Monthly Archives: August 2010

Girls rule, actually,

but I must begin with ‘my’ Irish boys, Declan Hughes and Stuart Neville. Had they known they’d only find a bookwitch and a photowitch at their photo call on Saturday, they’d have scarpered back across the Irish Sea. I had looked forward to their photo session quite eagerly, but not even I could have foreseen that all the other press photographers would have taken such a hefty break. But, we were there, and hopefully Declan doesn’t remember the stupid witch from the Bristol CrimeFest, and Stuart may have encountered me on Crime Always Pays, but that’s more anonymous. They are smiling carefully in the hopes that we’ll let them go. The photographer tried to get them to stand with their backs together and they jumped some considerable distance in the opposite direction at the mere suggestion. Oh well.

Declan Hughes and Stuart Neville

An hour later A C Grayling fared little better, getting two photographers. Both female. (Take that, photo boys!) Both Swedish, or at least 75%, to be accurate.

A C Grayling

Strange then, when you think about it, that the paparazzi so willingly marched across Charlotte Square at noon, actually leaving their safe cocoon of a yurt to snap pictures of two fat blobs behind the Corner theatre. (None of them me.)

'Mister Men'

I finished the day listening to Michelle Lovric discussing Venice as a setting for novels with Katie Hickman and Al Senter. The rain suitably chose that point to start raining. I saw both A C Grayling and Mary Hoffman in the audience, presumably checking out the competition. Michelle read from her new adult novel The Book of Human Skin, and Katie from The Pindar Diamond. They see Venice as a bit of a Hogwarts, and they both love research. In fact, I get the impression everybody enjoys researching for their books.

Michelle Lovric

The beautifully dressed Michelle is someone I barely know, but she very generously arranged tickets for me. In actual fact, it was a day of authors giving me tickets to their events, with both Mary Hoffman and Theresa Breslin doing the same. Thank you, ladies! Before rushing off for my train, I made sure of being first in the signing queue with Michelle’s next children’s book, The Mourning Emporium in my hands. Her signing of this anchovy-free book was only very slightly delayed by the kiss from Mr Lovric, who most likely is not Lovric at all, but a Mr Something-else. And it was his wife he kissed.

Mr B in Prisoner of the Inquisition t-shirt

It was also a day for husbands. Other people’s. Not mine. I have now met Mr Hoffman, who I know is not Hoffman, but when you’re married to a star, you put up with these things. And I had Mr B live up to his promise of a good t-shirt for the talk by Mrs B. That man not only wears a Nostradamus tie, but has had an Inquisition t-shirt printed specially. And he’s not averse to taking illegal photos in palaces all over the world (for the research, you understand) and getting thrown out.

Andy Stanton

Babette Cole

A day for Venice. A day for husbands. Also a day for Random encounters. Some more random than others.

In the signing tents we found Babette Cole and Andy Stanton. At least I hope so. Babette was signing Babette Cole books, and that man with no black curls looked sufficiently like Andy that he must have been Andy. You know what I think about people and new hair!

Andrea levy

Not sure what Andrea Levy did with her grubby spectacles in her talk. For her photo call Andrea handed over most of her belongings to be held by the press officer, who clearly is not a wearer of glasses, or she wouldn’t have placed her fingers all over the lenses. Andrea will not have seen clearly after that.

Jacqueline Wilson

Jacqueline Wilson and paparazzi

The signing queue for Jacqueline Wilson was long. Just imagine, then, how long it’d have been had they not raffled the places in the queue. It’s enough to make you turn to press photography. Pleased to see paparazzi also have daughters who like Jacqueline Wilson’s books.

Jacqueline looked great in jeans and boots with a blue floral top. (Is black out?) And those rings. The boots were really great, but you’ll have to take my word for that, as newly arrived photographer no.1 omitted to snap them.

When you’ve heard someone speak before, it’s never obvious that you’ll hear something new next time. Theresa Breslin delivered the goods, despite this being her second Edinburgh outing talking mainly about her Prisoner of the Inquisition. I got to see the gas mask I’d heard about from Linda Newbery, although that was more WWI than the Spanish inquisition. Theresa had been required to bring interesting artifacts, which came as a bit of a surprise to her.

