Thursday, July 23, 2009

Exciting news

As of this morning (Wednesday) we can confirm that we have Griff Rhys Jones coming on August 13th to talk about his new book and television series "Rivers". This is obviously jolly exciting. Mr Rhys Jones is very famous, so much so that he's even on the cover of the Radio Times next week. As far as my Mum is concerned, it doesn't get much bigger than that. (In addition, and with a bit of luck, he'll have forgotten the incident three years ago when I accosted him in Stansted airport asking him if he'd like to do an event before we'd even opened) Of course, we now have a little over three weeks to sell tickets to the event. But we like a challenge. And we've booked a nice big venue in the centre of Abingdon (the Guildhall) for Griff. It's close to the bookshop - and not too far from the river. It should be a fantastic event - Griff is a highly entertaining speaker, and I have to say the book is gorgeous. Also, Griff has a bit of 'previous' with Abingdon, having visited St Helen's church during filming of "Three Men & A Boat" - so it will nice to welcome him back. Tickets are £5 - and you can redeem the whole lot against a purchase of the book on the night. How exciting is that? Tickets available from Mostly Books - more details on the event, and how to book, here. P.S. Nicki and I are off up to Harrogate tomorrow - for four whole days - to visit the Theakstons crime fiction festival. Sounds like a busman's holiday, but it is an event we've wanted to visit for some time. Expect some piccies and a blog entry at some point...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Small Is Beautiful: the Oxford Writer's Group

You might be forgiven for thinking that with all our 'big' events we've been doing of late, we might have got a bit too big for our boots (or at least the shop) when it comes to events, but (hopefully) that's not the case. In fact, it was a real treat - now that the miriad of cardboard boxes containing event books have largely disappeared - to shift the old tables around, crack open a few bottles of wine, and host a nice, intimate event in the shop again. On Thursday night, we held a Mostly Booklovers event with the Oxford Writers' Group, a remarkable group of novelists, poets, performers and writers - both published and unpublished - who are the driving force behind two very successful anthologies of short stories: The Sixpenny Debt, and The Lost College. We've wanted to do a writers evening for a long time, and - with OWG member Mary Cavanagh a good friend of the shop, and a member of the Mostly Booklovers herself, we asked her to arrange the evening - which she duly did, inviting fellow members down to the shop and helping us structure the evening. We took the opportunity to invite members of other writing groups along as well, and were delighted to welcome members of the White Horse Scribblers, as well as Robin and Birte of the Turl Street Writers (who have together recently published their own very successful anthology Turl Street Tales). With so many other writers, would-be authors and book-lovers together in such a small venue, there was plenty of networking going on - with one very important outcome (more on that below). The evening format was ostensibly a roundtable discussion on the challenges and opportunities of writing in and around Oxford. We'd dubbed the event "In the Footsteps of Pullman and Tolkien" but once questions started coming in from the audience, the discussion went off in a number of fascinating directions, ranging from the importance of writers' groups generally, essential editing tips, the Oxford Literary Festival and top tips on staging events. It was standing room only - literally. I'd miscalculated on the number of chairs, forgetting that we had nine writers to seat for starters, so even pressing the counter stools into service we were still several short. Apologies to the late arrivers, and thanks to those who nobly gave up their seats when we played musical chairs after half an hour... The OWG are - from left to right: Mary Cavanagh (author of The Crowded Bed and A Man Like Any Other), the redoubtable Radmila May (the editing supremo behind The Sixpenny Debt), Ekaterinburg author Helen Rappaport (who we did a wonderful garden event with almost exactly a year ago), journalist and writer Sylvia Vetta, Proper Family Christmas author Jane Gordon-Cumming, Angela Cecil-Reid, Margaret Pelling, Laura King (aka The Poet Laura-eate) and finally Gina Claye, author of Don't Let Them Tell You How To Grieve (and for a wonderful review of that book, read Dovegreyreader's thoughts here). A very diverse group of writers, but the support they provide each other, and the obvious fun they have in their various endeavours was a massive advert for joining a writers group - or starting one yourself. And several of the audience did just that. As a result of the event on Thursday, I'm proud to be the first person to announce the creation of the (as yet working-titled) Abingdon Writers' Group. Anyone reading this who lives in or around Abingdon, and would like to join - please get in touch and I will pass your name on to the founding members. It's all jolly exciting - and for anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time, you'll know that this is the kind of thing that we love getting involved in - and makes all the incredibly hard work of running our little shop worthwhile. We have a number of extremely talented writers and authors who live in Abingdon, who it's been a privilege to have gotten to know since opening the shop, and this is the first step on a very exciting journey to something big.
Thanks to Mary - and the members of the OWG - for an energising and buzzy evening, and as the lady said "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
P.S. This coming Monday (July 13, 7.30pm) we will be welcoming well-known local food writer and enthusiast of all things country pub + dog, Helen Peacocke, as she talks about her book Paws Under The Table, a collection of 40 dog-friendly pub walks around Oxfordshire...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Event videos

We had a fab new writers event last night with the Oxford Writers' Group - so whilst I busily write up that event (and there's a lot to cram in) I thought you might enjoy some videos from some of our events in June (what a long time ago that now seems...). Firstly, Chris Bradford has released an 'official' launch video from the Amazing Books for Boys launch event for Way of the Warrior. Splendid stuff: And whilst you are recovering from that, here's some (slightly) more sedate few videos from the Children's Food Festival. Firt up is Alex Mackay, one of the undoubted stars of the weekend - he is an incredibly passionate, larger-than-life New Zealander who has made his home in Oxfordshire, and who has this amazing rapport with kids. He set up the Raymond Blanc Cookery School, but that's only the start of his talents - find out more here. Here he is getting the kids all fired up about dough - and it's a shame I didn't get any footage of the huge queue of children holding the world's longest piece of pasta... On the Sunday, it was a great privilege to finally meet "the teenage chef" Sam Stern - we have been huge fans of Sam in the shop since we opened, we've recommended his books to loads of kids - and some of them came on Sunday, bringing their sauce-flecked copies for signing. Although (now 18) he'll lose his 'teenage' moniker shortly, it was a real pleasure to meet Sam and have him signing in the tent. Here - with a willing assistant - he prepares some homemade burgers: And finally, I didn't manage to get any footage of Sophie Grigson whilst demonstrating on either of the two days, but she's an fantastic performer and like Alex she really gets children excited about cooking (it's perhaps no coincidence that both these chefs are heavily involved with the Kids' Cookery School in Acton). Here she is giving some sage advice on the importance of children learning to cook with - and respect - sharp knives in the kitchen (under close supervision of course): Signed copies from Sam, Sophie and Alex in the shop... This Monday (July 13) we welcome Helen Peacocke in the shop, talking about her new book "Paws Under the Table", a guide to dog-friendly pup walks in Oxfordshire. Helen is a well-known local writer, and she is passionate about dogs, walking - but also about 'using or losing' our wonderful country available in the shop or email us to reserve a place...