Tag Archives: Kathryn Evans

Were you there?

It is so easy to pick the best known names, or even the known names; authors you have come across before and want to see, or see again.

I have just been choosing events I would like to go to this August in Edinburgh. The numbers are realistic, so not too many. Will probably end up being fewer once I get a little tired. Have I picked any new authors? Am I being adventurous? Let’s have a look.

Hmm, well, it wasn’t as clear-cut as I’d expected. There are people new to me, and people new to the British market. But even if I haven’t seen them before, I have read and enjoyed their books and actively want to see them.

No adventure there, really.

It’s actually hard to make a completely unknown name stand out in a programme, making you go for it. I often think I should go ticket-less on a random day, and simply pay to see someone who ‘happens’ to be on later in the day.

Last year I saw Kathryn Evans, who had a debut book and who was also a book festival debut. But I’d read her book and I’d ‘known’ her for seven years or so. I wasn’t being brave in my choice.

Twenty years ago two new authors appeared at the festival. One of them has told me how she sat next to someone called Joanne Rowling for the book signing afterwards, and how they signed a book for each other… If she has any sense, Julie Bertagna has her Harry Potter under lock and key. Or she has sold it and spent the money. I’d like to think that Joanne still has her copy of The Spark Gap on a shelf somewhere.

Both books are terrific. Both authors have gone on to publish more books.

Looking back from where I stand, it’s obvious that anyone would want to see them. But I wonder how the audience made the choice in 1997?

Were you there?

The 2016 best

Yes, there were good books, even in a year like 2016. Let’s not lose [all] hope, shall we? In fact, after careful consideration, there were more serious contenders than I could allow through to the final round. Sorry about that.

During 2016 I seem to have read and reviewed 154 books. Before you gasp with admiration, I should mention that 40 of those were picture books.

2016 books

And here, without me even peeping at other best of lists, are my favourites, in alphabetical order:

Beck, by Mal Peet and Meg Rosoff

Broken Sky + Darkness Follows, by L A Weatherly

Crongton Knights, by Alex Wheatle

Five Hundred Miles, by Kevin Brooks

Front Lines, by Michael Grant

Knights of the Borrowed Dark, by Dave Rudden

More of Me, by Kathryn Evans

The White Fox, by Jackie Morris

I believe it’s a good list, and I’m glad that two of the books are dyslexia friendly; one at either end of the age spectrum.

And, you are human after all, so you want to know who just missed this list. I’m human enough to want to mention them. They were Hilary McKay, J K Rowling, Malcolm McNeill, G R Gemin, Jonathan Stroud, Kate DiCamillo and Philip Caveney.

Two dozen more on my longlist, and we mustn’t forget; if a book has been reviewed on Bookwitch at all, it has passed quite a few quality tests. So there. You’re all winners. But some are more winners than others.

I love you.

More of Kathryn!

Kathryn Evans

Somehow I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that Kathryn Evans has won the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s First Book Award for her debut book, More of Me.

As they say in the press release, it’s the first time a YA book has won. It’s high time this happened, and I don’t feel anyone should have to point this out. It’s almost as if the quality of YA is lower, so there is less expectation of it doing well in comparison with ‘real’ books. It’s like having a children’s book win the overall Costa award. It’s natural. Any book can be good.

So, maybe it was my witchiness at work, because I really did think Kathryn stood a good chance of winning. And then she did. Proves she’s all right, and so is her book.

(And Kathryn won’t have to skewer anyone with that sword of hers…)

😊

Keep those books coming. And here’s to many more YA books winning things.

Some book festival pictures

It’s time for Bookwitch to offer a last few photos from Charlotte Square 2016, and where better than one of the corners that has those mood-lifting lights hanging from the trees? I know it’s a bit un-natural in a way, but I do like garlands of lights in trees.

Charlotte Square

And I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for these new long benches that are slowly working their way round the square. Good for queueing on and most welcome for the general comfort of tired witches when there is no queue.

It is so encouraging when young readers are this keen to see what authors and illustrators get up to.

Richard Byrne

It is also quite fun to see how keen perfectly grown-up authors can be to have fun at the book festival. They even bring toys, as seen here with Kathryn Evans. Invite her back! Maybe even allow the toys back.

Kathryn Evans

The assembled photographers were also keen, and they go for celebrities such as famous politicians; someone that everyone has heard of (unlike many authors).

Waiting for Nicola Sturgeon

And after this festival, even I know who Shappi Khorsandi is, not to mention what she looks like…

Shappi Khorsandi

The Makar and the First Minister

In the end it was just me and Shappi Khorsandi’s handbag. Fantastic handbag, actually, and I felt sort of honour bound to guard it while it was sitting there all alone. Now, if you knew me, you’d realise how odd this was. It was mere minutes after I had spectacularly missed taking photographs of Shappi. Twice. Because I didn’t recognise her well enough. And now I know what her handbag looks like.