Theresa Breslin

This former librarian really likes books. They are easy to use. You can fast forward, rewind, play. Whatever you like. The French may have said about her Nostradamus Prophecy that it’s Dumas with a dash of Dan Brown, but Theresa’s happy with that. She, too, could do research the whole time and not write at all. Teaching history in schools with the aid of Blackadder strikes her as a good idea, and according to her both Queen Isabella of Castille and Catherine de Medici were far better than history writers (men) make out.

Last – although first – and by no means least, we have the Duchesa of Bellezza, aka Mary Hoffman. The event was introduced by Michael Scott, a great fan of Mary’s. Again, I have listened to Mary before, not to mention interviewed her, but this was a most interesting talk. We got a brief, but clear, summary of the five Stravaganza novels, and as a ‘completist’ Mary commiserated with fans who wanted to go on collecting hardbacks with the old covers.

Mary Hoffman

To preempt being asked where she gets her ideas, Mary told us how Stravaganza came about. It was all down to a family holiday in Venice, going on a gondola trip with old and un-handsome gondoliers. That started a ‘what if’ thought on how to get handsome young men to propel you around Venice.

I gather the reason we get such likeable characters in Stravaganza is because Mary herself becomes them, so she is the Duchesa. She is also a one woman company who will let herself have the day off if she asks, but can also be hard if there are deadlines.

There was a sigh of disappointment from next to me when Mary said book six, City of Swords will come in 2012. What’s wrong with 2011? But she did say that ‘what we all want’ will happen when we get there. And we know what that is, don’t we?

(Photos by Helen Giles)

The cobwebs are back

I could do with a sanity bin right now. As I passed through Edinburgh Waverley last week I saw a sign about sanity bins, and immediately felt they’d be a good thing. I suppose you can work out what the sign was really about, but I firmly believe sanity bins should be installed wherever possible.

Walking towards Charlotte Square one morning I noticed another sign. It warned me that cobwebs are back. Jolly good. They may have been cobblers, and it may have been outside a bar. I should not read signs outside bars. In fact, I probably shouldn’t read any signs at all.

I like the Ochils. I like them a lot. (It goes without saying I don’t want to go for a walk among them, however.) They are hills. Near Stirling. On my way to the train in the mornings I see them just as I get to Iceland. (That’s the frozen food shop.) The Ochils sort of sit on top of Iceland’s roof. Next I see them from the station itself. Still on top of the roof. And last I see the Ochils from the train returning to base at the end of the day (always assuming it’s not already dark). The vast flat plains in front, with the Ochils rising at the back of the Forth Valley. Often with the sun shining on them. (It’s Scotland. Of course the sun shines.)

We have a book. One of many, as you may have gathered. It’s set on Dumyat, which is in the Ochils. It’s a sort of Famous Five kind of story for children, and I can remember neither the full title nor the author’s name. Very cobwebby, this head of mine.

EIBF staff

There are staff ducks in Charlotte Square. Every single little duck has a blue staff badge round their necks, complete with name and job title. Some of those positions sound a little weird. And I’m not sure I’m supposed to say how the ducks were named.

I may have done quite badly with my photography so far, but on that first night at Waverley, as I went to buy a sandwich from M&S for the next day, I was stopped by someone who may have had something to drink. He wanted me to take a picture of him and his friends, which I did. Any shaking will be theirs. I’d just come from the ticket office where I’d had a job convincing the (very nice and helpful) man selling me my ticket that there are seven days in one week. He thought there were five days. S’not easy.

Geraldine from HarperCollins looked at me pityingly when she heard I was planning to stay the whole book festival. I could read in her eyes that she felt I’d not last that long. What will finish me off, in all likelihood, are the Edinburgh pavements. They have some lovely uneven paving stones that have tripped me up several times already. One day I’ll just go splat.

The wolves of Charlotte Square

Charlotte Square

Sally Gardner

Wolves have been a recurring theme at the book festival. Sally Gardner had them at her door, and they huffed and they puffed, and had Sally not written a book (or two) her house would have blown away. Or there wouldn’t have been enough money to keep the house. So whereas writing books became a necessity for her, she feels that the relationship with her wolf is pleasant, as Sally’s ‘lived in her head all her life’.

