Tag Archives: John Fardell

Your top ten for Book Week Scotland

In just two weeks’s time Book Week Scotland will be upon you, at least if you’re in Scotland. Otherwise Scottish Book Trust’s powers might not reach all the way to where you are. But it won’t be for want of trying.

Many events are for schools and not public, but I have found a few I like the look of, and were it not for my vow of not stirring ever again, I’d head off for some of these.

Top choice is obviously Mairi Hedderwick in Helensburgh, when it’s Party Time with Katie Morag on Saturday 26th November at 10.30. It hits the right spot for me in so many ways.

Jonathan Meres is a very funny man. His show May Contain Nuts at Fauldhouse, West Lothian, on Wednesday 23rd at 9.30, should be great. If you can get out of bed that early.

Children’s Book Swap with Alan Durant in Strathpeffer on Friday 25th at 15.00. Get rid of books you don’t want, and choose someone else’s unwanted books instead…

Stories by Starlight in Inverkeithing on Saturday 26th at 16.30. How they can be so sure of stars I am not, ahem, sure, but it sounds good.

A Beginner’s Guide to Electricity and Magnetism. Well, what could be more fun? That’s Gill Arbuthnott and Nick Armstrong in Fife on the 24th at 18.30.

John Fardell will be in Orkney on Saturday 26th at 10.30. Lovely, for anyone already up there.

Tom Nicoll: Writer of Nonsense! (and Mini-Dragons) entertains in Airdrie, also on Saturday 26th at 11.00.

Badger the Mystical Mutt and the Loch Ness Mystery (and Lyn McNicol) are in Glasgow on the 24th at 11.00. (Actually, make that the 26th! See Lyn’s comment below.)

A Library Ghost Tour in Rutherglen, also on the 24th, at 18.00. Boo!

City Lines featuring Chris Brookmyre in Glasgow on the 22nd at 19.00.

FREE TO USE - BOOK WEEK SCOTLAND PROGRAMME LAUNCH

And number eleven is a Book Trail in Edinburgh’s St Giles’ Cathedral, every morning Monday 21st to Saturday 26th at 10.00. Clues to be found to win a prize.

Go on, go!

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The Scottish novelists

Lists will rarely be complete. But some are more complete than others.

On Monday Herald Scotland published a list of Scottish children’s authors.* What prompted this seems to have been Julia Donaldson’s decision to leave Scotland and move back to England. It felt like an ‘oh god who do we have left in Scotland if Julia Donaldson moves away?’ kind of list.

Don’t worry, J K Rowling is one of their ten ‘best.’ So are others that I know and admire, along with a few names I have never heard of. Which is fine, because I don’t know everything, and I’m sure they are great writers. I don’t even know who counts as Scottish for this purpose.

Although, with J K topping the list, I’m guessing they allow English writers living in Scotland. That makes my own list rather longer. Harry Potter isn’t particularly Scottish as a book, even if Hogwarts is in Scotland. Do Scottish authors living in England, or god forbid, even further afield qualify? (I’m not so good at keeping track of such people, so I’ll leave them out for the time being.)

As I said, I have no problem with who is on the Herald’s list. But along with quite a few Scottish authors, I gasped when I realised who weren’t on it. Catherine MacPhail and Gillian Philip, to mention two very Scottish ladies. Linda Strachan, Julie Bertagna and Theresa Breslin, who are also pretty well known and very Scottish indeed.

Keith Charters and Keith Gray. Damien M Love and Kirkland Ciccone. John Fardell. Lari Don, Lyn McNicol, Joan Lingard and Elizabeth Laird. Cathy Forde. Dare I mention the Barrowman siblings, Carole and John? Alexander McCall Smith writes for children, too. Roy Gill, Jackie Kay. Cat Clarke. And how could I forget Joan Lennon?

I’m guessing former Kelpies Prize shortlistees Tracy Traynor, Rebecca Smith and Debbie Richardson belong. (There is one lady whose name is eluding me completely right now, but who appears at the book festival every year and seems very popular…) Have also been reminded of Margaret Ryan and Pamela Butchart. (Keep them coming!)

