Category Archives: Bookshops

Feminist Fantasy

By the end of her event on feminist fantasy with Deirdre Sullivan, whose most recent book is Perfectly Preventable Deaths – or PPD for short – we ‘all’ wanted to marry Maria Turtschaninoff’s husband. Apparently she felt ‘Mr T’ needed to be in one of her books, and he’s the really rather lovely man in Maresi, Red Mantle.

Maria Turtschaninoff

And while I’m wishing, I’ll have Deirdre’s dress (and the right shape to wear it).

Deirdre Sullivan

This event, chaired by Philippa Cochrane, introduced two authors who believe in women in fantasy, and for them to be powerful and successful without resorting to swords and magic. It’s the kind of thing we need more of.

I was cheered by Maria’s answer to the question whether they ever feel they are not good enough. Maria apologised and said she didn’t understand the question, as would be the way for someone who not only writes about feminists, but who lives like one. She has always wanted to be an author, but realised at an early age that it was best to keep this secret. Her cover was ballerina or deep sea diver.

Deirdre didn’t know one could aspire to become an author. To her it was like wishing to be a unicorn, or an orange, or a mermaid. She now loves writing, being able to build something that is her own. And if she doesn’t quite hear everything her husband says to her when she builds her worlds, that doesn’t matter.

Maria Turtschaninoff and Deirdre Sullivan

Both authors have recently written dramas for the theatre. Maria said that her play for the theatre in Vaasa was her first, and last. It sounded as if Deirdre’s experience was similar, and she would not write a play again, or at least for a very long time.

It was clear that the audience was very keen to hear what these two had to say, and they wanted to read their books. And after the loss of the signing table in the bookshop had been resolved, a good time was had by all. Especially Maria’s Polish fan who had come all the way here, and who’s responsible for people in Poland reading Maria’s books. It’s the kind of thing that warms the heart.

As Deirdre said, we must respect people’s voices, give them space, and we have to remember we are all human beings.

Maria Turtschaninoff and Deirdre Sullivan

(Photos by Helen Giles)

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It’s the worst she’s known

Malorie Blackman apologised for sounding a bit Darth Vaderish (sore throat), but the audience in the full New York Times Main Theatre didn’t mind. We’d come to hear about Malorie’s new book Crossfire, the fifth book in her Noughts & Crosses trilogy. Or the second book in the second trilogy, whichever you prefer.

The title above refers to how Malorie sees life in Britain today. Not being black, I’ve only been able to guess at how the last three years have played out, and it’s dreadful to have it confirmed. In the YA world she’s a star, while outside it she’s black. Or, as readers have said about her Noughts & Crosses books, ‘it’s about Ireland, isn’t it?’ Or Israel. Or anywhere else where you have two opposing groups of people.

Malorie Blackman

Malorie was in Charlotte Square talking to Lindsey Fraser about her dark, but necessary, books that first arrived in 2001. And here we are – needing them more than ever – eighteen years later.

As Lindsey pointed out, you have to think when you read her books. Books written by someone who as a girl couldn’t afford books, so went to the library where she tried to make her weekly selection last the whole week. She at first found Jane Eyre a bit dry, but it’s long since one of her favourite books.

Discussing reading age, Malorie feels the Noughts & Crosses series is a little unsuitable for ten-year-olds, but some young readers just skip the ‘kissy bits,’ which proves that self-censoring works just fine.

Malorie Blackman

We will soon be able to watch a six-part series on television, and we were the first to be shown a video clip from it. Stormzy has been involved, somehow, because he’s a big Noughts & Crosses fan, just as Malorie is a big Stormzy fan.

There will be one more book, Endgame, the sixth of the trilogy, and then she ‘must stop.’ Malorie doesn’t want to write a prequel, but admits to having considered it. She reckons Jude is ‘a bit of a git,’ but he was fun to write. She wants her readers to understand why he did what he did, while not sympathising with what he ends up doing.

Having been prevented from going to university by her careers teacher, Malorie now feels that the woman actually did her a favour, teaching her not to give up when the rejection letters kept coming.

Malorie Blackman

And much as I and the rest of the audience would have wanted a literary university experience for young Malorie, we are grateful for the books. And for being a role model and for giving young, black readers a sense of belonging.

