Book Week Scotland 2015

Book Week Scotland – how was it for you? I had a great time!

Urban Crime Noir

Crime is not my genre of choice, but I really enjoyed this session at the Mitchell Library. I’d volunteered to help Glasgow Libraries out at a couple of events, and this was one of them – it’s a great way to find out about new authors, because it can be quite random where you are allocated.

A panel of three authors, the most famous probably being Arne Dahl, some of whose stories have been televised, talked about “the contemporary anxieties they explore in their works of urban crime fiction”. Arne is from Stockholm, Stuart Neville from Belfast and Eva Dolan from Peterborough, and between them they covered contemporary issues such as immigration, terrorism, the fate of refugees and the effects of violence on those left behind.

Arne Dahl Blinded ManArne Dahl’s books revolve around a tight-knit team of elite specialists who investigate the dark side of Swedish society. They contain lots of characters because he always intended to write an extensive series (10). Asked what he thought about the TV versions, he thought his characters came across as “a bit more stupid” on screen. The shows are “well made enough” – but he really wants people to read the books, while recognising that TV gets his name better known.

Stuart Neville Those we left behindComing from Northern Ireland, Stuart Neville is well aware of the long-term effects of murder. He talked about one victim whose wife and two daughters all subsequently committed suicide, and a man whose walls were covered in newspaper cuttings of his father’s murder 30 years before. His latest novel, Those We Left Behind, concerns a 12-year old boy who confessed to the murder of his foster-father. Seven years later, his probation officer suspects there was more to this case than the police uncovered.

Eva Dolan Long Way HomeEva Dolan was inspired by an overheard conversation with a gang-master in a country pub to write about the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit. She tackles issues such as immigration and far right extremism, for which she finds the research profoundly depressing – for example, investigating the terrible conditions in which migrant workers live. Another unpleasant result is that she is now identified as a bit of a fascist in the sites that social media recommends to her!

It was interesting to compare the answers to audience questions – for example, do they read crime fiction as well as writing it? Eva does – she wants to know what the competition is up to, check trends and make sure her idea hasn’t been written about before (and preferably get in first before the topic dates). Arne said he didn’t until the point at which he found his own voice. Stuart used to, but has more or less stopped – he was getting too analytical about it, although he finds audio books can bypass this part of his brain. There was general consensus that, even although writers should “touch the untouchable” (Arne), events such as the recent Paris bombings were best mulled over for a few years before being used for fiction.

Would I read these authors? Yes, definitely – when my current TBR pile decreases somewhat!


Robert Ruthven and Jeanette CastleNot a BWS event, but slap bang in the middle of it and with plenty of love for books and reading, was the CILIPS West AGM. The picture shows past President Robert Ruthven and current President Jeanette Castle who spoke eloquently of her life in and passion for libraries. I was not the only one nodding along in recognition when she spoke of her early start as a primary school library monitor who played libraries at home with her own books!

A brew, a book and a banter with Maggie Ritchie


Maggie Ritchie
Maggie Ritchie

This was another Glasgow Libraries event, this time at my local branch, Hillhead. Maggie Ritchie’s book, Paris Kiss, is set in the art world of 1880s where young English sculptor Jessie Lipscomb joins her friend, Camille Claudel, in the studio of Auguste Rodin. Rodin and Camille embark on an affair which strains the friendship, but when the book opens this is all in the past. Years later, Jessie has tracked Camille down to an insane asylum and together they look back on their shared memories.

maggie-ritchie-paris-kissWould I read this book? Yes, I would, and I borrowed a copy from the library before I left. There are serious issues in it, mainly the role of women and the restrictions placed upon them – for example, although British women of the time could access an education in art, they were not allowed to work from the nude figure. In Paris they could. Another issue is the ease with which inconvenient women could be locked up for years, even decades. This enrages me – I think also of the film, The Magdalene Sisters, a much-less known TV film from the 80s, She’s been away, starring Peggy Ashcroft and Geraldine James, and other books such as Maggie O’Farrell’s Vanishing act of Esme Lennox. So why on earth does this book have such a fluffy cover? It looks like a lightweight historical romance. I did, slightly cheekily, ask Maggie this and, as suspected, it’s what the publisher thinks will sell – but I certainly wouldn’t have picked it up in bookshop or library without having attended this event.

