A Really, Really Big Event: Five Questions with Anne-Marie Conway and the Oxfordshire Book Awards 2013

The Oxfordshire Book Awards is one of the highlights of our year - in terms of the sheer exhuberance of everyone that attends, there really isn't another event like it. It's a fantastic mash-up of authors and illustrators, readers and book lovers - and there's a whole heap of passion and excitement in the air...

So what exactly are the key elements make it such a success?

How about authors signing and meeting children? Check.
Richard Byrne

Opportunities for photographs with favourite authors? Check.

The winning books made out of cake? Check, check, check...
Crack bookselling team and extremely long book stall? Defo check.

All you need now is to let loose approximately 360 children and a critical number of librarians in the hall, and the result is intense, frantic - and rather wonderful.

This year's winners included Richard Byrne for The Really, Really Big Dinosaur. We'd obviously sold out of that book early on in proceedings (ug), but here he poses with his latest book The Great Moon Confusion. Given my love of space-themed books, this is already a favourite (I mean, the racoon is called Aldrin...how cool is that?)
There were special guests as well - Piers Ibbotson, son of the late Eva Ibbotson, talked about his mother's last book 'The Abominables' (published posthumously), and there was also a guest appearances by author Jo Cotterill.
Jo Cotterill
As well as 'Wonder' by RJ Palacio, the other winner was the brilliant Anne-Marie Conway, with her story of relationships and secrets set in a tiny English village, Butterfly Summer.

In between mouthfuls of cake, we asked a Anne-Marie a few questions about how she writes...

Five Questions with...Anne Marie Conway's Writing Life

1.    What are you working on at the moment?

It's a book called 'Purple Ribbon' due on next May. It's almost finished!

2.    What is the best writing tip you’ve ever been given?

Never send your work our early, by which I mean - when it isn't the best it can be. I know you need to set deadlines, but you sometimes only get one chance to impress a publisher or agent, and it needs to be the very best it can be.

3.    What’s the best thing and the worst thing about being a children’s writer?

I get very nervous about public speaking, so speaking to a large group isn't something I enjoy. I much prefer, at events like this, to talk individually to children. And that's the best thing about being a child's writer - talking one-to-one with children who've read and enjoyed your book!

4.    Do you have a writer’s survival kit, eg a place, thing of snack essential before you can start work?

I have a collection of stones from Brighton Beach which are on my desk. Sometimes I write the names of characters on them in pencil - but then rub them off! I hope that doesn't sound too weird...

5.    What was your biggest breakthrough?

I was shortlisted for the Times / Chicken House award. Up until then I really hadn't had a great deal of success, but afterwards publishers started asking me for my work.

(Thanks so much to the organisers for our invitation, and to sterling support from Julia, Sally and Jo on the bookstall. I promise I'll get some cake for you soon. For some other takes on the award ceremony, see Jo Cotterill's write-up here, and OUP also covered the event here)

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