Ian Whybrow

…coming soon…

The Case of the Missing Diary

June 19, 2007 - Filed under: Blog - Comments (2)

I’ve lost my diary. I’m always losing things – keys, especially escape me, sometimes for years at a time – but this is the first time my diary has walked off and left me. It might have taken to the country air of Upton Scudamore or Warminster – or possibly of Suffolk – because I’ve been to those places in the last few days. My appointments, my obligations, my tentative arrangements are lying quietly out of reach, along with a few scribbled memories and ideas. I’ll describe it to you. It’s A5, claret red, slightly bruised at the corners. It bears the logo PFD on its breast. Come home, Peters, Fraser and Dunlop; I need you.

Get Warminster Reading

June 19, 2007 - Filed under: Blog - Comments (1)

Much enjoyed my trip to Warminster in Wilts yesterday for the first Warmister Lit Fest. This was the initiative of a wonderfully enthusiastic and determined chap from the Army Education Corp called Captain Cooke (a rank to which he was destined, when he joined up as a boy soldier, as surely as Major Major) Attended a fascinating lecture on Human Potential and Parenting on Thurs evening and after all that food for thought, partook of a delicious supper at The Angel Inn, Upton Scudamore. Scallops and black pudding starter… ymmm.

The staff and students of The Avenue Primary School were very welcoming and appreciative. I think I met pretty well all of them in the course of the day. The really big surprise came when I was taken over to Warminster library to do some book signing at lunchtime. The children’s section had been turned into a dinosaur adventure park by a chap called Stephan who – entirely voluntarily – had laboured away since Christmas to make (out of chicken wire, polystyrene foam, papier mache, old kitchen cupboards and other recyclables) a massive tyrannosaurus head, crashing through the brickwork, a triceratops book-bin, a pteradactyl – and Harry looking down from a large bucket that was hanging from the rafters. “They haven’t got the funding,” Stephan explained, “so I put two or three hundred quid of my own into it…” The librarian declared him to be Warminster’s most public spirited man. Well, in the course of a conversation with Geoff Cooke earlier, it had emerged that he was prepared to subsidize the Literary festival to out of his own pocket – “just to give it a kick start”. Talk about resture your faith in human nature….!

I’ve managed an interview with Stephan and the librarian – and I’m hoping they’ll send me some pictures. Let’s see if I can put them out there for you.

Launching the Harry Library Bus

June 19, 2007 - Filed under: Blog - Leave a comment

Up betimes and off to Berkshire – Bracknell to be precise – to talk to Sandy Lane Primary School and to celebrate the official opening of the county’s ( and the world’s) first Mobile Library to be entirely decorated with Harry and dinosaurs.

I leave home at 6.30 and head for the M25 – and blow me if I don’t arrive in Bracknell at 8.00 am. This is a world record. My reward for this early arrival is to be invited to talk to the nursery children. Three year olds at this time of the day are unpredicatable – but we get through it without anybody needing the loo , thanks to a few laughs about Wobble who can only say yellow, and some robot action – marching, saluting, blasting, etc – as a prelude to a reading of Harry and the Robots. Emerge unscathed.

Speak to most of the school (7-11 year olds) about what I do. Adrian arrives at 10.30 from Cambridge and we face the entire school – 4 to 6 year-olds included. We give them the lowdown about the way we work on books, read a couple of stories and have a conversation with the children various Harry matters. Then off to explore the bookbus, face the cameras, celebrate the launch of this magnificent vehicle (Loud cheers for Peter of Peter’s Booksellers and Penny Dimmack the Services Support Manager in these regions, who sweated blood to get this up and running and delivered on time from Arbroath) and sign for three quarters of an hour. I have a fumbling bash with my digital recording device. Must send the results to Mark Blevis to see whether he can make anything interesting out of a strange and rambling set of soundbites.

Century up!

June 6, 2007 - Filed under: Blog - Comments (2)

Not a particularly auspicious day to get cracking on a blog, except that I’m celebrating the day before yesterday.

The day before yesterday I came back to London from the Hay Festival, exhausted , over-stimulated, humbled by the range and intelligence of the writers I heard speak. I have to admit to a touch of jealousy, too at the respectful, attentive way in which these worthies are received by their audience. When I do Harry events at Literary Festivals, I have to face a circus-tentful of humanity, at least half of which can’t read and of which a sizeable and uncontrollable proportion are under the age of eighteen months. So there’s none of that gentle Q and A stuff; none of the “Are you ready to start, Sir John?” “Any chance of a glass of champagne?” “Of course, Sir John! I‘ll leave the bottle on the table…” Oh, no. You’re on your own, so get out there and tap-dance and don’t take it personally if the babies scream and the wigglers wiggle up and down the aisles. I’m getting used to it, but it’s much more fun having a conversation with and reading to audiences of children who can follow a narrative and who are keen to answer you questions. “What do they call the people who draw the pictures in books ?” (This to a bunch of five-year-olds in a rather posh prep school) “Australians!” comes the confident reply.

Anyway, I worked my way through my post, and got on with my chores – invoicing, sorting out the wires of all the electronic clutter that I drag up and down motorways – and as I was working through my emails, was reminded that the PLR (Public Lending Right) have updated their website, so now you can see online which books are registered in your name. I should explain that this blessed and marvellous institution works out how many times your books are borrowed from public libraries all over the UK and awards you a few pence every time your books are borrowed – up to a limit of £6,600 p.a. If you know any writers who are registered with them, they’ll all tell you what a treat it is, in cold and miserable February, to have a cheque plop on to your doormat, just when you’re wondering whether it’s safe to scrape the mould off the rindy scrap of Jaalrsberg cheese you found at the back of the fridge (sob) .

I knew I had a fair number of books registered; actually, it turned out to be 189. Now one of the questions people always ask me at public events is: “How many books have you written?” For years I’ve been saying “About 60 … maybe 70.” So yesterday I had a go at counting them up. This is hard since the PLR register every new ISBN code, so that their list includes different editions of the same book, compilations of published stories and re-issues. But the answer surprised me. There are (I think) 91 or 92 separate titles registered – which means that with the new books in the pipeline waiting to be published, I’ve written a hundred books. I know lots of them are short and ANYONE can write books for kiddies, but come on! A ton! Century up! (Pause to wave bat in air and adjust head-guard and jock-strap)

Champagne, darling!