City of Literature
I made my annual pilgrimage to the Edinburgh Festival twice this year. The first trip was for the AGM of the Society of Authors in Scotland where I was inducted as Treasurer and then caught for so long in the lunch queue that I missed the talk I’d booked at the Book Festival. Fortunately, I did not miss the evening event which was a comedy gig featuring old Woodstock School chum, Sindhu Vee (right), who had just been a finalist in the BBC New Comedy Awards and is one to watch. My second trip was the following week herding an eager bunch of kids from Kingussie High School to the Book Festival (a great interview with two YA authors) and then a show on the Fringe (a not so great impro based on Dr Who).
The Day Job
My two days a week at the school library continue to be a source of joy, especially my main focus of spear-heading ‘fREADom’, the school-wide Reading for Pleasure programme. In August we gave a presentation to parents, in September we welcomed performance poet, Harry Giles (below), in October we celebrated National Poetry Day with pupil readings in the library and in November we hosted a panel discussion on Artificial Intelligence with two visiting medical students. And that’s only the half of it!
Autumn highlights have included my story Scarface published in Northwords Now in October and my involvement in Ness Book Fest. After the old Inverness Book Festival folded a couple of years ago, an incredibly passionate, energetic team of folks in the Highland capital decided to create a new one. Billed as a festival ‘where grassroots and emerging writers sit equally beside big names’ it proved to be a wonderful two days full of good things. I was invited to chair an event with two debut novelists, Helen Sedgewick with her time-spanning Comet Seekers and Lochlan Bloom with his genre-bending The Wave. As both authors have a background in physics, the discussion centred around the intersections of science and creativity but ranged far and wide. The authors were fascinating, the audience responsive and the chair having the time of her life.
The Tortoise School of Writing
In the midst of all that busy-ness, I was very fortunate to be able to take six days away by myself just to work on my novel. A kind friend, John, lent me his house on the Fife coast and I absolutely loved the long, uninterrupted days to think deeply, walk on the beach and write. It was helpful to read back over the whole piece so far and get a sense of how to take it further. In October I sent a draft (very raw and unfinished) to my friend in the US, Kathy, who had helped me so much with Askival. She is the first person to read any of it and was gentle and wise in her feedback. It is good not to be alone. There is still much work to do and I won’t reach my goal of finishing it this year, alas, but just don’t seem able to churn out fast novels. I trust it will be worth the wait.
Well, the nights are fair drawing in, as they say in Scotland, and we have lit our first Advent candle. A good time for drawing in by the fire, enjoying company and swapping tales. I pray that however you mark this season and by whatever stories you are nourished, that you may look to the coming year with thankfulness and hope.
Thank you for being alongside.