That kind of set-up is not one Cornelia Funke recognises. Most authors tend to admit that life can be hard financially, and even if you’ve made it big, you can still recall the early days when it was more of a worry. Cornelia simply said she was doing what she loves and getting paid for it. She’s lucky in that she’s a big success, but I wonder if the beginnings in Germany were never difficult?

Cornelia Funke

When she was young she liked original fairy tales as they were before the Brothers Grimm civilised them out of recognition, and I gather Little Red Riding Hood not only sorted her problem out without the help of any man, but there was never a wolf at all. It was a werewolf.

Meg Rosoff and someone else

Meg Rosoff has had a dog problem for some time. She, and people close to her, keep seeing dogs that don’t exist. There Is No Dog, as the title of her next book will be. It had better be! Though Meg also mentioned panthers in hedges, so she leads an exciting life. (Left: Meg and a passing witch discuss the ideal size for a fictional wolf.)

Barry Hutchison

Wolves may have been one of the few things not on Barry Hutchison’s list of creatures he’s scared of. Goldfish were somewhere at the bottom with squirrels at the very top. But he has clowns and horrible teddies coming, and there’s no knowing what Barry might do with the request for scary twins. But that heavily armed monkey which got him the sack many years ago might be best left out.

Nicola Morgan

When Nicola Morgan got her idea for Fleshmarket, her gory story, she was halfway through a wolf book, intended to be her second teen novel. But that wolf book died an early death when it was trumped by the synopsis for Fleshmarket, and Nicola has somehow lost interest in the wolf book by now.

Debi Gliori

Debi Gliori’s No Matter What features foxes, albeit kangaroo-like foxes, and eleven years on she felt ready to write more about her foxes in Stormy Weather. Mind you, she’s also into picture book-reading gingerbread people, and she has successfully brainwashed someone (I forget who) in publishing to go from snail-murdering to believing that ‘snails have feelings too’. Of course they do.

The case of the non-photogenic coffeecup

Geraldine's coffee

I’m quite pleased with my seal. The rabbit looked more like Arthur’s friend Buster, until I added more fluff round the edges. Debi Gliori taught me and one hundred children how to draw animals the Gliori way. She’d gone somewhat ambitious and bought 3000 pencils for this and other similar events. Babies cried and mothers helped their toddlers to draw seals, all on paper supplied by that bank.

She’d rested with a fiddling holiday in Shetland, but now it was straight back to shopping in Princes Street, followed by nine months of bunny-drawing for the new book.

Then the slowest book signer in the west spent the best part of two hours ‘doodling’ in people’s books, and I gave up every hope of speaking to her. But I gather she stopped feeling terrified after a while and stopped wiffling (whatever that is).

Lucky for us that this ‘middle-aged woman who laughs at her own jokes in private’ gave up all plans on becoming a princess, an astrophysicist (the mind boggles) or a doctor, to become a marvellous author and illustrator. Never mind that her kangaroo book is really about foxes. Much the same.

Debi Gliori

As Debi doodled in copies of Stormy Weather I bumped into Theresa Breslin, with beautiful borrowed baby in her arms. It was nice seeing Mr B again, but the poor man felt underdressed without a tie for me to admire, so he began planning what to wear next time we meet.

Swedish bag

Finding the press yurt surprisingly full I withdrew to the London Review café, where I encountered a random Swede. Ian Rankin was sitting around playing with his mobile, as always taller in real life than in my thoughts. Over tea back in the yurt there were tales of wasps eating wasps, which isn’t so charming. Also experienced my first shower, which happened minutes after I’d found a chair to sit on, with the rain coming from a clear sky.

Louise Rennison

We hung out for Louise Rennison, hoping that having an official photo call would mean no telling off this year. She was in the charge of Geraldine, so that was all right. Geraldine, on the other hand, had a wayward coffecup standing in the way of photography.

Michael Rosen

This was the closest I’ve got to Michael Rosen, but his event was sold out, so no luck on that front. He recited poetry while being photographed and delighted the paparazzi with his ‘eye special’. His event was pretty noisy, though, so we could hear him from outside. I managed to get myself to the front of the signing queue, surrounded by fans much shorter than me.

Martin Bell

Miguel Syjuco & Alberto Manguel

Olga Tokarczuk

The photographer was out catching Martin Bell who would be unrecognisable without his white suit. He stopped to chat to the photographers, which felt quite typical. While fishing we also caught Olga Tokarczuk and two gents by the names of Miguel Syjuco and Alberto Manguel. We have no idea who they are, but one of them carried a glass full of apple juice to the shoot. Or was it whisky?