Most of the above have lovely Scottish accents and reasonably impeccable Scottish credentials. But what about the foreigners? We have the very English, but still Scottish residents, Vivian French, Helen Grant and Nicola Morgan. Americans Jane Yolen and Elizabeth Wein. Ex-Aussie Helen FitzGerald.

And I really don’t know about English Cathy Cassidy, who used to live in Scotland but has more recently returned to England. I think she counts, too, along with all those writers whose names simply escape me right now, but who will wake me up in the night reminding me of their existence.

I’m hoping to get to know all of you much better once this wretched move is over and done with. Unless you see me coming and make a swift exit, following Julia Donaldson south. Or anywhere else. I think Scotland has a great bunch of writers for children. (And also those lovely people who write adult crime, and who are not allowed on this list, even by me.)

Sorry for just listing names, but there are so many authors! One day I will do much more. Cinnamon buns, for starters. With tea. Or coffee. Irn Bru if absolutely necessary.

Theresa Breslin's boot

*For anyone who can’t access the Herald’s list, here are the other nine names: Mairi Hedderwick, Barry Hutchison, Chae Strathie, Claire McFall, Daniela Sacerdoti, Debi Gliori, Caroline Clough, Janis MacKay and Diana Hendry.

Best of Scottish 2012, or ‘An awfy dreich day in Dundee’

In the end it didn’t matter that I went to Dundee the wrong week. I was able to ‘sort of’ be there yesterday, anyway. It was WBD. It was time for the Scottish Children’s Book Awards at Caird Hall, filled with a thousand children (so there might not have been room for me). And they very kindly filmed the whole shebang and made it available online. Thus I watched it all from the comfort of my own desk.

They had that Chae Strathie in to do the host stuff. Apparently when he didn’t win last year he sulked until they offered him this job instead. He was very noisy, but he was a competent MC. Perhaps a few too many ‘yoohoos.’ That’s all.

Scottish Children's Book Awards

The shortlisted authors were lined up on stage and then sent off again. Seems they have some kind of authors’ enclosure where they are kept. There was a band with such an odd name I can’t tell you what they were called.

For the Younger readers category they had written little theatre sketches based on the three shortlisted books, which were performed by school children. I am fairly intolerant of this type of thing, but have to admit this was first class stuff. Very well done.

Jonathan Meres won with The World of Norm: May Contain Nuts. His thank you speech turned out to be his shopping list; tea, milk, etc. (But at least he was English… I was beginning to think you had to have a beautiful Scottish accent to even make it onto that shortlist.)

Scotland has a minister for children! Aileen Campbell was there, and made a good speech about the importance of books and reading. I suspect the Scottish government might have more sense than Westminster.

John Fardell

For the Bookbug category we got story time, and then the Children’s Laureate sang her book, and finally John Fardell drew pictures of scary monsters. He finished with a giant rabbit with horrible teeth, before winning the Bookbug prize for The Day Louis Got Eaten.

To make life easier for the Older readers category, Barry Hutchison became Elizabeth Hutchison, so he wouldn’t feel like the odd one out, sitting as he did, between Elizabeths Laird and Wein. They had to answer questions. Ms Hutchison has no shed, which is sad. (S)he likes horsepie best. (Dundee delicacy?) Ms Laird told us to run downhill if ever attacked by elephants, which is something that has kept me awake at night, so I’m very grateful. Ms Wein opted to go to the South Pole in the company of a ‘Norwegian who knows what he’s doing.’ Sensible woman.

Elizabeth Laird, Barry Hutchison, Elizabeth Wein and Chae Strathie

While this was happening, Chae wore an outlandish gold jacket, two sizes too small. And then they danced, Gangnam style. I’d have to say Ms Wein did that far better than her namesakes. (She is an American, so clearly you don’t have to be Scottish to be there.)

But it helps, because Barry Hutchison won that category for The 13th Horseman. His speech was mercifully short. (He’d had a busy day the day before. Maybe he was worn out.)

Chae finished off by saying he loves us all.

Love you too, Chae. Great event!

