London calling

June 28, 2008

Hello to you all from a warm and sunny London where I’ve been tearing around like a bit of a maniac, trying to do too many things in too short a time. What do you mean, what’s new? OK, OK, I agree this is a somewhat habitual state of affairs, but I subscribe to my granny’s motto: ‘Don’t waste time looking at a hill – climb it!’ And actually, that’s one of the things I’ve been doing a lot of – ie, climbing – since I’m just back from two days up in unbelievably hilly Durham (very far north, quite near Newcastle) where Greenhouse Son #1’s graduation took place. A quick geography/history lesson – Durham is one of the most beautiful cities in England and a World Heritage Site, due to its fabulous and vast cathedral which is said to the be finest example of Norman architecture in Europe. Undisputed, in my opinion, not least due to its extraordinary position, looming over the city from the top of its lofty hill. Picture the scene: hundreds of graduates, clad in black robes trimmed with white fur and lilac or pink silk, stream in procession across the cathedral close (the area around the cathedral and its neighbouring castle), accompanied by senior faculty staff and chancellor Bill Bryson (yes, really! GHS #1 shook his hand!)) in their brilliantly coloured scarlet, blue, gold robes and tasselled hats, against a vast, monolithic backdrop of the most ancient, dark stone. Up here it is exposed, windy and grey, and centuries and centuries of history imbue this scene with an extra shot of significance and emotion.
But the committed literary agent never quite escapes her calling, and the trip has also held more bookish excitements: meeting up with my UK-based authors Harriet Goodwin and Sarwat Chadda and their prospective publishers. It was especially lovely to be able to join Sarwat for the annual Puffin party, held at the Tate Modern gallery – a really enjoyable gathering of Puffin’s authors, illustrators and staff in this incomparable venue looking out of vast windows on to the dazzling lights of the Thames and over to the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. It was really good to be able to meet up with so many agent and editor friends, as well as many other movers and shakers in the British publishing industry.

Then it was up early again and into the Greenhouse’s London office base to meet up with colleagues and more prospective authors – and to do a telephone interview with Caroline Horn of The Bookseller magazine (the most influential UK trade journal; you might call it the UK equivalent of Publishers Weekly). It’s really exciting to see the interest there is here in the Greenhouse – and the awareness of what has been acheived in the business in such a short time.

It’s amazing how easily one can keep in touch transatlantically these days – seeing emails as soon as they arrive, via the Blackberry; accessing voicemail. Although I am trying to take at least a few days’ vacation, I’m never out of touch should anything important come up. I’ve read a few submissions on my Kindle while away, but if you have just sent something in, please do give me a little longer to respond. I’m sure you all have families and home lives too – and sometimes, just occasionally, I have to give those people and parts of my life a little time.

Hope you’re enjoying summer, wherever you are, and managing to get a little time in (or possibly out of, depending on where you live) the sun. Up in Durham it is still light at 9.30pm and the sun is coming up around 4am. Now ain’t that somethin’!

Cheers, folks. I’ll toast your good health with a nice English cuppa!