If you're ever thinking of organising an event, here are my top twelve tips:
1) Press gang much cleverer people than you into helping organise it. *bows to Nikki Sheehan and Lisa Heathfield*
2) Finagle your local librarians into giving you space, and steal all their know-how on how to set everything up. *high-fives Lucy Castle, Vicky Tremain, Stephanie Coates et al*
3) If you're going to be on a panel, up on a stage, probably don't wear a short skirt. Ahem.
4) Don't forget illustrators! We were lucky enough to have new Children's Laureate Chris Riddell along for the ride, and having an illustrator sketching during our kids' panel definitely made the whole thing a lot more fun.
5) Speaking of our esteemed Laureate - a confession. I didn't ask Chris to come along because I felt sure he was out of our league. Nikki was braver than me, Chris said yes to her, and I'm not exaggerating when I say he made the event. Moral of the story: ask bigger names to attend. The worst they can do is say no, and they just might say yes!
6) Try not to have it on one of the hottest days of the year. If you do, perhaps don't wear leather trousers, Tatum.
7) There will be hitches. Try not to hyperventilate. Instead bring some extra volunteers along to fill in just in case people can't turn up last minute, or there's a sudden plague of locusts that needs dealing with.
8) Make time for an audience Q&A after the panels. Kids especially love to have the chance to ask questions, like 'What do you like to do when you're not reading or writing?' *Blank faces all round from authors*
9) Ask your friendly local bookshop to provide books for signings. Bring bookmarks or postcards too if you have them, so attendees who don't opt to buy books still have something to take away.
10) Bribe the moderators to sneak you some of their questions beforehand, so you can pretend to be articulate and witty off-the-cuff. *cough*
11) If you've never been on a panel and the thought of speaking to an audience from a stage terrifies you, I can heartily recommend being so distracted by organising the event you don't have time to worry about it.
12) And finally... Even if you're panicking more than Indiana Jones in a snake pit: try to relax and have fun! It'll be contagious.