4 authors, 4 cities, 1 roadshow: access all areas behind the scenes at OUP’s Author Roadshow

Geraldine McCaughrean, Tim Bowler, Sally Prue, and Gillian Cross are four incredibly talented and inspirational authors who we are very proud to have on our list. With all four authors having new titles published this spring, an ideal opportunity arose to gather this awesome foursome, so we challenged them to a four day roadshow of events across the U.K. and Ireland.

It all began on one chilly afternoon in the fair city of Dublin travelling with groupies from the Publicity and Marketing team. . .

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Destination Dublin

It’s never a good start to a tour to have 3 of your 4 authors missing! (Note to self, always find out before travelling if the airport you are arriving at has two terminals!) Authors found, we voyaged on to the Pearse Street library, a beautiful location for the first evening event of the week.

Preparation, preparation, preparation – an essential element of making sure that an event runs as smoothly as possible. Whether it’s making sure that authors have a drink to hand (obviously non-alcoholic until after the event!), setting up sound or visuals, or checking that there are books available to buy. The time before an event always whizzes past with a mild case of anxiety ever brewing until all the audience are in and the event is underway. Thankfully, due to the organisational skills of Liz Scott, freelance publicist extraordinaire, no detail had been left uncovered in planning for the roadshow and preparation was completely panic free.

Dublin’s event was chaired by the delightful Robert Dunbar, a regular reviewer of children’s books for The Irish Times, Books for Keeps, and The School Librarian. Robert had many thoughts surrounding each of the books, and did a fabulous job of reeling in the audience to the characters and stories from each author.

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The evening included:

  • Reference to a quote from Albert Einstein “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving” and how this relates to the importance of Matt’s bike in After Tomorrow, Gillian Cross’s new title.
  • Discussing Geraldine McCaughrean’s motto for writing (according to Wikipedia!): “do not write about what you know, write about what you want to know.”
  • Uncovering Tim Bowler’s fascination for sea stories, including real life survival stories.
  • Revealing the inspiration behind Sally Prue’s Song Hunter and its autobiographical roots. (Read more about this in Sally’s recent blog post!)

A special moment at any event is hearing an author reading from their book. For these events, each author chose a reading of around three minutes to give a sense of the tone and characters from the novel. It’s always exciting hearing how an author can bring their own writing to life, especially when you hear them reading such dramatic lines as ‘She was sure now that it was the face she had seen before’ (Sea of Whispers, Tim Bowler) and ‘Mid-flight, the sun went out’ (Song Hunter, Sally Prue).

Our evening came to a close with audience questions, a couple of glasses of wine and mingling with our guests, followed by a well-earned dinner and collapsing in a heap at the hotel at a respectable time of 10.30pm. Rock and roll!

Onwards to Glasgow

The day began at an early hour flying to Glasgow at 10am, under the threat of snow in both Ireland and Scotland. Thankfully, although snow did cause rush hour chaos in Glasgow, our flight was unaffected and we were in a suitably warm and cosy public house enjoying haggis and Cullen skink by lunchtime.

A short break in the schedule for a couple of hours of rest and then we were onwards to the magnificent Mitchell library.

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Taking the role of chair for our Glasgow event was the Children & Education Programme Director for the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Janet Smyth.  Our second evening included:

  • A discussion as to why using a varied and large vocabulary within children’s literature is so important for children’s language acquisition.
  • Discussing whether our authors write with a child audience in mind.
  • Audience questions around audio book editions, top children’s book recommendations, and whether the authors had read and enjoyed each other’s books! (The answer being a resounding yes from all four authors!)

With such an enthusiasm for children’s books, it’s clear to see that this year’s Edinburgh Festival is in very safe hands. Janet did a fantastic job of chairing, drawing together similarities across the author’s new titles and highlighting just what a huge area there is for children’s writers to experiment in.

Our trip to Glasgow was wrapped up with a rather filling curry. Being on the road is not the place to watch calories!

