OK, I admit to having seen and promptly borrowed this idea from a woman author on Facebook. Or stolen. But thank you, anyway.
The idea is to show photos of women authors, because it’s International Women’s Day today. And there have been ‘a few’ over the years. This is in no way fair or representative, and I could have spent all day looking at photos and it still wouldn’t be.
First, my fairy blogmother, Meg Rosoff, without whom I wouldn’t be able to subject you to this Bookwitchery.
Second, my – in this case rather wet – main photographer. (It’s how they do it at university.)
‘My’ first author in real life, Adèle Geras and Theresa Breslin, who was so interested in meeting me. (I don’t know why.)
Eleanor Updale and Sally Gardner, caught in the Edinburgh greenery in our second year at Charlotte Square.
Sara Paretsky, who has put up with being followed round the country by me.
And Helen Grant who buys me tulips.
Thank you all. And your literary sisters everywhere. I love you.
I was standing on the pavement outside the National Library of Scotland yesterday, waiting for Daughter to join me, when someone prodded the back of my arm. I couldn’t work out how she could have snuck up from behind, so turned round and discovered a very yellow Kirkland Ciccone. One could almost have imagined it was Easter. But he was a pleasure to behold.
Almost eight years to the day from when we first met, at a Theresa Breslin event, here we were, for a Theresa Breslin event. She spent lockdown writing about some of Scotland’s many Kings and Queens, and the time had come to launch this gorgeous, historical picture book, with illustrations by Liza Tretyakova.
We started off watching Kirkie having tea and half a strawberry tart. (I mean Daughter and me. Not the whole audience.) Then we launched ourselves at the drinks table for some water. Although it’s hard to event and handle a wineglass at the same time. Said hello to Mr B, who was wearing his latest book creation t-shirt and looking great as ever. It had been too long.
Were informed we were too old for a goodie bag, so settled for saying hello to all the involved publisher people, who we’d not seen for years, either. And there was the wineglass of water, living a precarious life among people who might need to applaud.
As always, Theresa had attracted a large crowd. She began by reading one of the stories in Illustrated Legends of Scotland’s Kings and Queens. It was about Margaret in Dunfermline, and I was grateful to learn how Queensferry, both North and South, came about. This is the thing about Theresa and her many historical tales; you learn a bit of history in a very painless way. Nice story, and history.
After some Q&A it was time for book buying and book signing. Kirkie had already had to steal away to his train home, and Daughter and I crossed the George IV Bridge in search of almost invisible pizza.
It was all fine. But my foot hurt. And I managed to hurl my spectacles all over the pavement. (It seems to be all about glasses and pavements these days…) It’s very hard to see glasses on a dark pavement. Especially without your glasses on. But it all ended well, with no treading of feet on anything.
You know the old joke, ‘I recognised you by your dress’, suggesting someone hasn’t updated their wardrobe contents for a while?
Well, I suspect the same can be said about my black jacket. No matter how much I think I could/should vary my outfits more, it’s generally the black jacket for Edinburgh.
Back in 2008 Meg Rosoff – somewhat erroneously – suggested I had to dress up for the Puffin summer party. I bought a jacket. No, I bought two. The one I wanted and which I wore to the Tate Modern that time, and the other one, suggested by pushy saleswoman.
Never wore my choice again.
Have worn the other jacket a lot.
Happened to give it a good look just now. It’s got a hole in the back. Probably where my bag has rested all these years. It will need mending… So it will most likely not come with me to the remaining book festival 2021. (To protect it. Not because I am vain. I’d like both it and me to have another few years in us still.)
The jacket, ten years ago, hiding behind Theresa Breslin and Karen Campbell.
The nominations for next year’s Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award have ‘arrived’. Many are the same as in previous years, some are probably new. The list is long.
I was most pleased with recognising the Palestinian name, seeing as Palestine isn’t as big as it perhaps should be in the Bookwitch mind. Sonia Nimr. I have even heard her talk live!
There are some worthy names from, say, Sweden and Norway, but in most cases I feel these authors need a few more years to be ready. For the burden, if nothing else. Maybe excepting Jakob Wegelius. And then there is Maria Turtschaninoff from Finland.
I am mostly interested in the English language writers I read a lot by, and the contrast between those who have been around for a long time, and those who are really quite new, is interesting.
Beverley Naidoo comes under South Africa, and from Ireland we have Siobhán Parkinson and Sheena Wilkinson.
The UK contingent have Quentin Blake and Shirley Hughes on the one hand, and Juno Dawson and Katherine Rundell on the opposite hand, with Theresa Breslin and Aidan Chambers somewhere in the middle. As well as many others, I hasten to add.
Among US authors are Elizabeth Acevedo, Kate DiCamillo and Laurie Halse Anderson, to mention a few.
Sorry about that. I was trying to think of some sort of heading, but as you can see, I failed.
Translator, and general facilitator of all things literary, Daniel Hahn has been awarded an OBE in the [rather late] Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Many of us are very happy about this, and we’re hoping Danny is too, and that he didn’t accept his OBE just to please the rest of us. Although that would be a perfectly good reason, too.
Children’s laureate Cressida Cowell is another new OBE.
It’s rather lovely to be a little bit involved in a trade like children’s books, where some participants go on to be recognised in this way. Last year it was Theresa Breslin, and I’m very proud of her efforts too, especially considering how purply she dressed.
To return to this year, I’m also happy for the new Dame Mary Berry. I’m not into baking in any great way, but she has a nice crinkly smile.
Sigh. It’s time to stay at home again. I mean, more so than the last two (?) months. We didn’t exactly go to town during this time, but went out a little bit. Even considered going out for a meal, but on careful consideration couldn’t really face it. We can cook. Or we can order delivery of either pizza or Indian. Not much else the three of us agree on, foodwise.
