Exceptions to the Rule

As a rule, I don’t tend to read crime fiction. But I always make exceptions for two of my favourite writers – Kate Atkinson and Christopher Brookmyre.  Both writers have created characters who are lovable rogues and it’s hard to resist the charms of Jackson Brodie in Kate’s novels and Christopher’s protagonist Jack Parlabane.

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Not my usual book choice but undeniably a heart-warming tale.

I’ve read all of the books which feature Jack Parlabane but not all of Christopher’s novels as he’s dabbled in other genres such as sci-fi which I very rarely read (although I’ve just read Matt Haig‘s book The Humans which has an alien narrator and much to my surprise I enjoyed it). The character of Jack has been well rested and due a another adventure so it was great to hear that Christopher had written a new novel with the main man back in action.

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Jack and his gallus banter is a sharp as ever.

I go to lots of author events and often after the event I feel that once is enough and I can cross them off my list of ‘must see’ writers. But I’ve been to hear Christopher talk several times as I’ve always come away inspired and entertained by his dry humour. So when I heard that Waterstone’s had organised a free local event to promote Dead Girl Walking then it was a no-brainer to get myself along to Behind the Wall in Falkirk with hubby in tow.

I had high expectations and I wasn’t disappointed, as on previous occasions,  Christopher was his usual witty self. My hubby had never seen Christopher perform his work and was quite shocked to hear the ‘c’ word being used in his introduction. Christopher made no apology for the strong language, his style is not for the easily offended and along with every swear word I can think of I’m sure by the end of the event the ‘c’ word had been aired at least half a dozen times. But that’s what makes Christopher’s work so real, characters like Spammy couldn’t talk in any other way. Hearing this no holds barred reading gave me confidence to be just as authentic in my own work and to stop worrying about causing offence.

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Chris could swap careers and do stand-up comedy!

At times, although it was a book reading, it often felt that we were at a comedy night. Christopher has a quiet confidence in his dead-pan delivery and had the audience in stitches with his short story, ‘Puck Knows‘ about a group of teenagers at a performance of A Midsummer’s Night Dream in Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow. He’s also happy to share cringe-worthy anecdotes like the time a member of the audience in Dundee used the Q and A session to tell Christopher he wasn’t a fan of his work, he was only there to get a book signed for his daughter and could he come up to the stage for it to be signed to save him waiting in the queue at the end! Of course, Christopher was able to laugh this off and proved that while he takes his writing seriously and is a well established Scottish literary figure, he isn’t big-headed at all and is one of the most entertaining writers I’ve had the pleasure to hear talk about his work.

Christopher’s anecdote reminded me of a question I was asked recently in my day job during a training session on Maths for primary school teaching staff. I primed myself for a tricky question on differentiation and the teaching of core numeracy. The question was, “Where did you get your shoes?” At least it was an easy one to answer!

Who’s the most entertaining writer you’ve heard at an event?

 

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Write Now! @ Aye Write!

I’m not a ‘morning’ person (some would argue that I’m not an afternoon or night person either) so I am relieved that my uni classes are timetabled later in the day. A slow start suits me best (my family know to stay well back until at least 9am) but I’d registered for the Write Now! Conference so I found myself on a train into Glasgow yesterday and Friday, long before it was safe for me to be near people.

It was well worth the effort of getting out of bed early. The conference was held in the Mitchell Library and was part of the Aye Write! Book Festival. The days were packed with guest speakers and by the end of the closing remarks, my bum was numb but my brain was buzzing. The blurb said. “The event is aimed at early career writers (folk like me) and scholars of all sorts and to allow attendees to share their research and creative output but also to foster a community of writers and researchers.

Did it do what it said on the tin? Yes! I certainly got my money’s worth out of the two days. An added bonus was getting the opportunity to meet up with the lovely Anne Glennie, a fellow writer I’ve met via Twitter.

The opening session was called ‘Publish and be Damned?’ and looked at the impact of digital publication and social media on the publishing industry. Scary stuff was aired about the global domination of cultural barbarians, Amazon and Google but it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Independent publishers like Cargo and new literary magazines like Octavius mean that the Scottish publishing scene has never been more exciting.

The first day was a Skills Day and I opted to go to the http://www.WRITER session run by Cat Dean. Despite technical hitches, Cat did a great job introducing our group to the wonders of WordPress.com and helped me get this new website up and running.

Over lunch (I passed on the diced dried veg in dirty dishwater aka Scotch Broth and nibbled at the dullest sandwiches I’ve seen at a buffet since 1978), there were readings from creative writing students from Strathclyde University and the talent showcased was intimidatingly good! Watch out for names like Iain Ferguson, Craig Lamont, Mary McDonough and Bryony Stocker.

But the highlight of Day One for me was undoubtedly the keynote address by Christopher Brookmyre. The award winning writer inspired and entertained the audience with his frank and funny account of his writing career. I was heartened by the fact that he wrote four novels before being published so there’s hope for me yet!

I finished the day by attending William McIlvanney’s event at Aye Write! with my best friend Veronica. Wow! He was an engaging mix of humour and humility about his phenomenal talent.We were almost moved to tears when he read out snippets of his latest work. The man is a living legend in Scottish literature!

Day Two was a series of panel discussions. My favourite ones were’ What Happens when Elephants Teach Zoology?’  and ‘Teaching Creative Writing’ about the pros and cons of a creative teaching programme. The key thing that all of the speakers agreed on was that you can’t teach creativity but you can nurture confidence in writers.  The conference round-up was a great finale and threw up questions such as, is Scotland a vibrant creative culture or a provincial backwater for writers?

I left the Mitchell library hungry but full of confidence that Scotland’s literary scene is vibrant and ready to face the future.