WBN Challenge 2012 – Room

I’ve officially started the 2012 World Book Night Challenge! Which is, in a nutshell, to read all 25 World Book Night titles by WBN 2013. I unfortunately failed last years challenge, missed the deadline by two books. My excuse is I joined it late, so I’m being on the ball this time. These are the books I have to read:

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  2. The Player of Games by Iain M Banks
  3. Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham
  4. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
  5. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  6. The Take by Martina Cole
  7. Harlequin by Bernard Cornwell
  8. Someone Like You by Roald Dahl
  9. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  10. Room by Emma Donoghue
  11. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  12. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  13. Misery by Stephen King
  14. The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
  15. Small Island by Andrea Levy
  16. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
  17. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  18. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  19. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell
  20. The Damned Utd by David Peace
  21. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
  22. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
  23. Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
  24. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  25. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The ones I’ve already read, and recently, I’ve put a line through so after my recent conquest of ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue I’m now down to 21 titles.

I’ve avoided this title for quite a while, as ever since it’s nomination for the Booker prize there’s been a ridiculous amount of hype around it. However, with it being on my challenge list I knew I had to read it and thought well might aswell tackle it first.

I did like this book a little more than I expected to, however I was more enamoured with the content than the style. Whilst it is quite clever to have a child narrate this kind of story, so you experience such a harrowing tale through the eyes of an innocent, unfortunately there were minor inconsistencies in Jacks speech development that i just couldn’t get my head round.
 It took me several attempts to even start this book as Jacks narration takes some getting used to and his frequent repetitions were often distracting.
Despite these drawbacks ‘Room’ is an absorbing read. You definitely do get drawn into the world of Jack and his mother and empathise with every blow that life deals them.
To say anything more about this book would be to spoil it for most, as there are revelations from one page to the next and the pace is constant.
What I would say though is that it is definitely worth a read. You have to applaud Emma Donoghue for taking a shocking news story and turning it not only into a real page turner, but also a life lesson.



Far From Home

For the last few months I’ve been rather reluctant to organise any evening events in Waterstones, this stems from a rather awful evening we planned late last year. Things were set to go well, the book had all the trademarks that a top selling local book has, the author had a double page spread in the local newspaper the weekend beforehand, he’d even been on the radio the morning of the event and of course we’d been promoting the event ourselves in store and online, so we were expecting a fairly good turn out. Well, I have never been more wrong! Absolutely nobody turned up to the event, not a single person. I felt really bad for the author, but luckily he hadn’t travelled far so it hadn’t taken too much out of his day, and as you can imagine I was left with an abject fear of something like that happening again so I did my best to avoid organising any more evening talks.

However, when two local authors got in touch with me within the same week and expressed an interest in putting on an evening talk for their book, part of me thought ‘well maybe at least one of them is going to garner some interest’.  So, after establishing that both authors lived quite locally, just in case the worst happened, I said yes and coincidentally enough the dates the authors were free were right next to each other, so that raised my hopes a little more.

Then we moved on to the next bit, advertising and promoting the events and waiting . . hoping that at least a few people would call up for tickets so we could get some bums on seats. Well two weeks drifted by and not a peep, I was already mentally drafting the email I would have to send to each author to let them know that there had been no interest when the first phone call came in “Hello, I’d like two tickets for the Joy Bounds event on the 2nd” Somebody actually was going to come to the event! I practically hugged the phone, that’s how happy I was that at least there would be someone there on one of the evenings. Then the phonecalls started coming thick and fast and by the time it came to the evening of the event we had at least fifty ticket requests.

So that event was last night, local author Joy Bounds with her book ‘Far From Home’ – A fictional account of the life of Joan of Arc as told from her mothers perspective.

The evening was a huge success, not only did we have about 50 ticket requests, but they all turned up too, and at least 80% of them also bought her book (which, by the way, Joy was donating £1 from the sale of each book to St. Elizabeth Hospice, as she is participating in The Midnight Walk on 19th May) Everybody really seemed to enjoy themselves, and were still chatting and enjoying the drinks and nibbles laid on by us lovely people at Waterstones till nearly an hour after Joy had finished her talk.

I was so happy to see the evening turn into such a success not just for us but for Joy aswell, it’s great to  support local talent.

Tonights event is with Ann Chadwick and her book ‘Suzie: The little girl who changed our lives’ Which is her true story about when her family took in a 5 year old Jewish girl during the war. brought over here of the Kindertransport and not speaking a word of English.

Unfortunately, there haven’t been as many requests for Anns event as there were for Joys, but Ann has informed me that she has handed out at least 42 tickets herself, so hopefully it will be as much of a success as last nights.

Accidental Success

Well last night (Monday 23rd April) was World Book Night and Shakespeare’s birthday. So we had some big celebrations planned.

If you don’t know what World Book Night is www.worldbooknight.org it’s essentially a celebration of reading. If I’m getting my figures right 40,000 people around the country were given 24 copies of a book they had specifically chosen from a list of 25 (mine was Bill Bryson’s ‘Notes from a Small Island’) to hand out to whomever they choose. So whether it’s someone they think doesn’t read much, so the book could help get them into reading. Or maybe it’s someone who has never read the genre that their book is in. Giving these books out free could help in a number of ways. World Book night is in its second year now, and it’s growing with each year.