This now has to count as a full working week completed, and the witch has grand plans for sleeping and generally catching up. Something will prevent this from happening. Before braving the train ‘home’ she had a nice dinner at Son’s new flat in a posh street. What’s student life coming to?

David and me

The young ones headed for Cathy Cassidy and the oldies went for David Rintoul. I had great plans and intended to do both, however technically difficult it’d turn out. And I’d have managed it, too, because I’m a great witch. (And not just in that way.)

David Rintoul

But, my photographer went a little missing to begin with, and plans changed. I’d have to skip Cathy. She seemed to think this was just as well, as I told her when she swished past on her way to the young ones.

Instead I took up position to do David’s photocall with my size-challenged camera. All by myself. I just didn’t imagine doing it quite as much by myself, seeing as when David turned round he found only me there. ‘Looks like it’s just you and me’ is what I managed to say, frantically wondering how to do this.

Eventually one more photographer, equipped with somewhat better stuff than I had, was found. But David was very polite and made sure I’d got what I needed. (What I need is the ability to take proper pictures. That ability vanishes in the presence of those lenses on steroids. Doctor?)

David’s fans had waited for up to an hour to secure good seats, and considering the place was heaving, that was wise. A J Cronin’s biographer Alan Davies was there to talk about the passion of his life, and he pleaded for the Scottish people to remember their great author and raise statues of Cronin, and to read his books. I like a bit of enthusiasm, and it’s a shame that the book wasn’t quite ready to be sold at the book festival.

David read to us from Doctor Finlay’s Casebook until sweat poured down his face. That’s what I call reading! We enjoyed it, and we had fun with his reminiscing over the filming of Doctor Finlay, especially the poisoning of the baby, when they tried too hard for authenticity.

Aminatta Forna

Kat Banyard

While we were busy with all this, the late photographer made up for his near miss by taking photos of just about everyone he found, including someone I don’t know who they are. We were rather hoping for Cathy to appear for her photocall, but she was too popular in her signing, so was another one who ran late. We kept hanging around for the delayed Cathy, but had to give up in the end.

Cathy Cassidy

We had lunch with the next-door neighbour from home. As you do. Very nice to catch up, although maybe a little weird. Had previously missed Alex Scarrow as he marched past, but came to the conclusion he could be found signing in the bookshop after his talk. Alex Scarrow

Met up with Linda Strachan in the bookshop. Again. Our chat kept getting interrupted by people buying her Hamish books, who on having it pointed out to them by staff that the author herself was standing over there, wanted them signed.

It’s nice. I’d like that to happen to me a lot more often than it does.

Having given up on Cathy’s official photo, we went home, forgetting all about Ian Rankin. Which. Is. Annoying. Especially since I’d noticed him just before, but with a mind like a sieve you have to accept that a few things escape when you’re not watching.

John Banville

Coming and going

The trains continue to be good. And bad. Horrendous late journey ‘home’ on Saturday night, with two coaches only, and rather a lot of passengers. Did they forget it’s the Edinburgh Festival? The next morning I looked at the number of people waiting for the train and trembled with fear. It’d have to be the roof. When the 10.02 arrived consisting of not two, nor of four coaches, but six, I very nearly kneeled on the platform to thank ScotRail. It was only the state of my knees that prevented this heartfelt thanks.

I want to be Nicola Morgan in my next life. That woman has the shoes and the wit that a witch can only aspire to. And she has it in a most colour coordinated way. On Monday Nicola had managed to sell out her Thrillers event, but I got in, courtesy of Nicola’s own ticket. It was a pity Nicola herself couldn’t get in after that…

Nicola Morgan

Joking aside, I spent the first few minutes admiring the turquoise suede boots and the light blue cardigan with matching turquoise brooch. It’s so hard to carry that combination off, but if anyone can, Nicola can. Then once she started talking I suspected I might have to leave rather hurriedly. She promised gore, and fainthearted that I am I could imagine myself lying on the floor at the back. It didn’t get as bad as that, but she had me worried. Who’d have thought an event could be so thrillerish?

