I count my lucky stars when I think of the experiences and memories I have had and continue to make, here’s what I’ve been up to, so far:
Apr/May 2023 – When award-winning author, Candy Gourlay‘s YA novel ‘Wild Song‘ caused a stramash at my door, I dropped everything to read it. Beautifully illustrated by Leo Nickolls it’s a companion novel to Candy’s incredible novel ‘Bone Talk’.
‘Wild Song’ tells the story of Luki as she navigates the expectations of being a Filipino girl in a time when offers of traveling to a new world give her the experience of a lifetime, or so it seems.
A fictional portrayal filled with facts of the Filipino peoples’ actual travels to St Louis to be involved in the World’s Fair of 1904, ‘Wild Song’ is a remarkable insight into their journey. A truly mesmerising and thought-provoking story of survival, loyalty and perseverance.
Candy and I discussed so much it was best to share it over two posts for my SCBWI Writers Minds feature. I urge you to read about her thoughts, regale in the painstaking research she completed to depict her ancestors’ story as factually correct as possible, and learn about a way of life that defies all odds to survive in our modern world.
Part 1 – Candy Gourlay ‘Wild Song’
Part 2 – Candy Gourlay ‘Wild Song’
April 2023 – The incredible children’s writer, Yvonne Banham, published her debut novel ‘The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores Mackenzie’ to much acclaim. I was delighted to chair her book launch, hosted by the wonderful staff at The Edinburgh Bookshop. I can’t wait to see where she goes next!
August 2022 – The Edinburgh International Book Festival is nearly over and it’s been a fantastic few weeks of catching up with friends and listening to creatives discuss their books, the publishing world and beyond. On 28th August SCBWI held an event to discuss writing diverse and inclusive characters and I live-tweeted from the venue as the amazing panel had a thought-provoking and honest discussion.
If you host events or any kind of meet up then please consider having a look at The Inklusion Guide – created by writers Julie Farrell and Ever Dundas. A must-read for all! #LetsNotGoBackToNormal
August 2022 – I raced around my lovely country with children’s author Camilla Chester as we promoted her fantastic new children’s book ‘Call Me Lion’.
From Glasgow to Aviemore we met so many readers, booksellers and friends as we made our way around Scotland. It was a fantastic experience, one I will cherish forever.
June 2022 – Getting to know the author and creating a welcoming environment as they talk about their book at their launch are what makes it all worth while. When I was approached by Fledgling Press to chair two launches for Trishna Singh O.B.E, I was delighted. It was such an honour to chat with Trishna about her memoir ‘A Silent Voice Speaks’, her outlook on life and the community she serves is amazing, a friend for life.
June 2022 – Delighted that Cymera, Scotland’s only Sci-fi, Horror & Fantasy festival was in-person AND on-line this year. I am very lucky to be a trustee for this amazing venture and although a busy weekend for the staff and volunteers, it really was fantastic to be back at The Pleasance once again.
Sep 2021 – April 2022 – Spending time with illustrator, Jill Calder, as we worked on her exhibition ‘A Blink of Ink’ has been a highlight for me this year. From inception to decorating to art work finally going up on the walls and the doors opening to the public, it’s been an amazing experience. It runs from April to Sep 2022 at Callendar House in Falkirk. A must-see for everyone!
Nov 2021 – My final event for the year was volunteering at Cymera’s Creators Hall. Cymera is the UK’s only Sci-fi, Fantasy and Horror Writing Festival and I am delighted to be a trustee on the board. This was one of the first face-to-face, safe distanced events I’d been to in a while, it showcased publishers and creatives work in a welcoming environment and it was a great reminder of what the festival brings to the community. Fingers crossed for a in-person Cymera 2022!
Nov 2021 – here I am resplendent in wolf ears as I discuss my experiences of being an event chair for children’s book launches and beyond. The lovely folks at Edinburgh Writers Forum had asked me along to discuss the highs and lows of it all. I embraced my inner children’s author and shared my insights into the dos and don’ts of chairing events from the POV of the author AND the chair. Wearing these ears reminded me of the fabulous launch of Justin Davies ‘Woah! I Spy a Werewolf!’.
Halloween 2021 brought with it the chance for me to chair a superb event at the Toronto International Festival of Authors. In awe of the way technology has embraced literary festivals across the pond, it was a pleasure to get involved on-line and read two magnificent YA books by Wab Kinew and Kenneth Oppel.
October 2021 – it’s always a pleasure to chair book launches and Victoria Williamson’s Hag Storm was a very special occasion indeed. Thanks to the ever impressive Anne Glennie from Cranachan Publishing, the on-line event went without a hitch and the audience had some amazing questions for Victoria. The ‘Name the Neep’ game was a hit too – Neep O’Shanter!
June 2021 – To kick start a story I had been thinking about, I decided to attend an on-line Arvon course for writing for young people. With the amazing Jo Nadin and Anna Wilson at the helm, I knew I was in good hands and I came away from it with so many ideas and finally excited about my story after a few months of losing confidence.
January 2021 and I wanted to begin the year with some help from those that know more about writing than I do, in particular, young adult writer Penny Joelson. The City of Literature in London advertised an Advanced Writing course for Children’s Books and I jumped at the chance to learn with Penny. So, with my shiny new notebook in hand, I joined the class and learned so much about the craft and where I need to go with my own ideas and writing style.
