A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
When I started thinking about this post, I had a strange realisation: I haven’t had a holiday for years.
People who know me will gasp and stretch their eyes and say, Sure you’re never off the batter! And secretly they think my life is one big holiday anyway. I mean, sitting round writing books all day! Isn’t that what I used to do with my holiday time when I had a proper job?
Well, they have a point. I do travel a lot these days. This summer I’ve been away twice – once to the Scattered Authors retreat at Charney Manor in Oxfordshire, which was lovely but I was co-organising it, so not, strictly, a holiday. And then, two days later to Arvon in Devon, with my young writers group aged 15-21. Wonderful, but if you consider it a holiday you’ve never been in loco parentis to fifteen young adults.
99% of the time now, when I’m away it’s at least partly for work. So holiday read isn’t that appropriate. But I think the term holiday read was coined by and for people who mainly read on holiday. I know people who only read on holiday, seeing reading as a relaxing treat. Whereas for me it’s more necessary than that. When I get up in the morning I take my book from under my pillow and start reading it – OK, sometimes on the loo. Certainly as I’m eating breakfast. Often, if it’s sufficiently compelling, while I’m making breakfast – you can easily stir porridge with one hand and turn the pages with the other. I don’t read in the shower, but there are always baths. I don’t read when I’m driving but that’s what audio books are for.
As you might have guessed, I’m not wonderful at deferred gratification. I love the idea of keeping a special book for a journey, and I do sometimes manage to plan a cosy reread of an old friend, but when I get my hands on something I’m keen to read I find it very hard to keep it for even one day.
Holiday reading has, of course, been transformed by the e-book. I’m not a massive fan – like many people I much prefer an actual book with pages and a cover and a booky smell. BUT one of my most horrible memories is of being stuck in Romania in 2001 without a book, having underestimated how quickly I would get through my pile. The beauty of the kindle is that that need never happen again. My kindle lives in the bottom of a drawer but is taken out for travel. Being a cheapskate fulltime artist who has to budget carefully I have a lot of free or very cheap classics on it. Which saved my life, or at least my health and sanity, on one work trip.
It was October 2013. I had just left gainful employment and was foolishly saying yes to every gig I was offered. I spent three weeks travelling from town to town, library to library, and about halfway through I realised I was exhausted in a way I had never been before. I was opening and closing my mouth and words were coming out – and, because I was invited back the next year, they must have made some kind of sense – but I felt completely disconnected from myself. Too many nights in dull hotel rooms; too many dinners alone.
I was in Wexford, or maybe Waterford. Or Westmeath. In my hotel bed at eight o’clock, wondering how on earth I would get through the second half of the tour. I was too tired for anything except reading but nothing appealed. I wanted novelty, but I hadn’t the energy to commit to anything new. And then! I remembered that I had, for only a pound or two, the complete L.M. Montgomery on my kindle. And though Anne was an old friend, Emily (of New Moon) was not. Perfect. I survived the rest of the tour.
The other beauty of the kindle is that you can be reading Emily Of New Moon while managing to suggest to fellow travellers/diners that you are in fact deep in a weighty tome and Must Not Be Disturbed.