the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other Dorset writers

Summer Break

I’ve been quiet on this blog over the summer because I spend a fortnight in Edinburgh each August. This is a wonderful city and delightful to visit when the Edinburgh Fringe is in full swing and during the two weeks of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Each morning at the book festival there is a free session called 10 at 10, where on the stroke of ten o’clock a visiting author provides a short reading of their work. It was during one of these sessions that I was introduced to the fabulous short stories written by Wendy Erskine.

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by the castle with friends

Wendy’s stories are set in East Belfast where she lives and works as a teacher. They are drawn from the people and place but reflect a wider narrative around challenges associated with love, isolation and the everyday obstacles that can floor us. I was intrigued by the snippet from a short story Wendy shared so I bought the collection Sweet Home and attended a Q&A session later in the day at Golden Hare Books, located near where I stay each summer in Stockbridge.

In her introductions, Wendy explains that she hasn’t been writing for long and credits a course run by The Stinging Fly magazine as instrumental to her development as a short story writer. She also claims her only previous publishing success was having a recipe for baked banana printed in a newspaper. (The instructions involved nothing more than putting a banana in a hot oven until the skin turns brown and then eating it.)

Sweet Home is a remarkable collection of ten short stories that fizz with tension, sadness and humour. The dialogue is outstanding which makes attending a reading such a pleasure. If you’re looking to dip into a collection that shares dark themes which are illuminated through everyday interactions, then this is the one for you.

 

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Kate Mosse and me

Did you know Macmillan Publishers was established 175 years ago by two brother? Originally crofters from the Isle of Arran, thirty-year-old Daniel and his twenty-five-year-old brother Alexander began a publishing business in London to share learning and capture imaginations. The company continues to publish writers that shape our literary lives. On 16 August at the Spiegeltent in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, I was lucky to be in the audience as Kate Mosse introduced a range of writers including food poverty activist Jack Monroe and Sharlene Teo winner of the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writer’s Award for her debut novel, Ponti.

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After the event, I introduced myself to Kate Mosse. She was a judge of the 2015 Elle Magazine writing competition alongside Jessie Burton. I feel privileged that both these authors read my entry and awarded me a place as runner up. (You can read more about the competition here.) Kate enquired about my writing progress and was pleased to learn of my recent successes. In judging a competition, Kate hopes the awards provide motivation to continue to progress with writing. When my novel is accepted for publication, I am now committed to let Kate know.

 

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Edinburgh International Book Festival 2017, best bits

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Photograph by Jim Barton

I was fortunate to attend many different events at the book festival this year but these are my highlights:

Ian Stephen and Philip Hoare shared their passion for sailing and the sea. Ian read from his brilliant new book Waypoints (I bought a copy and am looking forward to diving in) and Philip talked about his wonderful obsession with whales.

A ten minute reading at 10am by Yrsa Sigurdardottir had me enthralled by her new novel The Legacy.

The Bosco Theatre on George Street was venue for a remarkable poetry performance by Scottish poets Jenny Lindsay and Michael Pedersen who were joined by poets from Australia Luka Lesson and Omar Musa.

I also attended a workshop offered by Elizabeth Reeder which discussed the novel Skating to Antarctica by Jenny Diski. Another one for my reading list.

 

 

 

 

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Back from Edinburgh

Having enjoyed the Edinburgh Fringe and International Book Festival last year, I booked again for a return visit in 2013. Had I known in advance what would be in store for me during the intervening period, I would have reserved a week under a sunshade. However, having galvanised a bit of energy, I made it to Charlotte Square most mornings for the 10 at 10 session which featured a short reading from a visiting author. One of the treats included the opening pages from the The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extense. This is a debut novel that is included in Richard and Judy’s Summer Book Club. The story is told in the distinctive voice of seventeen year old Alex and revolves around an unusual friendship with Mr Peterson, an American, pot-smoking widower. You can read more about the book in a Guardian review here.

Further highlights included another debut novelist, Courtney Collins talking about her book The Burial, a story inspired by the life of Jessie Hickman a twentieth century Australian horse rustler.  I also got to touch base with Ronald Frame talking about his latest novel Havisham.

In terms of the Fringe, we caught a few comedy shows including Rachel Parrish whose singing/comedy act had me in stitches (the performer is tagged as the Glee-Club chick gone wrong).

When we returned to Dorset, the plants in the garden decided to put on a welcome home display

Begonia

Begonia

Dahlias

Dahlias

Yucca

Yucca

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Anniveraries – who’d have them?

This time last year I was offered the post of Service Manager for a teaching team working with Dorset County Council. Now my colleagues, who are all on teachers’ pay and conditions have finished and I’m left  with no-one to manage. It’s not too bad – I am allowed to work from home during the summer and the end is in sight. I’ll receive my final salary and redundancy package on 30 August.  With the end to a new position only one year after starting, it makes the anniversary something of a bitter-sweet event. Bitter owing to the end of a career in local government that I’ve loved  and sweet due to the new beginnings it provides. I’ve secured part-time work with an educational charity to start in September and I’ve the MPhil in Writing to begin in October, so things are looking positive. A new start and studies that may lead to a new career.

My wedding anniversary falls in August but we’re long past the point of celebrating with cards and gifts. Indeed, this year we’ll be travelling to Edinburgh for a family holiday with our teenage children. I’ve visited the Edinburgh Fringe and the Edinburgh International Book Festival previously and enjoyed my time so much, I decided to return again with my family. I have tickets for a couple of events at the Book Festival including a session offered by Ronald Frame. He was a tutor at an Arvon course I attended in 2011 and he’s been wonderfully supportive of my writing. So it’ll be a pleasure to see him again, especially as he’ll be talking about his most recent book, Havisham (read a review here) which imagines the life of Catherine before she appears in Great Expectations. It’s well worth reading.

The anniversary that I’ve most enjoyed of late came at the weekend. We we unexpectedly offered tickets to attend the Anniversary Paralympics where Hannah Cockroft and David Weir won their races and Richard Whitehead amazed the crowds on his golden blades.  The wonderful achievements of the athletes from 2012 was certainly an event worth celebrating.

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Which anniversaries do you celebrate?

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