June 2020 – With so many events being cancelled due to Covid-19, it was fantastic to know that Cymera – UK’s only writing festival for Sci-fi, Horror and fantasy was still going ahead… but on-line. I was delighted to interview 5 authors about their books – from goblins to youth prisons, to portals and cryogenics – what amazing panels. Thank you to Kathyrn Evans, Francesca Noto, Elizabeth Priest, Holly Race and Ben Oliver for taking the time out of their busy writing days to chat with me. All events are available to view on-line!
January 2020 – It doesn’t seem that long ago since I was lucky enough to chair Justin Davies’s first book launch back in May 2019 so I was delighted to get involved with the launch of his hilarious second book ‘Woah! I spy a Werewolf‘. A fantastic evening of howls, sweets and book signings!
August 2019 – The Edinburgh International Book Festival has now been and gone. This year I was delighted to chair seven events! From picture books to the stage adaptation of Jeckyll & Hyde, I had a fantastic time and learned so much from this experience AND my name in the famous Speigletent!
June 2019 – when my friend Ann Landmann came to me and said ‘I have an idea’, I knew immediately that I wanted to get involved. Not long after, the inaugural Cymera Sci-Fi, Horror & Fantasy Writing Festival was on its way. Held in the Pleasance Courtyard in Edinburgh, I was honoured to chair Philip Caveney, Moira McPartlin, Claire McFall, Rachel Burge and Helen Grant. From ghosts to zombies and everything in between, it was fantastic!
May 2019 – my friend and fellow SCBWI member Justin Davies launched his first novel ‘Help! I smell Monsters’. Shenanigans and fun were had at his launch as we played monster card games while wearing Medusa headgear and werewolf hands! It was such a great experience chairing his night at Blackwells Edinburgh.
February 2019 – my writing buddy PM Freestone launched her debut YA novel Shadowscent into the world and I was asked to chair her Edinburgh event. It was amazing being a part of her big day and I was so excited to see a packed house and the longest signing queue I have ever seen at Waterstones Princes Street, Edinburgh.
December 2018 – I was delighted to read out one of my stories at the All Wrapped Up event, held every year in Edinburgh to raise awareness of the work that the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity do for the Royal Hospital for Sick Children. A proud moment indeed.
November 2018 – This event was very much a ‘I’ll submit to this competition but I have no hope of being selected to read out my pitch on stage’. Reader, I did! The best parts were pitching my story to four amazing literary gods/agents and being a part of the event with another five fantastic writers and illustrators.
November 2018 – My friend and SCBWI colleague Liz MacWhirter published her first book Black Snow Falling, I was delighted to chair the Edinburgh event as part of a UK tour she was embarking on with two other debut novelists. Rowena House, (author of The Goose Road) and Tracey Mathias (author of Night of the Party) were beside me as we discussed everything from favourite childhood books to being published in the modern world.
October 2018 – I was asked to run a Creative Writing workshop during the Portobello Book Festival. I’m not an expert by any means but I managed to enthuse everyone there to think about the characters in their stories and how different they can be. We used go-gos to help us distinguish between each one. Great fun AND I came away with an idea for another book.
August 2017 – First event of the month came in the format of my first ever chair of a book launch. Thankfully I had the impressive Moira McPartlin to talk to about the second book in her Sun Song trilogy ‘Wants of the Silent’. Having already read her first book in the series ‘Ways of the Doomed’ and her debut novel, one of my favourites, ‘The Incomers’, I knew I was in safe hands.
August just kept on giving and the Edinburgh International Book Festival gave me the opportunity to chair an event on an even bigger scale – The Great Gender Debate. It turned out to be a sold out event and I think this has to be one of those moments in my life that I will always keep pinching myself to see if it was real. Being on stage and leading the questions with my SCBWI co-chair at the time, Anita Gallo, I was in awe of the panel. It’s certainly not every day you get to chat with David Levithan, Jonathan Stroud and Kathryn Evans about gender in the publishing world and beyond.
The day after that event, I was back at the EIBF once more to chair one of the First Book Award nominees – the wonderful Penny Joelson, along with Kathryn (who won the award the previous year for her YA debut ‘More of Me’). I found myself in fantastic company once again discussing Penny’s amazing debut novel ‘I Have No Secrets’.
March 2017 – I was honoured to chair the last stop of the YA Lost and Found tour. Five debut novelists touring British cities with their stories, banter and infectious love of books. Glasgow Waterstones was the venue and it was a pleasure to be in their company and get the chance to interview them in front of an adoring crowd. Patrice Lawrence, Olivia Levez, Kathyrn Evans, Eugene Lambert and Sue Wallman – I salute you. I also provided them with a little something to ensure they never got lost ever again.
November 2016 – I became the co-chair of SCBWI South East Scotland. A friendly, vibrant community of like-minded literary souls. I helped organise events, teach-ins, write-ins and literary socials for all of our members based across Scotland. Although my two year tenure is now up (finished November 2018), I remain an active member of its British Isles community.
August 2016 – I was delighted to be selected for Story Shop, an event held at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I read out my story ‘Blood on my Apollos’ to family, friends and some well-behaved strangers in the famous book festival Speigletent. An amazing experience I will never forget. Of course, the obligatory visit to the Author’s Yurt was required.