The lovely Maggie Stiefvater
I know I've been a bit quiet on the blogosphere recently but I've spent 2 of the last 3 days in London attending some amazing events. I currently have over 600 blog posts in my google reader so it might take a few days to catch up but I'll be spending time reading blogs & commenting tomorrow :o) For now I want to tell you all about the first event - a signing & afternoon tea Maggie Stiefvater.
Saturday was such an amazing day that I hardly know where to start describing it to you - I got to spend time with some great friends and then got to meet the lovely Maggie Stiefvater & get my books signed. If that wasn't exciting enough Alyx one of the lovely publicist from Scholastic took us for afternoon tea with Maggie in what has to be one of the strangest restaurant come nightclubs in London but more about that later.
I met up with Lynsey (from Narratively Speaking) at Waterloo station at about 11:30am and we made our way to High Street Kensington on the underground to meet up with Caroline (from Portrait of a Woman). The 3 of us decided to check out Waterstone's to make sure we knew where we were going for the signing but of course we had to have a look at the books while we were there! I'm sure you can probably guess that we all ended up buying books - we all wanted extra copies of Shiver & Linger ready for the signing. When we finally dragged ourselves away from the books we decided to find somewhere for lunch. We ended up in a nice pub which I think was called The Britannia (I might have the name wrong through). After seeing the puddings we all decided on a small lunch to save room which I'm very glad about - Lynsey & I had a delicious banoffee pie & Caroline's chocolate pudding looked yummy!
Caroline with her chocolate pudding
Becky (The Bookette) unfortunately couldn't make it in time for lunch but she joined us soon afterwards to go to the signing. We were all very excited & happily chatted about books and life in general as we were stood outside of Kensington Waterstone's in the rain waiting for Maggie to arrive. Considering the event venue hadn't been announced until the middle of last week there was a good turn out for the signing but we were lucky not to be too far back in the queue. While we were waiting we met up with the lovely Kaz Mahoney (a young adult author who's debut novel The Iron Witch comes out next year - check out her website here)
Caroline, me, Lynsey & Becky waiting outside Waterstone's
All of our excitement levels increased when Maggie arrived and she was so lovely chatting to all of her fans. She took the time to speak to everyone and was happy to sign as many books as you could give her (a very good thing considering Lynsey had about 17 books with her LOL). It was so nice that she took her time to ask everyone questions and then pose for pictures. It meant that the queue was quite slow moving but I don't think anyone minded waiting and it was worth it for the time you got when you made it to the front. I have to say I wasn't very impressed that Waterstone's had set Maggie up on a table in the doorway - we didn't think that was a very nice way to treat a best selling author but Maggie took it with good grace and it didn't seem to upset her.
Me with Maggie
Here are some more of the pictures that I took at the signing - watch out for Maggie holding Lynsey's massive pile of books (she even got her Shiver bag signed!)
We were so incredibly lucky to have been invited out for afternoon tea with Maggie after the signing and I'd like to say a massive thank you to Alyx and all the staff from Scholastic for arranging this for us. I can not tell you how excited all of us were all day waiting for that to happen - it was like a dream come true and I never expected that I'd get opportunities like that when I first started blogging in January! After we'd had all of our books signed (I may just have got a couple of extras signed for a blog giveaway I'm planning!!) we were happy to hang around while Maggie finished signing books for other fans and the rest of the store's stock. Then Alyx arranged for a couple of taxis to take us all to the restaurant for tea.
Kaz & Lynsey
Me, Caroline & Becky
Can you tell how excited we were when we were on our way? I think Maggie might have been a little bit scared if she had heard our excited squealing! I'd never heard of Sketch before but I have to tell you it was the strangest restaurant / bar / nightclub that I've ever been inside & it was an experience I'll never forget! If you'd like to experience this for yourself you can check out their website here but you might want to read the rest of the post before booking a table - it isn't a place for the faint hearted LOL.
We waited outside until Alyx, Maggie & Kate (Maggie's sister) arrived & then went in to find a table. We did kind of get the impression it might be a bit strange inside by the statue of the faceless dog that is on the wall outside (picture below) but we had no idea. You walk into a pitch black corridor (it reminded me of my trip to the York Dungeons!) and they have some really cool light sculptures scattered around the hallway. There were lots of different rooms leading off of the hallway & I'd quite like to go back and explore around the place but I have to confess I'm a bit scared about what I might find. Our table wasn't ready when we arrived so they asked us if we would like to have a look around their exhibition while we waited. I'm not too sure what I was expecting but let me just say that I couldn't have imagined what we were about to experience in my worst nightmares!i
The faceless dog statue outside Sketch
We were taken into a large white room filled with white leather sofas, it would have been quite nice in there I'm sure - apart from the fact that it was so dark and creepy. None of us knew quite what we were supposed to do so we were just standing there in the middle of the room chatting. We all agreed that it felt like the set of a horror movie and we were expecting some kind of monster to jump out at us at any second. I'm not sure if I was expecting werewolves or aliens to beam us up!
