A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Everyone’s got a party piece. Some people can touch their noses with their tongues (I can’t do this as I’m literally tongue tied – very sad medical condition which makes me look like I have a freakishly small tongue, though I don’t, it’s just that most of it is in my mouth – where it actually should be), some people can moonwalk (well, to be fair, who can’t?), and me? — I tell stories, and my favourite story to tell, especially when I’m out with my writing friends, is the book trip which changed all book trip for me.
It started in Germany…
So, you get invited to a foreign country to read from your book and speak to “fans” and what happens? Well, you get a little rush of excitement. The invite comes from Munich and you think, “Ooo – Bavaria. That sounds nice. I mean, I like sausages, and I LOVE Paulaner. Count. Me. In.” You pack up your very best pair of Birkenstocks, a copy of your latest genius novel, and off you go.
Germany is YOURS!
And you arrive. And it’s raining. And realise you’ve actually left your Birkenstocks in your case and are wearing ridiculously high, cutty shoes (cute looking though, natch), and anyway, it’s still all ok because you’re in Germany! WOOHOO! And your guide is sweet and lovely and she’s written your name on a piece of card so you’ll see her when you come through arrivals. Germany! WOOHOO!
The festival site isn’t that far from the airport, but you’re going to drop your bag at the hotel first. A hotel! In Bavaria! How bad can it be?
This is where you first start to wobble because your room seems to be in an attic. The lock doesn’t appear to work properly and you can’t actually stand up in said room, nor can you see out the window, which is caked in dirt. The single bed and dark olive walls make it a tad Dickensian-prison, but, hey, you’re in Germany, and you aren’t a diva, so this is what you do: you go to reception and speak to the lady at the desk.
You: Hello. I’m just wondering, if, uh, there’s another free room. I’d really like a double. I haven’t slept in a single since I was in university digs and I might fall out. *hearty laugh*
Receptionist: Hotel is full.
You: Oh, right. But the thing is, my room doesn’t have a lock and I’m not keen on getting molested in the night. *hearty laugh*
Receptionist: Do you want to check out?
You: NO! No, not at all. It’ll be fine. I sort of like being scared when I go to sleep.
And you march away from reception pleased you got your point across. Sort of. Well, not at all, but the rain has stopped, which means you can wear your cork lined Birkenstocks now.
And you meet the festival director. Who’s lovely. And she’s excited about your events. She suggests you meet the other authors for dinner. Which you do. And this is the second time you wobble as the conversation goes something like this:
German author: So, you have an agent, I hear.
You: Yes. I do. You?
German author: No. I don’t need one. I sell millions of books. I go straight to the publisher.
You: Wow. How… wonderful!
German author: Do you believe in fertility treatment?
You: Do I believe in what’s-that-now?
German author: I don’t. People should just have sex harder.
Finnish author: Well, I’ll tell you something. All couples should have sex contracts. They should decide before they do it what they agree to and what they don’t want. I have one with my husband.
Italian author: I haven’t had sex in four years.
Italian author: This is by choice. I want to see how it feels.
South African author: Are we getting dessert?
You decide to embrace the weirdness. Drink lots of wine. Laugh and be merry. Go to bed in the creepy room after you’ve dragged a wardrobe in front of the door.
And the thing is, you don’t get murdered in the night. WOOHOO! You live and then you get up, have some Bavarian cheese for breakfast and meet your guide who will take you from event to event for the next three days.
And it all goes something like this:
Event 1: In a small library. Lots of schools. You suspect they confused you with Sarah J Maas. That’s ok because you’re funny and even though only two kids have read your book, you sell another two books after the event which you sign! Two books!!
Event 2: In a technical college. Lots of students. Mostly male. Most with facial hair and muscles. Probably aged 17-19. You talk. They watch. Twenty minutes into the event a teacher whispers in your ear. “Don’t you speak German? These students don’t study English.”
Event 3: In discussion with your guide at another library. You begin to suspect she hasn’t read your book. You begin to suspect she too confused you with Sarah J Maas.
Event 4: A school. The kids are amazing – engaged and excited. Many know you. Many ask for signed books. Afterwards the deputy headteacher takes you for lunch. It’s delicious. Then he makes a pass at you. You throw up a bit in your own mouth.
Event 5: At a university. Three hours from Munich. But it appears to be closed for the summer. There are no posters up advertising your event. You wait in the room for your audience. No one shows up. You wait another fifteen minutes. No one shows up. I mean NO ONE! Your guide says, “Don’t worry, you still get paid.”
And then… then… that’s when the inner diva appears. I mean, you knew she was there all along. You KNEW you should have written up a rider before you agreed to this bloody trip. And so it happens. Your brain bursts through your skull and you start to scream very, very hard:
“I still get paid? I still get paid? You think a few hundred euros will compensate me for the trauma of this trip? You think I want to be away from home? You think my ego will survive this? I’ve had enough. Take me to the airport. I want to go home. I don’t want any more of your sausages. And to be honest, everyone knows Birkenstocks are ugly.”
The guide is silent. You get into the car. It’s going to be fine. A few hours to the airport and you’ll be in Heathrow. You’ll buy some Hula-Hoops and a Fanta and everything will be well. Relax.
But no. Oh god. There’s been an accident on the road. And how long will you sit awkwardly in the car with your guide? Eleven hours, that’s how long. Eleven fucking hours in a traffic accident in Bavaria, so you miss your flight and it looks like you’ll be staying another night.
But you’re in Germany! WOOHOO?
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Sarah Crossan writes novels for children and teens. Her debut novel in verse, The Weight of Water, was shortlisted for the Carnegie medal in 2013. Breathe was nominated for the Carnegie medal in 2014. Before writing full time, Sarah worked as an English teacher. She grew up in Ireland and England and then moved to New York, where she lived for seven years. She now lives in Hertfordshire with her family where she spends most of her day writing, sipping green tea and eating far too many biscuits.