West to East: Girls' Night In at Waterstone's

After a seven hour car journey and a near-death experience in the Cambrian mountains where an oncoming driver is trying to create a dual carriageway in the narrow pass, we arrive at our hotel in Bury St Edmunds.
‘You’re in the chalet with the four poster,’ the receptionist tells us cheerfully. I’m less thrilled, ‘chalet’ being something I associate with Butlins not the lovely old building on the hotel’s website. Making our way across the courtyard I hear what sounds like an orchestra warming up from the other chalets; that’s because an orchestra is warming up in the other chalets. Once inside though the chalet is quiet, clean and cosy - if a little reminiscent of eighties suburbia. Still we’re not here to admire the decor, it’s a quick wash and brush up before heading into town for the Choc Lit authors (well, four of us) ‘Girls’ Night In’ at Waterstone’s Bury St Edmunds.
Stand by your Books! Sue, Christina, me and Margaret
It’s not true that all my nerves evaporate when Jen, the manager, greets me, but I’m certainly reassured that I’m in safe hands. Jen and her staff have done us proud, drumming up an audience of fifty, chairs from the coffee shop opposite to sit them in and plenty of wine and chocolate to keep everyone happy. My happiness levels receive another boost when I see the beautiful, smiling face of fellow blogger SuffolkMum coming towards me. We’ve never met before but recognise each other straightaway. Chatting to her is just like meeting up with an old friend. Lovely Lucie Wheeler and her friend Kate, Choc Lit reading panellists are there too and all the friendly faces really set the tone for a good evening.

Christina Courtenay, Margaret James, Sue Moorcroft and I all say a bit about ourselves and our books whilst Tom, the only man in the room, dashes round acting as official photographer. We then take questions from a really interested and interesting audience, leaving just enough time to mingle and sign some books. I hear some inspiring stories from some of the people who’ve been kind enough turn up to hear us and it strikes me, once again, how enjoyable it is to meet new readers. A wonderful evening and huge, huge thanks to Jen and all the staff at Waterstone’s for making us feel so welcome.
Christina and me - looking more relaxed now!

The next morning it’s up and away because Tom and I are heading to Norfolk to meet some friends. We leave our chalet, trying not to trip any members of the orchestra labouring under the weight of their instruments and bags, and look forwards to enjoying a hearty cooked breakfast in the old part of the hotel. ‘Sorry,’ says the waitress. ‘The kitchen’s closed today – didn’t anyone tell you?’ Ah well, I suppose it would be too much to expect everything to go according to plan.


Kath said…
Despite the near death experience and hours of driving - and no breakfast!! - it sounds as if it was a great event and you had a wonderful evening. Get the ChocLit-ers to come and do one in Wales!
Jane Lovering said…
It all sounds absolutely great, and I look forward to being part of one of the Choc Lit Night In panel soon! Although I am horrified to hear of your lack of breakfastand surprised that you didn't complain, very restrained of you!
Elizabethd said…
No breakfast? In a hotel? Unbelievable.
So glad the evening went well.
Debs said…
Rob would have been horribly disappointed not to have a breakfast.

Glad your evening went so well and everyone enjoyed themselves so much. I should think you were relieved to have made it after that near death experience on the mountain road.
Flowerpot said…
Glad it all went well Chris - particularly after a 7 hour car journey! And no breakfast on the way back - sigh. But it sounded a fabulous evening - well done!
Cottage Garden said…
Oh Chris I'm so sorry I didn't make it to the Choc-Lit evening. I've been feeling a bit under the weather of late.

I'm so glad you had a good time and that Bury gave you the welcome you rightly deserve. Hopefully next time ...

Now I wonder where you stayed? There are lots of very good B&Bs and hotels in the area - hopefully it was one of the good ones;-)

I hope you threw a book at the driver, just joking but am glad u had fun
Anonymous said…
It was a lovely evening, Chris, and was so lovely to meet you! All of the Choclit author's stories were inspirational and so interesting to listen to.

