Scottish Book Week

Saltire Society Literary Awards 2016

December 9th, 2016 by ruoqi_sun | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Saltire Society Literary Awards 2016
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As one of the event of Book Week Scotland, this year’s Saltire Society Literary Awards was held on 24th of November in Edinburgh. As a publishing student, I went there to participate in this activity and that was the first time I had ever attended such an event. Fortunately, I met some classmates and it made me feel much better.

To be honest, all the information I know about this award before the event comes from Wikipedia and Facebook. Saltire Society is an organization which aims to promote the understanding of the culture and heritage of Scotland. This organization has a long history, and it has established numerous awards, involving a number of cultural fields. The literary prize is one of them.

Before the award, we got half an hour to drink something and chat with others. At that time, everybody can share their experience with others.  It is amazing that we did not know each other before but the topic was very natural to start. A bag was prepared for each guest in the seating area, including some brochures which introduce the awards of this year, the annual review of Scottish Book Trust and this year’s new book etc. This year’s awards include a total of more than ten items, the specific awards can be found from the following timetable, because I do not want this blog be simply reporting.timetable

Next I want to talk about a few things that impressed me. The first one is about the “Publisher of the year”. The shortlisted publishers are Birlinn, Black and White Publishing, Floris Book, National Galleries of Scotland and Saraband. I remember the last month we just finished a presentation about Saraband. At that time, we searched and found almost nothing about this publisher on the internet, except their homepage. I even thought it was a tiny and financially struggling publisher in Scotland although they have published His Bloody Project which has been popular over the last year. But through this award I changed my mind, Saraband makes its own contribution to the publishing industry even though it is not a big publisher. Its efforts are equally worthy of respect, and its persistence is more worthy of recognition.  It is also because of these publishers who know hard but still insist on it, the literary industry can constantly develop.

The second one is about our professor Claire, I did not know that she was present as an honored guest until her name appeared in the timetable. This made me feel that as a publishing student, I am really involved in the field of publishing, and this kind of opportunity which provided to students are rarely happens in my country.

Finally, I would like to talk about the importance of this kind of awards shortly. As publishers, it can be said our work is less pretentious but very essential. Readers are always attracted to the design and the content of the book, but they do not know all the efforts made by publishers. The publishing industry is not as fashionable as the film industry, and our awards are not as high-profile as the Oscars, but we also need such awards to recognize our efforts during the last year.  Whether it is a publisher which has long history or just a novice, we all need to have such an opportunity to know each other, to see what’s happening in our industry. These good ideas can provide new ways of thinking for more publishers and this trend is also a kind of virtuous circle for publishing industry.

You can get more details of 2016 Saltire Society Literary Awards from here:

By the way, the performance by Niall Campbell during the activity was really nice, fond and full of emotion.  You guys can search the video if you are interested in it.


In Conversation with Isabel Greenberg

December 8th, 2016 by Lenka Murova | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on In Conversation with Isabel Greenberg
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I was dazzled by Isabel Greenberg, a London-based graphic novel writer and illustrator on Saturday, 26th of November, when I dragged along my two long-suffering friends to the Comics Art Festival in Edinburgh.

I am just going to come out and say it straight off, I had no clue who she was before the talk. All I knew came from the bit of research I had done while looking at the various events that were on. Isabel sounded interesting and I liked what I saw from the Google image search results on her work. So even though I didn’t know of her existence before the talk, I was absolutely smitten with her, both professionally and as a person by the end of it.

Isabel talked to us about her debut graphic novel The Encyclopedia of the Early Earth and then her recent release, The One Hundred Nights of Hero that came out this September. She was charming and very down to earth, talking about her beginnings as a graphic designer and illustrator, the struggle of getting her work out there and noticed by someone. Isabel freely admitted that if she had not won the Graphic Short Story Prize she would not be here now, talking to us about her second novel.

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The inspiration for her novels often comes from folk tales and ballads. Isabel said that she finds them so inspiring because the characters in them are often like blank slates, the themes are universal and this provides her with plenty of space to create her own stories. The One Hundred Nights of Hero is a collection of stories inspired by old folk ballads about women being wronged in some way. When asked about how she finds new inspiration, Isabel prompted us not to get stuck in what she calls the ‘second-hand viewing trap’. We all get caught up in looking at others’ works and comparing ourselves to them, losing our voice in the process of trying to measure up to others. This is why she said she goes out of her house to explore different places like museums, historical sites or just goes on a walk in a forest. ‘Go out and see stuff, not just on google images.’

