Simon Cowell, David Mitchell, Jess Phillips, Maggie O’Farrell and poet Hollie McNish were some of the guest authors spotlighted at Hachette UK’s annual showcase, taking editors on a whistlestop tour of its key publishing across divisions for the year ahead.
Joined by other authors including palliative care specialist Rachel Clarke, monk Gelong Thubten and doctor Michael Mosley, as well as Olympians Helen and Kate Richardson Walsh, the event was hosted by Lauren Laverne on Monday (24th February) at the Cambridge Theatre in central London.
After a passionate pitch from Hachette Children's Group c.e.o. Hilary Murray Hill, explaining why babies should have books from day one; an update from Hodder Education m.d. Lis Tribe on the ways the list is making a difference in the classroom, particularly through Reading Planet; and musings from Quercus boss Jon Butler on literature’s ability to transport readers to new worlds, it was Hachette UK‘s author talent that took centre stage.
McNish brought down the house with a reading of a poem from her forthcoming collection, Slug (Fleet), about her teenage years.
O’Farrell took talked to Laverne about overcoming “creative vertigo” and, in the name of research, starting an Elizabethan medicinal garden, flying a kestrel and going mudlarking for her latest novel Hamnet (Tinder Press), published next month.
Mitchell featured twice. He read from his new novel Utopia Avenue (Hodder) which, about a folk rock group, came out of his fascination with music. He also discussed a book to which he contributed an introduction, The Reason I Jump by Naomi Higashida (Sceptre), about a Japanese boy with autism who communicates through a letter-board.
Pete Paphides introduced Broken Greek (Quercus), a coming-of-age memoir about pop songs and being raised by Greek and Greek-Cypriot parents above a chip shop in 1960s Birmingham. “I would watch 'Top of the Pops' and figure out who, if anything happened to my parents, could step in,” he told Laverne.
Olympic Gold-winning field hockey players Helen and Kate Richardson Walsh—who, as a couple on the same team, won Gold in Rio—inspired the room with a pep talk about owning our differences as our strengths, ahead of the release of their joint memoir.
Jonathan Douglas, c.e.o. of the National Literacy Trust, dropped in to commend Hachette UK volunteers on their efforts, particularly the flashmob in Croydon Centrale on Changing the Story Day. The impact of getting children into reading early is immeasurable, he said, highlighting the effect it can have on job prospects and even life expectancy.
Dr Michael Mosley, who invented the 5:2 diet, told the audience about his publishing journey, culminating in his latest outing, a book that hopes to do for sleep patterns what his books have done for diets. “I profoundly believe that books change lives,” he said.
Thubten, author of A Monk’s Guide to Happiness (Yellow Kite), led an impromptu meditation session, sharing his belief that “happiness is in the present moment”.
Clarke spoke about a terminal, pink gin-loving patient who told her to “transmit love”, and how what most strikes her in her job in end-of-life care in a hospice is “not the proximity to death, but the abundance of life”.
Retired Metropolitan Police office John Sutherland, author of the memoir Blue (W&N), told the audience “hope demands action”, as he explained why police officers aren’t the world-weary types they are often portrayed as.
Meanwhile, politician Jess Phillips galvanised listeners to think about how they too can make a difference. Speaking about her mother, who took on a big pharmaceutical company whose drugs made her ill, she explained heroes can be “ordinary people who find themselves in a situation and dig deep and do something about it”.
The showcase was rounded off by mogul Cowell and his plans to launch a new children’s entertainment brand called Wishfits with Hachette Children’s. The children’s book series will launch in spring next year, with a range of toys and the promise of an animated TV series.