Given my inability to recite a single line of Paradise Lost, I doubt they’d let me anywhere near their English department, but I do love the literary festival. Probably because I’ve had some of my best audiences there — must be something in the drinking water. And this year will be better than ever because I’m appearing with Mal Peet (who always makes me laugh till I have to lock myself in a dark room) and we’re doing our bit without a moderator, so it will inevitably be chaotic and messy and horribly indiscreet.
There’s something about a moderator that makes an event easier (“so tell me about your typical writing day…”) but in a characteristic display of hubris, we’re going it alone. Alone, together, that is. It’s kind of an experiment, based on the fact that we’re both far too selfish to wait while the other one gets asked an interesting question. This way, we can arm wrestle (or perhaps happy slap each other) for centre stage. I’m already trying to think up questions to embarrass him.
Mal and I talk on the phone sometimes, nearly always to complain about how little work we’ve done that day, and he inevitably gets round to asking me if it’s too early to crack open the wine (I’m very strict on this subject, and practically never start drinking before breakfast). I like to tell him about all the fun things going on in London — all night parties, raves, exclusive art openings, etc. — just to make him feel bad about living near Exeter with all that peace and quiet. Though needless to say, I haven’t been to a rave since….um….ever.
I’ve just checked online to get you the listing, and have noticed that people who bought tickets to see Mal and me have also bought tickets to see Cressida Cowell, John le Carre, and Martin Amis. What are they thinking, these people? Perhaps they’re all suffering from split personalities.
Here’s what’s happening:
Event 922 TEENEDGE FICTION 12+ (noon Sun 28 March) What does it mean to write for Young Adults? Carnegie-Medal winners Meg Rosoff (whose latest acclaimed novel is The Bride’s Farewell) and Mal Peet (winner of this year’s Guardian Children’s Fiction award for Exposure) chip away at the limits of teenage fiction, and avoid its comfort zones. The novels they write find enthusiastic readers of all ages. They discuss edginess and the risks they take, not only with subject matter but also with style and emotional complexity. And (because that’s the kind of people they are) they will also make you laugh.
This year’s Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival runs from March 20-28. To book tickets, go to www.oxfordliteraryfestival.com, or phone 0870 343 1001.