As you all know, Cathy Forde is our current Virtual Writer In Residence. Here is her blog offering this month. Don't forget to check out her creative writing tasks on our Virtual Writer in Residence pages!
Happy New Year everyone! I hope the holidays left you refreshed and not frazzled and I really, really hope you haven’t spent hours queuing up in M&S or H&M to take back gifts you didn’t want in the first place.
Just the thought of post-Christmas sales is enough to make me shudder, although I did brave Frasers’ in Glasgow yesterday….For about five minutes. One glimpse at the feeding frenzy in the shoe department was enough to send me fleeing back down into the Underground like an acrophobic mole.
I’ve actually had a really lovely – and musical - Christmas with my family. On Christmas Eve I went with my mum and my husband to a packed-out Christmas Mass in St Peter’s (Partick in Glasgow, not Rome) which was conducted almost entirely by the light of candles set around the church and held by the congregation. It was magical, and at the end of the service all the children in the church played along to carols on instruments they’d brought. That wasn’t magical but it worked! My elder son was playing jazz in Brel, a pub nearby, so I saw out Christmas Eve listening to both my sons and their friends in the company of my mum and my husband. I think it’s been one of the best Christmases I’ve had for ages. I even got good presents, including an amazing live Sam Cooke album from my elder son, and a tambourine from my younger.
A recommendation from Marion at Scottish Book Trust felt like another present. I read through all the books the Scottish Book Trust team suggested for famous people on their website and fancied the novel Marion would give Bono so much, I bought it.
What a brilliant book The Other Hand by Chris Cleave is. So thank you for your unexpected gift, Marion! I love books that feel real and that you can’t stop thinking about and that you want to tell your friends to read.
By the time this blog is posted, I will be in the middle of development for my play EMPTY which debuts in the Tron Theatre in Glasgow on 16th March and then tours Scotland. I am really excited at the prospect of seeing my script transformed into flesh and bone in front of my eyes, although I know I am going to be on the steepest learning curve of my life. I had a little taster of what’s ahead when my second play, The Sunday Lesson was unexpectedly given a development day with professional actors at The Playwright’s Studio in Glasgow just before Christmas. After nine hours of reworking, rewriting and rehearsal the actors read the play to the producers of A Play, A Pie and A Pint at Glasgow’s Oran Mor, and as a result it’s going to be included in their Spring programme. I think that’s the best surprise Christmas present I have ever had!
On Sunday 6th December, whilst I was in Manchester preparing for a brilliant night at a Yeah Yeah Yeahs gig, Chris was driving down to Carlilse to meet illustrator and author David Roberts at the train station. This was the beginning of our final tour of 2009!
I joined the guys on Monday morning in Dumfries where we spent our first day. Both sessions were brilliant, with lots of drawing and Chris trying out his storytelling skills. It set the tone for what was to be a fantastic week of events.
On Wednesday we moved on to East Renfrewshire. I was a bit sad to leave the beautiful Dumfries and Galloway scenery but the four events we did in and around Glasgow were equally as great.
I often think that when you see an illustrator doing what they do best it makes it obvious how difficult drawing is. What was so wonderful about David's events was that he showed every child, and Chris and I too, that even we could draw pictures. Everybody drew Dirty Bertie along with David, and a few people tried their hand at Troll and Tyrannasaurus Drip. Although they may not have been as perfect as David's art work, he made sure we all knew they were equally as valid. It was lovely to see so many children getting involved and feeling encouraged.
Thank you David for a fantastic week, and thank you to all of the pupils who drew pictures and shouted out enthusiastically during Dirty Bertie.
The winner of the 2009 Royal Mail Awards older readers category, Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray, has been shortlisted for another award – the Lincolnshire Young People’s Book Award. Check out the other books on the shortlist here.
The shortlist of the Angus Book Award 2010 has been announced! The winner, chosen by third year pupils throughout Angus secondary schools, will be announced in May in Kirriemuir. The shortlist is: Crossing the Line by Gillian Philip Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks Guantanamo Boy by Anne Perera Numbers by Rachel WardHappy Reading!
We would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. We'll be back in the new year with even more events, tours and blogs!
As you all know, Cathy Forde is currrently our Virtual Writer In Residence. Every month Cathy drops by the blog to tell us what she's been up to. Here's what she's got to say this month...