She did not hold back, talking to us about her mishaps and missteps during her career. While admitting that she has learned a lot from the process of making her debut work, she advised us not to start off drawing/writing the parts that you are excited to do first, because you really should know what actually happens in the story first. Another advice was related to self-publishing — you should not get lured in by the fact that a print run of 1000 copies is only £50 more expensive than the one for 500 copies. Isabel had to throw out 500 copies of her work because she simply got bored of having to sell them.

This point connects to the one she kept coming back to the whole time: do this work because you love it. ‘Even if you can break even on your print run, but you can’t break even on your time.’ Isabel has proven that writing and illustrating a graphic novel is hard work, which is worth it only if you truly believe in your story and are passionate about it.

You can find more about Isabel on her twitter and her website.

by Lenka Murova

Edinburgh Comic Art Festival

December 8th, 2016 by Lenka Murova | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Edinburgh Comic Art Festival
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The Edinburgh Comic Art Festival took place on 26th and 27th of November and I am going to tell you about how cool it was.

During the two-day festival, you could pick what events you wanted to attend. There were talks, workshops and presentations about different aspects of the Comic and Graphic Novel scene in the UK given by professionals and enthusiastic fans alike.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to attend any of the workshops, but I walked through the Comics Market floor and talked to various artists and writers showing off their work there. Everyone was friendly and had a strong passion and love for telling stories through the medium of comic books.

From my various interactions, I could tell that the attitude of the creators was ‘Love this so much, but there is literally no money in this’.

I chatted with illustrator Chris Baldie, who works on the Space Captain series with writer and friend, Michael Park.  Chris got into working in comics when he got together with another friend Holley McKend to work on a web comic Never Ever After just for fun. During our chat, he admitted that there really is no money in this work and he just does it as a hobby on the side because he enjoys it. I asked him whether he feels like comics are just not taken seriously as a medium here. He replied by saying that it is getting much better now — a polite way of saying that it was horrible before but kind of bearable now. Chris said that he wouldn’t want to work full-time in comics anyway because he would probably come to resent the very thing that he now really enjoys. He was assured of this when he saw his friends who work as illustrators for the two giants (Marvel and DC) and even though they are paid a lot of money, he says that they spend their entire days stressed out of their minds. So Chris is just fine with working as a graphic designer and doing comics for the fun of it.

You can find more about Chris and his work here

I received similar responses from Paul Jon Milne, author and illustrator of the ‘Guts Power’ series (his Etsy store and Facebook page) and Kelly Kanayama (twitter) from whom I got a short custom comic for £2. There were many other creators on the floor, each stall selling interesting, unique art prints and comics (really dangerous for my wallet).

I feel that events like this give you the opportunity to experience something special. As they focus on individual authors, they give visitors personal one-on-one face time with indie creators, something that you just don’t get when a big publisher is organising an author signing.

I definitely would recommend going to next year’s festival, even if you have never read a graphic novel or a comic book, this might be your way to find the story that sucks you in. Even my two long-suffering friends that I dragged along took a liking to the world of comics. (Also, did I say the entrance to many events was free?)


15281974_10202410308814791_1626244598_nby Lenka Murova

Glasgow’s Historic Literary Societies- Book Week Scotland 2016

November 29th, 2016 by Kanika Praharaj | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Glasgow’s Historic Literary Societies- Book Week Scotland 2016
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For Book Week Scotland, Katharina Dittmann and I decided to nerd our little hearts out. And where did we decide to go, you ask? To the library, of course! Specifically, the beautiful Mitchell Library in Glasgow, where we attended a talk given by Lauren Weiss, a PhD student at our very own University of Stirling.

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The talk started off with a quiz. Needless to say, we now have ample proof that we would not fit into the nineteenth-century literary crowd.

According to Lauren, Glasgow has always been a city of readers and writers. In the 19th century men (and later women) got together to talk about books and reading. A ‘typical’ nineteenth-century literary group would meet up once a week. Reasons for joining a literary group usually had less to do with a love for literature and more to do with networking — networking isn’t just for us publishing students! Becoming a member of one of these groups would enable a young man to meet other people in a new place, people who could help him find a job and a place to live. This does not mean that there wasn’t an emphasis on the act of reading. Members were required to read for at least half an hour every day.

Many such societies had their own manuscript magazines. However, membership to a society wasn’t always needed to contribute to its magazine. These magazines weren’t quite as ‘literary’ as one might imagine. There were a variety of topics that people chose to write about. For example, a more traditional piece of literature like a sonnet could be followed by an essay entitled ‘Ants and Their Ways of Life’. Members weren’t always sticklers when it came to deadlines, making the editor’s job the hardest of all. In fact, the editor would quite often have to include last-minute contributions just as they were. Magazines would21-11-2016 then be passed on from member to member, who would all critique their fellow members’ works.

