Sharjah Children's Reading Festival

 I've been travelling again. Here's a clue to my latest destination . . .  yes, I've been to the Middle East.

It was a great honour to be invited to take part in the Sharjah Children's Reading Festival.

Sharjah is one of the emirates in the United Arab Emirates and is the next door neighbour of Dubai. The city is full of gleaming skyscrapers, date palms, beautiful mosques, museums and galleries. The hotel where all the authors stayed overlooked a peaceful lagoon. It was lovely to look out of my window on the twelfth floor and see the lights of the all the buildings reflected in the water at night.

view across the lagoon

Dancing fountain display on the lagoon
the shade of the palm trees

But we weren't there just to admire the surroundings of course! It was all about meeting children and talking about books and reading.

One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the girls at the Mershid Government School, Fujaira. Fujaira is actually a different emirate and it was a long journey through desert and hills. The girls were quite shy and I needed some help to translate from English to Arabic from their delightful teacher, but we had fun thinking of what our most precious treasures would be to put in a hidden treasure chest. Among all the gold and jewels there was also a suggestion of a palace, a magic rabbit and, my favourite, a book.

My second school visit was to the children at the after school club at the American University of Sharjah. It was a loud and lively session, but lots of fun. We talked about grabbing ideas and shmooshing them together to make new stories and about where we would go in our amazing animal cars if we could go anywhere in the world. There were some great suggestions . . . Mars, through a black hole, Iceland, Mount Everest, under the sea . . .

Another big highlight of the trip was meeting many of the other authors who were there from all over the world. The organisers had arranged lots of wonderful evening meals and outings so that there was plenty of time for us all to get to know each other. It was particularly fun to meet Caroline Lawrence, author of the brilliant Roman Mystery series. Although we are both published by Orion Children's Books and both write mysteries, we hadn't met before. We had lots to talk about!

With Caroline Lawrence - I wonder if there is a collective noun for a group of mystery writers? A suspicion, perhaps?

An outing to the heritage centre - waiting to see some Moroccan music

Group photo at the end of a fabulous Lebanese meal
On top of all that it was wall to wall blue sky and sunshine, lashings of delicious middle eastern food. what more could anyone want. Plus I had time on the last two days to get on with lots of writing

A massive thank you to Zekra and Ashley and all the other lovely people at Midas for making sure I got to everywhere I needed to be and making it all so much fun.

It was a pleasure to take part in an event dedicated to promoting the joy of reading for children. So another big thank you to the hosts, the Sharjah Children's Reading Festival.