Just back from the Edinburgh International Book Festival and we all had an AMAZING time. Here’s what we got up to.
First we checked into our lovely Hotel Tigerlily, just down the road from Charlotte Square, then a short hop down the road to the festival itself.
We loved the venue for the festival – Charlotte Square in Edinburgh, taken over by a melee of tents and walkways, full of bookshops, cafes, writers and readers and general chatty loveliness. The weather was sunshiny-showery but the rain didn’t matter as we just listened to the raindrops on the canvas well protected from the downpour.
We had a wander round the bookshop before checking in and Poppy made a beeline for a certain book she spotted on the Today at the Festival shelf:
We saw that my venue had been changed – to a bigger tent! (Perhaps more tickets had sold than was expected…who knows!)
Firstly, I had an appointment with photographer Chris Close, who has been producing a wonderful exhibition of pictures of the authors at the festival. Simon took some photos of me having my photo taken! Chris was very chatty and nice and put me at my ease. I’m not used to this sort of thing! And it all seems very odd, when I’ve been sitting alone in my study for all these years…
And here’s Chris’s final picture, up in the festival exhibition. Looks brilliant, Chris! Thank you.
Then we went into the Authors’ Yurt where I needed to check in. We were all welcomed and given our backstage passes:
Even Poppy’s cat Chester required identification…
The Yurt is like a green room for the participants and is very chilled out and relaxed, with nice things to drink and nibble on. We saw quite a few of the great and good around and about, including Simon Armitage, Menzies Campbell, John Mullan and Haruki Murakami. Soon after, my fellow event friend Debbie Taylor arrived – author of Herring Girl and editor of Mslexia – and our chair Julia Eccleshare, Guardian children’s fiction editor. We had a chat through our event and how we wanted to order things, and then my lovely editor Suzie Doore arrived.
I was starting to feel pretty nervous, but with Simon, Poppy and Suzie to reassure me – and hearing that my mum and brother Robert had arrived at the venue – cheered me up and took my mind off things. Here’s Simon – my rock – proudly wearing his lanyard in the yurt:
Debbie and I were asked to do a photo call with some press photographers (where I stood very awkwardly, feeling extremely self-conscious – sorry to those photographers if I presented a rather stiff and terrified demeanour!) and then we were set up with microphones – thanks to my sound lady who lent me her little shoulder bag to pop my microphone in, as I didn’t have any pockets!
And here we are, our little family, chilling out in the wonderful Authors’ Yurt:
We walked over to the venue and I met Roland Gulliver, the deputy director of the festival and very busy and all-round very nice chap.
Now it was time to go in, and I had to swallow my nerves, especially when we went up on the stage and saw perhaps 40 people or so sitting before us. I was thrilled though to see so many people, as I wondered if (apart from Debbie’s many fans) if my contingent would basically be my family and my editor and that’s it! So it was wonderful to see all those nice people there and I thank all of you for coming!
Here we are, me, Debbie and Julia doing out stuff on stage at the Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre:
We both did some readings from our books and discussed child characters, voice and style. There was only time for one question from the audience, sadly, as I was really interested to hear what our audience wanted to know about. Our question was from a young lady who is a writer herself and asked a very interesting query about how to keep on track with a long manuscript when you keep getting waylaid by criticism and editing and other interruptions. Our consensus was to just keep writing and not over-edit as you go along, as you’re more likely to break the flow. Perhaps don’t even show it anyone before you’ve finished a first draft, as other voices can interfere with your own. Yet we agreed too that all writers are different and some will spend hours over one paragraph before moving onto the next, but that’s not how Debbie and I do it presently, and that suits us.
Afterwards, we were in the festival bookshop to meet some audience members and sign some books.
It was so lovely to meet all of you lovely people who came to buy books – thank you so much – and to hear your interesting questions too.
So, the main event was done and I could relax a bit! I did enjoy it hugely in the end but I was pretty shaky beforehand and glad it was time for ice cream! Then my family and Suzie all went to a restaurant called Gusto just down the road. Here are Poppy and I outside it later on that evening:
But the festival wasn’t over for me yet, as I had kindly been asked by Roland Gulliver if I’d do another reading from THE VISITORS for an evening event in the Guardian Spiegel tent for Jura Unbound at 9pm. So, after saying a fond goodbye to my lovely mum and brother Rob (very sad to see them go and very grateful they came), we headed back over to the square, which was looking very sparkly and atmospheric in the darkness.
I have to admit I was more nervous about this bit than any of it! I’ve never done a stand-up reading to a microphone on stage before, and the lights were very bright and I was all a bit wobbly and starstruck! I rather like this image Simon took below, with the hazy lights shining and the mysterious darkness beyond, as that just about sums up my state of mind as I stepped up there!
But I got through it and the audience were very polite and listened beautifully – thank you to everyone there. A delightful young lady called Eleni came up afterwards to get her book signed too, which was lovely.
And we were done! A wander round the bookshop, a cup of Earl Grey and a chocolate brownie later, and we were finally in bed for the night, ready for our day of sightseeing in the morning.
After a fabulous breakfast at Tigerlily we hit Edinburgh. The castle in the morning:
with amazing views of this beautiful city of Edinburgh:
and down the Royal Mile, with all its wonderful street performers on the way:
Next was a quick visit to the amazing Blackwell’s Bookshop on 3 floors in the heart of the city, where I’d been kindly asked to sign some stock by Ellie, who was also the one who told us to visit the Museum of Scotland (more on that later – thank Ellie, it was brilliant!) We were met by the lovely Ewa who looked after us and was very interesting to talk to. All the books had been lovingly prepared – thanks guys!
Then we found a lovely great pile of them on the festival display table:
And on to the brilliant Museum of Scotland in the afternoon, where we could have happily stayed all day, there was so much fascinating stuff to see:
A wonderful museum, highly recommended and FREE! Thanks to all the brilliant staff there. We had to rush off to get our train and though we were all shattered, we did not want to leave beautiful Edinburgh, particularly as there was still so much to see.
All photos by our resident expert photographer, my lovely fella AKA Simon.
So that was Edinburgh. Thanks to Simon and Poppy, my mum, my brother Robert and my editor Suzie for coming along. It was an honour to be invited, a privilege to appear with Debbie Taylor, Julia Eccleshare and my fellow participants in Jura Unbound. Thanks also to all the audience members and book buyers who came – it was wonderful to see you all there. And thank you so much to the Edinburgh International Book Festival for a wonderful experience and a weekend that all three of us will never forget.