Edinburgh Part 2

Following on from the previous post on Edinburgh, here’s a little piece about the remainder of my visit.

My next author event was rather a personal treat. I’m a huge Neil Gaiman fan, and I’ve been lucky enough to hear him talk a few times now. He was in discussion with the psychologist and novelist Charles Fernyhough talking about Gaiman’s most recent adult novel ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’, described in the Festival brochure as ‘A Treasure House of a Story’. And it is, it really is. I have to confess that I didn’t take any notes during this session as I was so enthralled I forgot. So all I can say is read the book. It’s an exploration of memory and childhood and I loved it. I’ve also started to read Charles Fernyhough’s book ‘A Box of Birds’ which is fascinating too. Very different, but that’s what I love about these events. You come away with a huge eclectic list of recommended reads. I did the fangirl thing and queued up to get my book signed and for two minutes I had Mr Gaiman all to myself. He is a very gracious signer, he signs until the queue is gone, which can take hours and he still makes you feel like you are the first person he’s signed for that day. I commented to him that my childhood was similar (in some ways) to the semi autobiographical childhood he describes in the book. My childhood too was spent eating Fruit Salad and Black Jack sweets, watching ‘How!’ and desperately hoping that the back of my wardrobe would open up to reveal a snowy landscape complete with lamppost. He replied that he thought that if he wrote extremely specifically, it would get so specific that it would almost become a generalisation and that someone would identify with the details. I think he put it better than that, but that’s the gist.

Right, now back to earth and the next day’s sessions!

The shortbread people Paterson’s sponsored a daily 10 minute reading by new local authors. I saw Jenny Mayhew reading from her book ‘A Wolf in Hindelheim’ an historical thriller set in 1926, which certainly whetted my appetite to read the book. And we got free shortbread, too. There’s a review here

My next session was something of a treat too. Clara Vulliamy writes and illustrates super children’s books, Small, Martha and the Bunny Brothers, and her new collaboration with her Mum, Dixie O’Day: In the Fast Lane. And her Mum is of course Shirley Hughes, author of children’s classics, Dogger and the Alfie series. Clara’s books seem to me to especially reassuring to children. She knows just how to allay anxieties and make children relax, and this was evident in the workshop she held, which was all about ‘Dogger’. The children who were present were all fairly shy, but in no time at all, they were relaxed and joining in the discussion, lying on the floor drawing their own beloved toys. There was a special guest star in Dogger himself, still looking adorable after all these years. I wondered just how many thousands (millions?) of times he has been lost at the school fair each time the tale is read and shared with families. The illustrations were discussed and we realised just how much thought had gone into the preparation of the book. The races at the school fair were just one example of the fantastic characterisation and attention to detail. As the workshop drew to a close, the children were thrilled as Clara photographed all the drawings so that her Mum could see and enjoy their work. A very relaxed and enjoyable workshop for all.

You can see pictures here.

The last session I attended was The Art of Reading Graphic Novels with Paul Gravett. Paul is a London-based journalist, curator, writer and broadcaster who has worked in comics, publishing and promotion for over 20 years. At least that’s what’s Wikipedia says. I would say he’s a guy who knows everything about comics, graphic novels, call them what you will. Everything. The workshop had a very simple format, he went round the room and asked everyone present what their interest was in graphic novels and what they wanted to learn. He then basically ‘riffed’ on everyone’s input. There was a wide variety of attendees, from the exceptionally well read to novice graphic novel readers and as it became evident that we would overrun the allotted time, he asked if anyone minded staying a while and we carried on till everyone had their turn. I came away with a ‘to read’ list as long as a very long thing, and the impression that the audience for graphic novels is growing exponentially. From superheroes to classics, manga to graphic textbooks, the medium is expanding all the time. One event to look out for is the exhibition next year at the British Library on the History of British Comics, which he is co-curating. It will be amazing. I recommend that if you have an interest in graphics, then visit his website. It has one of the fullest list of interesting events that I’ve ever seen.

So, that’s my review of Edinburgh! It’s only a snapshot of the two days I was there but I managed to pack in quite a bit. Thanks to Bright Books for letting me out from behind my desk, and there are also a few photos on our Facebook page that help to give a flavour of the event.

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