Summer Lovin’

As Olivia Newton John sang, “Summer loving had me a blast, oh yeah. Summer loving happened so fast” (I know the song but I think I might be one of the few folk on the planet who haven’t seen Grease).

  Too true! It’s almost time for me to hit the road again with my day job… I’m very lucky to only work during school term time but that doesn’t mean I’ve been idle in the last five weeks.  Being with a small independent publisher means there’s no big publicity department or budget to match so I’ve spent a lot of time this summer trying to be my own publicist in the build up to the publication of my début novel, Talk of the Toun, at the end of October. images (1)One of my tasks was to organise a ‘blog tour’ to feature my book on reviewers’ sites. This has taken me waaay more time than I ever anticipated but thanks to Anne Cater, a new group on Facebook was created called ‘Book Connectors’ and it was a huge help in finding bloggers who were happy to support a début novelist like me. There’s no guarantee that the blog tour will make any difference to book sales but it can’t be a bad thing to raise the online profile of the book so I’m hoping the time and effort will pay off. However, by actively seeking reviews of my book, it definitely makes me feel vulnerable to negative criticism and it’s an issue that I need to brace myself for as of course not every reader will enjoy my book. images It’s a pity that the ‘summer’ weather was grim but my time off hasn’t been all work and no play.  Despite not going away on holiday, I’ve acted like a tourist in my own country and managed to enjoy visits to a number of places.  Forget trying to drum up book sales,  I should be on commission for Visit Scotland!

My highlights were…

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Newhailes near Mussellburgh is an unrestored stately home with beautiful surrounding parkland.

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The Govan Stones in Glasgow are a unique collection of early medieval stones carved in the 9th-11th centuries.

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The Writers’ Museum in Edinburgh celebrates the lives of three great Scottish writers – Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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An exhibition at Paisley Museum of some of George Wyllie’s most famous works.

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Gladstone’s Land is a 17th century tenement style house in Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile  which has been authentically restored.

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Clydebank Museum is the venue to see work by acclaimed artist Joan Eardley which includes works which have never been on public display before.

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Agarty Red Kites in Doune is Scotland’s only feeding station where visitors can watch these spectacular birds..

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“Still” by sculptor Rob Mulholland is a stunning mirrored figure standing in Loch Earn in Perthshire.

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Innerpeffray Library in Perthshire is Scotland’s oldest free, public lending library: a  hidden gem of a museum.

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Cultybraggan outside Comrie is the fascinating site of a Nazi PoW camp designed to hold some 4,000 Category A prisoners.

Do you buy books based on the recommendations of book bloggers?

Have you been somewhere special over the summer?

Joan of Art

imagesIn my last blog post, I praised the writer William McIlvanney for his work capturing working class life in contemporary fiction and giving a voice to the people he grew up with in the west of Scotland.  I’m fascinated by authentic representation of working class culture and heritage and so thanks to the wonderful Glasgow Women’s Library, I was able to learn more about one of my favourite artists – Joan Eardley.

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Back Street Children Playing, 1960

If McIlvanney used words, Eardley used paint to give us a credible portrait of the reality of life in deprived areas and she is famous for her paintings of ‘street urchins’. She also painted stunning seascapes whilst living in the remote village of Catterline in Aberdeenshire and her atmospheric paintings of stormy seas are powerful and full of energy.

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Flood Tide, 1962

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A beautiful ‘coffee table’ for an art lover. I hope Santa reads this blog!

Christopher Andreae has written a biography of Eardley and his talk, ‘Summer Sea, Winter Sea’ at GWL was a fantastic insight into the artist’s life and work. I love art but I’m no art critic so it was a real privilege to benefit from Christopher’s knowledge of her work.

Sadly, Eardley died aged 42 from breast cancer and I was left wondering how her career would’ve developed if she had the chance to live longer. Christopher’s slide show highlighted that Earley is one of the most influential painters of her generation whose paintings and drawings reflect urban and rural Scotland.

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Some of the Samson Children, 1961

Her portraits of the children of inner city Glasgow and her east coast seascapes are a rich source of inspiration for a writing exercise. Her vibrant paintings of children make it easy for me to imagine my dad and his siblings playing in the street all those years ago. My dad was one of a family of fourteen children who operated a ‘first up, best dressed’ lifestyle and their childhood stories would fill several books.

 

Have you ever used artwork as a prompt for your writing? Are you a fan of Eardley’s work?

If you want to know a wee bit more about Eardley’s life and work, this short film is a good introduction.