10 October 2012

Literary Juice: Meeting Cressida Cowell And More

Post By Happy Homemaker UK

My first job ever was at my college/uni library
(I tried to get work in high school, but I was plagued by looking illegally young)
- I'm not plagued by that anymore, btw :) -

And almost ever since, I have worked, paid and unpaid, in libraries

I love them so - 
for the adventures between the pages and magnificent artwork on the covers
The creativity and hard work imprinted on bound paper

Vintage french classic books for sale by Rosie's Armoire

As an English major,
I took a children's literature class
and have been hooked ever since
And then I had children, which has allowed me to easily follow my interest

So when I saw that Cressida Cowell of 'How To Train Your Dragon' fame
was speaking at our local library,
I jumped at the chance to see her
(a huge advantage of living in a small country is the famous are never that far away)

My kids moaned that I was dragging them to yet another thing,
saying they'd outgrown her books
'Too bad' was my only response

Trying to refrain from a 'I told you so' moment,
they thought she was utterly fantastic and inspiring
as they were riveted to her words
(as was I)

Rarely do I meet someone who is so clearly fulfilling their destiny

Someone who has been sprinkled with some kind of magic powder dust
who has laser focus, a lot of talent, and is one of the most successful in her field

Cressida has an amazing, dramatic storytelling voice
And she looks like such a normal mom
who I easily could have stood next to in the grocery line

But her creative Viking/dragon stories are not ordinary at all
In fact, she is telling and illustrating what in her mind are true stories

Although she grew up in London, her family took an annual summer holiday 
to an uninhabited island in Scotland (just their cottage on it)

A fisherman would drop them off on the island and pick them up 6 weeks later

There, she and her siblings would have endless days of roaming freely on the island
and eating fish they caught

She wove tales in her head about the Vikings who really did live in the area
and of dragons the Vikings believed in

Cressida starting putting those childhood stories to paper when she was 32 years old
and the rest is history

''My whole life my teachers said 'Stop daydreaming!'. 
And now my publisher says 'More daydreaming; faster daydreaming!'''

Newly released in series

Cressida went on to say ''Writing is like telling a really good lie''
with lots of detail and embellishments 
so the reader can picture what the author is trying to convey

''Books put an idea in your head and your imagination does the rest of the work''

Writing advice also included 
drawing a map and seeing how the story develops from it
which is exemplified in Treasure Island and Peter Pan

Cressida loved the film 'How To Train Your Dragon '
and was a part of the process along the way
More films based on her books are due for release in 2014 and 2016


And as I flipped to the end of one of her books,
there sat an invitation for readers
to join a 'review crew' for the publisher!
My kids could get unpublished manuscripts to read and review?
How fast can you say 'Hello, my kids are so on board?!'

So moving on...
now seems like the perfect time to show you my favorite section
in a recent children's exhibition at SouthBank (London) over the summer
- 'aMAZEme' labyrinth of books -

Not a great photo, but the concept is that as you walk through the maze
you encounter blinding thick rain, secret passageways, 
invisible avalanches, dangerous pirates, magical waterfalls 
which all are held within the pages that surround you in the maze

So creative!

All ages were reading books from that delicious assortment
It was irresistible

Covering over 500 sq meters, the 250,000 remaindered, used, and new books
were loaned by charity shop, Oxfam, and donated by publishing houses in the UK
Afterward, all books were given to Oxfam

The labyrinth was in the design of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges's fingerprint

Love it!

Anyhoo, as I was talking to Cressida's publisher
(I was talking to Cressida's publisher!)
she mentioned a few literary festivals around the country including
ones in Bath, Oxford, and Cheltenham
(links provided)

It looks like they pull in some really big names from around the world

Have you ever attended one?
How far in advance do I need to buy tickets?
Any advice?

Make room -
I'm about to bust out another happy dance!

- all photos by me unless otherwise indicated -

Cressida Cowell's UK Book Tour dates here

Other children's lit posts:
English History For Kids (books)
Beatrix Potter
Roald Dahl Museum


Tanya said...

As soon as I saw your post, I hopped on to her website hoping I didn't miss any events in our area. My son just loves her books. Sadly, it looks like we missed her. I will have to be on the lookout for more events in our area.

Stylish Kylie said...

Wow - how amazing is that maze of books?

Iota said...

Edinburgh has one in August. Come to it and I'll meet you there!

This post is wonderful. Your enthusiasm and love for reading ooze out of it. You mis-spelt (forgive me for pointing it out) "afterward", as "afterword" which says it all. You're so completely thinking about writing and words, that you put an extra one in inadvertently. Love it.

There's a whole host of second-hand book festivals and events which might be of interest to you. I don't know much about them, but a very famous one is in Hay-on-Wye, so that might be a good place to start with a Google browse.

I have a children's book in my head from stories that my mum made up for us when we were little. They were about Rudolph, a remarkable boy who used to take on the injustices of school life, stand up to teachers, and always won. The teachers ended up looking stupid. It was subversive stuff, but wonderful. He had a private helicopter, and when the situation got too hot, he'd run up to the roof of the school, and whizz off in it, leaving the Headmaster powerlessly shaking his fist at the sky.

Don't steal my idea, now, and write the book yourself, will you?

Sandra said...

What an interesting post, Laura. How lovely to have Cressida introducing the magic of story-telling to her listeners! How great that you and your children could go and listen to her! I like all the photos!
I just love story-telling and have taken my grandson to events in my local Community Hall where they organize all sorts of wonderful theatre and story-telling! Maybe I should become a story-teller when I retire? I would love that!!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I can always use an editor - so always mention any typos - I know they are said with love :) Hay-on Wye - yes, she mentioned that one too, but since I've never heard of it, I didn't remember it. At the time I thought of a sandwich 'hay on rye [bread]' which didn't sound very tasty, so I forgot the exact title as something I'd never eat! What crazy town names you all have here :)

What a great book idea, Iota - you really should follow through :) I'd LOVE to meet you in Edinburgh sometime!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Oooh, you should Sandra :)

Vintage Sheet Addict said...

I love how stories inspire children's imaginations! I worked for years with the under 5s and story time was my absolute favourite activity, closely followed by creative play!
My youngest, she's 8, is an excellent inventor of stories. Recently a children's author went to her school, he picked her work out, amongst 400 entries as the most creative writing piece. As you can imagine she was so proud! She's now going to be an author/ illustrator! She spends all her spare time writing stories and illustrating them! Sometime a 'chance' meeting with someone can have a huge affect on us! Ada :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Wow, Ada! I love that story! Go girl!

Vintage Jane said...

My son (and I) love Cressida's books ... what a shame we missed her visits to the south west. We'll have to look out for her in the future. I wish David Walliams would do a tour - my little man is obsessed with his books at the mo!

Wendy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wendy said...

That explains why your blog posts are always so well written! My son would have loved to have met the Author, Cressida Cowell. We both enjoy her books! Wonderful post thanks for sharing. Love the labyrinth of books too, such a neat idea!

Jennifer said...

Some of my favourite moments with my son where when we lay side by side on his bed while I read him a story. I think I enjoyed the tales as much as he did! That was years ago. He is all grown up now, but I haven't lost that love of children's literature. It is wonderful that you got to meet Cressida Cowell and hear her read. Love the labyrinth!

High Heeled Life said...

What a fabulous experience!! and how wonderful for your children (they may not think so now ... but wait till they are adults and parents) to have a English major for mom. The written word is something I never tire of - and especially since my accident - it has truly been a wonderful help with my brain injury. Words are exercise for the brain... Hope you get around to some of those fairs. Hugs, C. (HHL)

The Snowdrop Project said...

Hi Laura,
What a great post.
Isn't it inspirational to meet talented people.
Some authors are so clever, and just capture children's hearts and minds.
Hope you have a lovely week,
Liz x

Denise said...

This looks like great fun, Laura! How nice that you were able to see this author in person! I, too, have a lifelong love affair with books. My husband gave me a Kindle, but I rarely pick it up. I prefer books -- the look, shape, feel, and smell of them. I worked at a bookstore for four years when I was in my 20's; in fact, that's where my husband and I met. I loved working there, and I feel like I learned so much. My dream is to have a home with a library some day. It doesn't have to be big, in fact, small and cozy would be just fine.

I have a set of children's classics in hardcover that my parents got years ago. I absolutely love the beautiful colored illustrations in them. When our son was born, I started reading to him almost from Day One. We used to go to "Story Time" every week at our local library. Your post brings back happy memories for me. Are you a Harry Potter fan? We definitely are at our house. My husband and I read all the books and went to all the movies. We were actually sad when the series ended.

Thanks for the great post and have a wonderful day!

Denise at Forest Manor

PURA VIDA said...

that maze of books is incredible..how inspiring..your post!

Marina PĂ©rez said...

