Tag Archives: Edinburgh International Book Festival

Launching the 2018 EIBF programme

I may have to love Baillie Gifford forever, but more about that later.

For the first time I wasn’t on holiday when the Edinburgh International Book Festival launched last night, which meant both that I was able to attend the presentation in Edinburgh, and to provide really nice weather for people. Theresa Breslin, for one, was most appreciative of my efforts with the sunshine.

But it had been uphill. You sort of forget that even a slight incline in Edinburgh makes a difference, and as two people whom I don’t know very well, but who were still recognisable from their backs, swiftly overtook me, I realised I might be slow, but on the right track, but that I was under-dressed. The beautiful red dress that also passed me on the pavement, was going the same way too.

To begin with I only noticed a few people I ‘knew’ plus the EIBF staff I see every year in Charlotte Square, from the director to the tech man I call Costner. But before I left, I realised the whole world was there, more or less. On the other hand, after the talks, people talked, and it got far too noisy for me.

I turned down the offer of a cooling gin & tonic at the door, for a more lukewarm glass of tap water, because we can’t all be cool. The pink fizz looked nice too. When people talked too much and sat down too little, [General] Frances Sutton put us in order so the speeches could begin.

I am now a wee bit in love with Allan Little, who spoke so very beautifully about books and the book festival. He thanked the sponsors and talked about the library when he was a child, and about poetry. And then he cried, and we cried a bit too.

It was everything a speech should be.

The EIBF programme 2018

Director Nick Barley, Associate Director Roland Gulliver and Children and Education Programme Director Janet Smyth continued the show, taking turns telling us what we needed to know about this year’s festival. They did it really well, and they had so much to say that I can’t possibly list all the interesting news here. Get a programme!

In fact, they were nearly as entertaining as the members of Codename F, the group of children from Craigmillar aged between eight and 14, who have been helping put together the children’s programme. Before inviting them onto the stage, we heard them discussing what mattered to them in a video recording, complete with very determined smiling. We all loved the young man who ‘as a fellow artist’ had much understanding for one of the festival’s professional artists. Perhaps with young people like him, the future of the world isn’t quite as bleak as I’d thought?

2018 will be a Muriel Spark year, as well as letting us meet Nelson Mandela’s great grandchildren, and Chelsea Clinton. And it’s been fifty years since that tiger came to tea with Judith Kerr. So it’s probably good that the Main Theatre is bigger this year. And Ehsan Abdollahi will be back, as Illustrator in Residence.

After the speeches, Penelope who isn’t Penelope came up to say hello, before I joined the queue in the Ladies where it became obvious I’ve been doing this for too long, when I recognise librarians everywhere.

On my way out I picked up my party bag, containing this year’s programme, which has a new design that I rather like. There was a choice between red and purple bags, and all I will say is I’m sure there will have been a purple shortage towards the end. Had I known that there would be quite such loveliness inside the bag, I’d have unpacked it there and then.

Purple party bag - EIBF 2018

Downhill was definitely easier and Haymarket was reached without too much difficulty. I was joined there by Theresa Breslin, and saw her safely onto her train before getting on mine.

And after two days of train travel I have been in and out of several stations and forgotten to pick up the new timetable every single time…

But at least I have my book festival programme, and I know how to use it. And the lovely purple pen and pad.

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Schools for Charlotte Square

It’s short and sweet, the schools programme at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. ‘Making books more affordable’ is a good motto, I feel. May it be successful and reach the children who need it the most.

I know I shouldn’t read the programme and plan, but I can read it and think. Some of the authors on the schools list will be doing ‘normal’ events too. And there is always the perfecting my school appearance. One of these days it will work.

Last year someone I’d just met talked very enthusiastically about Jason Reynolds, whom I’d never heard of. Well, this American is coming over, for an event with Chris Priestley who has illustrated his book. That should be pretty special.

Clémentine Beauvais is someone else I’ve not seen before, and she will be appearing with Sarah Crossan, which will be good. James Mayhew I have always managed to miss, so I could perhaps undo that, and Melvin Burgess, whom I’ve seen a lot, is coming back after a break of a few years. Or did I merely miss him?

Ehsan Abdollahi and Delaram Ghanimifard

Ehsan Abdollahi will return, which pleases me, and he’s appearing with Eloise Greenfield. I’ve not seen Beverley Naidoo for years, and I don’t know her events partner Marjan Vafaeian at all, which I hope can be remedied.

I will quickly tiptoe past the ‘star attraction’ on the Thursday morning, to mention that the last day will be special as always, with people like Theresa Breslin and Philip Ardagh and lots of other fun.

As you can tell, many school children will have some great events to look forward to. I’m always in awe of the school groups who get up before dawn cracks, to travel across Scotland to come to one of the events. Hopefully it will be a memory for life, and be the beginning of a bookish future for some.

Scottish Book Trust Awards 2018

After months of secrecy, all the Scottish Book Trust Awards for this year have been made public, culminating in an awards ceremony in Edinburgh last night.

I don’t actually know where to start. They are all important, so does one go from less to more, or the other way round?

OK, I’ll go with the Learning Professional Award. Where would we be without such hardworking people, especially someone who sounds as absolutely fabulous as Eileen Littlewood, Head Teacher at Forthview Primary in Edinburgh? First I marvelled at all Eileen has achieved, and then I quickly felt both exhausted and not a little envious of all her great work.

