Upon entry, all the guests were greeted with spectacular bright blue cocktails – I didn’t ask what was in them, my mother would probably be too shocked. They were deliciously sweet whatever they were! The room had been beautifully decked out with candles and copies of Swim the Fly stacked on the tables. By happy coincidence I had dressed in blue and managed to convince everyone that it was totally planned…
After half an hour of blue drink sipping we were all ushered into the screening room where we were witness to Phil Perry’s unparalleled technical skills as she attempted at least 15 times to start the video player on her Mac. We still love her! When she finally managed to get it going there were plenty of laughs all round as we watched the hilarious book trailer starring the man of the night, Swim the Fly author Don Calame. I wonder if that really was a clamato and chocolate milk cocktail he drank or a clever film trick… After getting to know Don a bit more, I’m leaning towards the ‘it was’ end of the decision scale.
The guests were then treated to a wonderfully insightful interview with Don, led by the journalist and writer of teen hit Life, Interrupted, Damian Kelleher. It’s very true that there is a distinct imbalance between the volume of teen chick-lit and teen dude-lit available. What Swim the Fly offers is a genuine story of what happens to teen boys, what goes through their minds and the kind of situations they find themselves in due to out of control hairbrain schemes. The characters are so real and loveable despite all their flaws – maybe because of their flaws – and the protagonist, Matt, takes you through his boy-to-man journey with great honesty and candidness. The story has great sympathy for teen boys but also an irresistible insight for girls too – and what the heck it had this grown woman ROFLing for hours!
The real treat of the evening was when Damian persuaded Don to give all us grown up kids a reading from Swim the Fly. The extract was a completely irreverent exchange between Matt, his Grandpa Arlo, his older brother Peter and his mum. As they drive to the funeral of a neighbour’s husband, Grandpa Arlo makes his plans to get lucky with the widow – much to Peter’s embarrassment and Matt’s interest. I’m not entirely sure where I stand trying to gather pick up tips from your grandfather… Don reads so well, playing all the characters much better than I imagined them in my head and he had us all sniggering like a bunch of year 10s.
After the reading the guests all gathered back in the Blue Room, nibbling on mini burgers and clutching our copies of Swim the Fly to get them signed by Don – it’s for my nephew, honest! It was lovely to meet the author, although I’d probably scared him before we met with my numerous emails demanding blog posts for the Swim the Fly blog tour starting tomorrow. No wonder he ran away from me as soon as he could!
A huge thanks to the Covent Garden Hotel and Phil Perry and her team at Templar for setting everything up and making it a really special evening for everyone. And of course a massive thanks to Don Calame for providing us with all the entertainment!
Left to right: Roy Butler (Muswell Hill Children's Bookshop), Wendy Cooling (Children's Book Consultant), Don Calame, Helen Boyle (Fiction Commissioning Editor, Templar) Joanne Cocadiz (Children's Buyer, Foyles Charing Cross Road), John Newman (Newman Bookshop)
Don’s UK tour continues at the Hay Festival and his UK blog tour starts tomorrow, 27th May. For more details click here.