On Sunday afternoon, just over a week ago, I packed a suitcase and a sketchbook, then hopped on a train to Newcastle, where I was staying right through until Wednesday afternoon, doing loads of storytelling for the Northern Children's Book Festival.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to do any drawing on the way: the train was full of drunken football supporters, so I thought it wiser not to draw attention to myself!! Not to worry: there were other sketching opportunities during the festival, as you can see.
I have done the NCBF many times before: it's one of my favourites. I love spending 3 days steeped in stories; I love all the excited children I meet; I love (and am in awe of) the extraordinary way librarians transport loads of authors and illustrators to vast numbers of children, all over North East of England.
Each morning, bright and early, I travelled to a different part of the region to read my 3 latest books: Dragon's Dinner, Stinky! and Bears on the Stairs.
Lesley remembered from last time I was there, how much I love the sea so, after the last event of the day, we wrapped up warm and went for a walk along the front. The tide was in and the waves were really crashing down - fantastic!
Kim and I had a gorgeous pub lunch at half time in the pretty, historic village of Bellingham (mushroom madras - yum yum). I probably had garlic breath all afternoon (sorry kids!).
I had a fun time in Berwick Hills Library in the morning, then again in Acklam Library in the afternoon, meeting 170 children in three 1hr sessions.
The end of the day was a crazy rush though: the children didn't arrive until quite late, so we got a little behind. It was my own fault - I should have finished earlier, as I had a huge pile of books to sign. I didn't have time to sign them all properly, as I had a taxi waiting at the library door to take me to Darlington to catch a train home. I just managed to draw a little picture in each book before I literally ran from the library, coat under one arm, suitcase in the other!
We made it in time (phew) and I was able to catch my breath once I was safely underway. Luckily this time the train was full but peaceful, and I was able to get my sketchbook out and draw all the way home.
Thanks to everyone who looked after me, drove me around, humped flipcharts and big boxes of heavy books back and forth, took me to lunch etc and especially a huge thank you to Ann Key for her wonderful hospitality!