Shaping A Better Future – A talk from the Edinburgh Book Festival Online. #EdBookFest #ValMcDermid #JoSharp #Leila Aboulela #JoClifford #DougJohnson

Shaping A Better Future
An Edinburgh Book Festival Talk

I love the Edinburgh Festivals and thought I would write some of the events up as they are now online, some pre-recorded and others live.

Imagine a country in some way that you would like it to be, seemed to be the theme. There was talk and short bursts of song (at speaking level). It was an interesting and thought-provoking and in some ways, encouraging talk by a diverse panel. It was all socially distanced, some in the same room in Charlotte St. Gardens and others on screens from their homes. The only audience was that of whom were watching online.
I have written a piece of who the hosts and panelists are and then about what they discussed for the book they have been involved in producing – Imagine A Country.

Hosts – Val McDermid and Jo Sharp
Panelists – Leila Aboulela, Jo Clifford, Doug Johnson.

Val McDermid is one of the biggest names in crime writing. (latest book is Still Life). Her novels have been translated into 40 languages, sold over 16 million copies worldwide. She has won many awards. Has been elected a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She is the recipient of six honorary doctorates and is an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda’s College, Oxford. She writes full-time and divides her time between Edinburgh and East Neuk of Fife.

Jo Sharp – A University Professor of Geography and also editor, along with Val McDermid of the book – “Imagine A Country.

Leila AboulelaA critically accalimed author, whose work has been also included in some cultural education programmes.

Jo Clifford – A successful playwright who is credited for “putting the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh on the map.”

Doug Johnson – A successful author (latest book is The Big Chill). Johnstone has a degree in physics, a PhD in nuclear physics and a diploma in journalism. Before embarking on his literary career, he designed radar and missile guidance systems for military aircraft.

Imagine a Country cover

Synopsis

The first step on the road to change is to imagine possibility. Imagine A Country offers visions of a new future from an astonishing array of Scottish voices, from comedians to economists, writers to musicians. Edited, curated and introduced by bestselling author Val McDermid and geographer Jo Sharp, it is a collection of ideas, dreams and ambitions, aiming to inspire change, hope and imagination. Featuring: ALI SMITH, PHILL JUPITUS, A.L. KENNEDY, ALAN CUMMING, KERRY HUDSON, GREG HEMPHILL, CAROL ANN DUFFY, CHRIS BROOKMYRE, ALISON WATT, ALASDAIR GRAY, LEILA ABOULELA, IAN RANKIN, SELINA HALES, SANJEEV KOHLI, JACKIE KAY, DAMIAN BARR, ELAINE C. SMITH, ABIR MUKHERJEE, ANNE GLOVER, ALAN BISSETT, LOUISE WELSH, JO CLIFFORD, RICKY ROSS, 

Imagine a Country cover

About the Book – Imagine A Country From Discussion


Imagine A Country sounds like a good conversation starter. It has many contributers, who were invited to write something about what they would like to see. It is essentially a short essay collection, that is quite eclectic in some ways, with the range of subjects, under this one title. There was a brief given and as far as I could tell, it also had to be positive. It may also have been dreamt up in the pub, but let’s face it, maybe there are a number of people who have ideas in places, where you might not expect, I know I do. Contributors were given one month to submit their work. They wanted many writers to come up with something, so it became a collection of ideas and not just 1 story. No politicians were asked to contribute as it was decided not to have the sort of political agenda that they would likely give.  They chose people that had a range of “voices”, Jo Sharp says and that you may encounter some that you haven’t before.

The proceeds of the book goes towards some charities, such as The Book Trust and more.

Val read from Ali Smith’s contribution. It’s interesting about young people forging ahead in time and old songs. It’s moving and has passion within it. It’s also about rebellion and restarting anew to create a better place. It is about people and nature starting anew and creating something better and remembering the things that have been lost. It serves as reminder that there’s “Only One Planet Earth” (sang by Val McDermid to the tune of Guantanamera). It’s a story for those who care.

Some of the contributions include:

Stuart Cosgrove, wrote why there is no public to mourn and thinks there ought to be.

Chris Brookmyre did a piece about wanting philosophy to be taught in primary schools.

Lin Anderson wrote about a landscape for all. Some other writers also echoed this.

Doug Johnson thinks the care for landscape should include more outdoor learning.

Some think there should be more done with the arts.

There are people who talk about creating better places for pedestrians and cyclists.

There are people who talk in the book about disability, homeless and more…

What the guests for the purpose of the talk discussed.


Leila Aboulelashe talked about holidays and public holidays. I love that she loves all of the holidays and reckons more public holidays for a better life and seems to really understand the benefits. She talks about how we don’t need to shop 24/7 and how more days off gives people a good break. She thinks the 4 day working week would be better for sustainability. She compared the UK with different countries and how those with 4 day working weeks have better productivity and how the UK work more for less.

