Photo tweeted by @LauraLoo0405
It's surprisingly easy to get to the Isle of Wight from where we live in London, just a train to Southampton...
...and then a hop across on one of these Red Funnel ferries to Cowes.
As soon as we got to Newport, that Stuart Pyle felt at home right away:
And we had a little late-afternoon wander over to Carisbrooke Castle where, even when it's closed, you can walk all the way around its impressive walls.
My first Grumpycorn event was to a packed-out audience, and I was thrilled how well everyone did at drawing their own Grumpycorn-inspired book covers. I hope they go away and turn their pictures into stories! (If you'd like some more Grumpycorn drawing tutorials, I have a bunch of them here on my website.)
Here's a Pizzacorn cover by Rainbow Flair's best buddy:
I also got to pop in and see writer-illustrator-designer Nick Sharratt doing his You Choose in Space event. I'm a big fan of the highly interactive You Choose series by Nick and Pippa Goodhart; they're great if you want to want to get a child talking with you because it lets them decide every aspect of what they'd take along on an adventure, almost like shopping through a story catalogue.
One of my favourite things was seeing how this young boy took in everything he'd seen and created his own mashup Unicorn book: 'You choose in space... a unicorn!' He even went on to add more story by the time I left. Great work!
And other authors came along to our events! Here's local children's book writer and illustrator Peta Rainford:
Peta had done her own mask-making workshop the day before, using paper plates, which came out very well:
One of the things I loved about the festival was the chance to mix with the other guests and festival team after-hours. Here's Nick Sharratt at dinner, looking strikingly good against the wallpaper at the lovely place we were staying, One Holyrood Hotel.
Here's festival Patron Nicholas Allan (creator of The Queen's Knickers) with fellow children's book writer and illustrator Korky Paul, well known for his Winnie the Witch books.
Great catching up with Korky and also meeting his artist wife, Susan Moxley. Check out her prints, paintings and more on her website, she's done amazing work.
Nicholas Allan has been using Procreate on his iPad a lot recently, so Korky had a go at it. (He says he still prefers mucking about with real paint.)
If you follow my blog, you may have seen my recent visit to the Dartmoor home and workspace of David Wyatt, who illustrates the Podkin One-Ear books. (Here's his tweet from this morning.)
But I'd never met the writer of the books, Kieran Larwood, so it was great to put that to rights!
Here's Jess from Medina Books who stocked and facilitated my two book signings, for Grumpycorn and The Legend of Kevin, my second event featuring my books with my co-author Philip Reeve. (Here's a link to the second book, Kevin's Great Escape, which Medina Books are happy to order for you.) Thanks for all your help, Jess!
Huge thanks to everyone on the team who made this great Story Festival happen! Here are my two main contact people, local children's book writer-illustrator Jules Marriner and festival head Elspeth Giddens.
We had a great treat in getting to stay an extra night, so we could spend the following day sightseeing. (And it was Stuart's birthday, a great way to spend it!) We caught a bus to Osborne House, one of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's favourite palace residences, where they loved to bring their family to relax and play and garden in the countryside. It's a great day out, it was even better than I was expecting, and I loved the TREES! Check out this cork oak, the bark has such ornate detailing to it.
The grounds are a living museum of trees, they're absolutely gorgeous.
And that ornate quality in the cork oak, that was echoed in the intricately carved cielings and decorations of the Durbar Room, inspired by the palaces of India. There were a lot of fine portraits on the walls, many by Austrian painter Rudolph Swoboda, and I expect many of those will inspire future portrait challenges for @StudioTeaBreak on Twitter.
I took about a zillion photos, but I'll finish with this one of the Swiss Cottage on the grounds of the huge estate. This is where Victoria and Albert took their children away from the palace for a more pastoral way of life, where they do their schooling, play with miniature cannons and trenches, and learn how to farm their own garden plots. They even had a thatched shed full little wooden wheelbarrows, each one monogrammed for its own child.
If you get a chance to visit the Isle of Wight, I'd definitely recommend a visit to Osborne House! We were also hoping to go to the nearby Quarr Abbey, but there was so much to see at Osborne that we'll have to leave the abbey for next time. Again, big thanks to the festival team: Elspeth, Jules, Peta, storyteller Susan Bailey, Eden, Debbie Webb, Fran, Alex, @TheSacredIsle, Karen at Holyrood House, and everyone else who helped and made the visit so much fun! You can follow the festival on Twitter - @iwstoryfestival - and on Instagram, also @iwstoryfestival.