The People’s Book Prize – as it happened

I planned to write this as soon as I returned home from London, but what ever goes to plan here? 🙂 Instead I worked my way through the 127 emails and dozens of Facebook comments that had accumulated in the one and a half days I was without Internet access.

And by the time I’d done that and sorted out the washing etc. etc. etc. and had a busy week, it had slipped from top of the list to way, way down. But now it’s a peaceful Sunday morning and TOH is out for the day, so here goes.

Firstly all the panic about possible flight delays or cancellations proved to be a waste of time and panic. Everything ran on time, and I reached my accommodation at 9.00 pm on a warm dry summer evening.

Next day started off with blinding sunshine, which by 11.00 am had given way to lashing rain, which persisted throughout the afternoon.

Dressed in my finery and sandals, and wielding an umbrella, I travelled with Stephanie to the venue at Stationer’s Hall. We were only slightly soggy when we met up with the rest of the Blackbird Digital Books contingent – intern Rosalie Love and authors Tanya Bullock (gosh, she is so tall and slim, gorgeous) and Diane Chandler with her husband Nick, and made our way into the splendour of Stationer’s Hall.

Organiser Tatiana put all the finalists through their paces in a dress rehearsal of where we should be, when and how, and once we had all been photographed we moved on for drinkypoos and had the pleasure of meeting and chatting for several minutes to Frederick Forsyth.

Dinner was served. The starter was a pretty pastel green pea mousse, decorated with a Parmesan wafer. Yummy. Main course was cod for the carnivores, but most people on our table were served the vegetarian option, a tasty pastry filled with spinach and mushrooms and served with crushed potatoes, followed by an excellent deconstructed lemon meringue pie.

Then we got down to business, beginning with the Beryl Bainbridge award for the best first time author. This went to Quentin Letts for ‘The Speaker’s Wife’

Best Publisher award was taken by Percy Publishing.

Then it was time for the non-fiction finalists to mount the platform (amidst much giggling). The prize went to Rachel McGrath with her book ‘Finding the Rainbow,’ her account of her struggle to conceive. Winners took seats at the back of the platform, while the rest of us negotiated the steps back down to floor level and took our seats with a sigh of relief at not having to make a speech. 🙂

The prize for the Children’s Book went to lovely smiley Ellie Stoneley’s Milky Moments.

I can’t remember Frederick Forsyth’s speech word for word as he prepared to announce the winner of the Fiction prize, but it was something in the order of ‘now let’s move on to the winner of the BIG prize, Fiction. An interesting one, because I was talking to her earlier over there’ – he nodded his head towards the room where we had drinkypoos.  And that’s when I knew who the winner was. Incidentally, willowy Tanya, who was also a finalist in the fiction category with her beautiful book That Special Someone, is so tall that she could read the name of the winner over his shoulder. 😀

The People’s Book Prize for fiction went to Diane Chandler for ‘The Road to Donetsk’. YAY!!! Bravo Diane, I am so thrilled and delighted for you.

And bravo Blackbird Digital Books. For a small publisher to not only have three titles in the finals but to scoop the BIG prize too, that is special. Stephanie works unbelievably hard to promote her authors, and has built up a stable of the nicest and most  talented writers you could hope to find.

Dr Sarah Myhill picked up the final award for Best Achievement with her book ‘Sustainable Medicine’.

Winners 2015 (1).jpg

Winners of The People’s Book Prizes, 2016

To the people who stayed up for several hours waiting to see the ‘live broadcast by Sky News,’ although they were indeed filming the event, Theresa May’s accession to the Tory Throne took priority. It was rescheduled for showing on Friday, but was overshadowed by events in Turkey.

There was only one way to wrap up the evening, so we retired to a local hostelry and celebrated Diane’s win with a large bottle of MoĂ«t, courtesy of Diane and Nick. 🙂

As well as meeting Diane, Tanya and Rosalie for the first time, earlier in the day I met up with long-time Facebook mate the very lovely Jacqui Lofthouse, and newest Blackbird author Susie Lynes, whose first novel, Valentina, a psycho-thriller is raking in the 5-star reviews.

To all those people who voted for me, without you I would not have been a finalist and had such a blast, so thank you enormously. 🙂

Planes, trains and carriages

The car/caravan drama is behind us – thankfully it was NOT the alternator at fault, but a pulley that had broken. A friend spent all of Saturday locating and fitting a replacement – cost 40 euros. Hopefully the insurance will cough up for the damage to the caravan, but at least we and both vehicles are home almost in one piece.

So now that is out of the way, let’s move on to air travel.

My flight to London is booked for next Monday afternoon. However it is strike season in France, and the air traffic controllers are just one of the many public sectors protesting at France’s proposed labour reforms. They have already called strike action 13 times in the last 14 weeks. Yesterday RyanAir had to cancel 102 flights across Europe due to these strikes

If there was advance notice of a couple of days as to if and when strikes were going to occur, people could make arrangements to cope, but it can be late in the day before you find out. If my flight should be affected and I only found out on Monday morning, I would not be able to get to London in time.

After weighing up all the options, I’ve decided to abandon the flight, and instead take the ferry from Dieppe at 1.00 am on Monday morning, which will land – all being well, which we should never take for granted – at 5.30 am, leaving plenty of time to take a train to London and organise myself before the event on Tuesday.

carriagesI’m hoping to find a lift up to Dieppe, otherwise Terry will drive me there.

If you haven’t voted for me and would like to, there’s still time – but not much. Voting link.

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye!

PS  I don’t have a carriage, but not going to worry about that. 🙂