Category Archives: Reading

Putting the Edinburgh 2015 bookfest to bed

Charlotte Square

It’s time to put the finishing touches to my book festival bits and pieces report. If I can even remember what I did and who I saw. If I can even find my notes (Although, I can always make things up.)

The first few days I had my photographer, until she went and left the country. It’s understandable. I’m a hard witch to go gallivanting with.

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Then I was on my own, holding pen in one hand (except for when the ink ran dry) and pad in the other, and my camera in my third hand. But it worked, more or less. My first photocall I couldn’t remember who I’d come for, although I recognised Yrsa Sigurðardóttir when I saw her.

Chris Close

And I was pleased to ‘meet’ Nicola Sturgeon and see her selfie skills at first hand. I came to the conclusion that to make your event sell out like Roy Gill’s, you create a Facebook event and invite everyone, even your second cousin in New Zealand.

Nicola Sturgeon and Val McDermid

One day I travelled into Edinburgh in the company of Helen Grant, who was going to the Teen Titles event at the library. In actual fact, an awful lot of authors were going to that, and more still would have gone had they not had book festival events. Crazy Kirkland Ciccone went as some kind of Andy Warhol meets Boris Johnson in a beret. I had the opportunity of admiring Nicola Morgan’s shoes, which is a not inconsiderable experience.

DSCN7691

Saturday gave me Eoin Colfer and the ducks.

EIBF ducks

For my last day I made a list of events to go to, official photocalls I was interested in and the unofficial opportunities of catching authors signing after events I’d been to and events I’d been unable to go to. I colour coded them, and had three columns, in strict chronological order, and I still had to refer back to it again and again because I got muddled up. I needed to identify breaks long enough to eat in, and got confused because it looked like the hour I was in an event, I’d be free to have lunch, and then worked out that wasn’t the case at all.

How nice it would be to be less old.

Which brings me neatly to my discovery when I got home and checked Google images to see what Sarah Ardizzone looks like, as I saw several people at her translation event and didn’t know which one was her. She turned out to be the one I’d taken a photo of in the signing tent that day, just because she happened to be sitting there with author Marjolaine Leray, next to Liz Kessler.

Sarah Ardizzone

Marjolaine Leray

Liz Kessler

Luckily some authors spend forever signing books. This helps people like me catch up with them, when I would otherwise have missed them, in the midst of that colour coded list with not enough food breaks. Francesca Simon is one, and she was there with Steven Butler.

Francesca Simon

Steven Butler

Lauren St John

Lauren St John is another long signer, very popular with her fans, as is Tom Palmer who is clearly doing something right with his sports novels.

Tom Palmer

I had ignored the name Gordon Brown on the photocall list, assuming that since I’d seen the politician last summer, it was bound to be the crime novelist this time. But it was the former PM, and I even caught him signing after his popular event, shaking the hands of everyone in the queue.

Gordon Brown

Chris Riddell made a second appearance that day, this time with his long time writing partner Paul Stewart.

Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart

Before I ran for (OK, hobbled towards) my train home, I photographed the still very cute Christophe Galfard, physicist and former PhD student of Stephen Hawking.

Christophe Galfard

The 2016 Scottish Children’s Book Awards shortlist

FREE TO USE - Scottish Children’s Book Awards shortlist is announced.

It’s Scottish shortlist time again. Scottish Book Trust have announced the shortlisted books for the 2016 awards, and here they are:

Bookbug Readers (3-7 years)

Never Tickle a Tiger by Pamela Butchart and Marc Boutavant
Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit Book Burglar by Emily MacKenzie
Mouse’s First Night at Moonlight School by Simon Puttock and Ali Pye

Younger Readers (8-11 years)

The Nowhere Emporium by Ross Mackenzie
The Mysteries of Ravenstorm Island: The Lost Children by Gillian Philip
The Fastest Boy in the World by Elizabeth Laird

Older Readers (12-16 years)

Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
The Piper by Danny Weston (the pseudonym of Philip Caveney)
Trouble on Cable Street by Joan Lingard

Over the next five months, children in Scotland will be reading the three shortlisted books in their age category and voting for their favourite. The three winning books will be announced at a special award ceremony on 2 March 2016.

