What do a shepherd, a banker, a Highland Traveller and a wildlife guide have in common? Answer: they’re all characters in my new book!
My big news is that I have got my novel out the door! It was exactly four years, to the day, since I started it at 4am on the 22nd of June – which is why the working title was “The Shortest Night”. It now has a new title, “Ravenscraig”, but if Askival is anything to go by, it will have several names before settling down.
It hasn’t gone to the publisher yet, but to six readers who have all kindly agreed to give feedback. One is the Work in Progress scheme of Emergents , a Highlands arts initiative, where an established author will read my draft and send a comprehensive report; another is my friend and most faithful reader, Kathy, life-long English teacher and lover of literature; and the others are all people with particular areas of expertise who have already helped with my research: a shepherd, a banker, a Highland Traveller and a wildlife guide. The responses from all of these will map out my tasks for the next few months, but I’m sincerely hoping to have it finished by the end of the year.
Publisher in the Pits
My publisher, Freight Books, was thrown into chaos a few months ago when the Director walked out over conflict with his business partner. Being a small press, it very nearly folded, but was brought back from the brink by a former colleague who returned to help out. It is now up for sale, so we authors await news with some consternation.
Being Treasurer for the Society of Authors in Scotland has been a busy role for me this past year, especially as our committee is working hard to organise a major conference for writers of all stripes in September. Called ScotsWrite, it will feature “Everything a Writer Needs” from talks on writing for TV to diversifying in different genres to making a living as a writer (harder than most people think!) With over 130 delegates and 20 speakers expected, it’s set to be stimulating, hectic and a lot of fun.
Over on the day job, I always relish my 2 days a week in the Kingussie High School library, championing literature and Reading for Pleasure. My highlight this year has been a 1st Yr Book Group of seven kids who were all voracious readers and threw themselves with great enthusiasm into the Shadowing Scheme of the Carnegie Book Award. Serving cake at Book Group meetings always helps…
Book of Life
In May I was privileged to lead another workshop day on Spiritual Journaling at the beautiful Bield at Blackruthven retreat centre near Perth. The Bield is a very special place of contemplation, art, gardens, faith and shared journey where I am always deeply nourished, both as a guest and a retreat leader. We had twelve participants for the journaling day, all bringing their own personalities and helpful reflections on writing the spiritual path. Sheer joy.
Midnight on the 14th/15th of August will be the 70th Anniversary of Independence and Partition for Pakistan and India. The Edinburgh International Book Festival is marking the occasion with a series of talks by eminent authors from the region, including one of my favourites, William Dalrymple. Personally, I’m marking the occasion by having a small ‘web tour’ in the fortnight leading up to the date. Those who have read A House Called Askival will know it features those seminal events of 1947, so I felt the 70th Anniversary was a fitting occasion for highlighting the book again. There will be a series of blogs and features on different sites in that fortnight including reviews, interviews, guest posts and book lists, culminating in a special (as yet secret) celebration on August 15th. Watch this space!
Staying in Touch
Finally, thank you once again, for your interest and support. We all get too much email, so I do understand if you need to unsubscribe – or haven’t read this far! I enjoy keeping in the loop with others and can often be found hanging out on Facebook or – my latest addiction, Twitter! I resisted signing up for years as I thought it would be a black hole of triviality, trolls and time-wasting. It is, and I’m fitting right in. No, seriously, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how friendly and fun it is and how quickly you meet some very interesting people. Within minutes of signing up and following an author I admire, Alistair McIntosh, he tweeted to say ‘Hello Merryn. I don’t know who u are, but your book looks so good I’ve just ordered for my wife when we’re up on Eigg shortly.’ Howzat?
Whatever your preferred means of communication – electronic, paper, pigeon or in person (my favourite) – I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you for being alongside.