On Saturday 1st April, my sister and I went to see children’s author Jenny Nimmo talk about her books. The event was part of Cardiff Children’s Lit Fest, an annual festival where loads of authors come to the Welsh capital to give talks and workshops. I haven’t read any of Jenny Nimmo’s books, but my sister really likes her book The Snow Spider. And who am I to turn down a book event?! Tickets were only £4 and it was being held at the beautiful Cardiff Castle, so I couldn’t say no!
The morning of the event was kind of crazy. I wasn’t planning on getting up early (it was a Saturday, who gets up early on a Saturday if they don’t have to?!), but the postman knocked and gave us a huge parcel with my name on it. I was so confused – I wasn’t expecting anything. It turned out to be a collection of 5 books by Jenny Nimmo, and there was a note to say I’d won a competition. I didn’t even know I’d entered any competition, but I assume it was open to anyone who bought tickets for the event!
I completely forgot that I’d bought tickets, so I thought I’d check the date. It was a good job I did, because it started in 2 hours! Never in my life have I had a shower, got ready to go, travelled to the train station and got the 15-minute train to Cardiff in such a small space of time. It was such a crazy rush then when we got to Cardiff – we had 20 minutes to do a 15-minute walk across the city centre to get to the castle.
I’m always astounded by how amazing the castle is inside. You usually have to pay to go in, but we went in just with our event tickets. If you’re in Cardiff and fancy seeing somewhere amazing, go and see the castle! Here’s a quick look inside…
Jenny Nimmo’s talk was in what’s called the Undercroft, which is a beautiful stone room underneath the castle. There are amazing period features and lights all along the walls to create a great atmosphere. It’s the perfect place for an author talk – especially when Jenny talked about ghost stories she used to tell as a child! There were a couple of rows of seats laid out for the guests, and a big pile of beanbags and cushions in the middle for the kids. Jenny and the event’s host, BBC Wales’ Lucy Owen, sat in the front.
— Lucy Owen (@lucyowenwales) April 1, 2017
Jenny Nimmo talked about everything from childhood and her family, to where she gets her inspiration for her books. She talked a lot about her inspiration for The Snow Spider, which came from famous Welsh folklore called the Mabinogion. I loved listening to her stories about Wales and why she called Wales home, despite not being Welsh herself. Stories like hers make me proud to be from such a beautiful country!
When the time came for the kids to get involved, they asked some of the best questions! I was so impressed by how well-spoken and interested they were. They asked Jenny all about her inspiration, whether The Snow Spider was intended to be a trilogy, and which of her characters would be her best friend. One of the kids asked what she was like as a child, and she told a great story about how she became a storyteller. She went to a boarding school, and she would stay up late telling stories to the other girls in her dormitory. One time, the Matron came in and made her drag her mattress into a classroom as a punishment for talking late. Her childhood itself sounded like something from a book!
At the end of the talk, Jenny moved to a table where everyone could go and get their books signed. I took one of my books that I received that morning! Jenny was lovely and chatted to each person in turn. We asked her if she’s read anything by Diana Wynne Jones, author of Howl’s Moving Castle, and she said she’s one of her biggest inspirations. As huge fans of Howl, we were pleased to hear that!
The event had such a relaxed atmosphere, and I loved how involved all of the kids were. It turned into a lovely, sunny day too, which made it even better. It was such a manic rush in the morning, but it was worth it for a nice day out! (We also went to Shake Shack for lunch – they do my favourite ever hot dog. It’s amazing. And I tried strawberry and mint lemonade, which I loved!)
If you haven’t been to any books events like this, I’d definitely recommend seeing what’s local to you and going to a few. They’re usually pretty cheap, and it’s great fun to meet authors and hear their stories!
Have you been to any book events? Which authors have you met? Let’s chat!