2015 – A Year of Highs!

images1486898_544680102355976_7465735477020805205_nAchieving my ambition of being a published novelist has taken 10 years of writing featuring more downs than ups. And many times I questioned my sanity for chasing this dream.

But there’s no point in wasting energy dwelling on the negatives, the main thing is that 2015 was finally the year when Talk of the Toun (TOTT) made the leap from my laptop to readers’ book shelves!

There were many ‘pinch myself’ moments but I’ve narrowed them down to my top 10 (in no particular order)…

  1. Being surrounded by family and friends sharing my excitement at the launch events
  2. Having TOTT featured in national and local newspapers
  3. Seeing my book on the shelf and window of my local branch of Waterstones
  4. Hearing that there was a waiting list to borrow my book at Falkirk library
  5. Being invited as a local author to take part in library events for Book Week Scotland
  6. Getting 5 star reviews from readers
  7. Answering Q&As and writing guest posts for the blog tour
  8. Being selected as one of Naomi Frisby’s ‘books of the year
  9. Having acclaimed writer Jenni Fagan asking to buy a signed copy
  10. Sharing a stage with one of my literary idols – Janice Galloway
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Talk of the Toun’s launch wasn’t national news but it was a BIG deal to me!

I’m sure the buzz will settle down in 2016 but I’ve already got two events in the diary – one east and one west (more details here) to keep the momentum going and I’d love to see my diary with more opportunities to take Bimbo the poodle out and about and meet readers. I’ve also got some exciting ideas to revisit my previous novel, Buy Buy Baby, so it’s a case of watch this space for developments and see if next year shapes up to be as amazing as 2015…

What were your 2015 highlights? Do you have any new projects planned for 2016?

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A Warm Glow from 26 Children’s Winters

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Situated on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile the Museum of Childhood is a great place to visit and is FREE!

As if Book Week Scotland wasn’t providing enough literary excitement in one week, I also went along to the official launch of the 26 Children’s Winters exhibition at the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh, appropriately on the 26th of November.

I recently joined 26, which is a diverse group of people who share a love of words and I was lucky to be chosen as one of 26 writers to respond to Museum objects in the form of sestudes (62 words). The sestudes are now displayed alongside the objects to explore the memories and emotions that the objects evoke.

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Mingling with fellow 26ers – Sara McQueen and Carol McKay.

 

If you can’t make it along to the exhibition, there’s a virtual online advent calendar revealing a new object and sestude each day in the countdown to Christmas. You can also read what the 26 writers thought about the winter objects they were given for this project here.

The Museum of Childhood is working with the charity It’s Good 2 Give in the development of this project, hosting a workshop for the children and families supported by the charity. It’s easy to understand why I’m delighted to be involved and it was a real thrill so see my words on display with my object.

 

Here’s my response to the sledge that inspired my sestude.

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Not quite all 26 of us but brilliant to meet with some of the other writers who were able to attend the launch.

I was chuffed to bits to be assigned a beautiful antique wooden sledge. I love scouring salvage yards and charity shops for vintage bric a brac and my collection has everything from a carpet beater to a chamber pot. But my interest in items with a past isn’t because I grew up surrounded by antiques. 

My childhood home was modern and fashionable with the latest geometric wallpaper, macramé house plant holders and a smoked glass coffee table. This era of mass-produced merchandise meant that childhood toys were predominantly plastic; I took pride in my Sindy doll’s outfits,  lusted after my best pal’s Space Hopper and spent hours clicking together two acrylic balls called Clackers. 

The sledge bore no resemblance to anything I’d ever played on and that’s what inspired my 62 words. I doubted that many children would remember owning a sledge as ornate and skilfully crafted. Most folk wouldn’t have memories like a scene from ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’; they would remember using a cheap substitute for a fancy sledge.  The ‘voice’ of my sestude uses urban Scots to shine a mirror on a childhood winter, which more accurately reflects the experience of many rather than a few.

My sestude for 26 Children’s Winters.

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A Sledge for Snobs

Only posh folk in the aulden days hud a fancy yin like that. Roond oor bit maist weans used a bin bag or tea tray but ah took the lid aff ma maw’s twin tub washing machine tae sledge.  It didnae look as braw as that wooden yin but it worked jist as guid and it couldnae half wheech doon the brae.

CVTTIX7WcAEQAbZClick here to watch a clip from STV news on the exhibition featuring some of the writers.

You can also buy a book featuring all 26 sestudes for £5 in aid of charity – it would make a great stocking filler!