Eileen Littlewood upright pic - credit Jonathan Ley

When Eileen started, the school library had been dismantled, and in order to create her vision of an in-house library catering for all ages, she applied for and secured over £10k of funding. She was able to start a reading community, and also helped the Family Support Teacher to start a parent book group, using Quick Reads and comic books to engage parents who were reluctant to read.

Eileen has established a paired reading initiative, has organised author visits to the school and has ensured her staff are trained to deliver reading projects. She also runs a lunchtime book club for pupils, as well as regular writing workshops. And she has recently worked with parents to create a book of poems on mental health to share with their children.

The Outstanding Achievement Award has gone to Vivian French, who has written hundreds of books. She has also worked hard to promote books by other authors and illustrators. Vivian is not only an inspiring figure to those in the industry, but has also acted as a mentor to budding authors and artists. Vivian is an active advocate for dyslexia.

In 2012, she and Lucy Juckes set up Picture Hooks, a mentoring scheme to encourage emerging Scottish illustrators.  And Vivian has been Children’s Writer-in-Residence at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and a guest selector for the children’s programme. She also teaches at Edinburgh College of Art in the illustration department and is a Patron of the Borders Book Festival.

Vivian French wide pic - credit Jonathan Ley

Vivian’s comment to all this was; ‘I have the most wonderful time visiting schools and festivals, tutoring young illustrators, talking (always talking!) and discussing books and pictures… surely such an award should be for someone who’s earned it by the sweat of their brow? Not someone like me, who skips about having such a very lovely time! I’m not ungrateful – truly I’m not – it’s the most amazing award to be given… but I’m going to redouble my efforts now to ensure that I really deserve it.’

There’s modesty, and then there’s modesty. Vivian deserves this award!

SBT_BPBP_18_web-2124

And finally, there’s the Bookbug Picture Book Prize for Gorilla Loves Vanilla by Chae Strathie and Nicola O’Byrne, and the Scottish Teenage Book Prize to Caighlan Smith for Children of Icarus.

Caighlan Smith

Mustn’t forget to mention runners-up Michelle Sloan and Kasia Matyjaszek, Debi Gliori and Alison Brown, Danny Weston and Elizabeth Laird.

Phew, what a lot of talent and good books!

The late interview – Maria Turtschaninoff

If I employed me to work on Bookwitch, I’d have to give myself the sack for slacking and being late.

But here, at very long last, is my interview with Maria Turtschaninoff, in English. The Swedes – and the Finns – got her ages ago. Well, like two months ago. Right in time for Finland’s national day. The only thing special about today, is that it’s the day before tomorrow.

Maria Turtschaninoff

10 10 10

On this tenth day of the tenth month in the tenth year of Bookwitch, I realise I’ve already been doing a lot of musing and looking back, and I keep telling you – even though no one asked for it – about all the good things the witchy work has brought me.

I appreciate all the comments you leave, offering some valuable thoughts that I have needed to hear.

There’s Fabio Geda’s smile when we met. I don’t tend to expect such reactions.

Can’t forget the Mars bar Terry Pratchett was hoping for when we first met, and I had nothing to offer him.

When we moved house, one of my goals in the house hunting was to find a garden like Candy Gourlay’s. Preferably with a house with similar vibes, too. It’s good to know what one wants.

I discovered that – occasionally – I can conduct interviews. This is an odd thing for someone quiet and unsociable.

Bookwitching led to some blogging for the Guardian. I’d never have thought that could be possible. I mean, not even Hallandsposten wanted me.

I now have pendant lamps in our newly built room inspired by the Edinburgh book festival’s lights in Charlotte Square.

There’s been a lot of interesting travelling, and some quite unusual event venues have been visited.

I was able to ask Derek Landy to leave a comment for a fervent fan who desperately wanted to hear from him.

And I’d like to think that my exploits have had a beneficial effect on the Bookwitch family.

Charlotte Square

That’s it. Not very scientific.

Celebrating Muriel Spark

It’s rather nice now that the Edinburgh International Book Festival offers special events throughout the year. Somehow you feel so much more ready for an event when there aren’t hundreds more, right before and after.

Muriel Spark and Alan Taylor - Edinburgh International Book Festival

To celebrate the centenary of the birth of Dame Muriel Spark, there is a special event at the Usher Hall on January 31st. It will be presented by Alan Taylor, who I understand is a friend of Muriel Spark’s (I know him as the chap in the press yurt every summer…), and Rosemary Goring. To help them, people like Ian Rankin will share their own memories of the city’s famous author.

So, that sounds really quite interesting.

‘Plus, for the first time since 1963, Spark’s play Doctors of Philosophy will be presented on stage through performed extracts.’ The evening is only planned to last 90 minutes, but it looks like they are going to put a lot into that hour and a half.

The thing I’m most excited about, however, is the signing afterwards. I’m not sure whether signing is the new word for selling books, or if the book festival organisers know something I don’t.

On ruining Othello

If I have to go back to school, I want Claire McFall to be my English teacher.

She is such fun, and so cheerful, and doesn’t hesitate to ruin Othello if the syllabus demands it.

Claire McFall

I have to admit that Claire proves I am wrong in preferring to interview authors whose work I know well. When I met her I had only read half of Ferryman – the book that went to China and was a huge success. And China does seem to be the way to go. Maybe the country could change the fates of more British YA, and children’s, authors.

So here, only two months late, is our conversation over cookies and juice (yes, really) at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, with Claire’s thoughts on China and how to get school pupils to write.