I had my busiest weekend so far at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Five authors, one seminar, reading, writing, and discussion, all added together to equal a great time.
My Saturday began at 5pm with a Granta Magazine sponsored seminar on the Art of Short Story Writing. James Lasdun, winner of the National Short Story Prize, Valerie Martin, winner of the Orange Prize, and Nadeem Aslam, author of Wasted Vigil, discussed in depth why short stories are important in today’s world. It was interesting stuff, but there wasn’t much I could take from it other than the free bag of books we received on the way out.
Half an hour later I found myself in the main tent for a man who is always a treat to see: Alexander McCall Smith. Another freebie was handed out on the way into this event, a free glass of Highland Park Malt, which went down a treat. Sandy was on top form for the hour, laughing and giggling about his work and characters, and filling us in on everything he has been up to and has planned. Most enjoyable and a great guy!
My sister, Binny, had come through from Glasgow and was waiting for me when I came out of Sandy’s event. With some time to kill, we walked along Rose Street looking for somewhere to get a bite to eat. We settled on Pizza Hut and sat in the restaurant for an hour or so until we were both stuffed and ready to head back to Charlotte Square for the Irvine Welsh event.
Welsh read from his new book, a collection of stories entitled Reheated Cabbage, and a story concerning one of his most famous characters, Begbie. The story of Christmas Day in the Begbie household was very funny, and when questioned, Welsh was his usual forthright self.
Binny stayed at mine overnight then on Sunday morning, after a couple of juicy bacon butties for breakfast, we headed out west to the pet store in Corstorphine. I had to stock up on bunny goods and Binny got herself some new decorations and food for her aquarium back in Glasgow.
Binny was unable to get a ticket for Will Self, so while I was in his event on Sunday evening, she sat and read in the corner of the bookshop. Self was top notch, reading two stories from his new collection, Liver. The first was a humorous tale concerning a London drinking club, the other a touching and deep account of a woman with terminal cancer going abroad to use the services of an assisted suicide clinic.
From there I met back up with Binny and we both went to listen to Glasgow crime writer, Quintin Jardine. Not the best reader in the world—which he fully admitted at the time—but I was very impressed with his ability to keep churning out once crime series after another. He has this astonishing attitude to writing that I found refreshing, in that he writes what he wants, can make anything work, and seems to just go with the ideas he has more freely than other writers. I took a lot from his event.
Finally, the cherry to top off all my main author events for the first week of the book festival: Frank Skinner. Frank was promoting his book, a second memoir called On The Road. Skinner talked honestly and hilariously his life, and the time when his TV career had faltered and was attempting a return to the stage as a stand up comic. The reading he gave was throat chokingly hilarious, his ability to turn every day things into puns and gags just superb. He went on for 15 minutes longer than scheduled, even playing his Ukulele and doing more readings, but nobody minded. What a total scream and a very fast 75 minutes.
There are still a few events I might make it along to see, and one or two I know I will be popping up for, but for the most part, the busiest part of my book festival schedule is now over. It was tiring stuff but an incredibly enjoyable and rewarding week. I feel charged, motivated, and confident again—it’s a wonderful thing. No sadness yet because the tents are still there, so I need to keep making the most of it while it is.
Yesterday I found myself on an “Away Day” with some of my work colleagues. After a morning in Head Office doing team building exercises, we split up into teams and went out onto the streets of Edinburgh to take part in a Monopoly-based treasure hunt. We covered most of the city centre under a blazing sun and had a great laugh chasing down historical plaques, statues, monuments and making ridiculous requests of tourists, before finally ending up at the home base, The Beehive pub on Grassmarket. There, the management had supplied free beer, of which I made the best of.
Several of us stayed on afterwards, moving out to the beer garden and then to Milne’s on Rose Street, which meant by the time I got home I was a little tipsy to say the least. Eight pints of Guinness after a day walking around the sunny streets was more than enough to send me on my merry way.
And so, as you can see, it was a darn good weekend. Today I am tired and looking forward to a quiet evening in front of my laptop. I think I deserve a wee rest, but not too much—there are stories to write!