As always, let the best books win! Especially the Bookwitch favourites. Although that could be difficult, as I have read and liked more than one in some cases.

The Amnesty readings

If you feel up to the gruesome nature of what some people do to other people, you should go along to one or more of the Amnesty International readings in Charlotte Square. They are free, and they are good, but they could make you cry, as happened to one of the authors reading the other night. But then, if the people who need Amnesty’s help can put up with what’s being done to them, I reckon we can.

I’ve been to two readings this week. The first one had Dreams of Freedom as its theme, and it is also the title of a book published in association with Amnesty. It has short quotes from well known people who have been wrongly imprisoned, and it has been illustrated by famous artists, including Oliver Jeffers and Chris Riddell.

Dreams of Freedom

On Wednesday the authors who read to us were Dub Leffler, Debi Gliori, Michel Faber and D D Everest. They are all different people, but they all read very well, and talked about their pieces in a way to make me want to read more. To do more.

Wednesday’s writers were Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Aung San Suu Kyi and Tenzin Gyatso (Dalai Lama). It’s easy to think we know it all, but we don’t. We need to hear more of what’s being done to people.

On Thursday the authors were Paul Magrs, Teri Terry, Priya Parmar and Cecilia Ekbäck. The pieces they read were all excedingly short, but no less powerful. The writers were Alicia Partnoy, Liao Yiwu, Enoh Meyomesse and Stephanie Ndoungo, and what strikes you again and again is how normal their behaviour has been, and still they end up incarcerated.

Amnesty in Edinburgh are asking people to sign a petition to free Atena Farghadani, who is an Iranian artist, punished for posting a cartoon on Facebook, and sentenced to 14 years. When she shook the hand of her male lawyer, they were both accused of indecent conduct. To sign you can text ATENA and your own FIRST and LAST name to 70505.

Dreams of Freedom

‘Freedom to feel safe.’

Leaving something of an echo of themselves

To have one biro run out of ink is a bit of a misfortune for a Bookwitch, who takes down notes the old-fashioned way at events. To have [her only] two biros become ink-free in the space of a couple of hours is something Lady Bracknell might have a few things to say about. So I’m starting with my second event on Monday, because it is in much more dire risk of not being blogged about, unless I make up half of it.

Edge of Your Seat Thrillers was a really good event, documenting how Tim Bowler and Sam Hepburn write their award winning and shortlisted books, chaired by witch favourite Ann Landmann. OK, so she did threaten us on the back row, but we refused to budge. Even Sam and Tim had to silence their mobile phones, because Hollywood would not be phoning just then.

Sam told us about her new book If You Were Me, and read a bathroom scene from it. Very more-ish. I suspect it might be as good as her first novel. Tim read from Game Changer, which is about a boy with a lot of phobias, but who doesn’t spend quite all his life in a wardrobe. Only some of it.

Sam Hepburn

They discussed reading aloud, which they both do and enjoy. They talked about writing dialogue, which can be hard. Normal conversations don’t sound anything like what you see in books. (I know. Not even the lovely Tim spoke totally grammatically when interviewed.)

They continued with their ‘terribly technical’ chat and Tim apologised for giving us all this advice we’d never asked for. He doesn’t plan, and both authors reckon things happen when you simply sit down and write. Characters start to behave uncharacteristically. Their advice is not to plan too much, if you must plan. Even Carnegie winners have doubts about their writing, and rubbish writing can be good raw material for what comes next.

Sam always types her stories, and Tim mostly does as well, including on his Blackberry (yes, he knows!), which helped him produce 2000 words on his journey to Edinburgh yesterday.

Does literature have a role to play? Yes, it does. Those cavemen didn’t have to start drawing pictures to survive. It was more the urge to leave an echo of themselves behind. It’s the same today. Authors don’t have more ideas than other people; they are just differently wired in how they use them.

If he could have, Tim would have liked to have written Tarka the Otter, while Sam rather fancies being the author of Northern Lights.

Tim Bowler

In the bookshop signing session afterwards, we had a veritable hugfest, as Tim needs to hug to begin with and then again when parting. This time I had both Offspring there who had to be hugged, although Tim rather doubts the existence of the Resident IT Consultant, whom he’s never seen. However, Ann Landmann could confirm he is real.

