Last year I had a request from Nikki Gamble, who helps run the fabulous and informative Write Away website (www.writeaway.org.uk), asking for a contribution towards the grand IBBY auction of 2012. IBBY (International Board for Books for Young People) was founded in Zurich in 1953 to ‘promote international understanding through children’s books.’
Well, I reckoned that such a noble cause deserved more than a couple of signed books from me so I had one of my bright ideas. Why not collect autographs of as many children’s writers I met during the course of one year and send them instead? So that’s what I did.
I was off to a flying start last February when I went to the launch of the Ultimate Book Guide. The place was heaving with writers and illustrators. There were shed loads of them (or should that be shelf loads?). I got Brian Keaney, Yvonne Coppard, Cathy Hopkins, Ted Dewan, Francesca Simon, Elizabeth Kay, Kath Langrish, Victoria Connelly, Shoo Rayner, Kaye Umansky, Tony Ross, Jan Pienkowski, Elizabeth Laird, Gill Vickery, Julia Jarman, Sally Nicholls, Ann Turnbull, Odette Elliott, Patricia Elliott and Eleanor Updale all in one hit. As a bonus, Ted Dewan kindly offered to design the cover on my £2.99 autograph book from Muji there and then, instantly increasing its value by hundreds of pounds!
After that, the collection built a little more steadily. Most of the signatures came from my friends in the SAS (Scattered Authors’ Society). I was able to add Celia Rees, Adele Geras, Dianne Hofmeyr, Anne Cassidy, Mary Hoffman, Lynne Benton, Lynne Chapman, Lesley Wilson, Alison Boyle, Paeony Lewis,Malachy Doyle, John Dougherty, Sue Purkiss, Jenny Alexander, Miriam Moss, Jennie Walters, Marie-Louise Jensen, Linda Newbery, Dennis Hamley, David Calcutt, Julie Sykes, Lee Weatherley/Titania Woods, Susan Price, Joe Friedman, Meg Harper, Cindy Jefferies, Damian Harvey, Catherine Johnson, Liz Kessler, Ann Bryant, Penny Dolan, Fiona Dunbar, Nicki Cornwell and Joanna Kenrick. Jo also played a blinder for me at the Oxford Literary Festival by blagging four giants in one hit – Malorie Blackman, Emma Chichester Clark, Michael Morpurgo and Philip Pullman. Get in!
Jan Pienkowski drew Meg for me
Joining CWIG added Tony Mitton, Steve Barlow, Michaela Morgan and Am Vrombaut. Attending a conference for the Campaign for the Book netted Alan Gibbons, Steve Skidmore and Bernard Ashley. Tom Palmer, Stephen Elboz, Lily Hyde, David Belbin and Anthony McGowan came from individual meets. The icing on the cake was in December when I was at Walker Books. Allan Ahlberg and his daughter Jessica. Oh yes.
I have a few regrets. I forgot to take my autograph book with me to Cheltenham in October so I lost out on Philip Ardagh, Michael Rosen, Korky Paul, Nicola Davies and Melvin Burgess, dammit, who were all within grabbing range, as were Terry Pratchett, Geraldine McCaughrean and Tim Bowler at the YLG earlier in the month – eek.
Despite that this autograph book has got to be worth hundreds of ££££££££££££££££ and $$$$$$$$$$$$ and €ssssssssssss as it stands. I hope whoever successfully bids for it – a rich librarian perhaps, if there is such a thing – has a special perspex box made for displaying it. Or a velvet cushion at least. Or a wooden stand without water marks on it. Anyway, something appropriate! I posted it to Nikki this morning. Can’t wait to see what it fetches!