*I borrowed that dreich quote from Barry. I’m sure it wasn’t really dreich, but I just love that word! Maybe the weather cried because I wasn’t there?

Pre-mcbf midweek miscellany

Fearing I might not be able to bite you this weekend, I will give you a mixed bag of stuff today instead.

Fear. Yes. It’s the done thing. Meg Rosoff blogged the other day about all the dangers of going to the library. Is it safe now to admit to having omitted to fit a stair gate when Offspring were at their most vulnerable? I am a coward most of the time, but there are some things I feel you just need to risk, or we risk (hah) losing sight of common sense. I eat old food, too.

Shortlisted books for the Scottish Children's Book Awards

And I am afraid I daren’t say anything about this rather excellent shortlist for the Scottish Children’s Book Awards 2012. The three books for older readers comprise one author whom I admire a great deal (Elizabeth Laird) and the other two just happen to have written what must count as my bestest books (so far) this year, even outside Scotland. That’s Elizabeth Wein (odds that an Elizabeth wins?) and Barry Hutchison. And I see that even more favourites narrowly missed the shortlist. They clearly need a longer shortlist. Or more awards.

The younger shortlists (you know what I mean!) are also full of jeopardy, with people being eaten and there being nuts, soldiers, crocodiles and lions.

A man who lives dangerously is Tony Higginson of Formby Books. He works too hard. Now he has added to his burden and blogs in his spare (double hah) time. Double danger there next Thursday (and I’m telling you now because I plan to be busy for a while) when he has invited customers to a crime barbecue. I mean, books and flames! Stephen Booth is the one who will be flambéed. Or was that the burgers?

This is assuming Tony makes it through his day. I believe I have counted three more events he’s doing that day, which is the day I already have so much on that I am wondering if I can crawl out of bed for the piano tuner at the crack of dawn. I suppose, take one event after another… But no trips for me to the coast and Tony.

Next year I’ll send out dates when I’m available.

Higher Ground

Higher Ground

I have mentioned Higher Ground briefly in the past. Anuj Goyal had the bright idea to collect stories written by children’s authors about the 2004 tsunami, for the children who suffered in the tsunami. As it says on the cover, ‘stories inspired by the courage and hope of children who survived.’

Most of the stories are set elsewhere than India, because other countries were much harder hit. Not that details matter, but there are two southern India stories and a couple set in the Andaman Islands and the Nicobar Islands. It doesn’t matter where they are set, because you will cry over all of them. Either because it is very dreadful and sad, or occasionally because something beautiful and wonderful happens. I don’t have a favourite, but keep remembering The Christmas Angel by Cliff McNish.

Apart from the obvious fact of bringing people’s attention to the tsunami children’s realities, it’s good to be able to read more about children in countries we tend to know less about. People go to Thailand, but what do they really know about their holiday hosts?

It’s worth being aware that these stories are based on real tales from the tsunami. They aren’t just something the authors made up. I hope Tim Bowler won’t mind my saying this, but I sort of understood from a comment he made back then, that writing his story made him cry. So, what hope does the reader have?

There aren’t many copies for sale these days, and probably none for the charitable causes it was conceived in aid of. But if you simply want to read about this disaster which now seems very far away, it is possible to get hold of a copy.

End of bookfest miscellany

My notebook appears to have run out of ‘new’ notes. That’s despite it having been written in from both directions at once (there is method in how I do things, even if it is my method). But at least it’s purple.

2011 mud

Press duck

There was more mud this year. Mostly sunny while we were there, so the mud will have been caused by mysterious rain that rained when we looked the other way. The ducks were larger, which makes sense, as a year is a long time and ducks must grow, too. (Bet they thought the same thing about me.)

No sooner had I thought the thought that EIBF being in Scotland meant there would be no surplus Gudrun Sjödén clothes being worn, than I encountered someone wearing a Gudrun Sjödén t-shirt. The same pattern I had on, but luckily not the same top. (They were Danish.)

It was mostly the same people behind the scenes, including the photographer with the polychrome hair. He had been given his very own Ikea rattan chair to sit on. Hmph.