She talked about how working from home works and wonders if there is a need for the commute. It’s interesting how it is debatable as work and home can merge a lot. Val McDermid chipped in about how it could be good to share out the work as there is less to go around.

Jo Clifford – discussed what if you can imagine a country, even if it is hard, that doesn’t have people disrespecting each other and being angry. The piece is about respect the words we use and that everyone has a right to be different. It is also about the origin of some words and how this has changed over the years, such as the word “idiot” wasn’t always a word of insult. It is also about the beauty of some words too.

Doug Johnston  talked about being a writer and how to combat being stuck in a rut and can easily get out to improve his mental health. It’s more an essay of how he thinks regular exposure and some outdoor learning and talks about his own children going to one of those outdoor places from a primary 7 trip for a week. He thinks more needs to be done, so it isn’t just once and unaffordable for some.
He said it came about by his own lifestyle and how easily it can be for him as a writer to not go out and about as it were. His wife also works for an outdoor learning place.

It seems to be a sort of motivational book, to at least think about what sort of world you want and Val McDermid then says people “should hold politician’s feet to the fire”.

All in all, it was a better talk than what I was expecting, in terms of content. I knew it would most likely be delivered well, which it was. The book can be bought from the Edinburgh Book Festival Bookshop, Amazon, Waterstones

An Online/Virtual Event with Erica James @EricaJames #LettersFromThePast #VirtualEvent #NewBook

So, regular readers of my blog will know, that I have been attending some online events and writing some of them up on my blog. Today I sat in a room and watched the author Erica James do a Q&A session. So take a look to find out a snap-shot of her new bestselling book and a little bit about this very successful author.

Letters From the Past cover

A New Book

She has a new Bestseller called Letters From the Past, set in the early 1960’s. It may be a large book, but the chapters are lovely and short and it sounds a book that many will enjoy. It is a sequel that to Coming Home to Island House, but stands perfectly well as a standalone.
Erica James talked of her sons living in Seattle and Tokyo and it was when she was in Seattle with her son there, driving by movie stars houses, that she then decided to set the scene for her character.
I have been very lucky in being given the opportunity to review this wonderfully interesting sounding book on the 20th of April, so you will find out my thoughts and a little more about the story then, that will hopefully inspire you.

Inspiration

A place, something she sees, something that touches a nerve can inspire her.

Swallowtail Summer is set in Norfolk and for research she read up on, which she sounded quite taken by, and then travelled there to be in situ.

Pastimes

Erica James likes watching  some sport such as ice-skating and  gymnastics, her icon there being Olga Korbut. Her favourite sport of all is F1 racing. She also likes to do gardening and knitting. She clearly enjoys reading too as she has many books on her shelves.

Writing and Reading

For budding writers, she says read, write words on the page and don’t worry about who will read it, it might just be for you and that’s okay and enjoy the process.

Erica started writing as a hobby for escapism and then went on a writers course and a conference and it sounded like someone helped her out and she got an agent from Curtis Brown, who she is still with and got published by Orion. The writing came from a love of reading and she wondered if it was as fun writing a book as it was reading and it turned out, for her, it is and she has now written many books.

The covers of books have changed over the years to suit a new audience and as fashions change, book covers change. 

She enjoyed writing Letters from the Past and many of her other books.
She really likes A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford, although perhaps one of its time and people find they themselves change over the years. It was interesting hearing her talk so candidly about going back to a book to re-read after many years.

She says A Breath of Fresh Air is a book of hers that would be great for escapism. I reckon, all of them are really good to try for that.  Also try out her latest, enticing sounding book – Letters From the Past.

A few of her many books

Hamnet Q&A #Hamnet #MaggieOFarrell #VirtualEvent #Writing #NewBook

A Q&A featuring Maggie O’Farrell about her new book Hamnet and more…

I joined to watch this insightful Q&A with Maggie O’Farrell. Her latest book is Hamnet, available now. For those wondering who she is or what Hamnet is about, here is a quick introduction and blurb, before I get onto the event.

Maggie O’Farrell is the author of the Sunday Times no. 1 bestselling memoir I AM, I AM, I AM, and eight novels: AFTER YOU’D GONE, MY LOVER’S LOVER, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX, THE HAND THAT FIRST HELD MINE, which won the 2010 Costa Novel Award, INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEATWAVE, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Novel Award,  THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award, and HAMNET.
She lives in Edinburgh.

Blurb For Hamnet

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; a flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

Hamnet

The Main Event

It was interesting to hear that Maggie O’Farrell gets editorial feedback from her husband. So she doesn’t really tell her husband too much about what book she is working on or indeed chat much about a book until it is finished. She went onto talking about how all writing is personal, but decided harsh feedback can be in the best interest to either cut a character or to see if it can be made better.

