Notes from a Conference Virgin

conferencelogoToday’s your last day for booking a place at this year’s FCBG annual conference, a weekend of author and illustrator talks and workshops aimed at anyone with an interest in children’s books. Last year Nichola Gale, the Manager at Waterstone’s Southampton and member of Southampton Children’s Book Group attended conference for the first time. Here she recalls her adventures:

“When I first found out there was an actual conference dedicated to children’s literature, where you are actively encouraged to talk about books for two days, I knew how Charlie must have felt when he first heard about the Chocolate Factory.  The only trouble was that, due to prior commitments of my fellow members of Southampton Children’s Book Group, there would be no Grandpa Bucket accompanying me.  This led to some consternation in the Gale household.

“Are you going to be alright on your own? (deep breath) Would you like me to come with you?” This from my husband whose knowledge of children’s books starts and ends with ‘Call of the Wild’ and ‘Felicity Wishes’.

“You’re going to look like a loner.  That’s really sad”.   This from my fourteen year old daughter who, needless to say, made no offer to accompany me anywhere she may be forced to part from her mobile phone for more than half an hour.

“It’s OK,” I whispered bravely, whilst secretly relishing the thought of a weekend to myself, centred around my favourite hobby. “I’ll make friends.”

Standing at the station on my morning of departure, I felt much as Darrell Rivers probably did upon embarking on her first trip to Malory Towers, except that, in place of my tuck box was a brand new dress and matching shoes (yes, you can use this as an occasion to buy yourself a new outfit if you want to).  Slightly disappointed with the lack of white hankies from husband and child as they waved me off (makes mental note to prominently display copy of ‘The Railway Children’ before future trips away), I settled down to enjoy the one thing I never seem to get enough time for – reading.

Two hours of train to door travelling time later and I was at Hogwarts (well, actually Worth Abbey School but you can see what I’m aiming for in this blog).  No boarding school dormitory for me though – I had my own room and bathroom, which I was greatly relieved about because of the snoring (mine).

“Have you made any friends yet?” came Childzilla’s latest text and, within half an hour, I had.  Adopted by the wonderful Lincolnshire Children’s Book Group, who are organising this year’s conference, I spent my days alternating between listening to amazing authors such as Anthony Browne, Mick Inkpen, Cressida Cowell and Meg Rosoff, attending the publishers’ exhibition (yes, you get given free stuff!), and eating wonderful food which I didn’t have to cook  and clear away myself.  The highlight of the weekend was the gala dinner with three courses, my new shoes and an inspirational speech by teen author Ruta Sepetys.

“Would you go again?” asked my husband upon my tired but happy return.  “Yes I would” I replied. 

And I am.”

And what about you? Today’s the last day for booking YOUR place at conference so don’t delay: you can find the booking form here. Speakers during the weekend include Sarah Crossan, Nicola Morgan, Nicola Davies, Marcia Williams, Tom Moorhouse, Neill Cameron, Kjartan Poskitt, Simon Mayle, Philip Ardagh, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Non Pratt, Alice Oseman, Lisa Williamson, Steven Butler, Jonathan Stroud, Dave Shelton, Robb Biddulph, Elys Dolan, and Julie Fulton,.

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