It was Nicola’s novel Fleshmarket that scared me. It replaced the book on wolves she had been writing, and I’m sure it’s ‘very nice’, really. I breathed easier as she moved on to Death Watch and Wasted. I hadn’t realised Nicola actually tossed a coin to decide how to proceed in Wasted when she came to the forks in the road, so to speak. And in Death Watch it’s hardly surprising the reader can’t guess who the stalker is. Nicola herself didn’t know at the time.

So, if I had fainted ten minutes into the talk, would the event have turned out very differently?

Ian Rankin

Simon Callow

In my short break after the gore, I came across Ian Rankin doing something. I’m not sure what sort of something, and the photo was taken some distance off, which would explain the blur. Also found Simon Callow ‘being done’ at the entrance to the yurt, so gulped down my drink and joined the paparazzi at the back for a go at this ex-Pliny from the Roman Mysteries.

I believe the ducks have complained. It’s too dry.


The day’s second event featured Keith Gray and Tohby Riddle with Philippa Cochrane. They discussed Keith’s Ostrich Boys and Tohby’s first teen novel The Lucky Ones. The Australian is best known for his younger picture books, all of which looked very appealing in the bookshop, but I contained myself. Just.

Keith Gray

Tohby Riddle

Both books are about boys and, I think, about death. Girls feature as a plot device only, and in Ostrich Boys Keith ponders how ‘rubbish it must be to be dead’. Quite. He borrowed the idea from his favourite film Stand By Me. Tohby’s novel has something to do with Bob Dylan, and also Sydney Harbour Bridge. I think he described it as a metaphysical experience, but now might be the time to admit I didn’t understand much of what he said at all.

Linda Strachan was in the audience, and she wanted to know if they could see themselves writing about girls, to which the answer was a resounding ‘no’ from both. Boys need more books, and girls have quite enough as it is. Which may well be true. Although Keith’s inspiration came from a trailer for the girly film Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. That’s American pants. In case you wondered.

Linda Chapman

As usual I hung in the bookshop a bit, and I happened to find Linda Chapman signing in there a little earlier, as I passed. That’s what’s nice. This looking into the shops to see who might be there.

Warning! Squirrels.

‘Do you enjoy murdering people?’ I asked Linda Strachan as we came out from the event with Eleanor Updale and Sally Gardner, where they had discussed killing their characters. ‘I do’ she said, far too enthusiastically for my liking. Linda has a new book out called Dead Boy Talking, and so far I’ve resisted reading it, because I’m scared. And quite frankly, her reply didn’t do much to allay my fears.

Photos at EIBF by Chris Close

Early Sunday morning started with some real Stirling haar, but by the time I was sweeping along in the wake of three Portuguese paragons in Edinburgh, the sun was shining and then it shone and shone and it got hotter and hotter. So did I, and towards mid-afternoon I was willing to kill for a cup of tea. Which isn’t free, unlike the coffee. I know I’m a moaner, but I really don’t get the difference. Other than that it’s £1.75 a cup.

Sunny Charlotte Square

Anyway, before I got so thirsty, I ran into Lindsey Fraser and introduced myself. We hadn’t met before, although I’d seen her in action here last year. As she ran off for an event, Linda Strachan strolled past, and we chatted a bit as I hung around waiting for the events ticket promised me by Eleanor. It was eventually delivered into my hand by none other than Mr Update himself, aka James Naughtie. I almost had a giddy fan moment there.

(Btw, Update is Son’s updated name for Updale. He tweeted, and got it a little wrong.)

Vivian French, Lindsey Fraser, Lauren, Eleanor Updale, Nina and Sally Gardner

Lindsey was, in fact, chairing the Historical Fiction talk with Sally and Eleanor, which was very interesting, even without those murderous thoughts. Sally was given a new surname, which came as a surprise, but I can assure you it was ‘the Gardner woman’ who was there. Updale can also cause problems, because your books can end up on the floor when bookshops run out of shelf space, although Eleanor has often been saved by the presence of Jacqueline Wilson, who’s got it even worse. They both read from their latest books, The Silver Blade and Johnny Swanson. And then they discussed Americans. (More of which later.) Sally confessed to feeling that killing a couple of her characters ‘was delicious’, and Eleanor has problems with her daughter who is furious over her killing a beloved character in Montmorency.

