Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Gillian Philip: I don’t base my writing on real personal experiences. Except for that one...

We had the wonderful author Gillian Philip doing some events with us last week, and they were great, despite her dreaming otherwise, as she tells us...

So I dreamed I left my notes at home, arrived on the wrong day and went to the wrong place. Fortunately none of that happened despite my huge potential for reading the calendar upside down/losing emails/missing train connections. I made it to the SBT headquarters (right) on Wednesday for the launch of Crossing the Line (with my notes) and to Turriff Academy on Friday for a Big Issue event (and I turned up at the right school). And I’m glad I did, because this week was fun.

Edinburgh’s launch was terrific – many thanks to Jasmine and Chris and everybody at the SBT. A really great audience, a beautiful day, and books plus a Jura whisky miniature for the train home... what more can a writer ask? Friday’s event was similarly blessed with gorgeous weather, a lovely crowd from S3 Turriff Academy (left and below), and a photographer with limitless reserves of patience (either I shut my eyes at the wrong moment, or they simply disappear when I smile. I have a very crinkly face, like certain breeds of dog).

I kept meeting people who came from Aberdeen, so I’ve had to stop pretending that the swimming scene in Crossing The Line doesn’t take place on Aberdeen beach. The water temperature and the sheer idiocy of swimming naked in the North Sea at one in the morning are just too recognisable to anyone who has tottered down the Beach Boulevard in the dark to find the Inversnecky Cafe shut, and nothing better to do... foolish, but refreshing. I don’t base my writing on real personal experiences. No. Well. Except for that one...

Seriously, I loved every minute of both events. If you need an author visit, call me. I do talks, workshops, weddings, bar mitzvahs...

...and until my laptop battery died, I even got a lot of work done on the train. Good news, since that first draft of the new novel is now two weeks overdue...

And if you're curious to know a bit more about Gillian and her books, check out our excellent Q&A with her, where she talks about writing stories, her favourite books and which fictional character she would most like to be!

Monday, 20 April 2009

Jasmine Fassl: The books that look at me

After several months of guest bloggers, the blog is back in the hands of Scottish Book Trust's Children and Young People's team, and Children's Programmer Jasmine is in a philosophical mood...

I am not sure if everybody has had this experience, but books do sometimes ‘look’ at me. They sit on the shelves, spine on, staring at me. Even if I am watching TV, they still have their watchful eyes on me. They follow me across the room when I walk past. They are willing me to read them.

Now, I thought a great deal about what makes certain books look at me, and others not even acknowledging that I am there, and I think there are many reasons for it. I’ll try to give you some examples:

One is that the book was recommended to me, probably with words like: "you will love this one" or "this is just perfect for you". Another may be that I read an interesting review of that book somewhere. Maybe I really like the cover (I know, I know, but I can’t help loving some and hating others!). Or maybe we are planning an event with the author, so reading the book is imperative, really.

Whatever does it, probably a combination of all of the above, I do end up reading these ‘watchful’ books eventually. Last weekend it was The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos (a combined result of reading a good review, a personal recommendation and a very appealing, beautiful cover). It’s the story of a girl who is infected by her family’s love curse which, in combination with her interest in taxidermy, makes for an unusual and brilliant read. So, if you have a few hours next weekend, give in to the recommendation, review and cover and read it. It’s well worth it.

And me, well, I’ll have to give in to another of my books. Which one? Whichever doesn’t blink.

For more on Jack Gantos, check out this great interview with him:

And if you still have time to spare, check out the audio clip from Marcus Sedgwick's new audiobook Flood and Fang currently playing on the Scottish Book Trust site!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Jane Graham: Back to School

Jane Graham, journalist with The Big Issue in Scotland, is in the blog-seat this week talking about our "Back to School" campaign and Julia Donaldson's first novel for teens, Running On The Cracks.

My visit to Douglas Acadamy in Milgavie with children’s author Julia Donaldson was my fifth outing as part of the Scottish Book Trust’s ‘Back to School’ campaign in conjunction with the Big Issue. As an arts journalist, avid bookworm and mother of two, covering the campaign is a joy for me – there are few things which warm my heart like watching shy school children being coaxed into divulging their ideas, ambitions and even the odd secret by a writer who has written a story which made them laugh, cry or rush to give their mum a hug.

Julia’s visit was particularly interesting because I quickly realised as I chatted to the 13 year olds in the library that she was as much a part of their childhood as Roald Dahl was of mine. Every student in the room had grown up with The Gruffalo and most knew other works of Julia’s. To that extent to them meeting her was like meeting a fairytale figure, an eternal mythical presence in their lives. That may be how Julia managed to cajole them into acting out scenes from her first novel for teenagers, Running On the Cracks, which most of them did with gusto, humour and even, in one case, an almost Brando-like intensity. Watching a 13 year old drop his or her cool, even for a few moments, is a delicious thing indeed.

Julia was keen to stress her personal relationship with Douglas Academy and told the class about her sons, who had attended the school, and how they had each influenced the book. Jerry had been a goth (which apparently left Julia unimpressed) and had introduced her to that subculture. Tragically, Julia’ s son Hamish had been diagnosed with pyschological disorder before he died, and he was clearly in her thoughts when she wrote the book, which includes insights into a number of debilitating mental illnesses. Children always appreciate honesty and openness and the Douglas Academy students responded warmly to Julia’s stories.

Thank you, Jane.

If you would like to meet Julia and hear her imaginative talk she will be appearing at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery on Saturday and Sunday in conjunction with the RSPB.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Katie Waters: Recommended Easter Reads

Katie Waters, Childrens Bookseller at Waterstone's in Edinburgh (West End), drops by to give us her recommended reads for the Easter Holiday.

Spring is not just about Easter bunnies and chocolate - it is also an exciting time of year for children's books! Right now at Waterstone's we are absolutely swamped with new titles so to make life easier for you, here are a few of my recent favourites to help keep you out of mischief over the Easter holidays!

'Smile!' by Leigh Hodgkinson is a stunning new picture book for the under 6s. Just how do you find a lost smile? First things first, check down the back of the sofa. Or how about the dog basket? With Hodgkinson's quirky illustrations you'll find more than just a smile inside this colourful treasure trove.

Vampires have taken teenage books by storm recently,and now they're sneaking into books for younger kids too! 'Meet the Kreeps' by Kiki Thorpe is the first in a new series of spooky tales all about the sinister Kreep family who have just moved into Polly's street. Perfect for little horrors aged 6-8!

For confident readers and animal lovers aged 8+ 'The Underneath' by American author Kathi Appelt is ideal. I know that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but the cover was what made me pick this one up! This brand new and brilliantly written animal adventure is sure to become a modern classic. A cosy book for when spring showers keep you indoors.

I'm a big fan of historical fiction for teenagers and I'm currently reading 'Scatterheart' by Lili Wilkinson. Set in 1814, this is the story of spoilt-little-rich-girl, Hannah Cheshire and her attempts to fend for herself after the mysterious disappearance of her father. Written a fairytale-like style fans of Shannon Hale and Celia Rees, like me, will adore this atmospheric read. And now I'm off to finish reading it!