If you were wondering why things were a little quiet around here last week, it's because I was barely home. My social schedule went into overdrive — and it's all thanks to this blog.
These days it seems that being a book blogger (or at least one who has been around for as long as I have!) is more than just writing about books on a blog — something I've been doing pretty religiously since 2004 — it also means being invited to various book industry events. These invites tend to come in waves: there's nothing for months and months, and then six things come all at once and you have to make a decision about what you really want to attend. Last week I had two invites I didn't want to miss; the third event was something I'd been looking forward to for awhile and I'd already booked my ticket and paid the £3 fee.
I don't normally blog about these events, unless they're exceptionally interesting (such as the recent Picador showcase evening I attended), because I'm never quite sure whether they add anything to this blog. But a few people have told me they'd love to find out more about things I go to, so I hope what follows gives you a glimpse of what sometimes goes on behind the scenes...
MONDAY, 15 NOVEMBER
WHERE: Arts Theatre Club, Soho
PURPOSE: To meet the authors being published in Autumn 2013 and Spring 2014 and to hear about the books they've written. Each author took it in turns to do a reading.
WHO WAS ON THE BILL? Carys Bray (Sweet Home: A Song for Issy Bradley, June 2014); Helen Dunmore (The Lie, January 2014); Nick Harkaway (Tigerman, May 2014); Adelle Waldman (The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P, out now) and Lindy Woodhead (Midnight Mother, July 2014)
ATMOSPHERE: The setting was a subterranean private club with lots of red decor, low-level lighting and books on display. It was very crowded — in fact, there were so many people the cloak room ran out of space and I had to put my heavy wool coat on a vacant stool and then keep my eye on it. There was a free bar serving beer and wine, and lots of canapes — including savoury and then dessert ones — to keep us all sustained.
HIGHLIGHTS: I won the tombola (how embarrassing!) and got to take home two hefty coffee-table-sized beauties (pictured above), which are filled with short stories, articles and illustrations from the New Yorker magazine. I also asked David Vann, who was there as a guest, to sign his new book, Goat Island, for me. It was also lovely to catch up with fellow bloggers Jackie from Farm Lane Books and Dan from Utter Biblio.
TUESDAY, 16 NOVEMBER
WHERE: The Secret Garden at Shoreditch House, Shoreditch
PURPOSE: To launch Sally Green's debut novel, Half Bad, which is due to be published by Penguin Books in the UK next March. The book has already been sold in 27 languages and the film rights sold at auction to Fox 2000, to be produced by Karen Rosenfelt (Twilight, The Book Thief and Percy Jackson)
WHO WAS ON THE BILL? Sally Green, who gave a lovely, slightly rambling, but heartfelt speech about what it was like to suddenly have her life transformed by the sale of her book. She used to be an accountant in a previous life.
ATMOSPHERE: Quite glitzy in a large, undercover garden, lit by low-level red lights and heating lamps. There was plenty of drink and an endless supply of fancy canapes on offer. The crowd was largely young and female (I may have been the oldest person there!), perhaps a reflection of the book's intended audience, which is young adult.
HIGHLIGHTS: I'm not sure if this counts as a highlight, but the "centrepiece" was certainly memorable — and slightly surreal. In the middle of the room stood a large cage containing a young man called "Nathan", the main character of the novel who has been kept in cage since he was 14. I certainly hope they paid the chap playing this role a lot of money, because he had to spend several hours in this cage guarding a huge pile of proofs while the crowd around him was enjoying the party. After Sally's speech, the cage door was opened and most of the young women in attendance formed an orderly queue and then, one by one, entered the cage and negotiated with Nathan for a proof. Me? I'm too old for that sort of stuff: I cheated and stole mine through the bars of the cage when Nathan wasn't looking.
WEDNESDAY, 18 NOVEMBER
WHAT: Canadian author Joseph Boyden's only London appearance (£3 per ticket)
WHERE: Woolfson & Tay independent bookshop, Southwark
PURPOSE: To promote Joseph's latest book, The Orenda, which I read and reviewed as part of my Shadow Giller duties last month. You may remember that we went against the official jury, added it to our shortlist and named it as the winner!
WHO WAS ON THE BILL? Joseph Boyden, who read the first three chapters of his book. Afterwards his friend, Tamara Podemski, performed some Ojibwe drumming and sang a song.
ATMOSPHERE: Very friendly and low-key. The Canadian High Commission even supplied free Canadian wine, which was delicious.
HIGHLIGHTS: Definitely meeting and chatting to Joseph, before his reading and afterwards. He was delightful and charming — and told me how thrilled he was to win the Shadow Giller after having missed out on the shortlist for the real prize. When I asked him to sign my book I was surprised to see he dedicated it to me and my fellow jurors (he knows Alison personally)! Fortunately, he never asked me for the $50,000 prize-money! Phew.
"For Kim — and for the Shadow Gillers! So good to meet you. Joseph Boyden"