Eleanor Updale and Sally Gardner

In between a desperate need to eat my two-day-old sandwiches, we hung out with these killers in the bookshop for a bit, finding a few more authors hanging out as well. Took them back to the greenery at the opposite corner, and then dashed off to photograph Cornelia Funke, who got the ‘sexy’ style of photo session. Men!

Cornelia Funke

This aspiring astronaut and pilot has left her native Germany for Hollywood, and I bet that was a real sacrifice to make. The woman behind me gasped when she heard that Cornelia still writes her books in German, which personally I find isn’t odd at all. We had a world exclusive, hearing the first chapter from Reckless, her new book out in a month’s time.

Barry Hutchison

It was a relief getting to the Corner Theatre for Barry Hutchison after being baked in the main tent with Cornelia. I noticed the enormous queue trailing all round the square, which should have been a relief to Barry. And it did say outside the bookshop that he would be sighing there afterwards. Sorry, signing. Barry had been nervous about his Edinburgh debut, but it all went perfectly. He is scared of a lot of things. The squirrels are his. He’s scared of them. (Which reminds me of the story of the Shetland squirrels, which we’ll save for another day.)

Barry Hutchison fans

Barry is a good story teller, who has already managed to scare his own son witless with the latest book. He hopes to have traumatised a whole generation by book six, and considering the two fans on the right who looked normal before the event, you can tell it’s hard to escape unscathed.

I finished the day by getting thrown off the spotty table outside the yurt, as I was trying to do emergency internet stuff like posting a blog and sorting out photos. At this rate I’ll need both my own desk as well as a pot of tea to carry around.

Mairi Hedderwick

Whilst internet problems persist (We think it’s BT’s fault. Hi, BT!), my blogging behaviour will change, and I will post new blogs during the day from Charlotte Square. Always assuming spotty table is available.

Crossed the road against a red man in the company of two policemen, reckoning they’d be hit by the oncoming cars first. (I’m a caring sort of witch.) And I got off the train in Stirling right behind a piper in full tartan regalia, including the nonchalantly draped blanket nonchalantly thrown over his shoulder. As I thought about how hot HE must have been, he turned round and said something to me. I didn’t understand a word.

It can’t have been regarding my piece of smelly Brie, because I’d eaten that.

Beginnings and ends

Philip Pullman

It was a case of the incredible shrinking camera syndrome. The press photographers’ cameras were bigger than ever. My photographer was off building rockets in Leicestershire. Why? My replacement photographer did a sterling job with his smaller toy, and when he went off to hear the bishops speak (and Philip Pullman, it has to be admitted) all that was left was me and my teeny weeny camera. So, some photos are not nearly as good as the subjects deserve. And the photocall session with Sophia Jansson didn’t run late and it wasn’t cancelled, as sometimes happens, and is understandable. It ran early, so ran without us.

Introductory singing

Carol Ann Duffy

Jason Bradbury

Shock horror. Edinburgh is not being dug up. Last year’s dust and large wholes in the ground have moved elsewhere. There are tramlines in the streets. Didn’t see any trams, but tramlines are a wonderful thing on their own. Really.

Due to technical problems, this blog post is delayed. It is also going to be too short. And you, at the back, I heard you when you shouted ‘YES!’. It should be longer, and I may add things later when I’ve worked out how to write round a nonexistent internet supply. If I shout loudly enough, can you hear me?

Garth Nix

I started off with that Australian ‘walled garden-cum-watersprite’ author, otherwise known by his real name of Garth Nix. I know nothing about Garth, nor have I read any of his books (although the first one called Ragwitch, has a certain ring to it), and it was quite refreshing to sit down and listen to someone from scratch. I’ll only say here that the man is a liar of such proportions that even I am astounded. But charming, nevertheless.

Then Penelope had me foxed. I can’t cope with people who change their hair. And Penelope (Eleanor Updale to you) had not only done that but changed all the rest of her, too. So when she hugged Nicola Morgan I could only recognise Nicola.

Meg Rosoff

Later in the day it was time to listen to Penelope interview the Dukakis presidential campaign press release writer, aka Meg Rosoff. (I wish she hadn’t admitted to that!) She thinks about her funeral too much, and she also said a very dubious thing about the younger generation, which I will not repeat here. This ‘deeply immature adult’ finds ‘America such a weird place’, and she kept going on about dogs that weren’t there. Of course they weren’t. (She also had the nerve to ask me for a cut of 10%. Of what, I ask you?)