Worked out that the man I kept seeing and who looked so familiar each time, was in fact John Fardell. Must remember I have something I want him to sign. But it helps if I know who to approach first.

Didn’t buy many books. I don’t buy books if I can help it. And it definitely helps when people like the very generous Julie Bertagna come bearing gifts. Signed and everything.

Wonder who the VIPs were, who got special treatment from the photographers? Usually people get to pose for a posse of the paparazzi, but in this instance the paparazzi waited for them, somewhere else, and these people stopped briefly and posed, before going on. They were clearly so very VIP that I didn’t know them.

Latecomers were not admitted to events. It’s understandable. I hate it when someone makes a noise and disturbs whoever is talking. But latecomers are admitted, and audiences do turn around and stare and it does cause interruption. And if your phone rings and you run out – after considerable disturbance – you will be allowed back in again. To be fair, they weren’t originally late. Just noisy.

Neil Gaiman

And bookwitches get exhausted. That is a serious drawback. For our last event the photographer and I went to the crypt at St John’s church, where Neil Gaiman was entertaining a smallish number of fans and normal people. It was organised by the Edinburgh Bookshop, and was a very good idea. In fact, I’m amazed it was even possible to do on such a small scale.

Neil started off by reading a short story. It’s one I’ve read, but it’s always good to hear Neil read, so whatever he picks is fine. He said that he tends to edit as he goes along, finding things he’d have done differently if he was writing it again. This one was about shining white knights and charity shops. The holy grail. That sort of thing.

After the reading he sat down to chat with Vanessa from the bookshop, and to be honest, I can’t remember a thing they said. But it was interesting. And the nice thing about crypts is that the acoustics are good. This crypt also served nibbles in the interval, but I’m afraid we didn’t stop to sample things because we were, as I’ve already mentioned, slightly done in. And when the second half of Neil Gaiman, as well as an event with Eoin Colfer the following day aren’t enough to tempt us, then you know we’ve had enough.

Charlotte Square

But we hadn’t had what the police officers with the sniffer dogs were looking for. The train we were on was met by sniffer dogs, and after years of avoiding them at school, Daughter finally had to succumb. (Anyway, what is the world coming to when your innocent Offspring is used to police searches at school?)

We are now back home – the home home – and have recovered somewhat. Not ready to think about a next time. Yet.

Our City

Our City

It just appeared there in the corner of my eye. Not literally, obviously. But as I meandered through the children’s bookshop at Charlotte Square, mentally ticking all the books I had read or already had waiting for me, I noticed one I didn’t know at all.

Our City is an anthology in support of the OneCity Trust, just like the adult crime anthology I read a while ago. They clearly know what they are doing, getting great authors to write short stories for free and publishing them for the good of Edinburgh’s less fortunate inhabitants.

Ever the autograph hunter I couldn’t help noticing that five of the ten authors were at the book festival, and that in itself seemed like a good start. Reader, I bought the book. The only one I bought. And it’s a good one.

Julie Bertagna, Cathy Cassidy, Alison Flett, Vivian French, John Fardell, Keith Gray, Elizabeth Laird, Jonathan Meres, Nicola Morgan and Alison Prince have all written a story that has something to do with Edinburgh. That in itself made it the best possible souvenir from the festival.

John Fardell has illustrated not just his own cartoon contribution, but the stories of all the others and also the front cover. It’s the sort of cover that had me turn the book round and round, as John has drawn a circular Edinburgh, with all the bits from the stories fitting neatly together. So you can twirl and twirl, and then you fall over.

There are historical tales, a story about witches (what else?), a sad story, an almost political story, a traditional fairy tale, and science fiction even. They are all marvellous in their own way. I liked the pied piper. I enjoyed the sad bus story. The smiling alien was good. The cruel stepfather was interesting. How to beat the school bully. Cathy Cassidy managed to incorporate her friendship bracelets into hers. And then there’s the witches. Nice ladies.

I love anthologies. Especially when they are made up of the right kind of short stories written by my kind of people. And this charitable type of effort is a wonderful idea. I was going to say we need more of them, but I suppose if you have too many the idea stops working.

But is is a good idea.