Feeling Three Men in a Boat-ish

Tell me honestly; do you think it was the smelly Danish cheese that did it?

I suppose it was karma. I put the cheese in the Resident IT Consultant’s suitcase, thinking we’d just be travelling for the day and the cheese would be all right, and so would we. I mean, we were all right. And once the cheese had recovered in the fridge overnight, so was it. In fact, I had a very agreeable lunch sandwich with just the right degree of smelliness. The cheese. Not me.

Although it was hot, and we could all have done with more to drink.

You’d have thought that three out of four trips across the North Sea going somewhat wrong would be one or two too many? I felt we’d had our share of unexpectedly travelling via Oslo or the three of us flying on separate planes, to last us several months.

But on Tuesday our plane had scratches, not previously noted in any flying logbooks. So we sat there, and we sat there, and they gave us so much juice and water that they ran out, and then they told us to get off the plane and wait in the terminal. Luckily, Kastrup is a nice airport, and Daughter very nicely bought the two old people an almond croissant. Each.

Once the scratches had been deemed safe we were back on board, with people panicking nicely over possibly or definitely missed connections in London. We didn’t worry, because we knew we should make the last plane to Scotland. Until the purser came and said we wouldn’t. Until the people at Heathrow said we would, and we did. The plane was so empty they could easily accommodate each of us sitting separately from the other two, which is how we like it (unless we travel on separate planes).

And the only reason I’m boring you with this is because all the will we, won’t we, and getting home late meant I needed to give Debi Gliori and Ros Asquith a miss at Charlotte Square. And Xinran.

Sigh.

But I did get some reading done.

Demon Road

Derek Landy’s new series has quite a few things in common with Skulduggery Pleasant. We have another young girl going travelling with a to her hitherto unknown man. Both girls have special ‘skills’ as do the men. Both men drive ‘interesting’ cars. There is a lot of violence and fighting, blood and death. They move in circles that are not for the rest of us, among strange peoples.

Derek Landy, Demon Road

Demon Road is, dare I say it, bloodier. I lost track of the body count, but I’d say more people died in Demon Road. Or maybe not. Set in America, we first meet 16-year-old Amber at her Florida school. She is unusually fat and friendless for a heroine, which I heartily approve of. And when her perfect parents try to kill her, everything changes. As it would.

Amber obviously has to escape. Hence the road trip with Milo in his car. Plus the gormless Glen, who’s from Ireland. Demon Road does what it says on the cover. Plenty of demons and plenty of those other kinds of dangerous creatures you have come to expect in YA books. Blood features a lot. Almost too much, but who am I to say?

I like road trips and car chases and mysteries. I haven’t yet solved what’s going on here. I’m still trying to digest all that blood, in a manner of speaking. Not sure how many books there will be; whether Amber’s troubles will be relatively shortlived or if countless complications will set in at every opportunity.

We’ll need some replacement characters in book two.

Mythwinter

I don’t know how he does it. I was under the impression Nick Green was taking things easy, but here he is with a new book. Again. Mythwinter is a sort of fairy tale, about snow and ice and Jack Frost.

Nick Green, Mythwinter

At first I thought it would have been better to wait for winter to read, and even publish, a book like this, rather than do so in summer. I like getting into the mood. But you know, it’s just as well I read this in August. Winter would have been too scary.

Anna is enjoying the snow and the fact that her school is closed due to the weather. She and her dog Casper go out to play in the wintry park, just like everyone else. But then the snow games get a little out of hand and Anna falls out with the others. And when she does, she suddenly meets this boy, who seems both real and not real.

They share the same surname, Frost, and Jack is so pleased to have a sister at last. He does things to entertain Anna, and to impress her, and as so often happens under circumstances like that, he takes things too far.

And too far in winter terms is actually a bit scary.

It takes everything Anna’s got to set things right again and save the world and her friends, and Jack.

As I might have mentioned before, this is just what a children’s book should be like. I’m glad Nick feels he can concentrate on his stories, self-publishing* them, rather than bend in any direction because a publisher believes it might be better. This is good. It doesn’t need changing or adapting. What the world needs is for people to recognise what a great children’s author Nick Green is.

(*£1.99 only. You know it makes sense.)