Jackie Kay and Nicola Sturgeon

This was probably due to the excitement ‘backstage’ after the photo session with Nicola Sturgeon and Jackie Kay. We’d waited, the way you do. And then it happened so fast, the way it tends to with people who have security staff and lots of commitments, but not so many that a First Minister can’t interview a poet at a book festival. They were nicely colour coordinated, the two of them. And it’s a sign of popularity for a politician when she is addressed by her first name.

So I missed Shappi’s photo call, coming immediately after this. Then I missed my unobtrusive photos of Shappi as she was being given the Chris Close treatment. And then everyone left, except for the handbag.

Prior to this I had skipped a book signing with Simon Callow. I decided I already had enough pictures of him, so went and sat in the yurt reading and eating my lunch. Only minutes later he joined me on that bench. Admittedly with an interviewer, but still. You can’t escape the great and the good. Luckily for Simon I hadn’t helped myself to the grapes in the fruit bowl as had been my intention, so he was able to polish them off as he talked.

Zaffar Kunial

Previously out on the grass, I had come across poet Zaffar Kunial seemingly doing an impromptu session with a large group of people. Maybe these things just happen as fans encounter someone they admire…

Holly Sterling

Carol Ann Duffy

Gillian Clarke

Then it was back and forth for me, catching children’s illustrators in the children’s bookshop and the more grown-up poets in the signing tent. Holly Sterling had a line of eager children after her event, and staying with the Christmas theme, so did Carol Ann Duffy across the square, along with her fellow Welsh poet Gillian Clarke. After them Jackie Kay signed, without Nicola Sturgeon. And I finally caught up with Shappi!

Jackie Kay

Shappi Khorsandi

Fiona Bird

Found Fiona Bird signing her nature book mid-afternoon, and she has such an appropriate name for the kind of books she writes! I went hunting for Kathryn Evans and Michael Grant, who had both been hung along the boardwalks by Chris Close. Had to try Kathryn several times, to see if the light would improve.

Kathryn Evans by Chris Close

Michael Grant by Chris Close

And there were no photos, but I glimpsed Kate Leiper, and spoke to both Lindsey Fraser and Kathryn Ross.

Tried to use my afternoon sensibly, so checked out various books in the bookshops. That didn’t mean I actually did sensible thinking, looking up ‘un-known’ names or anything. If I had I wouldn’t have been so surprised later.

Monday, Mounties, Metaphrog and the Makar

On my walk from Haymarket to Charlotte Square on Monday I was overtaken by a Mountie. This doesn’t happen often, and as this one was a fake, it might not even count. But still. That’s Edinburgh in August. Thank you kindly.

Just before the entrance to the book festival, I came across our new Makar, Jackie Kay, being photographed by a fan. On my way to a reception in the Party Pavilion, I first stopped by the signing tent to see who I could find. I had missed Philippa Gregory, but caught Dominic Hinde with his last fan. He’s written a book about Sweden, which I’ve not read, but is why I sort of knew he’d be there.

Dominic Hinde

Got to the party just as it was beginning, finding Debi Gliori in the queue by the door and had the nerve to ask her why she’d been invited… (For a good reason, I may add.) She was debating the impossibilty of removing more garments in the somewhat unexpected heat. It’s hard when you are down to your last cover.

Janet Smyth

We were there to eat scones and dainty sandwiches, and to hear about the book festival’s new-ish venture outside Charlotte Square and August, Book-ed. Janet Smyth introduced the speakers, who told us what had been happening, or was about to happen, in their home areas, primarily half a dozen new towns, including Irvine, Glenrothes and Cumbernauld. It seems that having the EIBF behind you means any venture stands a much better chance of success, so I believe we can look forward to many more little festivals here and there.

A wealthy Bookwitch would have offered to sponsor something on the spot, but in this case she merely had another piece of rather nice cake. Met a crime colleague, who was able to tell me what I did last August, which is something I increasingly need help with. To make the most of my invited status, I sat outside on the decking for a while, enjoying the sunshine.

Charlotte Square

It was going to be an afternoon of bookshop signing photos, and I hurried over to catch Nicola Davies and Petr Horáček (for a while I lost Petr’s lovely accents, which was worrying, but they have now been found again), who had so many young fans I didn’t stop to talk.

Nicola Davies

Petr Horacek

The really great thing about Charlotte Square is that someone built it near a good shoeshop, making it possible to pop out for new shoes whenever a gap presents itself. I found such a gap on Monday.

Richard Byrne

Back for Richard Byrne, who seems to be a very nice man, with a whole lot of lovely little fans. And then I crossed the square for Jackie Kay and Zaffar Kunial, checked out the sandwich situation, and went and had a chat with Sarah from Walker Books.