Basically my task is then to organise some kind of event, a platform for the ‘Givers’ to distribute their books. Last year I organised an in store event, which went well but then there’s still the issue of how do you entice non-readers into a book shop? So this year we decided to hit the streets!

It was going to be great! We would all meet up in the shop about 5pm have tea and coffee, get to know each other, maybe swap books if somebody had a title you’d like to read, then at 6pm we’d head out on our walk. We had a designated route planned out for the ‘Town Walk’ where we’d be passing some old buildings and sites of historic interest so I invited local author Carol Twinch along to maybe point out and tell us a bit about such things, and as we merrily skipped along the streets we’d be distributing our books to the people we met. It was a very Disneyesque image I had conjured up, ideal for a beautiful spring evening.  The only thing was I hadn’t counted on the general mistrustfulness of the public whenever you mention the word FREE, and . . the British weather.

Oh yes, rain was well and truly my downfall on the evening as not many people are overly keen on walking round the streets of Ipswich on a rather wet Monday evening. So as six o’clock slowly came around I had to admit defeat for, alas, instead of the hoards of Givers descending upon the unsuspecting pedestrians of Ipswich, which I had envisioned, instead we had 3 Givers, 2 ‘assistants’, and an author. This however did not deter us from our mission, as three of us had dressed up for the occasion (two fairies and an Ass to be precise) we were going to see it through till the end.

So last night six very odd-looking, overly cheerful, and slightly damp people took to the pubs, cafes and shops of Ipswich distributing our wares to whomever we came across. Aside from a very high number of suspicious looks and rejections of a free book we all really had a good time and distributed our books quite widely and rather quickly.

                As we sat in a pub afterwards, having a well-earned drink, I looked around at our merry little band and realised that this was perfect. If there had been a lot of us it wouldn’t have worked, we would have been too intimidating and we wouldn’t have had the great interaction we had with a few members of the public. Also there would have been too many books we wouldn’t have been able to distribute them all, as things stood we were able to distribute all of our books and have a good time in the process.  So it turns out that completely by accident we ended up having the perfect end result.

Although I think I may pass the ‘Events’ cap to somebody else next year.

Radio Ga-Ga

There are many facets to my personality, one of these is an Events Manager at the Waterstones where I work.

As many things as there are that I love about being an events manager, there are a couple of things that I’m not too keen on and those are; authors that act like they’re doing you a big favour by attending this event that you’ve organised for them, and the other is being the centre of attention. I’m more of a ‘behind the scenes’ organiser. In an ideal world I’d plan my event, email, call, harass all the people I need to to promote the event then on the day I’d have somebody else be me.
So you can imagine my utter despair when I was coerced into going on to local radio to promote our World Book Night event. Cold chills and night sweats were only the start of it.
Technically I didn’t have to do it, but one of the things about being the organiser of an event is that if anybody wants to know anything about what’s happening you’re the ‘go to guy’
This was little comfort as I spent a couple of weeks pacing up and down wondering; what would I say? What would I be asked? Would I have to sound knowledgeable? Would I have to have some kind of idea what I’m talking about? What if I stammered or was lost for words?
So by the time it came to Tuesday morning, the morning of my debut radio appearance, I was more than a little bit nervous.
So I anxiously sat in the waiting area silently praying to any god that would listen for a power cut, or for the cold I was developing to strike me down voiceless, or even (if none of the above were available) for the small mercy of my segment to at least be pre-recorded.
Alas none of these came to pass, and in time I was led down a corridor by James, one of my interviewers, and into a little room. Which consisted of a production desk, manned by a lovely and very friendly lady named Charlotte, and a little round table with a few microphones attached to the edges. My nerves started to ease off as I realised I wouldn’t be spending the next twenty minutes in the radio booth of my imagination (which had more technology and gadgets than the Enterprise), but in this rather cosy looking little room.

During the ten minutes before the interview we had such a lovely chat about books and authors that by the time we actually went on air I was so relaxed that it just felt like a normal every day conversation.
We talked about; World Book Night, Bill Bryson, local authors, Waterstones, signing events. I even messed up a couple of times, and admitted to not knowing much about a certain book, but that didn’t faze me. We talked about so much and with such ease that I was genuinely sad when it ended.
So I’d like to thank James and Charlotte at ICR http://www.icrfm.co.uk for being so lovely and making me feel so at home. Also for unleashing a monster, as now I’ve conquered radio there’s no stopping me!! NEXT STOP . . . .’ANGLIA TONIGHT’!!

. . .

Well shortly after writing the above and saving it as a draft for me to review later I received an email and dun dun dun I’M ON THE COVER OF THE NEW STEPHEN KING BOOK!!!. . http://www.stephenkingfaces.com/#!i=8359 well ok, I’m on the back. .and it’s just the UK edition . . and it’s only a small picture . . .out of a montage of thousands . . and you’ll probably need a magnifying glass to see me, but dammit! I’m on a book!

Time to conquer the world now methinks.