken care of. Everything was planned perfectly, and even the train mishaps made for some good laughs and blogging time.
Speaking of which, if you haven’t caught the first few stops on my UK blog tour, now’s your chance. Just follow the links below:
Jess Hearts Books
Book Zone 4 Boys
Mostly Reading YA
The Crooked Shelf
There’s still five more stops on the blog tour so check out the On Tour section to see where I’ll be next!
And now, because you’ve been so good and have read every single word of this blog, I give you, HAY ON WYE a photographic essay: