Tag Archives: Theresa Breslin

Historic women

Honestly, they didn’t look that historic. Theresa Breslin and Holly Webb had a full house on Saturday afternoon, Terry Deary in the Main theatre notwithstanding.

Theresa has written around 40 books, but Holly easily beats that with an exact 128 ‘quite short’ books. Daniel Hahn, who chaired this unusually young [for him] event, asked how Theresa’s The Rasputin Dagger came about. She said she saw this gorgeous bejewelled dagger at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, and when Mr T refused to steal it for her she needed to put it in a book.

Holly’s book The Princess and the Suffragette started with A Little Princess, and her favourite The Secret Garden (which apparently caused her to draw maps, badly). She didn’t want to centre her story on Sara, but chose little Lottie – the girl who was only four when she was sent to boarding school – instead.

Holly Webb and Theresa Breslin

Research is all very well, but it should make a story, and not just a list of interesting facts. Holly discovered the changing skirts. When skirts got wider, women could take longer steps and walk faster. Women were supposed to be well behaved, but ignorant.

Siberia was part of Theresa’s research for The Rasputin Dagger, and there’s the vast difference between a life filled with jewels and a life of starvation. She read us the part where the women protest against having to queue for bread and how this eventually led to Russian women getting the vote earlier than in most other countries.

The reason Theresa started to write was she read books and wished there’d be more, so she wrote the continuation of what had ended too soon. She always wanted to be the heroine in the books she read. Whereas Holly didn’t want to write at all, and was glad to discover she could work for publishers, reading books and editing.

Inspiration for Holly was Philip Reeve, Frances Hodgson Burnett and C S Lewis, while Theresa received support from Anne Fine, Joan Lingard and Michael Morpurgo.

An excellent question from a girl in the audience was about what’s unfair to women in the world. Theresa mentioned things like women not being allowed to drive in some countries, were not allowed to go out freely, that they receive limited information. Holly pointed out that women are paid less and are always the ones expected to look after children.

Theresa’s favourite book is – probably – A Tale of Two Cities. Holly liked Prince Caspian best.

A very crafty young lady asked four questions of each as the ‘last’ question of the session, when there was very little time left… Of their own work, both authors prefers the latest book, and Holly admitted to feeling that her first book would improve if she were to rewrite it. The best thing about being an author for Theresa is that she gets invited to events like this one, and the worst that she has to know ‘what comes next.’ Holly likes working from home, but it’s hard having to finish writing something.

This event was aimed at eight to twelves. Holly has many much younger fans, and there were a lot of five-year-olds in the audience. Parents take note?

(Photos Helen Giles)

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EIBF 2018 – Day 1

Philip Pullman and I talked about the weather, which was Goldilocks-like. Not too hot and not too cold. Not wet. Nor sunny. It felt very British, on this the first day of the book festival in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square.

Philip Pullman

It’s a new, streamlined square. Less higgledy piggledy, although no doubt more ‘character’ will find its way onto the fresh decking before long. I offered them my sandwich wrapping, but it seems they didn’t feel the need for it. I now know how they were able to make the Main theatre bigger. They picked up a whole theatre and put it in the middle of George Street. Very clever.

The Photographer and I arrived early and had a leisurely start, collecting tickets and getting to grips with all the changes, saying hello to press boss Frances, and gossiping with Theresa Breslin’s Mr B – whose t-shirt sported Mary Queen of Scots on the front and Rasputin’s dagger ‘in’ the back, so he had everything covered. Waved to Cathy Cassidy (wearing an unexpected red…), before venturing across to George Street to watch her signing in the much improved signing tent.

Cathy Cassidy

Holly Webb and Theresa Breslin

After noting that the festival regular with the magnificent beard was there again, we went to Theresa Breslin’s event with Holly Webb, chaired by Daniel Hahn. It was really full, despite Theresa’s grandchild choosing to go to see Terry Deary instead.

Chatted to Kate Leiper in the bookshop afterwards, and then went back to the behind-the-scenes decking where we found Philip Pullman with a pile of [his] books. Had a second go at chatting to Cathy Cassidy, and watched as Chris Close photographed an unknown, attractive female author who, when I got to my next event, turned out to be Tomi Adeyemi, appearing with Sophie Anderson.

Holly Webb and Theresa Breslin

Tomi Adeyemi and Sophie Anderson

This was another full event, and I realised that having left the Photographer to deal with Philip, I was on my own and needed to take pictures of Sophie and Tomi in the bookshop. I’m short, so was able to use the entrance for hobbits and munchkins. Saw Vikki Gemmell and wanted to say hello, but she ran away. Quite understandable.

There is a blur after that, but I definitely saw Linda Strachan and Lari Don, Gill Arbuthnott, Kathryn Ross, and Carol Ann Duffy. Val McDermid was around, as Philip Pullman’s chair. Someone came up to me and asked if I was Bookwitch, so I had to admit I was. Seems our paths have kept crossing, and now she wanted to say hello.

L J MacWhirter found me mid-prawn sandwich, and I had no idea that this would scare her off so fast. Didn’t mean to, L J! And while I was enjoying those prawns I watched as Chris Close commented on Jacek Dehnel’s outfit – it was very, erm, chequered – before persuading him to pose.

Jacek Dehnel

Ngūgī wa Thiong’o was being interviewed nearby, before also getting the Close photo treatment, and director Barley himself brought some more tartan for this venerable author.

Ngūgī wa Thiong'o

My Photographer returned when Philip Pullman’s sold-out event came to an end, and we gathered ourselves and went in search of a train home, hoping that seven was both early enough and late enough and would mean there was room for two tired witches. There was. Just.

