I’ll tell you a not-so-secret secret. Before an Event, I get stupidly nervous. Nervous to the point that I talk gabbling nonsense to anyone in a 5-metre radius. It was under these conditions that I met the incredibly youthful Mark Lowrey (author of the fabulous Pants Are Everything) and the impossibly rock ‘n’ roll Natasha Desborough (author of the stupidly funny Weirdos vs Quimboids). If you haven’t read them – do.
Let’s rewind. On the way to the Writer’s Room, I was delightfully accosted by the artist, Diana Bell who owns the third biggest book in the world. When you’re feeling nervous, this is a bit surreal, but what she was after was a signature in her Huge Book. I’m of the mind that, when you’re nervous, any distraction is a good distraction. But, once I’d got to grips with what she was doing, I found myself becoming a very small part of a very big work of art. I know, I know: still sideways.
Anyhow, I made it to the Writer’s Room and met my two cohorts. Mark Lowrey is a right old ball of energy, fizzing with stories of his latest adventures and somehow turning even a domestic tale into something far more exciting. By contrast, Natasha Desborough is very laid-back; happy to chat, in a very cool, collected way – like an auburn Keith Richards. But without the wrinkles.
I, however, babble. Like I need some conversational driftwood to latch on to. At the same time, we met our chairperson, Canny, who was wonderfully unruffled and part of the ‘Let’s See What Happens’ brigade – which I like. Although an unstructured event scares the proverbial out of me, I prefer that to a rigid framework; there’s a certain amount of freedom involved.
So, the call came and we were on. As we walked down the hallway to our personal Coliseum, I noticed that Steven Moffat was doing a talk about Sherlock and Dr Who. Oh, how I would have loved to have seen that – I’m a huge Who Geek and getting a titbit about Peter Capaldi would’ve blown my tiny mind.
So we turned up at our ‘space’. I love empty auditoriums. They remind me of my time as a Stage Manager for Alan Ayckbourn at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round; there’s all that uncrushed velvet, just waiting to support some attentive backs; it’s exciting and terrifying, yet riddled with comfort at the same time. We got miked up and, after some pre-show banter, people started to come in.
Danny fired out some good, thoughtful questions, which gave us room to talk about our personal experiences and the way we approach writing. Keen-eyed members of the audience may have noticed I kept touching my ear. That’s because I’d been doing an online NLP course for the previous month, to help get rid of my nerves – and, amazingly, it did seem to have some effect.
I’m sure it seems weird that I get so worked up about these things, what with my Showbiz background and all, but, as I’ve said before, doing plays and telly gives you the luxury of speaking someone else’s words and telling someone else’s story. When you’re doing the author thing, it’s about you, your words and your story – which makes you kind of vulnerable. But – when it goes right – it’s also amazingly rewarding.
Highlights of the event for me were Natasha talking tampons and Mark doing his reading. I’m still a bit unsure about reading. Until I’d met Julia Eccleshare in Edinburgh I’d stayed away from reading my own words. The way I saw it, I was writing the story of a 14 year-old and the sound of a 43 year-old voice wouldn’t cut the mustard. However, Julia told me I should act it. Since then, that’s what I’ve done.
I did my reading, which was received well, and then Mark read a bit from his book. He played a blinder, reading a bit involving boobs and Coco Pops. Top man.
Event done, it was Signing Time and I got to chat with a chap who wanted to go into Acting. Natasha and Mark were superbly engaging and their fans obviously got a kick out of meeting them.
So that was Cheltenham.
I never did get to meet Mr Moffat – but there’s time yet.