Why Write Hamnet?

She decided to write Hamnet because she studied Hamlet in Scottish Highers and was intrigued by the symmetry of the play’s name Hamlet and Shakespeare’s son. She was interested in the fact that there is so little known about Shakespeare, but the fact that the play (and in fact one of his most popular and enduring plays), was named after his dead son, so she wanted to bring his son more to the forefront. It sounded like she had an interest in writing this story for quite some time.

Research

In the research, she found most interesting in the gaps as there is a lot of potential to fill them. Research was library based and she discovered that he probably would have walked 4 or 5 days between Stratford and London.

She did some physical research. This included, cultivating her own medicinal garden and making bread as in Tudor time to really get a feel for and experience what that was like for research purposes for her book.

She talked about, with research, you need to know more than you actually put down on the page on the book, so it doesn’t feel like any essay or clunky.

Crafting her voice

How long it took her to craft her voice, she doesn’t feel she has ever completely nailed it, but that keeps her writing.

She found it awhile to pinpoint where in the chronology of Shakespeare where to start to write. It sounds like it took a few attempts, but then she found the pinpoint of where to start the story, the voice came.

Setting and Shakespeare (or not)

The setting is of course Stratford-upon-Avon, which she did travel down to (it really is a very long way from Edinburgh), but it was an effort she made.

For a chapter about an infected flea, Maggie O’Farrell tried to imagine what it was like in Warwickshire and what it was like for the plague to spread through the place and coming into your house. She then researched the trade routes and also how it travelled. 

Shakespeare is not mentioned by name in the book because everyone has a sense of him and wanted to ask readers to think about him again and to see another side of him. She reckoned a lot of Shakespeare’s drama happened, not all on stage, but in the time with his son and she didn’t want him to be the focus of the book, when it is about Hamnet.

Routines and Challenges

She tries to do something new with every book and sets herself challenges and creates almost like hurdles to go over.

For writing, she doesn’t really have a routine. She has sometimes a big surge of inspiration that is followed by a bit of a fall, but thinks both is useful to get words on paper and then it can be looked at critically and then writing can be edited.

She wrote a memoir, but not all in chronological order. She wrote diaries, but didn’t look back at them when writing the memoir. There are gaps that she didn’t want to divulge everything or write someone else’s narrative.

What’s Coming Next

Maggie O’Farrel has a children’s book coming out around the autumn. A girl wakes up one night and a snow angel has come into her bedroom. It will be a bit like a modern fairytale.

Hamnet

A talk with Anne Cleeves and a Librarian. Interviewed by william1shaw @WilliamShaw #AnneCleeves @rosie_vietch #Vera #Shetland #librarians #Event #FreeEvent

I watched later on online an event hosted by William Shaw featuring renowned and popular author of Vera and Shetland – Anne Cleeves and a librarian from Cambridgeshire libraries. For Anne Cleeves fans, you may be delighted to know that she has new books for you to get your teeth into.

Anne Cleeves is working on the follow up to The Long Call (a Matthew Venn book). The Darkest Evening is the latest Vera book. She talks of Matthew Venn being gay, not to be political or anything and a gay couple whom she knows and how she is just had them on her mind at the time of creating this character.

Anne talks about growing up in North Devon and the strong community. It sounds a happy time, growing up there in her teens and talks of friendships and special times, so feels she can write about there. It’s always interesting to hear snippets like this.

Anne Cleeves and William Shaw talked about tv. It’s interesting to hear how close to the books Brenda Blethyn is to the books and how Anne Cleeves is invited on set, which I think sounds really nice.

Readers may find interesting that Anne Cleeves alternates between the series of books when writing and doesn’t plot so far in advance.

It’s talked about crime writing being in a golden age, especially for those who write prolifically. Reginald Hill (Dalziel and Pascoe series) is how Rosie Veitch started reading crime. I think that’s a good choice. He is a great writer and an author who really would appeal to any adult age group. It is also worth noting that authors such as Ian Rankin really rate him too. So, worth trying out, if you haven’t already.  It’s quite a big series, so enough to keep people going and always well-written.

Reginald Hill

Watch out for Anne Cleeves earwigging in your conversations, sounds like bits may end up in a book, so many writers get ideas from people and conversations and places round about them.

Rosie Vietch works in Cambridgeshire. Of course it is strange for her as we fight to keep libraries open (fight be the word) and librarians are now doing work online like virtual meetings, virtual coffee break (take it from me, library staff like their tea and coffee).
Rosie Vietch likes Anne Cleeves books and how every voice for each series is different. I’ve heard people say this before.