Oh, and thanks for the link :-)
Fran said…
I've only done this once (and it was Borders) but I had a ball. There's something about being in a bookshop that immediately makes me feel at home. Glad it went well.
Preseli Mags said…
I agree with Kath - you all need to do it in Wales too. Seriously though - an orchestra? Life is never dull!
Posie said…
Nearly crashing through the mountains into 80s chalet complete with resident orchestra....and then the canteen is closed, I hope you leave a message on trip adviser! So glad the evening went really well and how fabulous to meet up with Suffolk mum...er when are you venturing across the border to Scotland???
Lesley Cookman said…
It sounds as though it was a great evening, Chris. After my lovely experience at the Cotswold Bookstore, I'm encouraged that some bookshops are getting pro-active with authors.
Lane said…
I should have been there. It's not a million miles from me. Boo!

Next time - if you can ever face the journey again:-)

Glad you had a great evening and I hope you found a good breakfast somewhere else.
Jenny Beattie said…
The photos are fab.... as for a hotel closing its kitchen... well that's a lot rubbish.
Teresa said…
I'm sorry but all those mishaps only made your aventure more precious for us readers.
Talk about Murphy Law and all ahahahahah.
So nice to read about the great time there.
Thank you for sharing.
Pondside said…
Ah well - if it all went smoothly, what would be at all memorable?
You look so....well.....author-ish!
HelenMHunt said…
It looks like you had a wonderful time.
Chris Stovell said…
Kath, we really should. I'll try to work on it.

Jane, I'll look forwards to that one too. Just felt sorry for the catering staff - there was a breakfast, just nothing cooked.

Elizabethd, no just nothing hot. Sadly.

Debs - you should have seen Tom's face! He was very disappointed indeed. And yes, we were!

Fp - I bet you know that feeling too - in our parallel worlds!

Jeanne - please don't worry on either account. We'll meet up when the time's right and Bury made us very welcome. And we were very comfortable at the hotel if not exactly well-fed!
Chris Stovell said…
Joanna - I'd had to have attached to something speedy to be effective! Yes, great gig.

Lucie, hello! Gosh it was so nice to meet you and Kate. Good luck with the book - fingers crossed.

Fran, exactly. I've discovered I really enjoy talking to readers too - the nerves just disappear then.

Mags, I'll definitely work on it. And no, I wouldn't have believed it either, but it proves once more that it's best not to travel at the same time or stay at the same place as me!

Posie, I'd love to go to Scotland again. In fact it's quicker to get there from here than going east!

Lesley, Jen and the staff at Waterstone's were amazing - they worked really hard to organise the event, stayed late and got in early the next day to put everything back. They were real stars. Cotswolds Books sound very geared up too. Glad your event went well.

Lane, Bummer - it would have been brilliant to meet you... you could maybe have smuggled Peggy and Teas in too! Next time then!

Jenny, it did feel a bit rubbish - I can eat cereal at home, but never mind, it didn't spoil the visit. And thanks!

Teresa, you will soon see that I am a regular Calamity Chris when I leave home... lost luggage, lost breakfasts. Although I have to say I did make it to New York and back without a disaster!

Pondside... have a look at the previous post and you will see that I'm still very much me!!

Helen, we did - and congratulations on your magnificent run of sales this week.
Fennie said…
So glad it went well! Genuinely wish I could have been there. Maybe you could suggest they do one in Cardiff!
Trust you had fun in lovely Norfolk!
Teresa said…
Well, Calamity Chris ;), I forgot to congratulate you for your dress choice. Lovely, feminine and outstanding. Bravo!
Chris Stovell said…
Fennie, I'm going to suggest Cardiff, but it would have been lovely to have you there - you'd have loved SuffolkMum too.

Teresa, aw, that's most kind of you! Thank you!
elizabethm said…
What a great evening that sounds! I'm jealous. How about one in North wales next?
BT said…
I just don't believe this. I was in Bury St Edmunds from Wednesday until Monday morning. I went past Waterstones too. Silly me, I should have come here sooner.
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How lovely (except the journey.) You are quite the accomplished writer Chris. Sounds like a fab choc-lit evening.


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