As always, as Leonie suggested, there is for us a lovely social aspect to these festivals too - while the UBGs allow us to work with great people, it happens remotely and we very rarely actually get to meet them in person, so events like Cheltenham allow us to sit on a stage with some of our longest-serving contributors, to have coffee with Caroline in the Writers' Room, to have breakfast with Anne at the hotel, etc. Anne, incidentally, has been a great supporter of the UBGs since we first started talking about them all those years ago, and she's done us a new introduction for the revised edition of the 8-12 guide, which goes into production in eight days!
I also chaired a couple of other panels while I was there, which is always fun, and Jane always gives me some real treats. One event this year was on picture books, with three illustrators whose work I love - Emily Gravett (I've posted enthusiastically on her before), David Lucas (whose books include the delightful Halibut Jackson) and Polly Dunbar (creator of the enchanting Penguin); the second was on thrillers for teenagers, with Tim Bowler, Cathy MacPhail and Sophie McKenzie (UBG contributors all). I'd never read Sophie before this, but did read Girl, Missing in preparation for the event and it's excellent - gripping, sympathetic, moving, well plotted. Looking forward to reading her second (Blood Ties) before too long. Both have been recommended for the forthcoming revised edition of the U Teen B Guide, btw.
Currently reading and enjoying Tim's Frozen Fire, then moving on to a few other books for the new UTBG - Triskellion and Seventh Tide are next...
PS How exciting to hear that Neil Gaiman is coming to do some events in the UK! My friend Naomi Alderman (who is a huge fan of his) is interviewing him on stage on Sunday 26th in north London, and I've already booked my ticket. Saw him speak last year at Hay and he was very good, and anyway just to be in a room with the man who created Coraline... (Scary scary scary book...)