Rosie Veitch and William Shaw talked at the beginnng of their chat, about libraries and how libraries have lots of magazines, newspapers, audiobooks and e-books and catalogue searching to see what to choose. Although Rosie Veitch talks about extending things public libraries offer, don’t always expect it from community libraries for so many reasons, that I could go on about from experience working in both the public libraries (paid) and community libraries (unpaid), but it would take away from my piece here about the people within it, as Rosie also talks about lovely childhood books.

Rosie Vietch has gone back to reading Mallory Tower and The Chalet School. It seems in times of crisis, some people tend to go to a place they feel most comfortable with. I will say they are lovely books in my opinion and I remember reading them in my tweens and early teen years too.

Secrets-Book-11-Malory-Towers-by-Blyton-Enid-Book-The-Cheap-Fast-Free-Post                                                        The Coming of Age of the Chalet School by Brent-Dyer, Elinor M. Paperback Book

Coming up in next couple of days, if you were to tune in, is Adam Higgenbottom talking about a non-fiction book about Chernobyl. Rebecca Waite called Our Fathers’.

Click here for the link for the talk: The Whole Talk

You may also want to check out some books by William Shaw too. Here is just a few.

#StayAtHomeFest – A Story by Andrew Leach Event @4ndrewJames #Free #FreeEvent @JanetEmson @yearsofreading #Review

Today I took a look at the storytelling by author Andrew Leach. Over on Twitter he is doing around 20/25 tweets to create a story in 3 parts. If you missed today’s part 1, you can find the story on Twitter. It is called Maneki-Neko about two brothers, each of whom tells their part. 

For a story on Twitter, it reads surprisingly well and is worth reading the next installments. It’s interesting and has some drama and atmosphere to it. The second part is around 1:30pm on Wednesday and the 3rd and final part being on Thursday around the same time. It’s worth checking out to see the story unfold and how something can seem pretty decent when a tweet only allows so many characters. 

Follow for the next part and to check out part 1 via this link: Story by Andrew Leach

It is thanks to Andrew Leach for doing this, so innovately and to Janet, Clare and Carolyn for doing this festival of which it is a pleasure to blog about, when I can attend events. 

Talk with William Shaw and Jo Spain@william1shaw @SpainJoanne @sophieglorita #bookevent #TheLockdown #MondayMotivaton #CrimeFiction

Today author William Shaw was joined by Dublin based author and scriptwriter Jo Spain. Normally I take notes and then write it up like a day later or so, but I thought I would write as I watched and get it published as soon after as I could, so advance apologies if it all looks a bit rushed or doesn’t quite read as well in parts.

Crime writer and scriptwriter. Did an original show for RTE. She is doing a few author’s books for screen.

A book and screen are two different things in the way they are worked it would seem, Completely different in fact as it’s all about showing and also everyone in the tv production saying what is required. 

So far things have come quickly to screen for Jo Spain.

Sophie and First Monday Crime – going for about 5 years. They do book recommendations and Q&As. They talk about accessible films too and watch a film together. This is something everyone can join in with. Here is the link for First Monday Crime

They talked about having to be creative to connect and how work is still going on with how to publicise books and with some bookshops closing. I will add here that there are a number of independent bookshops now trading online.

Ssix-wicked-reasons-jo-spain-9781529400274ix Wicked Reasons is a new book by Jo Spain – locked room set on the east coast of Ireland in a grand country house. The head of the household has been killed. They are all coming home for a family celebration as someone disappeared years ago, but returns. The reasons for the murder emerges. It sounds like if you like Agatha Christie, you will enjoy this. There’s a psychological/sociological element and a sense of realism about it with characters you can care about, even though there is a narcissistic father who leaves damage within the family in different ways. The characters sound like people who you’re really going to get to know and why they are how they are and how they are individually marked.

After the Fire
After the fireTom Reynolds is a Chief Super Intendant – this is part of a series, so this is where he eventually becomes promoted to. He has a difference that there is still investigation work. 

 

 

 

 

Sophie talks about an area in London – rainy and quiet. Sadly some boy racers but nature seems lovely with wild garlic.

How Dublin is feeling is maybe strained with homeschooling and little time to write but in general liking daily exercise maybe and not too fazed and having interviews and online drink parties.

Publishing has got good at changing shape and adapting with different circumstances, still conservative in some ways with a flexible industry. More online launches have been pushed by some in marketing with online streaming given the circumstances. They talked about there being scope for different ways of accessing events. I myself love and much prefer to go to an actual book event/festival, but in the circumstance of this, I think it is fine and opens it up to others, who may then try some festivals or other more local events if the huge events aren’t local to you.

With our Blessing by Jo Spain is one to begin with, but can be read as stand-alone too. Dirty Little Secrets is published in May.

Check out William Shaw on FB for other events, if you would like to, (his profile pic is of his book Deadlands).