The Edinburgh Book Festival 2011

I only managed 3 days at the Edinburgh Book Festival this year, but as it’s the first time I’ve made it, that’s quite good going. For further, more detailed coverage, hop along to Colin Galbraith’s Freedom from the Mundane. He’s reporting on a day-to-day basis over there, and rather splendidly too.

My EdBookFest adventure started on Wednesday evening when my niece and her bloke drove over t’hill from Liverpool to pet and house sit. They arrived quite late on Wednesday evening but settled in really quickly and fell instantly in love with Rufus. Well, who wouldn’t?

The following day they ran me to the station and all two of my trains were on time. I left Sheffield at 12:16pm and arrived in Edinburgh at 4:20pm, then got stuck in traffic in a taxi. There are lots of road works in the city centre right now, plus it’s festival time, plus it was rush hour.

My guesthouse was clean and comfortable, although when I pulled out a plug so I could recharge my phone, the double socket came away from the wall … ho-hum. I pushed it back and made a note to mention it before I left. I then caught a bus up a big hill and walked along to Charlotte Square when my good mate, Colin Galbraith, was waiting to greet me.

This was the first time we’d ever met, but we both agreed that being blogging buddies for so long meant a lot of the preliminaries were already out of the way, and we hit it off instantly. I don’t think we stopped gassing the whole time we were together. I was starving hungry after my trip so first stop was something to eat.

My first event was Val McDermid. Colin had a ticket for that too. This woman is such an inspiration to me. It’s the second time I’ve seen her this year. We had a bit of a surprise because instead of talking about Trick of the Dark, her book published earlier this year, we were treated to advance publication (especially for the festival) of her next Carol and Tony book, Retribution.

Val – she’s so lovely we all feel we can call her that – discussed lots of things, both writerly and anecdotal, but the one thing I will take away from her lecture is to finish something. I have so many projects on the go, but the lady said finishing something is an achievement in its own right, even if it’s rubbish. So that’s what I intend to do. (More on that later in the week.)

Val McDermid

Colin and I went our separate ways for the next session. I stayed where I was, basically, to see Iain (M) Banks (that M business was really funny). It was a very good lecture, again, but this time First Minister Alex Salmond almost stole the show. I went into this event not even knowing who Alex Salmond was but was blown away by how much of a star he is.

The main discussion – once football and ailments were out of the way – was the difference between Iain Banks and Iain M Banks (one’s mainstream, the other’s sci-fi), and why he felt the need to slightly alter his name (his publisher wasn’t even publishing sci-fi at the time). This was enlightening for me because I always thought they were 2 different people.

Iain (M) Banks

Colin and I met up again for an end-of-evening gargle, then he walked me part of the way back to my guesthouse on his way to his bus. When I got in I had trouble closing the bathroom door, so I jiggled about with it until it closed tight … at 4am when I tried to get in again, it was locked. I’d locked myself out of the bathroom.

I tossed and turned for about an hour wondering whether I should wake someone, and I even went looking for a public bathroom somewhere – there wasn’t one. I didn’t know whether to wait until morning and just report it, or ask for a screwdriver. In the end I remembered I had a pair of tweezers in my handbag (I wasn’t a girl guide for nothing), so the metal end of those did the same job as a screwdriver and I was able to get in again. What a good job I hadn’t been locked on the inside.

The next morning breakfast was delicious. I had cereal + fruit juice + toast + full cooked + tea. If that didn’t set me up for the day … I caught a bus up the hill again – it’s a big hill – and made it in time for a ten at ten reading. Touched based with Colin, then went off to a replacement gig for me.

I’d wanted Nicola Morgan’s workshop, but she’d sold out really quickly, so instead my ticket was for Nick Holdstock, who had lived for some time in China, and Roger Hunt, who wrote about his experience during the 2008 Mumbai riots.

Nick Holdstock

Nick showed us a very different side to China to the one we all tend to see, while Roger, who very clearly isn’t so keen on so much publicity and invasion into his private life (he wrote the book, Be Silent or be Killed, for his own reasons and now just wants to go back to life before Mumbai), shared his feelings on the 40+ hours he was trapped inside a hotel room, fearing for his life.

Roger Hunt

Colin treated me to lunch in the city centre, and then he led me off to the Oxford Bar where John Rebus drinks in Ian Rankin’s books. I could hardly believe it when he said, “There’s the big man himself.”

I wondered who he was referring to but when I turned to look I was completely starstruck to see Ian Rankin being served at the bar. I was so excited I Tweeted about it and was delighted when Rankin replied to my Tweet telling us off for not saying hello! (Swoon!) What a treat.

I skipped back for some warmer clothes, then our next joint event was Carol Ann Lee, who has recently published her book on Myra Hindley. One of Your Own is believed to be the only book that tells the full story from the victims’ points of view. Carol Ann has never been one to shy away from darker topics. She has a history of writing about the Holocaust, about Anne Frank, and about her (Anne’s) father, Otto Frank.

Carol Ann Lee

Up next was ex MI5 chief, Stella Rimington. The theatre by now was quite hot and stuffy. I was so full after so much food that I almost nodded off – no reflection on Ms Rimington herself, who shared a few anecdotes with us about various experiences with her writing and her security work.

Stella Rimington

Our last event of the evening, and well worth the wait, was Alexander “Sandy” McCall Smith, a very popular favourite at the festival. He entertained us with his stories and with reading from the latest adventures of Bertie, aged 6 who can’t wait to be 7 but he’s never going to get there, at 44 Scotland Street. “Sandy” clearly enjoys his writing and loves to share it with everyone.

Alexander McCall Smith

The following day, my last day, was another ten at ten reading, this time poetry. I’ve never really been into poetry. And then a jointly chaired event regarding new audiences for your work – namely e-books, social media, and speaking events. I came out with an action from this event too, and that was to get Night Crawler onto Smashwords so I can release it on Kobo and Nook in the US as well as on Kindle.

I’d packed the camera away by now, but not before I grabbed a picture of my good friend and guide, Colin Galbraith. We went for another swift bite to eat, and then I was off to catch my train back home.

Thank you, Colin, for making my event so much more, and for making me feel so welcome.

Colin Galbraith

Trains home were, again, bang on time, and Jenni and Tom brought Rufus to collect me from the station at about 6:30pm. I was exhausted and after seeing them off on the next stage of their own trip “dahn sahf”, I had an early night.

I had a smashing time at the Edinburgh Book Festival and came away motivated and with a plan of action. Look out for The List later on this week. 😉

I hope you enjoy the pictures.

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6 thoughts on “The Edinburgh Book Festival 2011

  1. Carol

    Sounds absolutely fantastic. Thanks for such a wonderful coverage of everything you did. Quite Jealous.
    I bet Rufus was all over you when you got back.

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