As I was thinking about what I might write about today, I remembered that it’s Somerset Art Week (or fortnight). You probably have something similar in your neck of the woods: artists open up their houses and studios to show their work. And that led to thinking vaguely about buying pictures for presents, and that led to thinking about my friend Sara Parsons.
Sara is an artist and a potter and a dog walker. In the days when we had a dog too, she and I often used to walk up the hill together, generously putting the world to rights and congratulating ourselves on how lucky we are to live in such a lovely part of the country, where you tumble out of your back door and ten minutes later you're gazing across a mist-ribbonned valley towards Glastonbury or admiring the year's first cowslip or orchid or wild daffodil.
One day, some years ago, I was telling her about a bit of a quandary I had. My first longer novel for children – The Willow Man – was about to be published. It’s about three children, two of whom have a disability – one of which is very obvious, and the other of which is not. Anyway, It was something of a labour of love, this book (well, they all are, but this one particularly so), and I thought I would like to mark publication by having some sort of launch. But I’m the world’s worst person as far as organising parties goes, and I couldn’t think where to have it or how to do it.
On a scale of 1-20 when it comes to spontaneity, I would be about 2 and Sara would come in somewhere around 18. “Easy,” she said breezily. “You can have it in the studio.”
Sara lives on a farm, and she and her family had recently converted an old stone barn into a lovely space for her to use for her painting and pottery classes. It would be perfect. So, I talked to our localOttakars (now Waterstones), who agreed to come and sell books, I talked to Walker Books, who agreed to contribute generously towards wine, and whose sales rep, Tim Howard, came along to help, and I talked to my sister, who made a beautiful cake and generally advised about food.
As the event drew nearer, the butterflies began to do a samba in my stomach. Would there be enough to eat? Could I cope with being the centre of attention? Wasn’t this all a bit big-headed and show-offy? Would anyone actually come? When should we start to get the studio ready? “Bit busy this week,” said Sara vaguely. “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine.”
|Sara,s drawing - well, most of it.|
On the morning of the launch, we stood looking at the vast space. “Hm,” said Sara. “Think I’ll do a picture. That’d be nice, wouldn’t it?”
It was more than nice. She did a magnificent charcoal sketch depicting the Willow Man (the one who stands beside the M5 near Bridgwater. He used to be magnificently obvious, but now he’s surrounded by supermarket depots and housing estates, so he's less easy to see.) Beside him she wrote, in her beautiful calligraphic script, the line from the cover: In his great form, power lay coiled. By the time evening came, Sara’s panache had transformed the place with fairy lights, textiles, pictures and pots. Lots of people came and it was lovely, and I’m not sure if I ever thanked Sara enough – so here’s a great big belated thank you right now!
|Sara on the left, me in the middle and Tim Howard at the bottom of the stairs.|
That's a while ago now. But in a couple of weeks, I’ve got another launch coming up. It’s not a book launch this time; it’s a blog launch. I’ve contributed to ABBA off and on, to its sister site, ABBA Reviews, and to the History Girls group blog for quite some time, but now I’m going to have a blog of my own. It’s called A Fool On A Hill – because I do a lot of thinking while walking up on the hill. (At least I used to, when we had our much-missed dog Jessie, and I hope before long I’ll be up there again with another, as yet unchosen dog.)
It’s going to be mostly reviews. I hope eventually people will send me new children’s books to review, but I will also write about some of my other reading. But my first post – on 7th October – will be about the wonderful Linda Newbery’s first book for adults, Quarter Past Two On A Wednesday Afternoon.
I hope very much to see you there – but in the meantime, I have a review today on ABBA Reviews. It’s about a very good and very funny book by John Dougherty, and I hope you’ll take a look at that too!