The Scottish Book Trust and BBC Scotland recently conducted a poll to determine Scotland’s Favourite Book. Scotland, I do not agree with the choice we made. So much so that I felt compelled to blog about it. Blogging effects change, right? This is basically the National Collective all over again.
Last winter the Scottish Book Trust delivered the very first Book Week Scotland, a scheme that got people to focus on books, reading and writing for a week. Naturally I am very much in favour of this sort of behaviour, and it turns out lots of other people were too because everyone had such a jolly time they have decided to do it all over again.
Everyone in Edinburgh loves a book festival. There was one in Portobello at the weekend and there’s another just around the corner in the Old Town. Peggy Hughes (who Twitter users might know better as the Scottish Poetry Library’s @ByLeavesWeLive) was kind enough to write me a guest post about it.
The West Port Book Festival has reached the merry maturity of its fourth year, with another programme of cracking collaborations, tall tales, award-winners, stars of the future, dead people, open mics, and of course cakes. This year we’re popping up in October – Thursday 13th – Sunday 16th to be precise. We have flirted with running in different months (August for starters and seconds and June for thirds) and find that variety is the spice of life.
We have lost a few of our sterling venues from previous years. The Lot, the Roxy ArtHouse and the Illicit Still (scene of the cause of a monstrous festival-wide hangover in year 3) are all sorely missed, while the Owl & Lion Gallery has risen like a phoenix from the ashes and resurrected itself as the Owl & Lion Bindery, further up the hill in the West Port. We’ve got a new bookshop on the block in Pulp Fiction and are comforted by the never-changing Blue Blazer and its energy-restoring ham and cheese toasties. Some things change, but the ideas and vision behind the West Port Book Festival remain.
Which is just as well, because I’d forgotten all about it even though it’s something I should almost certainly apply for.
The New Writers Awards scheme was started up by Scottish Book Trust and Creative Scotland in 2008 with the aim of providing 8 unpublished writers with the financial support to let them concentrate on their work for a bit. Each recipient gets a cash award of £2,000 and nine months working with a professional mentor, which is very exciting and potentially life changing.
My life isn’t all about testing new methods of reading, oh no. I have a day job as well, and sometimes I get to forgo my lunch break there in order to attend glitzy media events as part of my freelance journalism career.
I say sometimes, but I actually mean this one time – last Tuesday, as a matter of fact. The event in question was the official announcement of the shortlisted authors up for the Scottish Children’s Book Awards, organised by the Scottish Book Trust and held at the Scottish Storytelling Centre – which is conveniently just up the road from my current temp job.
The Scottish Book Trust are rather wonderful, I have to say. They get children in every school across Scotland to vote in these awards, and two of the judges who whittled down the long list to the short were school kids themselves. Precocious ones, at that – I salute you, Lorna and Daniel, for some spectacularly verbose speechifying. I can only hope I was that erudite at thirteen (I wasn’t).
Oh, and I have to draw attention to the fact that the other judge, Duncan Wright, was voted school librarian of the year 2010. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a thing when I was in school, but I love the idea. I wonder if you can nominate librarians after the fact? Mine is retired now, but still fabulous. I shall have to look into that. School librarian lifetime achievement award in the post for S. Webb…
Anyway, the Scottish Book Trust do all sorts of amazing bits and pieces to get kids reading and to support Scottish authors; so having worked with kids and currently being a writer I feel totally justified in waxing sycophantic about them. Back in my past life as a library person I was an ambassador for their Bookstart Rhymetime sessions (now called Bookbug), which means I have an extensive repertoire of nursery rhymes available to sing at a moment’s notice, not to mention some pretty sweet moves. This is clearly one of the best life skills I have, although I still have questions about Peter Rabbit’s curly whiskers.*
I went along to this on behalf of The Edinburgh Reporter, and you can read my article about it here. It borrows a bit from the press release because as I had to go back to work I couldn’t really hang about getting interviews. As I said before, the world of freelance journalism is tres glamorous. But with any luck 12 books will make me a literary star and one day freelance-temps will be re-writing press releases about how I was nominated for this award.
Better go do some writing, then…
*animals like rabbits have whiskers to help them measure spaces so they never get stuck – surely a curly whisker is no use for that?
Andy Stanton is probably best known as the author of the Mr Gum series of books (technically aimed at 7-10 year olds, but I started reading them at 24), and the mastermind behind hit TV show Bag of Sticks. If you haven’t read anything by him and you’re not sure whether you’d like to, my rule of thumb is to suggest you head to your nearest book shop or library, pick up a copy of You’re a Bad Man, Mr Gum!, and turn to chapter 4. If it doesn’t make you laugh, there’s probably something wrong with you.
I interviewed the man himself on Monday afternoon after a hectic weekend at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Here’s what he had to say.