Zaffar Kunial

Jackie Kay

Refreshed from my brief rest, I braved the world of Harry Potter. Jim Kay, who is illustrating the books about the famous wizard, had a sold out event, which then filled the children’s bookshop. Although I couldn’t help noticing that those first in line were really quite old. I chatted to Jim’s chair, Daniel Hahn, who is so relaxed about travelling that he’d only just got off the train.

Jim Kay

After a little sit-down in the reading corner I was ready for Ross MacKenzie and Robin Jarvis. The latter had brought a skull. And with all three signings happening side by side, there was quite a crush. On the left side of the queue I encountered Ann Landmann, who told me she was feeling stupid. When she’d told me why, I also felt stupid, so it must have been an Ann thing. (We should have brought our copies of A Monster Calls. And we didn’t.)

Ross MacKenzie

Skull

My sandwich required eating, and I repaired to the yurt, before going zombie-hunting. Darren Shan was signing his Zom-B Goddess (and I can’t tell you how relieved I am I haven’t really started on his – undoubtedly excellent – books). His hair was extremely neatly combed. I liked the way Darren allowed time for chatting with his fans, initiating a discussion if they seemed shy. I can’t see how he’d have time to do it with all of them, but maybe he feels that those who’d waited to be first in line deserved a bit of extra attention.

Darren Shan

Over in the children’s bookshop I found Metaphrog still signing, and was pleased to see they look nice and normal. The name has always worried me a little…

Metaphrog

And then all I had left to do was get ready for Jo Cotterill and Kathryn Evans, which you’ve already read about. Listening to others in the queue, I got the impression, as with Michael Grant on Saturday, that many people buy tickets on the day for an event that sounds reasonably suitable, but might be with an author they’d not heard of before. I like that. It’s good to know you can discover a new favourite out of the blue.

Unusual and Unexpected

It helps to have authors who are former actors, or just plain crazy. Last night’s brilliant performance – that is the only word for it – by Jo Cotterill and Kathryn Evans was really something. The bright spark who put them together is either quite cunning or someone simply got lucky. Jo and Kathryn felt they were mismatched, what with not writing for the same age group, and I’d had the same thought, but they are friends and they worked out what to do. Or so they claimed.

Jo Cotterill

It was fun! We could have had much more of this electric stuff. Literally.

Debut author Kathryn Evans (who is up for the First Book Award at the festival, so vote for her!) started off, and now that I’ve seen her childhood photographs and learned more about aphids, I completely see where she was coming from when writing about her set of girls in More of Me.

Kathryn Evans

Who knew you could get ideas for fiction when farming strawberries? I mean, from the actual farming, rather than just idly thinking as you farm. Creatures eating creatures eating plants. I think. Inside every aphid is another aphid. Apparently. And being given sets of Russian dolls by your Eastern European workers will also set the ball rolling.

Books by Jo Cotterill and Kathryn Evans

After both of them had agreed that being an embarrassing mother is essential, Jo Cotterill used the audience to build atoms, to explain how her Electrigirl came to be. There is audience participation and then there’s audience participation. First Jo built one atom and then a second atom, using every available electron in the tent, with Kathryn as the battery, channelling her enthusiastic PE teacher persona to the limit. (As we were in one of the smaller theatres, most of the audience got used up for this.)

Jo Cotterill

They had questions for each other, and we learned that Kathryn was surprised we all came, and Jo has been surprised to find fans believe characters are real. (They are!?) Jo once poured a pot of tea over herself (ouch!) and Kathryn wasn’t totally truthful with her agent about progress on book two. Oops, sorry. I think that was a secret meant to stay in the tent. And the book features a frozen heroine.

Then it was the turn of the audience to ask questions, and they were far better than average. Kathryn once wanted to work in a sweetshop, because she fancied a boy there. Jo was an actress and a teacher, before becoming a writer. She reckons she could let her heroine explode in book three… That might also have been a secret.

When the time came to be first in the signing queue, I witnessed some proper running. The girls were dead keen, and those who had come only knowing one of these fun – but crazy – authors were completely charmed by the other one as well. And let’s face it; how could you resist a sexy strawberry farmer with pink hair, wearing a silver grey fifties dress and uncomfortable shoes, or the ex-actress in lime green leggings and a skirt straight out of a comic, with specially painted Converse to match her book cover?

Kathryn Evans

I joined the queue, wearing both my fan girl hat and my photographer hat. Kathryn had a blue, retro Polaroid camera, and after sort of kissing me across the signing table she made me pose with her. I never do this. Never. She had a library date stamp to play with as well. In fact, I suspect neither Jo nor Kathryn were treating this very seriously…

Kathryn Evans and Jo Cotterill

After sensibly declining drinks, I got out my old person’s bus pass for the two stops to Waverley station, making sure I voted for Kathryn’s book before leaving Charlotte Square.

Princes Street was surprisingly pleasant for a Saturday night, I thought, until I remembered it was Monday.