Ok, we've looked at the spoils I bought - but those were not the only books I dragged home on the train, because there were some lovely books handed out to us at the Bloomsbury event - more anon. (I'm afraid uploading photos broke halfway through writing this, hence lack of pictures.)
There are quite a few publishers who have been in touch with me over the years, and although review copies do not flow at the rate they once did - a combination of (for the world) the recession and (for my blog) a focus away from modern literature - I am very lucky to know some incredibly lovely people at these companies. And two publishers (Bloomsbury and Sceptre, since you ask) tie for being the very most lovely. Bloomsbury might just inch ahead, because although they don't have access to Debo Devonshire (I did once inform Nikki Barrow at Sceptre that I'd be very willing to put up the Duchess on my sofa, if she were ever visiting Oxford) Bloomsbury's Alice does exchange tales of baking disasters with me. In my world, that's lovely.
So I was delighted when Alice got in touch and asked me if I'd like to attend a Tea Party with various other bloggers, some authors, and the various members of staff at Bloomsbury. One quick reshuffle of my work days, and I RSVPed an eager 'yes!'
It was lovely to see some of my favourite bloggers again - amongst those I'd met before were Elaine, Karen, Kim, Jackie, Lynne, and Marcia/Lizzy Siddal. New to me were Victoria/Litlove and Jane. I think that's everyone, apologies if not! It was especially wonderful to finally meet Victoria, after years of reading her blog - we didn't get to chat for that long, but she was just as great as I'd anticipated. I barely spoke to Jane at the Tea, but we had a very animated chat whilst we waited for the post-tea event... more on that later!
It's always difficult (I assume) to organise these events - how do you make sure the authors get to see everyone? How do you make it friendly and still get information across? How the heck do you stop bloggers gabbing away to one another all night? Well, Bloomsbury did it marvellously. We had plenty of time to mingle and natter, meeting many Bloomsbury folks (indeed, re-meeting quite a few, whom I'd met at the launch for Kisses On A Postcard 2.5 years ago) and I especially enjoyed chatting with Katie Bond from the publicity department. Katie had somehow found out my outrageous (but sadly true) statement that I have to be heartily persuaded to leave my comfort zone and read anything post-1950 - and she teased me about it, especially when she caught me leaving the party with an armful of books.
Those books being: William Boyd's Waiting for Sunrise, A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson, A Card from Angela Carter by Susannah Clapp, and The Forrests by Emily Perkins.
Boyd popped in briefly to sign copies and have a chat, in a maelstrom of visiting dozens of bookshops across London. Joinson gave a lovely talk about her book, which made me desperately want to read it - actually I was most pleased by her discussion of her blog and what it's like when you meet someone who has read it. I naively don't think about any of the non-commenters who read my blog (although statistics tell me they make up about 95% of my readership) and I'm always surprised when people in Real Life turn out to be lurkers.
Alexandra Pringle, the doyenne of Bloomsbury, gave a wonderfully impassioned talk on behalf of several Bloomsbury titles, and the new venture Bloomsbury Circus - and it was eight words from her which made me desperate to get my hands on The Forrests by Emily Perkins: "It reminds me of Virginia Woolf's The Waves." As Jackie pointed out, this statement could have the opposite effect - but it certainly did wonders for my keenness to read the novel. It's out 24th May, but I snaffled away a copy... you'll be hearing more about that soon, and probably not just from me.
The fun and games couldn't last forever, sadly, and all too soon bloggers were donning coats, grabbing an extra book on the way to the door, and heading on their separate ways... except for three of us, that is, as Jane, Lynne, and I stayed behind to hear Susannah Clapp talk about Angela Carter (and A Card From Angela Carter) with Sir Christopher Frayling. We were very lucky to get places, as it was sold out very early, and even lovely Alice couldn't get in. I found it fascinating - not only the speakers, but more or less everyone in the room seemed to have known Angela, and had their anecdotes to share. Carter is an author I am keen to explore, and this talk made me ten times keener.
All in all, a lovely day - thanks Bloomsbury!