So we will heed this t-shirt advice again. We started back in March or April, but haven’t got to the end yet. And there is more Mandalorian to look forward to, with the baby Yoda.
This post will be full of borrowings and stealings.
Having said that, I am obviously heading straight to the Lowry theatre. Not really, but for someone who no longer pays too much attention to theatre news from the place I no longer live near, my eye was caught by the press release about the Nightingale Court, so I read on a bit. The Lowry is to host several court rooms so that trials that have lagged behind for too long this year, can start taking place. This means the theatre receives some welcome revenue, and the jury members get to sit in comfort in theatre boxes; one each. (I could almost be tempted…)
Temptation can go both ways. I’ve heard from a reliable (cough) source that Camilla Läckberg’s recent novel has a lot of sex in it. Don’t know if this is good or bad. But according to e-newsletter Boktugg, lots of people dislike Camilla. It can be hard feeling happy about someone else’s immense success. Suffering from the green monster isn’t much fun. One day I might read one of Camilla’s books, if only to irritate the person who told me so many bad and, I suspect untruthful, things about her.
So what do you know about volcanoes? Do you have a gut feeling for where you might find them? That is if you don’t actually know about eruptions or remember where some of them took place. I was intrigued when reading in the Observer that someone had been stranded by an ash cloud after a Finnish volcano stopped flights. I tried to imagine those pine trees going flying as the volcano volcanoed. I know the Nordic countries are ‘all the same’. But doesn’t Iceland stand out at least a little bit if we’re going volcanic?
And finally some nice normality. This week, the day before the renewed lockdown, Theresa Breslin came to town. She was here to sign books at the Tinkerbell Emporium, which is where we last saw her, just over a year ago. (Theresa is the one on the right!)
It would have been even lovelier if I’d been able to pop over to say hello…
You know how it is with those subject lines in your inbox? Whatever it was you started discussing, it follows you around, even when you’ve moved onto something quite different.
I emailed Theresa Breslin about something, and then back, and back again, we went. Until she declared she was ‘tired’ of me being ‘tired’ in the subject line, and she was going to write a poem. As you do.
Since I don’t go on Twitter as often as others, it was pure chance that I discovered Theresa’s Haiku.
I have absolutely no idea what it is about. Am I dead? Or is there bird poo?
But I’m impressed that I could ‘inspire’ some inbox poetry.
We talked mostly about toilets. Sometimes you need to cheer yourself up when you’ve strayed too close to the state of things today, as Daughter and I found when we had coffee with Theresa Breslin and Kate Leiper after their Stirling Tinkerbell event on Friday.
Tinkerbell had invited them to do a signing of An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Castle Legends. We were quite gratified to find a queue out in the street when we arrived. (Not surprising, I suppose, as we discovered the sign outside promised singing by the two ladies…)
The deluge of rain had stopped, so we sat on a stone wall outside in the [pedestrian] street, next to the parked police van, studying the fans and waiting for room to enter the shop ourselves.
We went in to chat for a bit, and Daughter might just have had a slight accident, buying something lovely-looking. Then all of us trooped outside and sat on the stone walls again, while Theresa read her Stirling-based story, with Kate as the crazy man who thought he could fly. Thankfully she only jumped off the wall in the street, not the side of Stirling Castle.
Daughter and I went off to secure and warm up some seats at the Burgh Coffee House before the ladies arrived, each carrying a gift bag full of shop goodies. Where will they keep their new dragons?
Then it was all toilets and laughter. There were tales about a librarian, and about Terry Pratchett, even a disposable Starbucks mugs, ‘fuel’ in other countries, and so on.
And then I might have suggested they perhaps had trains to catch. They did. I obviously wasn’t trying to get rid of them, but they had further to go than we did.
First I went for the story set at Stirling Castle, and it was quite satisfying. I knew the tale before, but this was a lovely, and humorous re-telling about the man who tried to fly down from the castle. (Don’t try this!)
If you’d asked me, I would have – almost – thought that Theresa Breslin couldn’t possibly manage another host of Scottish stories. She and illustrator Kate Leiper have already produced a couple of gorgeous collections, and here they are with An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Castle Legends.
It’s everything you’d expect it to be. What you’d want it to be. From the wonderful cover by Kate, to every last little story by Theresa, set in different castles all over Scotland, and taking place at varying times in history.
I especially like the sepia coloured map of Scotland, with sepia coloured ‘postcards’ of the castles, at the front of this rather large volume. It is a little hard to hold, actually. For us small ones, anyway.
And also the show-stopping night skyline of Edinburgh. Some of us would pay to put that on the wall. I can understand how Kate might have sat in some suitable spot to capture that, but I wonder how she got the selkies and the various monsters and other creatures to pose for her?
As for the stories, well, they are what you know Theresa can tell. I’m sure they are all quite true, but she does do nice things with her characters. The stories are mostly short, so make for easy reading at any age.
I didn’t know that thing about Nessie. Or Walter Scott’s great-many-times-granny. As long as you have the arms for it, this is a great book. And if you don’t, it is actually greater still. You might need a child, but I managed just fine on my own.
Yay! Theresa Breslin gets an OBE for her services to literature. This is well deserved on many counts, as Theresa is a hard-working author and defender of libraries, and all sorts of other things. Here she is with Mr B in Charlotte Square, which is how we like to think of her. Them.
Theresa is much admired by so many, and at Bookwitch Towers I am occasionally chastised for not having read one of her books. Usually it’s me doing the same to Daughter, but she’s a fanatic fan of Theresa’s. (I bet it was that bribe of – I mean kind invitation to – tea and scones ten years ago!)
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