Aye Write!

download (1)The name of Glasgow’s book festival, Aye Write!, is a clever play on words and derives from the Glaswegian phrase, “Aye, right,” a double positive which actually means a negative as in me saying,

‘I’m gonna run a marathon.’

‘Aye right!’

With one glance at my shape and size, that would be a Glaswegian’s automatic reply.

I’ve been a fan since Aye Write! started in 2005 and although it may not have the same international status (not yet anyway) as its big sister in Edinburgh, you’d find it hard to beat Aye Write! for bringing a better range of quality world-class writers to Glasgow or indeed Scotland. It also has the added bonus of being held in the landmark venue of the Mitchell Library ( I was lucky to go on a Behind the Scenes tour recently) so there’s no need to worry about your high heels sinking in a quagmire of muddy grass at outside venues.

In Planet Helen, I have unlimited time and money to attend every Aye Write! event that I fancy but unfortunately, in the real world where I’m forced to live, I have to be selective. This year, I was sneaky and guaranteed the company of my best friend Veronica by buying her tickets for her birthday.

images (1)download (4)I chose one of the events for personal reasons as my good friend, writer Karen Campbell was officially launching her latest book, This is Where I Am. This is Karen’s fifth book and as I’ve been at every other launch, there was no way I was missing this one. This new book is an exciting and brave departure from Karen’s previous series of novels and I’d recommend reading the review by Isabel Costello to find out more. I haven’t finished my copy but on what I’ve read so far, I promise that you won’t be disappointed if you’re looking for a poignant account of the awkward relationship between Abdi, a Somali refugee and his mentor, newly widowed Debs when they meet once a month in a different part of Glasgow. But don’t worry that it might sound heavy on social issues, there’s plenty of the legendary Glasgow banter to make you smile too.

download (6)download (5)Karen was appearing alongside Kerry Hudson who was talking about her book, Tony Hogan Bought Me and Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma. I blogged about Kerry’s event last year at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Needless to say, Kerry was just as interesting and entertaining this time too and I’d highly recommend her debut novel which tells the story of a traumatic childhood but in a funny and heart-warming read. And I’m looking forward to reading her next novel, Thirst which will be published early in 2014.

imagesdownloadWe also went to see Louise Welsh and Maggie O’Farrell to hear about their new books. I’m a massive Maggie O’Farrell fan and can’t wait to get stuck into her new book, Instructions for a Heatwave which is a portrait of an Irish family in crisis in the heatwave of 1976. Maggie specialises in writing about dysfunctional families, and from the snippet she read, the Riordans sound as if they have their fair share of troubles. During the Q and A session, Maggie was witty and very inspiring about the writing process, especially when she quoted Samuel Beckett, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” With two novels written and neither of them published, this certainly struck a chord with me!

download (2)download (3)Louise’s latest, a psychological crime thriller, The Girl on the Stairs also interests me as it is set in Berlin, a city I visited a couple of years ago and found it a fascinating place. The taster she read out gave us a glimpse of the main character, Jane, a Scot living in Berlin who decides to turn detective and this has devastating results when her own past collides with the past of the building and its inhabitants.

Aye Write! was as good as ever this year with three interesting events, four top authors and two great meals out with my best pal (my love of eating out might help explain why I’m unable to run a marathon or even just run at all!).  The book festival is on until April 20th so maybe I could squeeze in another event or two…

What’s your favourite book festival? Which writers have inspired you at book events?

9 thoughts on “Aye Write!

  1. On balance, did you feel inspired or overwhelmed?! I’ve never been to an event like that, I’m not sure how I’d respond… I also quite like knowing as little as possible about who wrote what I’m reading, as otherwise I can have this sense of their face/voice getting between me and the story… is that weird?!

    • Hi Catherine, In answer, for me it’s a combination of both. It’s inspiring to hear someone talk about their passion for writing but I always feel a bit overwhelmed too by their apparent confidence to articulate the thinking behind their novels.
      I’m the opposite though about going to book events, I love to see the writer in person and find out more about their background etc But I know what you mean about the voice/face interfering e.g. sometimes when reading Karen’s writing it’s difficult to forget that it’s fiction because I know her well on a personal level. Also, if I’ve went to an event and didn’t warm to the writer it can put me off reading their work in the future. So you’ve probably got the best idea to separate fact from fiction. 🙂

      • I’m not sure! I always enjoy reading those interviews with authors when they talk about *how* they write (what time, how long for, where, little rituals about pens, paper, computers, re-drafting…). So maybe I’d love author events.
        I remember reading, and loving, ‘Dusty Answer’ when I was 17, then again when I was about 25. After that, I read Rosamond Lehmann’s biography, and then wished I hadn’t – it somehow tarnished the novel for me. Must read it again and see what I feel now! 🙂

  2. Sounds like a great festival Helen! I saw Michael Morpurgo speak at The Winchester Writers’ Conference a few years ago and he was very inspiring. He talked about how he became published-he was a teacher who made up stories for his class, the headmistress overhead and knew a publisher…he was also very witty and made the audience laugh out loud several times.

    • Hi Anita, It’s great to hear about the writing journey from successful writers isn’t it? My sons both loved Michael Murpurgo when they were younger and it it must be a real achievement to know that you’ve made an impact on readers and can inspire writers.

  3. This is one of the things I miss a lot about living in NL. There are plenty of events for Dutch literary groups and writers, but very few for English speakers (for obvious reasons). Those there are tend to be in Amsterdam and as I live and work in Rotterdam, it’s just too far to go. I would love to attend this kind of event! It sounds so very stimulating and inspiring. Planet Val doesn’t exist, I’m afraid.

    • That’s a shame Val. I’m very lucky in that I live halfway between Edinburgh and Glasgow so I manage to get to lots of literary events. I do find that hearing successful writers is often encouraging and helpful to learn from their experience.

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