Saturday, 5 March 2011

My Complementary World Book Night Giveaway-on-a-Train (& a Brief Encounter)

So what's a complementary World Book Night?  Well, it all started with the ineffably Crabbit Nicola Morgan, who made the very fair point that giving away a million free books wasn't necessarily the best thing for struggling independent booksellers, and that perhaps there was Another Way which might address that.  You may have caught her saying so at the end of Newsnight on Thursday.  As an alternative, she suggested a simple but brilliant idea, namely that people could sign up to the idea of buying just one book, write in it "Given in the spirit of World Book Night and bought from ___ .  Please enjoy and tell people about it." And give it away. You can read her original post HERE.

Well, I wasn't going to be able to take part in the 'real' World Book Night, and I liked Nicola's idea very much. So I signed up. 

On Thursday I went to my local independent bookshop, the wonderful Old Hall Bookshop in Brackley, Northamptonshire.  You can see from the picture what a pleasure it is to shop in this lovely building with its well-stocked shelves and its airy friendly book-smelling atmosphere.  I scurried around, sniffing out favourite books that I'd read and loved.  I wanted to give mainly to teenagers, so I chose those sorts of books. Here are the two I picked....

The third book I decided to give away (for a slightly younger age) was one of my own.  It was a strange experience, buying my own book in a bookshop, but I was so grateful that they stocked it!

So what next?  Go and chat to lovely booksellers Christine and Carey, of course.  They were very happy to hear what I was doing.  Here they are behind the desk with my purchases.

Carey Percival and Christine Bridger of The Old Hall Bookshop

 Now, cut to King's Cross Station on Saturday morning.  I got lost.  Here's where I ended up.  I felt it was a Good Omen...

I scanned the passengers boarding the Edinburgh-bound train minutely.  Who would it be? How would I know? How would they respond to a complete stranger shoving a free book at them?  I decided to have a sit down and a cuppa and let everyone settle in their seats.  Then, as the train reached Yorkshire, I picked up my brown paper bag and made my way up through the whole swaying, rattling train from one end to the other.  I was nervous, I'll admit.  It was such a strange thing to be doing--but I was excited too.  There were lots of teenagers.  Most of them were asleep.  This was not promising.  Wake a sleeping teen at your peril is my experience. I worked my way down again.  Ah, here was an awake one.  I made my offer.

"Er, no thanks.  I've already got a book."  Not a promising start. I was downcast.  Perhaps this wouldn't work.  Then I spotted a blonde boy chatting to his mum and dad.  Did he like books, I asked him. 

"Ooh, yes,|" he said in a fab Geordie accent.  So Hootcat Hill was duly handed over, to big smiles and round-eyed wonder that an author should be giving him one of her own books, 'signed and all!"  Then there were three more refusals.  Quite polite, but they obviously thought I was mad.  Then a solitary girl, immersed in a magazine.  Was that her preferred reading matter?  No.  She liked books very much and took Troubadour by Mary Hoffman with alacrity.  One to go.  Two giggly young ladies.  Were they interested?  Definitely!  So they tossed a coin (shades of Nicola Morgan's book, Wasted) for Sigrun's Secret by Marie-Louise Jensen.  The dark-haired one won, but she's going to lend it to her friend when she's finished.  What a result!

And then, lovely readers, my World Book Night adventure took a surreal turn.  I'd been tweeting back and forth with @EffieMerryl since we were both doing WBN giveaways on trains. Now this is where it gets weird.... We were both going in the same direction.  Could it be that she had a seat booked on my train?  In the same carriage?  We both thought so for a few glorious minutes.  But it was not to be.  However, Nil Desperandum!  We arranged to meet on Platform 2 of Newcastle Station (where my train was stopping for a second and hers was leaving from), so that she could hand over one of her WBN books and we could meet.  It was a bookish Brief Encounter. We hugged, we snapped each other on phone cameras, and we waved farewell in in a cloud of steam (oh alright, I made the cloud of steam up).  It took all of three minutes. 

Effie Merryl
And I am now the proud owner of Kate Atkinson's Started Early, Took My Dog, a book I've been wanting to read for AGES and was intending to take on holiday with me anyway.  Thank you, Effie (I wish I'd still had a WBN book to give YOU!). And thank you Nicola Morgan for putting this brilliant, amazing, book-giving, reading-enhancing, fantabulous idea into all our heads!


Nicola Morgan said...

Lucy, I was a little bit teary when I reached the end of your lovely story. Yes, I have a cold and yes, I'm very tired after a big week of World Book Day events, not to mention Newsnight, which hacked my interview and omitted the bits they promised to leave in, (namely the positive bits, in which I praised WBN) but I loved your story and I thank you so much (and Effie!) for the way you've really entered into the spirit of "Our" World Book Night - that's the one that benefits everyone.

Thank you!

Charlotte said...

How Brave of you, Lucy! What a lovely thing to do.

Effie said...

This was truly a wonderful and surreal experience. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I bought my books from WHSmith in Hartlepool as they do not have an independant bookshop and this particular store is under threat of closure due to the economic climate. I did my bit to help keep it open and bought four books.
I will blog about my experience shortly.
I will do this every year from now on and I hope more people will join in. I will promote it everywhere I can. But I reckon this year will take some beating.
(And next time, I'll use a body-double! I hate photogs!) ; )

Enjoy your book!

Lucy Coats said...

Nicola - I'm not surprised you're tired. This has been a VERY Big Week for you. I was SO cross with Newsnight--they should be shot. Sorry I made you a shed a tiny tear, but I think maybe it was one of joy. Like Effie, I really hope this idea takes off and embeds itself in the National Consciousness and I'll definitely be doing it again next year.

Charlotte--it was somehow very life-affiriming connecting with strangers via books. I suppose as a writer I do that all the time unknowingly every time someone reads what I've written, but this was a special and very immediate.

Effie--you looked lovely, and you give fantastic hugs! You don't need a body double at ALL!

Thomas Taylor said...

This is wonderful. You're very brave! But how much braver would a male author have to be to approach random teenagers on a train? I'm glad you found takers and had the nerve to do it.

That bookshop is a beauty, by the way.

karen said...

Lucy, this sounds absolutely FABULOUS. I am so glad you took all those photos and well done on being very brave. How amazing that you got to meet up with another author and exchange books also. This says lots of wonderful things about the world of books. Hurrah for you and for Nicola's suggestion.

Gillian Philip said...

Lucy, what a lovely story, quite romantic! I went to a World Book Night event in Elgin, and took along my selected book for Nicola's project (Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman, bought from Yeadon's in Elgin). Not as atmospheric as a train, but the two things went together beautifully - the formal event for Miss Jean Brodie, and giving away a personal favourite to a teen who was delighted to receive it. Nicola, this was such a lovely idea (and in some places wilfully misunderstood) that I really hope it finds a formal place in next year's WBN. They'd be mad not to!

Carole Anne Carr said...

Thank you for the lovely post. Hugs..

Jan Markley said...

What a great idea and v. funny reactions to someone giving something away! Result (as they say on Coronation Street).

Book Maven said...

Lucy, I don't think I said properly how touched I was that you chose one of my books to giveaway as part of Alternative World Book Night! Thank you and you were so marvellously rewarded by getting the latest Kate Atkinson, which I've had my eye on too.

@Nicola I haven't iPlayered your Newsnight bit yet but I'm sorry that journalisted your important point away.

I didn't sign up for AWBN because I was doing WBN rather hectically (half my books didn't arrive) and I knew I might not be able to come good on it - will do it next year.

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