Monday, 10 October 2011

Edinburgh Book Festival 2011

We had planned a Road Trip around Scotland for our holiday and when we realised that with a bit of tweaking to our holiday plans it would be possible to catch a James Mayhew story-telling event live in Edinburgh, we decided we had to!

As this was taking place at the same time as the Edinburgh International Book Festival, we found that several author and publisher friends would be there on the day so put together arrangements to meet up and say "Hi" to as many as possible. It is a frustration that the timetable of events is not publicly announced for the book festival earlier as that would have given us the ability to re-plan more of our holiday to catch some of the events and maybe meet more people.

The first thing on our itinerary was to go to the National Gallery to see James Mayhew and quite a crowd was gathered to watch as James told the story of Baba Yaga and her house on chicken legs followed by the tale of St George and the Dragon. James was every bit as spell-binding in real life as on the web as he told the stories. He not only tells the tale but illustrates it as he goes - and upside down (the illustration that is, not James). I wish we'd been allowed to video him but the gallery's rules forbid photography of any kind.

After this we ambled up to Charlotte Square where the Edinburgh International Book Festival was in full swing, passing street performers for the fringe and collecting flyers for other events as we went. Now, when I first talked about going to Edinburgh International Book Festival as part of our summer road-trip, the teen (14) wasn't too impressed - standing around while I talked to people is NOT her idea of fun - but when one of her friends asked her to collect autographs and writing tips for him, she got a lot more enthusiastic.
We'd arranged to meet with Linda Strachan and Nicola Morgan at the authors' yurt - which proved a little trickier than we'd expected as it's location is kept secret from the general public! Fortunately there were helpful stewards around to send us in the right direction. Both Linda and Nicola are writers of YA fiction (amongst other things) which we've both enjoyed. I've met Linda before, when I was in Edinburgh at Easter, and Nicola was someone I felt I knew from many conversations with her through Twitter - though I would say she wasn't as crabbity in real life as she claims to be! - and she presented me with one of her special 'crabbit old bags' which I will use at future book festivals. (Many thanks, Nicola) Also with them was Emma Barnes (Author of Jessica Haggerthwaite: Witch Dispatcher and How (Not) to Make Bad Children Good).
Nicola, Linda and Emma were the first authors to be cornered by the Teen in her autograph hunt and Teen started to find people who talked to her like she wasn't a child and became rather more involved. We could happily have spent much longer chatting about holiday plans, midges, what reviewers do when they really dislike a book etc but everyone had events to go to.
Leaving the Mole checking out one of the festival's bookshops - where he'd found some of his reviews posted (4) - The Teen and I went on an Author Hunt to see how many autographs we could bag. Now, rather unfairly perhaps, we hadn't had time to go to anyone's event and we hadn't bought their books but just tagged onto the end of the 'author signing' queues but everyone we approached was most welcoming and willing to pass on their writing tips for the Friend. A special mention must go to Simon Puttock who I disrupted full flow when a friend I'd been hoping to meet walked past - sorry, Simon. We also were privileged to catch an impromptu re-run of Jasper Fforde's event, performed along with Philip Ardagh, for some unfortunate New Zealand fans who'd arrived 5 minutes too late for the real thing and not been allowed in - I'm not sure how much resemblance this held to the original but certainly deserved an award for Best Comedy Performed By Children's Authors.

We finished the day by meeting Keith Charters, children's author and, like us, a grow-your-own enthusiast and getting thrown out of Pizza Hut because the staff had homes to go to apparently. While we asked a lot of questions it was also nice to answer questions about our minor contribution in the process. But it was also nice to talk about other things that make people people!

Many thanks to everyone for their time in the day and it's a shame we couldn't have spent more time in Edinburgh!


  1. Was lovely to meet you and I forgot to tell you afterwards that I thought "the teen" was fab and ace and I really enjoyed chatting to her. Nx

  2. Sounds like you had a great time. I was up in Edinburgh a month before the festival. Maybe next year I'll arrange my trip to co-inside with it! :D

  3. I ate SO SO SO much pizza that evening. Still, it's what pizza is for. More importantly, it was lovely to meet all 3 of you.

    And I wish I'd been there for the Jasper Fforde/Philip Ardagh reprise, that sounds like it was fun.