Last Wednesday was always going to be a big date in the calendar: it was the awards ceremony for the Best Book Awards, run by the Booktrust.
And You Don’t Know Me was shortlisted in the 12-14 Best Story Book category, so I GOT TO GO!
I travelled up to Manchester the day before for an event with CJ Skuse – also on the shortlist for her fab book Dead Romantic – to St Peter’s High School, which had won a visit from us as part of the celebrations. The teachers and students treated us like royalty and asked us a load of inspiring questions. Thank you for having us, St Peter’s! While we were there, Katie from the Booktrust (our very lovely minder) mentioned there were going to be 580 people next day at the ceremony, 300 of whom would be children who’d voted, so it would be BIG. And FUN. And AMAZING.
Luckily, I already knew who was going to win. Nobody had said anything of course, but when you’re shortlisted against John Green, about a week after the movie for The Fault In Our Stars comes out, and you’ve read TFIOS yourself and you’ve recommended it to everyone you meet, because it’s FANTASTIC, you know who’s got it in the bag. So there was no need to worry or get nervous. Meryl Streep says the only way to enjoy awards ceremonies is when you know you have won, or when you know you haven’t, and if anyone knows about awards ceremonies it’s Meryl, and she’s right. The only problem was … what to wear.
Once again, luckily, I’d been to a designer sale the week before when I was visiting my parents and, in a room full of weird, nothing-special, oversize bits and pieces, I’d spotted ONE thing I liked. Actually I loved it. It was a piece of coloured silk that looked like a bit of Rothko, or maybe Monet, that turned out to be a dress. A very cheap dress, by Paul Smith, that turned out to fit me like a glove. Reader, I bought it.
My children refuse to let me share selfies that show my phone in the picture because they are ‘so tacky’, so here’s the only one I’m allowed to share with you. It is mostly hair, but it gives you the general idea of the design …
(Reader, I changed them three quarters of the way through to something more sensible, but my husband Alex is six foot five – a full foot taller than me – and a girl has to make an effort. It’s not often we get to go to book parties together, but when we do, I wear HEELS.)
The party (I should keep saying ‘awards ceremony’ but honestly, it was such fun and full of so many interesting, approachable people that I had great chats with that it felt like a party. A party where you have to stop every five minutes and sign a book or a programme, because there’s a small queue of children there asking you to, which makes it EVEN BETTER. So yeah, party.) Anyway … the party was great, with lots of games and food and people on stilts and jumbo jenga and fun.
Then came the actual awards bit. This was my seat.
On the front row.
For just in case I beat John Green and had to go up and collect the award.
As you do.
And here are some of the 580 people sitting behind me. I took a random picture, but the pretty girl in the orange skirt smiling at me happens to be Helen Skelton from Blue Peter so Wow! Fangirl face. She was a judge and she presented an award and was absolutely charming, as you’d expect.
The main presenter – who was brilliant and very very funny – was Mel Giederoyc, who you may know as Mel-from-Mel-and-Sue who do the Great British Bakeoff. She was supposed to be wearing ‘a rather lovely Zara Basics jacket and Kate Middleton-ish nude court shoes’, but she told us we had to imagine them, because she’s accidentally left them on the Tube. I thought she looked pretty good in her top and trainers, to be honest.
Oh, and you see those books in the little pile in front of her? Those were the shortlisted books.
See the one with the blue page edges in the middle? My book. Proud.
So Mel did a little speech, and so did Michael Morpurgo …
(It was that kind of party.)
And then …. I WON!
Only kidding. John Green won. And sadly he was on holiday so he wasn’t there to pick up his prize/be accosted by me and forced to sign my arm, programme or whatever happened to be closest/be accosted by practically every child and other author in the audience. But he wrote an amazing book and that’s what really matters.
I did get to catch up with loads of friends, though, and meet some lovely new people, including Phil Earle, who was shortlisted along with CJ, John (yeah, let’s just assume we’re on first name terms now) and me.
And I managed to get this photo of the cartoon wall. See the helicopter? That’s my husband’s signature illustration, and it’s right next to CHRIS RIDDELL’s!
All in all, it was a great way to spend an afternoon on a sweltering day in Central London. The best thing about it was that it was all about getting children to read for pleasure. The Booktrust do a brilliant job and I was proud to be a part of it.
And if you happen to be on the Tube in London, and you spot a bag with a nice Zara jacket and a pair of Kate Middleton-ish nude court shoes in it, you know who they belong to …