(Photos by Helen Giles)

A wet day in Charlotte Square

As first days in Charlotte Square go, Sunday was probably the wettest we’d known it in our ten years of book-festing. Although I gather Photographer and I missed a much more exciting first 24 hours by not being there on the Saturday…

The rain meant we skulked indoors most of the time, which in turn meant that authors were mostly viewed from afar, through the doorway of the yurt, as they dashed to avoid a soaking. The rubber ducks looked happy, but they might have been the only ones.

Photo calls, when they happened, took place under a little plastic roof, keeping the authors dry. Not so much the photographers.

Malorie Blackman

And so much has changed! And you know how I feel about change. I’ll get used to it, I suppose.

The two bookshops are now one big shop, with a very large café area in the middle. This didn’t prevent people from having coffee at the two signing tables, however, which was a little awkward when you have a couple of authors and their fans, standing there not knowing what to do.

The toilets. Yes, you want to know about them, don’t you? They have one for Gents, one for Ladies, and one for Everyone. Plus the usual baby changing and accessible ones.

Even my favourite theatre, the Corner Theatre, had changed. It’s now arranged the same way as all the others… A witch likes a back row near a door. But otherwise it was fine!

Ben Okri

The large signing tent was – I believe – mostly as it was last year, when it had changed. Here is Ben Okri at the end of what seemed like a rather long signing session.

(Photos by Helen Giles)

What price books?

There is much one can say about big book fairs, and much of it is good. Every year I wonder whether I perhaps ought to attend the Gothenburg one again. After three consecutive years a long time ago, I only returned the year Meg Rosoff finally made it there. I have been overtaken by Son who accompanied me in the early years, and who now is allowed to go on his own.

These days it’s not so much the cost as the time of the year and the effort involved. I’m still surprised I’m not getting any younger.

Gothenburg Book Fair

But then I learned something new about the Book Fair, which is that the organisers are putting up the fees for those who exhibit. Understandable, and proper publishers and other large companies can presumably weather the cost. But there have always been many small exhibitors, like self-published authors. I’ve long thought it’s nice that anyone can aspire to rent a table there, and maybe sell their books or at least get better known by visitors.

Someone I wouldn’t have known about were it not for about three different coincidences, is Kim Kimselius who apparently has published 57 children’s books; mostly through self-publishing. She seems to do well and apart from having loads of new books out every year, she travels and runs writing weeks and does events.

But I just read that after 20 years of attending the Book Fair, she will stop. It is too expensive for her to attend, when everything is taken into account. I believe it cost her around £6000 for the long weekend, and that is by staying with friends.

I gather that with fewer exhibitors the fair organisers have extended the free space around the ‘exhibits’ as well as starting up more areas for eating and drinking. Space is nice. (You’d know that if you’d been.) So is somewhere to sit and eat. Kim was regretting the fact that she was losing her fair ‘neighbours’ with whom she’d chat and who made it fun.

This year she opened up her own home to fans, instead.

I’m not saying this is wrong. I mean the reasons behind her new venture, rather than the new event. But it feels slightly questionable that someone who writes and sells books, and quite successfully at that, should be priced out of the Book Fair.

As for me, when I first went, I paid for my weekend passes myself. It was – almost – affordable when you took into account the 50% discount for foreigners. Three years ago I carefully asked if this had now stopped, as I could find no sign of special treatment, and was told this was the case. Again, I suppose they need to make as much money as they can, and most visitors requiring a four-day pass to all events, will probably be reimbursed by their employer.

The price had gone up considerably, so – cap in hand – I asked for a free pass, which they generously supplied. Had they not done so, I don’t think I could have justified going.

I’m not quite sure what Son does, but he has so many meetings arranged, leaving no time or energy for actually going to events. And that does bring down the cost.

Choices

I was quite tickled to discover vigilante dentists in the book I was reading in the dentist’s waiting room this week. It was by Steve Cole, so not all that unlikely. I require books when in waiting rooms. It deals with the nerves. But I had nothing I’d started on this time, and it can be hard to open up a new novel in a waiting room situation. Because you just don’t know, do you? So I grabbed Steve’s latest, reckoning I’d be safe with him.

Wasn’t sure if I’d been sent this book for having been so positive about the first one in the series, or if I just look like a Steve Cole fan.

