Contrary to what many people think, authors’ lives aren’t a constant whirl of launch parties and champagne lunches with publishers. Contact with the people who edit and produce our books is mostly by email, and the reality of an author’s life is mainly sitting alone in front of a computer, trying to put words into meaningful order.
So the arrival of my invitation to Usborne’s 40th Birthday Party caused great excitement, especially as the venue was the Orangery at Kensington Palace. The words “posh do” flew through my brain, rapidly followed by a question triggered by the dress code: “What’s a cocktail dress?” A quick email to Usborne provided the answer so I set off to the shops.
As always, I initially met with disappointment. Designers don’t understand women with big busts. They create a dress for a flat chested size 8 and then adapt it to size 18 by increasing all the dimensions, thus producing a dress for someone who is still flat chested but fat. Honestly, it’s only my bust that strains the material. I don’t need armholes suitable for an elephant, and I don’t want something that’s the same size all the way down. Watching Gok Wan has taught me I should be proud of having a waist so I wanted a dress that admitted that I’d got one.
I finally found what I wanted in a dress agency. Retro style with a halter neck, it fitted perfectly and made me feel good. With the addition of a pink bag and some sandals that looked reasonably smart, I was all set to go. So on Tuesday 11 June, I walked nervously down the extremely long drive to Kensington Palace.
The nervousness wasn’t due to the auspicious surroundings. It was caused by my tendency to turn up to events on the wrong day. Although I had checked the invitation countless times, I still had horrible memories of turning up for a party brandishing a bottle and a happy grin only to discover I was a week late.
Once I reached the Orangery, I relaxed. There were other women in posh frocks, several of whom were changing into high-heeled shoes too precarious for the previously mentioned long walk. I obviously was at the right place at the right time.
And then we were inside, being greeted warmly by friendly Usborne staff and served wine and nibbles by waiters dressed in trench coats, hats and false beards The reason for this became clear when Peter Usborne gave his entertaining speech about the history of Usborne and revealed that one of their first books was The KnowHow Book of Spycraft.
His speech wasn’t just funny – it was illuminating. The piece that resonated most with me was “My work is my hobby and my hobby is my work”. That’s so true of writers and explains why so many of use never retire.
The Orangery was packed with fascinating people I would never normally get the chance to meet, and it was particularly enjoyable to meet so many independent booksellers. Although we’re often told they are a dying breed, the ones I talked to were definitely alive, well and fantastically enthusiastic about books.
Huge thanks to Usborne for organising such a great event. I returned home, bouncy and enthusiastic and totally sure I had chosen the right career.
Usborne have published twenty of my books so far: 12 in the Pony-Mad Princess series and 8 in the Amy Wild – Animal Talker series. There’s another book in the pipeline – more news of that later.