Last night, as Storm Ophelia was whipping up the sands of the Sahara with her skirts – causing a bit of a storm on FB and predictions of the end of the world – I gave a talk to a Women’s Guild of St.Blane’s on my novel FOR MY SINS. They were a lovely audience – so sweet, intelligent and literate – not addicted to any kind of technology, and as a result, thoughtful and observant. Never dismiss people based on gender and age. If you are young, you will be elderly one day, and if you are a man, you might even become a woman one day. Well, mostly probably not… but my point is that a female audience with an average age of 70 is a brilliant audience. We all share the same issues, no matter what age, and when I talked about there being no concept of rape in 1567 when Mary was “abducted” by Bothwell, and that historians maybe missed that point over the years, you could have heard a pin drop.
Here are some more pics of other recent events – where I have been taking my workshop The Art of the Ghost Story to the masses, to the people, to the readers and writers of the future… (not the masses actually but Chryston High School for their Literacy Festival, and Portobello Book Festival where I was very excited by the fact I could have tea on the beach in the morning!)
Long Live Literacy and Librarians. Especially when they invite me to their schools and offer me home-baking. That’s always a plus in my book.
On Friday I drove to Motherwell to perform a session at Braidhurst High School to kick off their Literacy Week. This was arranged by Kirsten Scott, the school librarian who works hard to give students a safe haven & the encouragement to read, which seemed to be working as pupils dropped by all lunchtime to borrow books. Some schools just give you a good vibe, and this was one of them. The audience who came in to see me were absolutely delightful, and made me feel very at home. I felt very relaxed. Told them about my problems with the SatNav & asked whether they have the same problem processing road sign information when driving on the motorway! They’re in Third Year! But they kind of knew what I meant. The Head of Languages said I should try comedy… As I drove away past the bleak streets of Motherwell, I found myself hoping that these students will have the same chances, same opportunities as those in other areas. They definitely deserve to.
It has been a busy couple of weeks launching my latest title FOR MY SINS, a historical novel for adults about Mary Queen of Scots. And Mary herself appeared at my first launch in Blackwell’s, Edinburgh. She sat very demurely to one side like a pale ghost (courtesy of Artemis Scotland) while I talked about the writing of FMS in front of windows that rattled and shook in a storm. We were yards away from the scene of Darnley’s murder at Kirk o’ Field.
The next stop was Waterstones, Byres Road, and tonight it will be my local library, Dunblane. I’ve been taking my audience on a mental journey into the past. I am the curator of that journey, guiding them into that distant realm which we can only imagine, where darkness held sway, where death was an everyday occurrence, and there was definitely no WiFi… Here are some pics of me flapping my arms about.
Here are some photos of what we’ve been up to over the past few weeks.
And the pointers or lessons?
Writers care about the world & what is happening in it. It’s just not about escapism.
You can imagine other people’s lives…
Even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Keep a journal or diary.
You can write about what is familiar… or unfamiliar.
Writing can be used as a Way of Healing too.
You all have a story to tell… either the one you are living now, one from the past, or one that you have yet to live…
I’m into my fifth week as Writer in Residence at Castlebrae Community High School in Craigmillar, Edinburgh. Here is why it’s so important that school librarians continue to exist, and that they receive funding for projects like this. I’m working very closely with the school librarian Sylvia Gorman, and English teachers at the school, in particular Fiona McCulloch, to create fun and inspiring workshops. So far the pupils are really engaged. They’re looking at books in a new way, studying their covers, working in groups and a large circle to discuss their own book proposals in a way that brings them confidence and self-esteem. It’s a brilliant little school which helps many who might be under-privileged or disadvantaged. There are some in the group from places like Romania, Syria and Poland, and I was struck by how they all help each other to cross language barriers with humour, tolerance and understanding. By the end of the workshops, all 30 pupils will have produced their own portfolio, a poly-pocket delight of ideas, letters, novel openings, blurbs, and cover ideas which will be their own book proposal to a potential editor. I get to choose the top 5 who are rewarded with a prize. If anyone needs convincing that school librarians should continue to be supported, they can look no further than a group of disadvantaged S1s who are prepared to sit and discuss books with each other.