We'd been waiting a while when suddenly they started projecting images onto the walls. To start with the pictures were fairly mild - odd, surreal & enough to bring on an epileptic fit but relatively harmless - but the longer we stood there the stranger it got. By the end of the display the images were distinctly pornographic - abstract perhaps but definitely pornographic - especially when accompanied to the sounds of whispering, groaning and men's voices not quite loud enough for you to figure out what they were saying! Can you picture the scene? You have 2 YA authors, 4 book bloggers (mainly YA ones!), a publicist and Maggie's younger sister and we were all just standing there with our mouths hanging open in shock gawking at the pictures and shooting horrified looks at each other! I wish someone had taken a picture of us all as I'm sure it would be priceless.
When they collected us to go to our table I think it's fair to say that we were all a little shell shocked but you haven't heard anything yet. The restaurant itself was quite pretty - the walls were red at the top and faded down to white at the bottom, the tables were nicely decorated and surrounded by sofas and comfy chairs. If you ignored the strange patterns on the walls that looked like glittery blood splatters, the rotating mirrors that surrounded the ceiling and the red laser beams that moved around the room floating across people's faces & chests you could be forgiven for thinking you'd been taken to a normal restaurant. I have to confess it was quite disconcerting being skewered by lasers as you sat eating - I don't think I'd have been shocked if someone had actually started shooting at us (I'm not sure if that says more about my state of mind or the general strangeness of the place!).
The food was lovely we all had a delicious cream tea with scones, elderberry jam and cream. This was served with earl grey tea but as one of the few English people who doesn't like tea I had a coffee. Maggie was absolutely fantastic - she is so friendly and funny and was just the same as I had imagined her from reading her tweets and blog posts. We all had a brilliant time chatting and laughing away but although Maggie did mention that she is currently writing a stand alone young adult paranormal story we didn't manage to get any spoilers about Forever out of her. Well actually she did tell us the last line of Forever "... and they all die, The End" but I think that she was joking :o)
The strangeness of the evening kicked off when we had to go to the toilet. I honestly have no idea why it didn't occur to me that a place like Sketch wouldn't have normal toilets - I think I was lulled into a false sense of security by the restaurant. I should have started to worry when we had to go through the exhibition room to get to the bathroom but again my internal warning system wasn't working properly and I merrily walked along with Maggie & Lynsey with no idea of the horror to come. I'm not sure I can find the right words to describe it - I don't think I'd believe it myself now if I didn't have pictures to prove it!
You reached the end of a corridor and in front of you was an igloo shaped room with a domed roof and stairs winding up around each side of it to the next floor. I'm not quite sure what was inside the igloo but I think it might have been another bar area (or possibly the mother ship's control room!). We had been directed up the stairs but when we reached the top we all just stopped and stared around the room in amazement. Everywhere you looked all you could see were these strange tall egg shaped white pods... yes you guessed it - each one of them contained a toilet!! At this point I was pretty convinced that I was about to be abducted by aliens or that someone had slipped something in my drink & I'd imagined the whole evening but as you can see from the picture below that was just wishful thinking. When we'd plucked up the courage to use the toilets (and promised each other that we wouldn't leave anyone behind - we weren't going to make it easy for the alien's to abduct us!) the experience got even stranger. After you'd locked yourself inside the pod (which was lit up in pink and made me feel like I was a chick embryo inside an egg waiting to break free!) and sat down the background noises started. My pod played the sound of cows mooing, sheep baaing, and chicks cheeping which I found odd enough but others reported the sounds of underground trains, cathedral bells and poor Alyx swore that her pod actually laughed at her so I guess I was quite lucky!!
Toilet pods!! (The dome at the bottom of the picture is the roof of the igloo room)
Yes we really did have to pee in one of these!
I think Maggie was a little shocked by the toilet pods!
Maggie brought some American postcards on tour with her and she has been writing them out for strangers and leaving them in random places. Of course she couldn't resist writing one to leave in a toilet pod - I wonder what the person who found it thought? It was probably the most unsurprising thing in the bathroom! I didn't take many pictures at Sketch but here is a slide show of the ones I did take.
After we'd finished the meal and had revisited the bathroom (come on, could you resist a second look at toilets like that?) we posed for a group picture in the main corridor. I know I've made a lot of fun at the expense of Sketch but it really was an amazing place to visit & I'd recommend going there just to experience it for yourselves. I'd like to say a massive thank you to Alyx for taking us there - even if she didn't have a clue what she was getting us into when she booked it :o)
Becky, Lynsey, Maggie, Kaz, me & Caroline
We all went off to hunt for the nearest tube station and as we were walking along we spotted this "Feel like wolf" poster outside one of the shops. Maggie couldn't resist posing for a couple of pictures - quite an appropriate way to end the day!
I would like to say a massive thank you to Maggie and her sister for taking the time to chat with us bloggers - I hope we didn't come across too fan girlish and scare you! It was so lovely to get the chance to meet you and I'm already looking forward to coming to see you at another signing when you're back in the UK touring next. I'd also like to give a huge thank you to Alyx and all of the staff from Scholastic for arranging the blogger event for us. We all had such an amazing time and I don't think I can possibly thank you enough for it.
Who was there:
Kate (Maggie's sister)
Alyx - Scholastic
Kaz - Karen Mahoney
Lynsey - Narratively Speaking
Caroline - Portrait of a Woman
Becky - The Bookette