Last week I was on holiday, trying to absorb enough vitamin D from the Portuguese sun to see me through the next four months in Scotland. I loved having blue skies on tap for a few days although being away meant I missed the Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children’s Books. Well done to all the winners, especially Keith Gray, my predecessor as Virtual Writer in Residence for the brilliant Ostrich Boys.
Going on holiday anywhere for me is about catching up on reading, and I always try and choose something that I wouldn’t normally go for. So many people have recommended Steig Larsson’s crime novel The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, that I bought it, expecting the ultimate unputdownable ( is that a word?) novel. Was I disappointed? I struggled through it. On the other hand, I knew nothing much about Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, but found myself completely drawn in to its spooky clutches. It is beautifully written and very readable, with a huge crumbling house as the setting for the story. It was the perfect novel to read before I deliver my fourth writer in residence podcast on SETTING, and it made me think of all the other books I have read where location is a character in itself.
I am off to Fife next week to give a creative writing talk with Scottish Book Trust and last month we went to spanking new Bishopbriggs Academy where I was asked some of the best questions ever from the audience. A great visit, and I am looking forward to going back there in March next year, especially now that I know where the new school is. Silly me drove to the old one and wondered why it looked so run down and forlorn.
By the way, this is my ‘Christmas blog’ although I haven’t had any time to think about all the shopping malarkey yet. It must be the Festive Season though because supermarket carparks are full, Glasgow city centre is heaving ( with people carry Primark bags), ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ is playing on a loop in M&S. Also, my sons have started snooping around for the Christmas presents I buy throughout the year, then hide away. When I came home from Portugal they were half way through Season One of First Blood. I had hidden it at the bottom of a box of other presents for them. Would you ever do that you your mum? Okay, so I did it too, but not when I was 20 like my elder son!!!
John Ward's novel The Comet's Child is December's Book of the Month. We asked him what it feel like to be published at Christmas and what he'll be reading over the holidays.
To have a book come out in time for Christmas is a special pleasure. Suddenly you are part of that most memorable library: books that were first received as Christmas presents. Books: as presents go, they are rarely the most exciting, but so often give the greatest, most abiding pleasure, remembered and reread when flashier things are lost and forgotten. Their moment comes when the toys are played out and the excitement (up since the earliest hours, scarcely slept the night before) has subsided into fatigue: then it is time to curl up in a quiet corner among the cushions and discarded wrapping paper and the smell of tangerines and chocolate and read your book.
What must it have been like to be a child at Christmas 1935 (a time much like our own, with the world in a parlous state: financial ruin, unemployment, war and the threat of war) and receive a copy of John Masefield’s The Box of Delights, complete with curious illustrations and a riddling rhyme at the head of each chapter? To be drawn into the world of Kay Harker, home for the Christmas holidays, diddled out of his money by sly strangers on the train, befriended by the old Punch- and-Judy man and his dog Barney, plunged into a world of adventure with flying taxis, magic, time-travel, international gangsters, interminable snowdrifts and at the heart of it all, the wonderful Box of Delights?
I'll be reading it again this Christmas.
Take part in our Book of the Month competition and you could win a copy of The Comet's Child.
On 14th October K.M. Grant launched her new novel Paradise Red here at Scottish Book Trust. It was a brilliant launch, all of the pupils who attended had a fantastic time, as did the SBT staff, but what is it like for an author? We asked K.M. Grant and she told us...
The launch of a book is strange day for an author: exciting and slightly unnerving. The excitement is sending the book off into the world to see how it fares. The unnerving bit is that because the publishing process is lengthy, it’s some time since you actually wrote it. On occasion, even the author forgets things and I’m always frightened there’ll be some detail that’s escaped me, because if there is, you can bet somebody will discover, and how silly does that make you look?
But the end of a trilogy – Paradise Red is the final part of the Perfect Fire Trilogy – brings an added pang. I’ve been living with Yolada, Raimon and Brees for three years. Some days, they’ve been more real to me than absent members of my family. I don’t want to say goodbye to them. But if I don’t let go of them, how can I start my next venture? And a new heroine, Belle, awaits …
For more information on K.M.Grant take a look at her website.
We're busy getting ready for our tour to Dumfries and Galloway and East Renfrewshire next week with the wonderful illustrator David Roberts. You can read more about David and his work on his website.