On Saturday, weeks of planning, excitement and panicking came to fruition, as Brighton Rocks Books took over the fantastic Jubilee Library in Brighton for the day. I had never even been on a panel before, let alone helped organise an event involving 14 authors, 3 panels, 2 workshops and 1 children's laureate, so to say I was nervous was an understatement. It's possible I changed my outfit 33 times before leaving the house and still ended up with odd socks. BUT... it went absolutely brilliantly, and I can't thank everyone involved enough.
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.
Once more, a massive thank you to all the kids, teens and adults who came along to watch panels or take part in workshops when it was perfect beach weather; to all the authors who gave their time for free: Chris Riddell, Julia Lee, Jess Vallance, Jenny McLachlan, Jane McLoughlin, Jon Walter, Nicky Singer, AF Harrold, Cameron McAllister, Sarah Sky and Eve Ainsworth; to the wonderful librarians who helped make the event such a success, and also gave us CAKES; to our helpers, Vashti Hardy and Lindsay Moakes, and 11yo videographer Harvey; to the Book Nook for providing books; to the brilliant moderators Viv DaCosta and Ellis Rossiter; to Charlotte Ellis for doing fabulous PR for us; and to any one else I've forgotten. You were all stars.