GWL Book Bonanza

Where to have the most fun in Book Week Scotland? Glasgow Women’s Library of course! The Bring and Borrow Book Bonanza took place over Friday lunchtime. Sheila Templeton and Velma McClymont read some of their poems, we had a quiz and Claire was presented with a prize for being the top borrower of 2015. My contribution was a series of quotes about books from women writers (might make a separate post of them), plus contributing to the chat and (of course) helping to eat the cake!

Tackling inequality

Like the CILIPS West AGM this event was not part of BWS, but it was strongly related to books. It took place at Maryhill Burgh Halls, where I have recently started volunteering, and featured a screening of Katharine Round’s film The divide which asks the question “what happens when the rich get richer?” Inspired by the book The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, it tells the story of seven people striving for a better life in modern-day US and UK – where the top 0.1% owns as much wealth as the bottom 90%. By plotting these tales together, it shows how life is dominated by the size of the gap between rich and poor, and how economic division creates social division.

Carol Craig Tears that made the ClydeThe second part of the afternoon consisted of talks by David Walsh from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health who shared some terrifying statistics, and Carol Craig whose book The tears that made the Clyde: well-being in Glasgow puts flesh on the bones of those stats. I came away with that book and her earlier title, The Scots’ crisis of confidence, and a feeling of despair about the world 😦

The verdict

Volunteering is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and attend events which you might not normally have considered. I think I was very restrained only ending up with three more books in the house than I had before! The creative force behind Book Week Scotland is the Scottish Book Trust, so thank you to them for all they do. I think I now need to take their How much could you read instead? test.

Scottish Children’s Book Awards 2015

Robot rumpus, Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens and Mosi’s War were announced yesterday as the winning titles of this year’s Scottish Children’s Book Awards after 28,000 children across Scotland cast their vote. Thanks to Scottish Book Trust, who organised the Awards, for sending me their press release and to Rob McDougall who took these fabulous pictures.

Ross Collins and Sean Taylor are the joint winners of the Bookbug Readers (3-7 years) category for their book Robot Rumpus. Also pictured are Ashton and Michelle from Craigroyston Primary.

Alex McCall wins the Younger Readers (8-11) category for his debut novel, Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens. For more on Alex, see my Children’s Literature blog. Here, he’s with Aaron and Rachel from Buckstone Primary.

Finally, Cathy MacPhail is the winner of the Older Readers (12-16) category for Mosi’s War, marking the third time she has won a Scottish Children’s Book Award. Her companions are Adam and Kenzie from Wester Hailes Education Centre.

Congratulations to them all!

My Book Week Scotland

I more or less moved in to Glasgow Women’s Library for last week’s Book Week Scotland! My first event was Drama Queens – a play-reading group – but this is ongoing and part of a bigger project, March of Women, so I’ll return to that at a later date. Next, I attended the launch party of the Commonwealth Women Writers collection. I wasn’t part of the group which set this up, but I have been very busy over the last few weeks cataloguing the books so felt entirely justified in scoffing my free lunch and listening to several authors reading from their work. I especially enjoyed talking to Velma McClymont afterwards – pictured here with two of her books which I had just catalogued the day before.

Later the same day, the short-listed stories and poems in GWL’s third annual “Dragon’s Pen” competition were read, mostly by their authors. This year, the writing had a sectarian theme to fit in with another GWL project, Mixing the Colours. The non-fire-breathing dragons gave their feedback then retired to deliberate on their verdicts. Things were apparently tense until it was decided that one poem and two stories could be awarded prizes. It was lovely to spend almost an entire day being read to.

On Friday – guess what? More reading! For Reading Hour (complete with tea and cakes) we took turns reading aloud from our choice of story or poem then indulged in some silent reading. I read Maya Angelou’s uplifting poem Still I rise. I was lucky enough to hear her talk once, and can report that she was as inspiring in person as she was on the page.