Between 1800 and 1914 Glasgow had at least 140 literary societies — less than ten of those are still running. A dismal figure until one thinks of all the reading groups (read: with wine) that people are a part of in today’s Glasgow. Reading is still a big part of the culture there, just in slightly different forms.

At the end of the talk, Dr Irene O Brien, Senior Archivist, and Patricia Grant, Library Collections Manager, spoke to us about the Mitchell’s unique collections. Fascinated by the wonders that the Mitchell holds within itself, we completely forgot what time it was and almost missed our train!

by Kanika Praharaj

An Evening with James Robertson.

November 28th, 2016 by ailsa_kirkwood | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on An Evening with James Robertson.
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For the fifth year running, Scottish Book Trust have organised a week of nationwide events, ranging from author readings, spoken word, interactive workshops and theatre for Book Week Scotland 2016. With hundreds of events to choose from, Book Week Scotland aims to bring people of all ages together to join in a weeklong literary celebration.

My personal highlight from Book Week Scotland 2016 took place on a cold and frosty Wednesday evening in November. We piled into a small community library in Auchterarder, seeking refuge from the sudden chilling onset of winter, to enjoy ‘An evening with James Robertson’. Rather than hosting the event in one of the numerous bookshops, cafes or art spaces in his current home city of Edinburgh, the setting for Robertson’s only talk of this year’s Book Week Scotland may seem understated for an author of six popular novels and a Man Booker Prize longlisting, but in reality could not be more fitting. A prevalent feature of his novels is the depiction of life in rural Scottish villages, and having grown up in Bridge of Allan and attended a nearby school in Perth and Kinross, Robertson pays homage to his upbringing, heading back to where it all started.

Robertson begins by reading us a few extracts from 365: Short Stories, this collection, unsurprisingly, comprises of 365 short stories, each constructed of 365 words. He described the challenge of writing a new short story for every day of the year as “an anal way to write a book”. However challenging he found this task throughout the year, his research for the stories, interest in the storytelling tradition and regular evening encounters with a toad, gave way to the comic novel that would become To Be Continued.

In addition to his detailed accounts of everyday life in both urban and rural Scotland, many of Robertson’s books and short stories pay special attention to Scottish history and Mythology, imaginatively portraying relationship between the two. His latest novel is set just shortly after the result of the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014. Although the referendum is mentioned in the book, it does not play a big part, but instead is used more as a plot device. The humorous story of To be Continued is Robertson’s way of dealing with the political outcome of the 2014 referendum. The result for many was devastating news. Robertson however, in attempt to avoid getting bogged down in an overtly political novel, explains his decision to write an outrageous farcical story of Scottish adventure, harking back to an earlier era of Scottish writing.

In To Be Continued, Robertson alludes to depictions of Scotland, and Scottishness, from literary and cinematic works from the 1940s/50s. He draws inspiration from the novels of Compton Mackenzie: Whisky Galore, Monarch of the Glen; as well as films like Brigadoon and I Know Where I’m Going. Although some readers in the current post-referendum version Scotland may wish to take a step back from the stereotypical characters and tartantry promoted in these books and films, Robertson is promoting the search for new perceptions, an adventure of rediscovery of self. To me, this seems like an important representation of the journey many of us faced to understand again what it means to be Scottish. Reading from the first chapter of the novel, we listen as protagonist Douglas Elder sets off on his own adventure to the Highlands, accompanied by his newfound friend Mungo, a talking toad he befriends whilst drunk in the garden. They go in search of Rosalind Munlochy, a woman with a lifelong involvement in radical Scottish politics – 100 years to be exact, as she happens to be celebrating her 100th birthday. In 2014, this milestone is of great significance, as Robertson sees her as a symbolic figure that represents a mother figure of a nation – a nation in unprecedented need of maternal guidance. Buried beneath the surface of this comic novel lie notions of a fractured nation, in search of yet another reinvention of identity. This is a story for the disheartened, its humorous narrative and story offering the reader an adventure of rediscovery, which comes as a glimmer of hope.

As the evening wound down Robertson admitted that he used to think that his job as a writer as trivial. But to go back to his initial introduction to his talk, he reinforces the idea that storytelling is important, it has always been an important part of life, for culture, for people. “Writers write and readers read, we need these things to explain who we are and to get us through life.”

by Ailsa Kirkwood