Congratulations to Evie Wyld, whose novel, After the Fire a Still Small Voice just won the John Llewelyn Rhys Prize. Evie and I recently did a reading together at Goldsmiths, where we discovered that both our novels feature characters who get through life with the help of a lucky vegetable – what are the chances?

I visited a book group in Oxford a couple of weeks ago, which involved being bought dinner and talking to the members, who all work at the university. One is the grandaughter of Malcolm Saville, who wrote the Lone Pinebooks. I enjoyed reading them as a child (much better than Enid Blyton) but they were out of print by the time I had my own children, something that’s now being rectified. Malcolm Saville wrote around 70 books, keeping his day job in publishing going at the same time. This makes me feel small.

I had a great time and am beginning to understand those writers who seem to spend more time talking about writing than actually doing it; it’s a great deal easier, often involves wine, and sometimes even free dinners.

I also went down to Windsor to attend a Firestation Bookswap. These are monthly events organised by Scott Pack and novelist Marie Phillips and they involve two writers sitting on a sofa, drinking tea and eating cake while answering questions about anything but their books. Anyone who bakes and brings along some cake gets in free and everyone brings a book which they must pitch to the rest of the audience, with a view to swapping it for something they like better.

Being a generally disorganised person, I’d grabbed the first book that came to hand, which happened to be Penelope Lively’s The Photograph. Unfortunately, Scott decided to pitch it for me and noticed that it had been a free gift with a women’s magazine. I made things worse by saying that I’d bought it secondhand, as he then revealed to the audience that I’d paid 50p for it. Unsurprisngly, there was only one person prepared to take it off my hands, and she was offering a Readers’ Digest compilation of 4 books in 1, none of which appealed to me. I accepted it, but didn’t manage to pass it on, so I had to carry it back to London with me (it weighed considerably more than the slight paperback I’d brought with me) and donate it to the secondhand book stall at my son’s school fair.

If you live near Windsor, or are visiting, I’d recommend going along to a Bookswap event – but choose your book carefully, or you’ll be saddled with something in exchange that you’ll never read.

I’m in a state of denial about Christmas, despite the Christmas tree that looms beside me as I type. The washing machine is broken and I found a dead mouse in the box of Christmas decorations I retrieved from a cupboard, none of which puts me in the mood for entertaining. Walking around Waterstones in Bluewater at the weekend didn’t help, either; normally I’d be pleased that they had a copy of my book in stock, but seeing piles and piles of celebrity memoirs and Jamie Oliver cookbooks just made me feel grouchy. Still, it’s going to happen no matter what, so Merry Christmas everybody!

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