Moving on to Manchester

Midway through the week and it was time for a staff switchover! With an impending sales conference in Oxford (to present books publishing later in the year to our sales reps) it was time for Nicola and Harriet to head back to Oxford, with Jennie taking over the roadshow reins in Manchester. Once joined by aforementioned freelance publicist extraordinaire, Liz Scott, we all made our way to the venue for the evening’s event – Manchester Metropolitan University’s Geoffrey Manton Building, a hotbed of creativity and talent we were soon to discover!

On arrival we were introduced to our host for the evening, Kaye Tew, Director of the Manchester Children’s Book Festival and creative writing course tutor at the university, and to the chairperson, Jacqueline Roy, author and senior lecturer in English and creative writing.

After finding out lots more about the Manchester Children’s Book Festival – a biennial celebration of reading which began in 2010 – and hearing inspiring stories of some of the students who study the creative writing course, it was time for the discussion to begin!

Discoveries this evening:

  •  Jacqueline admitted that she cheated and read the end of Gillian’s book because she just couldn’t wait until the end
  • Gillian admitted that to avoid procrastinating she has resorted to using ‘Write or Die’, a word-eating app that deletes your work if you become distracted for too long
  • Sally admitted that a childhood teacher was responsible for her realisation that she didn’t have to be boring
  • Tim admitted to seeing pictures in his mind – the inspiration for many of his stories
  • and Geraldine admitted to having been politely prompted by the Theatre Royal in Margate to write a book about the town

…and that was quite enough revelations for one night!

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Book signing, canapés, and drinks ensued, followed by dinner and a dash back to the hotel to get some shut-eye before the final day of the roadshow. Alarms went off, breakfasts were eaten, and in the blink of an eye we were safely on the station platform at Manchester Piccadilly boarding the train to Bristol – no rest for the wicked!

Bring on Bristol

Our final venue of the week was Bristol Central Library, a beautiful building not too far from the historic Bristol Harbourside. Hosted here by the wonderfully organised Margaret Pemberton, librarian at Bristol School Library Service, the event was the perfect high note on which to end the week! The children’s library is home to its very own book-ship – HMS Book Trove – aboard which our authors duly climbed, along with our chairperson Julia Green (in fact another children’s author also published by Oxford University Press making our talented quartet a quintet)!

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Julia Green also happens to be course director of Bath Spa University’s MA in Writing for Young People, and after her expert chairing of the evening’s discussion it was fascinating to hear questions from her current students, including ‘Do you find it difficult to show your writing to close friends and family?’ It was surprising to hear all authors answer that they didn’t find it difficult, and that sometimes it’s best to hear trying feedback from those closest to you!

With the evening drawing to a close, and our four authors having journeyed to the four corners of the earth – well, Dublin, Glasgow, Manchester, and Bristol at least – it was time to begin the farewells, which is always the saddest part.

It was truly fantastic week, and without the generosity of all the hosts, chairpersons, booksellers and of course the authors involved, not forgetting our fantastic audiences, it couldn’t have happened, so wishing them all a very big thank you for giving up their time and energy and making it one rollicking roadshow to remember…until next time!

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Written by Nicola Gray, Marketing Manager and Jennie Younger, Publicity Executive

Books and authors featured:

Tim Bowler 9780192728395_SEA_OF_WHISPERS_CVR_JAN13

Tim Bowler, Sea of Whispers

Tim explores our relationship with the sea in this recent blog post.

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Gillian Cross, After Tomorrow

Gillian speaks about the unexpected beginnings of After Tomorrow here.

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Geraldine McCaughrean, The Positively Last Performance

Read Geraldine’s post about her experience of writing the novel.

sally prue 9780192757111_SONG_HUNTER_CVR_JAN13

Sally Prue, Song Hunter

Sally explains the influence of her childhood on Song Hunter in her recent blog post.