(Photos Helen Giles + Bookwitch)

Escape from Lochleven Castle

I mentioned last week that today’s children know a lot less about Mary, Queen of Scots than their parents or grandparents do. This is why Theresa Breslin wanted to write a picture book about Mary, to help children understand who she was and what happened to her, and why they should take an interest in Mary.

Also, as someone said last week, much in Mary’s life was unsuitable for younger readers, because it’s not as if she had a wonderful life. But the imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots in Lochleven Castle wasn’t too bleak, in comparison.

Theresa Breslin and Teresa Martinez, Mary, Queen of Scots - Escape from Lochleven Castle

The book first gives the reader a very brief but thorough summary of who Mary was and what had happened to her, and her husbands, her son, her parents, and so on.

Then we find out what happened on that small island in Loch Leven, when Mary was desperate to escape and didn’t know how, and how a young boy came to the rescue and she got ut.

Unfortunately, her success didn’t last long, and the rest of her life was a bit downhill, especially after she asked her sister for help. But this short story helps both with understanding Mary’s life, as well as making her into a real person for that brief time at Lochleven Castle. We get to know her, so we learn to care.

This is a good way of making history relevant today.

The illustrations by Teresa Martinez make Scotland look glorious, and now I want to go and see Loch Leven.

From lunch to launch – Mary, Queen of Scots style

A hug from a man wearing a Mary, Queen of Scots t-shirt is exactly what a witch requires on entering Waterstones Argyle Street in Glasgow, having cut her travelling uncharacteristically close. The man was, of course, Mr B who always supports his wife’s latest book launch with a new personalised item of clothing. Last night we were there for Theresa Breslin’s new picture book, Mary, Queen of Scots, Escape From Lochleven Castle.

Theresa Breslin

I was returning a scarf left behind by Mrs B at Bookwitch Towers the day before, but judging by how many people were there, it won’t have been done on purpose so I would come and launch the book with her.

Mary, Queen of Scots cupcakes

Encountered David MacPhail eyeing up the specially baked little cupcakes. They were for the children! Found a good chair to sit in and then switched to the one that appeared next to it, thereby engineering a more comfortable chair for me, and a free seat next to me for David. Well, he couldn’t eat all those cakes standing up, could he?

People

Apparently children today don’t have an interest in Mary, Queen of Scots. It’s because they don’t know her. This new book is intended to introduce them to Mary, so that when they next encounter a sign proudly claiming that ‘Mary, Queen of Scots, slept here’ they might get a little excited. It’s a picture book – illustrations by Teresa Martinez – but much of what happened to Mary is not exactly child friendly, so Theresa carefully chose Mary’s escape from Lochleven Castle as a safe topic, with no backs being stabbed, or anything.

An early review from a very young lady pointed out that it would have been good to know why Mary was imprisoned at Lochleven…

Quite.

Theresa compared Mary’s life to that of Diana, the way she had to live her life being watched by everyone. She mentioned how all Mary’s half-siblings fought for power, and how her half-brother believed that he could seize power by telling her what to do.

Theresa Breslin

After a short reading from the book, her publishers gave Theresa flowers, and then it was time for the book signing. And it was pointed out to us that we should remember to pay for the book before leaving!

Theresa Breslin and David MacPhail

There was quite a bit of evening left, but Theresa needed it in order to sign all those books. The queue was massive. I had plenty of time to chat some more to David, and I was also introduced to Victoria Williamson. Much interesting stuff on writing and publishing was said, and when David went to get his book signed at last, I liberated the last cupcake. (I’m short, so nearly a child.) Seems no one had ‘had their tea’ yet and they were all starving.

Theresa Breslin and Mr B, with the team from Floris

I believe I’m beginning to recognise members of the ‘Breslin’ clan now, and it’s good to see all the grandchildren turning out for every new book.

Theresa Breslin

I decided to leave before they locked us in, only to discover they had locked us in, but a big bunch of keys was produced, and as I walked up Buchanan Street I joined all the other people being chucked out of Glasgow’s shops.

It was a wonderfully sunny evening, and my train ride home was beautiful. Those Ochils… I wonder if Mary saw them like that?

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.

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.

Carnegie Story Trail

The Resident IT Consultant likes leaflets. He brings home many of them, and I’m not always grateful.

But, as he said, he thought I’d be interested in who was involved with this one he’d found. I was.

Carnegie Story Trail

So I am now going to ‘review’ what I’ve not read, because reading it would entail me travelling to a wood somewhere well north of Inverness. And I’m not too keen on woods. But you might be!

And when you arrive at Ledmore & Migdale Carnegie story trail, you are supposed to go geocaching to find the story that I can’t tell you too much about. Sorry.

I have tried getting my head round geocaching in general, and I read the instructions for this trail in particular, but I can’t say I get it. I was never too good at orienteering at school either, so that could be the reason.

But anyway, you go round this trail, looking for these spots, and then you search for the hidden story parts; the story written by Theresa Breslin and illustrated by Kate Leiper. And I’m guessing when you’ve found them all, they join up and make for a great reading experience. Which would be nice. Less nice if you missed the chapter by the root end of fallen tree.

In fact, especially that one, as it’s the last chapter. (I know this because apparently there are hints you can follow.)

This will be good for you. First the walk. Then the satisfaction of discovering all the chapters. Finally reading the story. It was written by the best and illustrated by the best.

What are you waiting for?

I’m not coming with you…

Carnegie Story Trail