Hi, You have a little surprise in my blog

Down by the sea said...

My first job was in a library too. I love books and my family groan when we are shopping and I spy a book shop! I can see why you were so interested in visiting the British Library. We went to Bridport Literary Festival last year and saw Tim Smitt from The Eden project he was an amazing speaker so inspiring. We did have to book in advance but as it it only a small town we managed to get tickets. If you can get to one I would thoroughly recommend it. Have you been to Hay-on Wye it's a book lovers paradise.
Sarah x

crumpetsincamelot said...

I gave a little YIPPEE when I saw this post -- we just saw Cressida Cowell speak at the Cheltenham Literature Festival -- she was amazing! It was so energizing and inspiring to see how much she loves her characters and their journeys, and how much she wants to get children excited about reading and writing their own stories. She was SO lovely when she stayed to talk with everyone and signed all our books. Really a wonderful experience for the kids (and me!). Come on up to the Cheltenham lit fest -- still going for a few more days. ;)

Tammy Chrzan said...

Laura, You were so blessed to be able to catch Cressida Cowell at your local Library, I mean wow! How fantastic! I was looking at the tour dates that you posted and it looks like I won't catch her when I come over on Boxing day for 2 weeks, but alas, maybe next time.
Your children are lucky to have you as a mom!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I love that you met your husband at the bookstore - that sounds like a book in itself! We are huge Harry Potter fans - I read each of them as they were released. It is amazing what she has done for children's literature! I think she was the first to realize modern day kids need a faster pace and more creativity in the stories. I also went to the movie set in Watford, which was fantastic!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Ooh, popping over now, Marina :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

So cool we have that in common! So I haven't been to Hay-on-wye - but now it is on the list! Thx :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

We saw her the same day! She had just come from there when I saw her that night. She really took her time with everyone - I was really impressed. It's still going? I will have to squeeze in a visit, but I'm not sure I can. Next year, you lucky girl

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Too bad - but fun to hear you are visiting! Aww, you are so sweet :) I'd like to think so

ARA said...

Ahh a post for a book lover indeed. I love books, too little time in life to read all of them. As a result I end up reading 3 or so at a time. hahah
but I love child books, one of my favorite ones is still one I read a a young girl ...
good story

come follow me sometime


ann said...

How fantastic. I love the movie. I didn't realize that you were an English major. A maze of books must be a huge project, but a very cool one at that. Happy reading.

Gillian said...

How wonderful, I bet that was fun. My two are a little young for this kind of outing, but already my daughter is getting to know the magic of Roald Dahl books. I love that books labyrinth, how magical.

Sarah @ Modern Country Style said...

I LOVE that photo of the book labyrinth! Though I have to say, at times, our play room feels a bi like that!!!

My first job was in my school library - I never got over the thrill of stamping books!!!


Daydream Living said...

Loved this post Laura! So great to see that you too love books and like you, I also have kids who love reading, although I don't know this dragon series, so I will have a look at it.
The maze is amazing! Thanks for sharing this!
And Lisa and I had more coffee chats, will save you a seat when you will hop over one day, ok?
Hugs, Maureen

Jenny said...

How wonderful! Cressida Cowell came to my daughter's school last year for Book Week. It was an amazing experience. We have a framed photo her with Cressida and a complete collection of the dragon books autographed personally to my little one.
That books labyrinth is fantastic!

Jenny said...

Oh- and the Hay festival looks like a really good one. We wanted to go last year but couldn't get any accommodation. Book early! There are some really neat looking farm stay places out that way.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Trying to call a trip to Dubai as a great trip for the kids, but shhhhh, it's really to meet up with you and Lisa ;) We'll see what develops!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Yes! Loved LOVED shelving & stamping! Collecting overdue fees, not so much ;) Especially from cute guys in college - so embarrassing ;)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Good to know - thanks!

Abigail Rogers said...

This sounds like so much fun! Never read these books, but Cressida (love that name!) sounds like a very special lady.


Gesci said...

The day before we left Harrogate I went to the Ilkley Literature Festival and saw the History Wardrobe's "Agatha Christie" presentation (http://www.historywardrobe.com). It was FANTASTIC, and made me wish I'd gone to more! Enjoy any you can get to; I've heard the Edinburgh one is great as well!

Emily said...

F-A-S-C-I-N-A-T-I-N-G!!!!!!!!!!! I was tickled to read this post! And I will have to link to it one day in the near future. Thanks for sharing a treasure trove with us!