Book Week Scotland was managed wonderfully, as ever, by Scottish Book Trust. I took part in their vote for the favourite character in a Scottish book – my choice (Miss Jean Brodie) came eighth. I suppose a top-10 finish isn’t bad! I was also interested in their Artworks for Libraries project, especially as I know one of the artists slightly: Rosie Cunningham, who designed a set of flags for Shetland. (I’ve written about Rosie before on my travel blog.)

So, that’s it for another year. Has anybody else been to anything good in Book Week Scotland?

Book Week Scotland 2014

Book Week Scotland logo 2014This year’s Book Week Scotland (24 to 30 November 2014) launched its programme last week – in a boxing gym, apparently. This might seem strange until you realise organisers Scottish Book Trust were using it to illustrate one of this year’s projects – a vote for the nation’s favourite characters from Scottish books. Will Harry Potter swoop to victory, will Miss Jean Brodie sweep the board, or will they both be frightened off by The Gruffalo? Votes can be cast via the Book Week Scotland website and the top 10 characters will be revealed on Friday 28 November. It all looks great fun from the photos (credit: Rob McDougall) and I’ve already cast my vote. Who for? Not telling! It’s a secret ballot after all. But do bear in mind that I am in my prime and have always been la crème de la crème.

Hundreds of other, free book-related events will pop up in a diverse range of locations across Scotland, including some of Scotland’s best-loved writers and illustrators appearing at a major programme of events held in libraries, funded by The Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC). Young children can get further into the Book Week Scotland spirit by tuning in to watch two of Britain’s best loved poets, Roger McGough and Valerie Bloom, bringing rhythm and rhyme to life during a special free author webcast on 27 November at 11.00am. Many pupils will also enjoy a personal visit from Steve Cole, author of Astrosaurs and Cows in Action, who will tour schools around the country during the week.

If your library is important to you, (and if it isn’t, why not?) Book Week Scotland is your chance to declare your feelings. Book lovers are being encouraged to take part in the Love Letter to Your Library campaign to raise awareness about the crucial role libraries play in the lives of individuals and communities. You can post, email or drop off positive stories directly to your favourite library, or pop in and read letters written by members of the public, authors and celebrities. Five large library artworks will also be unveiled across Scotland in North Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, Edinburgh and Shetland. I’m particularly keen to watch the progress on that last one, because I know the artist.

Book Week Scotland’s Reading Pledge campaign will serve as a gentle motivation to pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read, share a story with your child each night or simply pass on a much-loved book to a neighbour. Be sure to share your pledge on social media and don’t forget to carry it out during the week! You could also read some of the beautiful stories and poems in Scotland’s Stories of Home, a collection written by Scottish people,  150,000 free copies of which will be distributed throughout the week via libraries, bookshops and other outlets. Schools will also receive an e-publication featuring Scottish pupil’s stories of home.

Information on all the above is available on the BWS website – or maybe you have your own ideas? What are you and your library doing?

Book Week Scotland 2013 announced

Book Week Scotland 2013 was announced in Edinburgh this morning – I was invited to the launch by Scottish Book Trust, which delivers the event, because of my children’s literature blog and was really sorry to have a clash of engagements which prevented me from going. Anyway, the lovely folk at SBT sent me a press release and some photographs and I’ve written up the announcement more fully on the children’s blog. The pictures are: “Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop and Scottish authors Denise Mina, Mairi Hedderwick and Richard Holloway showing off their treasures, as Scottish Book Trust launches a hunt for the nation’s cherished objects. The Treasures campaign invites Scots to submit a piece of writing about the item they hold most dear, with a free book featuring the best stories and poems to be given out during Book Week Scotland, running from 25 November to 1 December this year.” Last year, there was a similar campaign on the theme of My favourite place. I meant to enter, but never quite got round to it. Maybe this year when, allegedly, I have more time? We’ll see.

All photographs credited to Rob McDougall.