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legends! edinburgh book festival 2018

It's been eight years since I met Philip Reeve at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and we've made a lot of books since then! This year, we were thrilled to give readers a sneak peek at our Roly-Poly Flying Pony book that officially launches on 6 Sept, The Legend of Kevin. Wahey!!

Photo by Stuart Pyle, dress by Esther Marfo

But first things first: I started with a solo picture book event featuring The New Neighbours, and we all drew bunnies and designed a big animal tower block (not pictured here). The audience was one of the youngest I've ever spoken to at a stage event, but there was a very clued-in little girl named Ava in the front, and she really helped keep the banter going, we had a good time. (Ava, can you please come to all my events?)

Photo by Philip Reeve

When we were drawing bunnies, we decorated their pants with pictures of their favourite things, and these bunnies obviously love diggers and construction machinery. I think that's also a reference to a sea horse brushing its teeth, from when we were designing an aquatic apartment, and some worm digger drivers, from the flat populated by worms. (Click here for a guide to drawing your own bunny.)

My husband, Stuart, and Philip were both in the audience, which was very heartening. (And they were both easy to spot throughout the festival.)

The next day, Philip and I teamed up for our first-ever LEGEND OF KEVIN event. Since the Edinburgh Book Fest falls right at the end of summer, it's almost always where we do an event for a book that hasn't quite come out yet, so the audience gets us trying things for the first time. But it seemed to go well!

Photo by Stuart Pyle

We even came up with a new Roly-Poly Flying Pony song and got everyone to sing along. I don't have a video of us singing it, but far better, here's Scottish opera legend Nicky Spence belting out a line from the chorus:

Photo by Stuart Pyle

We all drew Roly-Poly Flying Ponies... oh look, illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba drew me! You can read about our event on Elizabeth's blog - thanks, Elizabeth!

Our fab editor Clare Whitston from Oxford University Press came along for our event - thanks, Clare! And I got to meet storyboard artist Sandra Russell, whom I'd known as @SandRussellArt on Twitter and who does beautiful drawings for our Virtual Studio Thursday #PortraitChallenge. Here are a few of them at the top of her Twitter profile:

You can join us at @StudioTeaBreak on Twitter, and find out more on my website - feel free to jump in with the drawing challenges, whatever your age or drawing ability! Here are a few more excellent Roly-Poly Flying Ponies from our event:

There's nothing that our Roly-Poly Flying Pony, Kevin, loves more than CUSTARD CREAMS. And one thoughtful family brought along a packet to share with him! (We may have sampled a few ourselves.) Thank you! We mean, uh, Kevin says thank you!

The day before, Stuart and I got to go to Philip's event, featuring the final book in his incredible Railhead trilogy, Station Zero. These books offer an amazing vision of a future with intergalactic, sentient trains. They're epic, with brilliantly creative world-building details, and bursts of humour that make it zing. I thought the audience might ask lots of questions about Philip's upcoming Peter Jackson film, Mortal Engines, but it was heartening to hear them really focus on the Railhead books and ask good questions about them. Don't miss these books! (Read Railhead first, then Black Light Express, then Station Zero.)

Here's Philip in the Authors' Yurt with his excellent host Tricia Adams, who interviewed him about the books. And in the bookshop for the post-event signing session, with a very long queue!

One of my festival highlights was getting to have dinner with local concept artist Ian McQue and meet his wife Tracy McQue, who's involved in designing some large-scale gardens. Ian's done decades of incredible concept art, but his brand-new Mortal Engines book with Philip Reeve, Night Flights, was the first time he'd tried his hand at book illustration, and the results are absolutely gorgeous.

The thing about being at the Edinburgh Festival is that you want to run around and see ALL the shows! There is SO MUCH going on in Edinburgh right now. With my own events, I didn't have a lot of time, but I managed to pop in to see Will Mabbitt's event for I Can Only Draw Worms. This picture book had made me laugh and I was very curious to find out who this Will Mabbitt person was!

And I was glad I did! Will has this amazing deadpan humour that holds the kids enthralled and the adults wiping their eyes with laughter. We drew worms, and then he got me on stage and drew a portrait of me (something I shall treasure and pin up on my studio wall to keep me humble). Thanks, Will! If you ever get the chance to see one of his events, kid or grownup, I highly recommend going along.

Big thanks to the technicians, stewards and everyone on the festival team who made everything run so smoothly and be so much fun! Here's Children & Education Programme Director Janet Smyth (looking on point in my hat), Festival Director Nick Barley, and Programme Logistics Officer Joely Badger.

Nick Barley's been answering a lot of questions about the Home Office's recent decision to deny visas to twelve writers and illustrators invited to speak at the festival, on the basis that most of them didn't have enough money in their bank accounts, and one that they had too much money. This, despite the fact that the festival would pay them and look after them during their visit, so they wouldn't actually need to have any money during their stay. And it's terribly rude, the government insisting they look at years of bank details, when the author guest is giving their time and expertise to enhance a Scottish cultural institution. I hope the government leaders are ashamed of themselves and don't try this again next year. We're putting Scotland through enough already with all this Brexit disaster they didn't vote to get.


...if I edited myself properly, that would be the end of my blog post, but I have to post a few more photos, just so I don't forget anything. Here are some of the fab people I bumped into in the Authors' Yurt and around the festival site, starting with Scottish writer-illustrator legend Vivian French:

Dave the Pigeon duo Sheena Dempsey and Swapna Haddow, and Chris Haughton:

Swapna with poet Joseph Coehlo and illustrator Fiona Lumbers:

Writer and sometimes-illustrator Sally Gardner:

Illustrator Jim Field with his event team Pippa Jenkins and Dom Kingston:

Fan-girling illustrator (and recently writer of Suffragette) David Roberts and Alexander McCall Smith:

Uzbek writer Hamid Ismailov (whom I'd actually had several dinners with at a book festival in Norway! He's lovely.)

Had a good chat with Frank Cottrell-Boyce and some of his family:

Philip with writer-illustrator Benji Davies:

Here's Darryl Cunningham with his girlfriend Bonnie Millard:

Darryl's book Graphic Science: Seven Journies of Discovery is featured in The Scotsman and you can read about it here:

With comics guru and festival presenter Joe Gordon:

I met for the first time writers Diana Evans and Geronimo Johnson (Geronimo Johnson is such a cool name!), and writer Liz McWhirter, with her debut novel Black Snow Falling.

Second photo tweeted by Liz McWhirter

And just before I left, I ran into fabulous comics creator and illustrator Tor Freeman, here with Janet Smyth. What a line-up!

Sadly, I didn't qualify for Chris Close photo portrait this year (no Hollywood film coming out this Christmas), but Sarah Reeve, Sam Reeve and I all did our best to copy the featured Serious Writer in hopes we might get picked next year, heh heh.


Sarah McIntyre

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