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POLAND 17th-20th May 2007
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My Polish publishers, Iwona and Konrad Pakula of Akapit Press were kind enough to invite me to Poland to co-incide with the 2007 Warsaw International Book Fair. I wanted to find something special to wear so I went shopping before the trip. I was so pleased to find a jacket with stars all over it. It could have been made especially for Fame School, so I bought it!
I had never been to Warsaw before, so it was really interesting to see the city. I loved the trams, and my enthusiasm about them made everyone laugh. Of course trams aren’t unusual there, but to me they were a real novelty. Best of all however was seeing Iwona and Konrad. They made me feel very welcome, and I was thrilled to meet them at last. Here they are.
The idea was to launch the Polish translation of Pop Diva while I was there, and to my surprise and delight they had produced all kinds of exciting things to help the launch. There were cool pink carrier bags, notepads and flyers as well as a brilliant bookmark in the shape of a microphone.
I had one of their employees, Anna Szarko to look after me. Here she is with her husband Thomas. Anna looked after me really well. She encouraged me to use the very few Polish words I had tried to learn, but her English was very much better than my Polish!
On the first day Damian, another Akapit employee drove us to Lodz, where Akapit have their headquarters. It was great being able to see a little of the Polish countryside. At Lodz I visited a local library, where so many children squeezed in to see me they ran out of chairs. Here is the librarian introducing me. They had made a huge effort to decorate the library with beautiful stars on the walls and floor. It looked fantastic. I meant to ask if I could have one to take home, but forgot because there was so much going on. I hope some of the children were able to have them instead. Can you see the big painting of Chloe and Danny? Anna’s sister made it. I think it’s brilliant!
The librarian’s son, Rolf kindly offered to help by translating the questions that the children wanted to ask me. This was very brave of him because he was still at school, and hadn’t ever been to England or had any training. But his English was excellent and he made a wonderful job of simultaneous translation. In fact he was so good that by the end of the day he’d been offered a job! I was very grateful for his help. He made my life so much easier.
The children seemed to know absolutely everything about my books and the characters in them. The librarian had loads of questions for them and the correct answers won prizes of notebooks, pens and copies of my books.
In the evening, after a delicious meal I had to go to a bookshop to meet more people. I did a radio interview while I was there, and luckily Rolf was on hand to translate again. I left Lodz for Warsaw later that night, tired but most impressed by the very friendly adults and children of Lodz.
After a good night’s sleep I spent most of the day at the Warsaw Bookfair. I couldn’t believe how many people wanted to meet me and get their books signed. The Akapit stand was really busy, selling lots of their very popular titles. I was thrilled to meet another Akapit author, Marcin Palasz. For a while we were both busy signing books at the same time, one at each end of the stand. Great fun!
It would have been hard for me to spell all the Polish names when I was signing, but luckily another translator came along to help. Iwona Libucha has translated several of the Fame School books into Polish for Akapit so it was really good to meet her. She helped me to get the fans to write their names down so I could copy them into the books I was signing. That made things a lot easier!
Several fans wanted their photographs taken with me and one in particular was thrilled when I offered to put the photo onto my website. Her mother was happy for me to do that so here’s Weronika, one of my number one fans, with her friend! I met another fan Ania, later on at a Warsaw bookshop. It was good to be able to chat with her too, and later we exchanged emails, which was nice. She is keen on Japanese pop music and has promised to send me some links to their websites so I can have a look at them too.
It was fantastic to meet so many people who love the Fame School series. I have many happy memories of my time in Poland, but most of all I will remember my wonderful Polish fans. Many thanks to Iwona and Konrad, who made it all possible, and thank you to all the people who came up and said hello. Thank you for all the flowers, gifts and happy memories. Once again, dziekuje!