But these days I have shopping lists for books. It used to be I’d want the odd book I’d not been sent, and I’d maybe buy it if temptation got the better of me. Now I’m resorting to lists of books I want to read. The main reason for not having dealt with my current list yet is that I’ve not had time to shop, or felt I’ve had lots of time for reading. It’s not that I’m not wanting to read these books.

I even want a copy of Good Omens, despite having already bought one, over ten years ago. I pressed it into the hands of Son, and that was it. Now I want my own copy.

There are far too many top choices in books that publishers are being quite sparing with. Malorie Blackman’s new book was offered on Netgalley to a limited number of readers. Adrian McKinty’s golden new crime novel is proving impossible to hunt down. And so it goes.

Bad for the image of the blogger who not only gets everything free, but makes money from their blogging. WordPress are quite insistent that I want, need, their professional upgrade. Not so much to spread the word, but to make money for ‘my business.’ And I thought I was merely writing for pleasure…

I admit I’m tempted sometimes. But then I remember that with the lesser paid-for options you don’t even get snow in December. I almost cried last winter when the snow failed to fall on Bookwitch.

Potions & Poisons

The programme self-destructed. Or so it seemed when I went back to double-check I had the right names and the title for the event. Because, you know, I am old, and I forget.

Tickets for Cymera

Anyway, for my first Cymera event on the first night, it was all potions and poisons, and they were far too cheerful about these dangerous substances. They were Melinda Salisbury and PM Freestone, talking to Laura Lam, and the rule for the evening was ‘no spoilers.’ Unfortunately, this rather cramped their style, as nearly everything they wanted to contribute could count as spoilers.

Apart from having to stop themselves from giving too much away, they seemed to get on very well, laughing like a group of friends out, chatting away about what they write about. I think the audience got what they wanted; they seemed to be knowledgeable about the same stuff, and as they filed into the Upper Hall, they looked like fans too. I know that sounds silly, but they did. Sometimes the, well, wrong people go to events.

I wondered what the bucket was for. One of the volunteer ushers carried around a bucket. Seems it was for money. (I sent mine by bank transfer…)

Pleasance, where the Cymera Festival is doing its thing this weekend was very pleasant. At least if you ignore the lift. I will never ever go in that lift again! Afterwards I was further alarmed when one of the very helpful and polite volunteers came up to me to say the lift was now activated..! I don’t think I want to know.

I arrived early. Again. Was ushered to the lanyard table, where I found Sarah Broadley and Lari Don, and also my nice orange badge. Came across one or two people I knew, including someone who also knew me, but we both agreed that while we had met, we had no idea where or when. LJ McWhirter sat in front of me at the ‘poisonous’ event and had much news to share.

The venue does look very good, nicely decorated, albeit with too many stairs. And that lift. Fashionable café and for the weekend a lovely bookshop stocked with all the science fiction, fantasy and horror you could want. Possibly more.

What if the ‘Ants’ say no?

Oh, the relief I felt when the man accepted all five large bags of books without fuss! I’d been building up to what I would do when refused and where to take the unwanted books next. Presumably to the tip…

I had checked, and double-checked, that Myrorna (Salvation Army charity shop) still take books. But you can’t be too certain. The discussion on social media, maybe last year, where other Swedes had discovered there was nowhere to take books, because their nearest ‘Ants’ (=Myrorna) have stopped selling, and thereby accepting, books.

It was all very well that I’d made more room on my holiday shelves last summer. And then Daughter and I didn’t feel quite up to taking them, but I waited until I had a nice strong man to carry them for me. But would that mean I was too late?

I’d Googled the situation too, discovering that Amnesty take books, but ‘please, pretty please, not Bra Böckers Lexikon! (That’s the 25 volume encyclopaedia ‘all’ Swedes own. So what happens when charity shops are given all those sets at once makes the mind boggle.)

The one thing I’d come up with when considering whether my old – well, Mother-of-witch’s old – ‘leather’ bound poetry collections, and similar, would actually be something a charity shop could shift, was that they’d look good as props. Interior magazines are full of silly still life arrangements consisting of piles of old books and candles* (think of the fire hazard!!) and stuff. So that might still make the books attractive to some.

Books

*Maybe artichokes instead? Or there is colour coordinating your shelves/rooms. There are some lovely brown and blue books right there, above.