Julia Eccleshare of the Guardian got a lesson from Tove Jansson’s niece Sophia on how to pronounce Tove. She did remarkably well for someone her age. This adult event was full of adults. They all knew about Moomin and Tove. Real Jansson nerds, I’d say. Lots of good, although sometimes long, questions. The answers were also good.

Sophia Jansson

Afterwards replacement photographer and I had our interview with Sophia, but not until we’d been thrown out of a yurt. And that was not my fault. It was my very first interview in Swedish, so we shall have to see how that went. I think Sophia must have had a curse on things connected with her, since not only the photocall session disappeared for us, but the much admired recorder thingy I use was not performing as well as it should have. (But that was my fault.)

It may have been the first day in business for the Edinburgh International Book Festival, but it was also the last day for Fascinating Aïda on the fringe. Before I went home to my lonely garret, I went to see them sing rude songs again. Heard them, too, obviously. Dillie Keane had promised me they’d stand up for me at the end, and they did.

But at least it was a nice day. The weather did its best to prove it doesn’t have to rain, just because it’s the Edinburgh Festival. That’s all down to Meg Rosoff’s clothes. She dressed for rain. And my umbrella might have helped, too.

Bookwitch bites #21

There was a piece by Linda Newbery about the inspiration for her novel Lob in the Guardian during the last week. I like that sort of thing with plenty of coincidences coincidencing… And the green man idea is so seasonal right now. For me Linda and summery greenness belong together.

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant has just been published in the US. Any Americans who haven’t tried this scary woman’s stories, should do so now. Unless too fainthearted, obviously.

The Swedish Bookwitch got lots of hits the other day, all thanks to Frank Cottrell Boyce and Framed. With the utmost intelligent thinking, (yes, I know) I worked out that the advertised film on television last Tuesday was Framed. They called it A Passion for Mr Lester, which to my mind is taking things a bit far. They also appeared to have missed the fact that it’s a children’s film. It was the presence of the two Eves, Myles and Trevor, that made me feel it sounded familiar. And it would seem a lot of people had a sudden need to google the title. I watched the film again, and cried a bit more as  I had to make up for the Resident IT Consultant not being present.

More foreign television for children in the shape of Pip-Larssons, a series based on Edit Unnerstad’s books. I loved those books as a child, and read and re-read them all the time. The television series is from the late 1990s, and features Jakob Eklund who is in every single film made these days. It’s one of those retro series, trying to be more authentic about the period than the period itself was. But both it and Jakob look really good.

As I hope to be in Edinburgh for the 18 days of the Book Festival, I need to point out that anyone else who happens to be there and who wants to meet up, can just let me know. Anyone who’s going to be there and who doesn’t want to see me, needn’t say anything at all. You can just tiptoe around quietly, wearing a large hat. For those who are mathematically able, I have to say that I know the festival is only 17 days, but the schools’ programme enthusiastically carries on past the last Monday, and I simply have to be there to catch Lucy Coats, who very gamely has professed real enthusiasm for the idea as well.

The Norwegian bestseller

Time for a Norwegian joke? I’m a very pc kind of witch, but those Norwegians are different, at times.

I caught a book programme on television the other evening, which was all about how ‘hard can it be to write a book?’, and as everyone knows, it’s not hard at all. They had purchased a How To thing on the internet, in English, and then they roped someone in to test it. The task was to write a bestseller in 28 days. So fairly straightforward.

First it seemed you only write one hour every day. Then it moved to five minutes, only. And only in week three, after two weeks of thinking about it. The fourth week was to find your publisher. I believe they had a sense of humour, the tester and the presenter. They laughed so hard over the How To that they could barely speak.

But test it they did. Once the tester had understood all the longer English words. She wrote about her mother, and the part she read out was primarily about weird men smearing themselves with yoghurt while on holiday. But the publisher in week four liked it.

The presenter then travelled to meet a teacher, whose methods of helping writing along involved feeding him a cranberry (dried) and a caper, while blindfolded. After which she played him a Swedish song and told him to write. He was in tears, which is understandable after a song like that.

Not sure if any bestselling occurred.