My Week: Philip Pullman Essay, Research Paper
‘I didn’t expect to win’Philip Pullman, 55, became the first children’s writer to win the £25,000 Whitbread Book of the Year prize on Tuesday, with The Amber Spyglass, the third instalment of the magical His Dark Materials trilogy. I did some writing in my shed on Saturday morning. It’s a shorter book than the last one – a fairy tale along the lines of I Was a Rat which was recently dramatised by the BBC. After shopping in the afternoon, my wife and I walked the dogs. They are brother and sister pugs – his name is Hogarth or Hogy, and she is called Nellie. That evening I answered letters – “I wish I could come and talk at your school, but…” or “That’s an interesting idea and I would love to write for your newspaper but…” – which I continued doing throughout Sunday and Monday. Tuesday was Whitbread day so I pottered about all morning wondering which shirt to wear. We took the dogs out early and then I got into my dinner jacket and all the clobber. They sent a nice, big, comfy car to deliver us to the Whitbread Brewery building. We chatted and snoozed on the way. I was feeling alright because I was convinced Eva Ibbotson would – deservedly – win the children’s book prize. I was just looking forward to seeing friends at the party. On arrival I did an interview for Radio 4’s PM programme which was good because I got to meet Philip Hensher, whose books I admire. And then the huge reception room started filing up with dinner jackets. The awards were after the meal. I genuinely believed I wouldn’t win anything so my mouth wasn’t dry with nerves. I was peaceable. It was a huge surprise when they announced I’d won the children’s book prize. I went up and told them I hadn’t got a speech but at least managed to thank all the right people – I hope. It was another half hour before they announced the Book of the Year. I’ve been on Booker panels before and know how unpredictable they can be. Getting into the shortlist is where the merit lies. You win because you were lucky. Suddenly they flashed my book up on the screen and I knew I’d won. I was glad they did that because it would be excruciating if you misheard, thinking they called your name when they didn’t. Afterwards I faced the photographers and interviews. I did a live link-up interview for Newsnight but couldn’t hear them in the studio and had to guess what they were asking. My Wednesday began in a Radio Oxford studio at 8.15am, and ended in a Radio 4 studio at 7.45pm, with more of the same in between. I went home with a Chinese takeaway and started addressing the whisky question: should I or shouldn’t I? Thursday morning, amid more interviews, I received congratulatory messages, including a long list of celebratory words from the writer Dick King-Smith. This is a very busy time, and a very pleasant time. But it’ll be nice to get back to quietly writing. I wouldn’t call my next book a prequel to the trilogy, but it will be more stories from the same world, with some of the same characters.