I'll be at the Northern Children's Book Festival in Newcastle, doing a couple of events and a couple of signings. Check out the JOE CRAIG EVENTS here.
I usually have a lot of fun at book festivals. The audiences can be a real mixture of all sorts: kids who've read my books, kids who haven't, adults who are only there to sit next to their kids, adults who are there for the event on their own or with friends. I like that mixture, but it's definitely harder to put in a performance that appeals to everybody in that audience - a huge range of ages and reasons for being there. It's particularly tricky to get the humour right.
My way of dealing with this is to make every festival appearance even more spontaneous than my usual events. My events in schools are pretty spontaneous anyway, relying heavily on improvisation and contributions from the audience, but I have a handful of basic formats that I can fall back on. That's partly because when I'm doing an event in a school I'm not just there to entertain, I want to be of at least a little educational value - by the end, I want the audience to have some real tools they can use to write stories or come up with ideas.
At a festival, I'm there to entertain. Funny or moving or interesting or SOMETHING that makes it worth all these people having got out of bed, left their homes and schlepped out to sit and watch me for an hour.
So instead of preparing a formatted routine, I take a couple of minutes right before I start. If I can, I like to watch the audience coming in. I don't really know why, but I suppose it makes it more real. It's as if I'm telling myself, "These are the people who've come to see you, Joe. What are you going to do to make their day brilliant?" Then I just launch into it - something. It's a lot more exciting when I don't know what it's going to be, but as long as the energy is there, it seems to work.
If I'm buzzing and manic and slightly terrified and exciting and in suspense about what's going to happen next and ready to laugh at tiny things that go wrong and become huge things... it must be a weird experience for the audience.
But hopefully good-weird.
Come along on Sunday and find out.