Detoxing: Book festivals, events and fun

IMG_2021The last time I posted, I was fresh back from a month in France with nothing to do but write. What a world apart from the last few months, where I’ve been scurrying around from one thing to the next, trying to squeeze in a few minutes of scribbling time here and there.

The weekend just past, I was wearing my organiser badge for Portobello Book Festival – a wonderful, warm local festival that attracts all sorts of writers, readers and interested folk. There was a lot of running around as usual, but all came together in the end and the committee was as hard working and passionate as always.

IMG_2018I was especially pleased that my mum’s book folding workshop went well and that the two events I was chairing (Peter Pan The Graphic Novel with Stref and Fin Cramb and Daring Debuts with Lucy Ribchester and Catherine Simpson – all of whom were a total pleasure to chair) were as great as I hoped.

IMG_2027Just as I was recovering from the fun of the festival, it was time for the launch of the Book Week Scotland programme – I’ve been helping out with the event listings over the last few months, in a freelance role for Scottish Book Trust – and there are just so many fantastic events taking place all over Scotland.

Living where I do, I’m totally spoilt for choice when it comes to readings, signings and bookish events but they obviously aren’t quite so thick on the ground in more remote areas, so it’s awesome to see libraries, councils and bookshops coming together to celebrate reading in all kinds of ways!

I’ve also been super happy this month to get my hands on contributor copies of two different books/journals – I Am Because You Are, an anthology of stories inspired by General Relatively edited by Tania Hershman and Pippa Goldschmidt and Banshee Lit, a fab new Irish Journal.

Today, my mind is reeling and still packed with information about other people’s books, ideas and words – it’s time to have a mini detox so I can catch up where I left off, and hope it’s easy to slip back into the imaginary world I left behind!

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63 words: start of the modern era

IMG_1139I’ve spent the last three day in a beautiful, bookish burr, thanks to the annual Portobello Book Festival. It’s a local literary event that run on the generosity of performers, volunteers, readers and writers and I’m thrilled to have been part of the committee this year. Not least because it’s reminded me just how wonderful and generous people can be.

From writing craft to independence debates and tunes from the Ladies Guerrilla String Quartet to breadmaking, we covered all kinds of topics this year. However, we opened with a gala evening that celebrated the fact Portobello Library is 50 this year and as part of the birthday party, we asked local people to write us 63 word stories on 1963. The response was fantastic and while I’m not able to share all the stories we heard on the night, I can share my own.

Flying in the Spotlight

The modern era put the spotlight on sex, love and glamour. And just like our new friend Dr Who, we were taking a fast track to the future. We welcomed the new and our hemlines showed it. We said hello to knees and goodbye to high necks. Bonjour to bikinis, au reviour to baggy smocks. We dressed for flight, rising above the turbulence.

Screw you, Sindy

Sindy looks good for her age. 50 years since she was first pressed, a fully formed woman ‘made in England’, she’s as wide eyed and slender waisted as always. But don’t be jealous of her smooth skin, you have the memories and experiences that make five decades worthwhile, be proud to wear them. Also, be thankful your hair grows back when it’s cut.

Porty Book Festival: Scottish Book Trust

Portobello Book Festival LogoThis weekend myself and Lucy Ribchester, another Edinburgh writer, will talk with Marc Lambert of Scottish Book Trust about what winning a New Writer’s Award has done for us. We’re also planning to chat about the challenges of getting your debut novel noticed and published – as well as offering a few tips and words of encouragement! We’ll also be reading from the novels we’re currently working on – cue nerves!

The event is free and takes place at 12.30pm, Sunday 6 October, at Portobello Library. Come along to share your thoughts and questions. The festival is packed with other excellent treats, all free of charge, including an impressive selection of authors discussing Scottish independence later in the afternoon. On the previous Friday, I’ll also be taking part in the gala opening of the festival, which has the theme 1963: The Start of the Modern Era and has lots of readers, live music and even a 60s fashion show. Take a peek at the Porty Programme.

Portobello and West Port – book festival frenzy

Photo by Sonja Bettina Klein

I love living in Edinburgh, so much so I’ve never really managed to live anywhere else (yet). Sometimes that makes me feel a little ashamed, especially knowing as many fabulous people from around the world as I do, but then times like the last few months roll around and I remember one of the things that’s so great about this city – its festivals.

From the International Book festival in August – where I was thrilled to take part in Story Shop – to the two local and enthusiastic efforts that brighten up a dreary October – The Portobello Book Festival and the West Port Book Festival.

Both of these are run by teams of very friendly and dedicated book lovers, and it’s wonderful to see the support they pick up locally. I’ve been running around so much recently, trying to get organised that I’ve not had time to write about either of these excellent festivals in more detail, but here are a few of my highlights.

  • Giving a talk on paperless Publishing in Portobello Library, where I used to weekly max out my lending capabilities when I was but a kid. I’m also planning on putting up the hand out of useful links I wrote for this, as soon as I have a spare few minutes and the right computer!
  • Speaking to Janice Galloway at the same (I babbled a little, because I do love her work so) and then staying to listen to her in a very entertaining interview later to be on the BBC Book Café – I do recommend you tune in if you spot it.
  • Taking part in a workshop about writing and publishing (also at Porty) featuring Francis Bickmore, Alan Guthrie – who is soon launching new ebook venture Blasted Heath) and Marianne Paget – most useful and inspirational.
  • Reading as part of the Bugged event in Peter Bell Books at the West Port, where I got to read alongside excellent poets Jo Bell, Rob A. MacKenzie and Helen Addy.
  • Managing to squeeze in to see Rachel Boast and J.O. Morgan at West Port despite not having a ticket, and being blown away – you can check out podcasts of them here.
  • Meeting some fabulous writers and book lovers at all of these events, there are few things I like more.
  • So Edinburgh, I’m not sure I’ll ever leave you at this rate – keep the bookish events coming and you’ve probably got me snagged.