I don't know about you but I love going to author events. Apart from hearing about the fabulous books they've written, I get to spend an hour or so among an audience of (usually) like-minded peoplease. Bookish people.
Often, the author is a friend and I want to be supportive. Very occasionally, they are a literary hero of mine (see Susan Cooper) and I sit like a gibbering, awestruck heap while they talk. And always, I learn something. That's one of the reasons I go, actually: to see what other authors do and to be inspired into improving my own events.
Last weekend, I went to Just So Festival. In amongst the fantastic programme of circus skills and storytelling and drama, there was an amazing array of author talent. I was disappointed to be thwarted by traffic on Friday, so I missed Curtis Jobling and Phil Earle, but I did manage to attend events by author/illustrator Nadine Kaadan, Paul Stickland, Jo Cotterill and John Dougherty, plus a musical storytelling session that had me crying with laughter.
Nadine had her young audience wrapped around her little finger as she showed them how to draw scenes from her book, The Jasmine Sneeze, making me wish I could draw too. Paul taught us how to make a pop-up dinosaur (memo to me: write dinosaur book so you can use this). Jo explained how electricity worked using some very independently minded audience members; she also acted out a scene from Electrigirl complete with sound effects supplied by the audience.
John had his guitar and sang some hilarious songs; his Stinkbomb and Ketchupface readings were a masterclass in comic timing.
And the musical storytelling session (I didn't catch the performer's name as it wasn't in the programme and I didn't know him) impressed me so much that I wanted him to repeat the performance immediately so that I could take notes (I was far too busy cackling to do this the first time around).
The key thing about all these inspiring events was audience participation. I do love getting kids (and sometimes adults) involved in the story. All the events I attended at the weekend were memorable, not just for the skill of the author in engaging their audience but because we all felt part of the story. And that's what reading a brilliant story does - puts us right in the middle of it. So I'll be borrowing some tips and tricks I learned this weekend (memo to self: buy guitar. Yes, another guitar. Learn to play guitar this time) to enhance my own events, because three days later I am still smiling about the authors I saw. And that's the kind of feeling I want my audience to have too.