 

What’re your favourite childhood memories of winter?

 

Playing a Part in Book Week Scotland

I’m a reader first, writer second.

As such, I’m a huge fan of Book Week Scotland, organised by the Scottish Book Trust as a week-long celebration of books and reading that takes place every November. In previous years, I’ve attended events and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to hear some of my favourite writers talking about their books. So to be involved with the programme as a writer this year is for me nothing short of brilliant!

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Sharing tales of being an Avon lady in the 80s.

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Blast from the past!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had two Book Week Scotland events in my diary. The first one was at my local library in Kilsyth. I’ve been to loads of author talks and the usual format is readings and a Q & A. I decided to try something a wee bit different for my events. My day job is to train teachers and for this I use PowerPoint slides to convey my message, this is my comfort zone and as a visual learner myself I like images to help illustrate an idea. For my events I used PowerPoint to provide a pictorial backdrop to my talk with images of my writing ‘journey’ and pictures of the setting of Talk of the Toun. I also brought along 80s memorabilia to prompt nostalgia for the era or introduce nippers to the joys of Jelly shoes.

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Book banter with Alan Bissett.

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Impressed that the library supplied my ‘rider’ of Irn Bru to prevent a diva meltdown. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My other Book Week Scotland event was a double-bill with my fellow Falkirk writer, Alan Bissett and we both read and talked about Alight Here, the anthology of writing related to Falkirk. The theme of my story is identity and what makes you feel like a ‘bairn’, someone born and bred in the area., with my story, Today’s Special at the York Café’.

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Cathy very graciously asked me to sign her copy of Talk of the Toun.

Tblue-trees_0he finale of the week for me was a trip to Wester Hailes Library in Edinburgh to hear Cathy Rentzenbrink talk about her memoir, A Last Act of Love.  On Twitter, loads of folk were raving about this moving account of Cathy’s family coming to terms with a horrific accident involving her younger brother Matty and its heartbreaking aftermath. It didn’t sound like a cheery read and I wasn’t sure I fancied reading it but I’m so glad I wasn’t put off as it’s most definitely not a misery memoir.

Despite the dire situation the family finds themselves in, there’s still space for gentle humour and most of all brutal honesty which makes it a book worth reading to celebrate family love. Hearing Cathy talk about her book and love of reading was inspirational. I gifted a copy of Talk of the Toun to Cathy and it would be a dream come true to think that she might enjoy it as much as I loved her book.

Did you attend any Book Week Scotland events?  If you did, who did you see?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing my writing has been a MASSIVE privilege and I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to meet readers and be in a library as a reader AND a writer.

 

 

Home Game

Being born in Falkirk, I qualify for the official status of a “Fawkurt bairn” and I’m always keen to support any arts event in the area.

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I’m also behind any fundraising efforts for Foodbanks, the existence of which seems appalling in 2014, especially in a week when shops promote ‘Black Friday’ to encourage consumer greed.

So when I heard about Untitled’s latest event as part of the wonderful Book Week Scotland (in partnership with The Grind) I was keen to go (even although the poster showed a scene from a football match and I panicked for a nanosecond that I’d be forced to suffer anything remotely related to sport).

 

for-websiteUsually, I have my bestie by my side but she was busy (my fall back of dragging hubby was a no-no as a full night among “arty farty folk”, his words, not mine, would be a step too far) and it was a case of me feeling like Billy Nae Mates or missing out on a great line up showcasing some of Scotland’s best new talent. I’m a big girl (sadly in width more than in height) so I braved dreich weather and took myself along to Behind the Wall to enjoy the spoken word acts which included the launch of Dickson Telfer’s new short story collection, Refrigerator Cake.

I’ve heard Dickson perform his work before and he really is an engaging speaker who thoroughly entertains with his offbeat take on everyday life.  As before, Dickson won the audience over with his unique style of performance. After this taster, I can’t wait to read my copy of his new book.

 

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Stephen Watt wowed the audience with his performance poetry.

Other highlights of the night were local writers Samuel Best reading from his WIP, Bethany Anderson reading from her novel Swings and Roundabouts and Stephen Watt who knocked it out the park (surely the Home Game theme merits at least one or two cheesy football puns?) with his performance poetry.

And even better, I needn’t have worried about being there on my lonesome, I met writers I follow on Twitter and could’ve spent hours talking to the lovely Suzanne Egerton, Vicki Jarret and Mairi Campbell-Jack. A win on home ground!

Do you have a local spoken word scene? Is feeling part of a community important for you as a writer?