Last week was a marathon of a week but enjoyable for all that!
I do love it when I get the chance to do a variety of things and last week was particularly interesting.
On Monday I travelled over to Glasgow to take part in the Aye Write book festival which takes place in Glasgow's magnificent Mitchell Library. This is the 10th Year of the festival.
Aye Write is in two halves and in past years I have taken part in Wee Write, the children's festival which is usually a few weeks earlier. But this time I was asked to run a workshop for adults on Writing for Children. I was delighted to discover that it was sold out, and it was a lovely group of interesting and interested people.
'Writing for Children' is such a wide subject that it is difficult to do it justice in a two hour workshop as those coming to it might be interested mainly in one area or another, although many writers who write for children write for more than one age group and more than one genre. It is part of what makes it so fascinating and rewarding. I hope those who attended enjoyed it and found something that worked for them.
There were quite a few interesting questions and as always there is rarely only one way to do something so I find myself being contradictory and hoping that I can get across that this is how writing works, there were very few absolutes and almost always someone will be able to show an example of how the opposite has been done and it has worked, often spectacularly!
At the end of the week I was listening to a panel of writers being asked which is the most difficult to write, the beginning, the middle or the end of a book. Each writer had a different answer and very good reasons for them.
On Tuesday I travelled up north to Aberdeen for two days of school visits in the city.
I like Aberdeen and it is just as well as I spend quite a lot of time there!
I was visiting primary schools on Wednesday and Thursday, 5 of them over two days so there was little time to stop in between.
All of the visits were with Hamish McHaggis books and it is always a joy to see how the schools and the children take to Hamish and his adventures, In some schools my visit was to launch them into a period of exploring Scotland with the books which works well, especially as there are Scottish Book Trust resources for teachers and the schools seemed to know all about them. Some of the children already had Hamish books at home and delighted in telling me which ones they had.
In one school, when I mentioned another of my books, part of a reading scheme. I wrote it some years ago, and I was delighted to discover that they were using it and two others of mine in the school. It is a favourite , part of the Rigby Stars called The Giant and the Frippit.
On the Thursday it was World Book Night and I had been invited to the Aberdeen Central Library to speak to parents and children as part of the celebrations.
It was fun!
There was also a Teddybear Sleepover in the library that evening, but Hamish decided he wanted to come home with me even though he and Library Ted were getting on fine!
Seems like they had a wild time in the library, when everyone else went home!
That night I headed home because the next morning the final day of the week was going to be more challenging than many in the recent past.
Soon it was Friday morning and the launch of Scotland's first YA (Young Adult) festival.
It had been quite a while in the making but all of a sudden it was here and I was going to be spending a good part of the day with 10 groups of teens ( anything between 5 and 15 at a time) in a constant changeover between 6 authors. At Cumbernauld Theatre this first celebration of Scottish YA authors was taking a fairly novel approach. While three of the authors did big auditorium sessions the other 6 of us were to have a chance to chat to small groups. I was a bit daunted but excited by the prospect even though I wasn't sure how it was going to work.
But it did work well as you can see on my ABBA blog on 28th April 'Yay YA! What a great day!'
Time is something we take for granted. 'What time is it?' How often have you asked or been asked that question? There are so many commonplace questions or statements relating to time.
How long does it take?
How long do I have?
Isn't time flying.
Never enough time.
Give me time!
Time to go.
I wish time would stand still.
I could go on. We mark time, watch it, our lives are often ruled by the clock, appointments and schedules. we have timepieces in our homes, in cars, on our wrists, on our phones, in public places and it is often difficult to be anywhere without knowing or being able to find out what time it is. Clocks through the ages have been huge and tiny, magnificent and ultra modern, even clocks made of flowers. From fashion statements to design icons they are as varied as man's imagination.
But time, and time travel, is the fabric of many stories and that is something I am thinking about at the moment. I love playing with the idea of time, how we can or cannot change things, and in fact as a writer you are the master of time.
You can start a story at any point in time, you can jump forwards, and backwards in time, leading the reader along a winding road through lifetimes, before revealing the answer to the question that kept them reading.
But some stories use time as a main element of the plot. The ability to go back and change things is a tempting idea for all of us. How often have you wondered what would have happened if you had said or done something differently, with the benefit of hindsight or even just enough time to make a considered decision?
I have been considering time recently and finding it an exciting concept filled with problems to solve but opportunities to explore.
It's almost August and that means in about 10 days or so it will be time for the Edinburgh Book Festival 2014 to open its doors. The site is being prepared from the grassy private square at the end of Edinburgh's Geroge Street that is Charlotte Gardens, into the tented vibrant book festival complete with Spiegeletent, bookshops event and party tents and of course the wonderful author's yurt that is the green room. This year I am going to be there for two events - one in the public programme and another for younger children in the schools programme.
in the main children's programme is for 14+ and is called 'Motive and Intention' and I will be appearing with fellow YA author Laura Jarrett, and chaired by Julia Eccleshare.It is on Saturday 23rd August 7-8pm. We will be discussing our latest books -
Laura's 'Louder than Words' and my 'Don't Judge Me'
So if you are interested in reading or writing YA, why not come along and ask us some questions!
With a complete change of subject matter my second event is in the schools programme, where schools are invited to bring classes to the Book Festival to meet their favouriteauthors.
On 20th August I will be speaking to school classes in Charlotte Square about Hamish McHaggis and the Skirmish at Stirling.
In the programme it shows that this event was to be with my good friend and Hamish McHaggis illustrator,, Sally J. Collins, who sadly passed away a couple of weeks ago.
She had been looking forward to this event and I will miss her involvement but intend that it will be a celebration of all things Hamish, as Sally would have wished, including bringing up some children to hold the beautiful mini beasts that Sally created.
One of these creatures is hidden on each page, in each Hamish McHaggis book.
‘Fluffy’ is a word that has been used often in the last few days as people share their memories of my dear friend, the talented illustrator of the Hamish McHaggis series. Sally was fluffy and gentle, kind and thoughtful but when it came to her artwork she was a consummate professional, with an incredible eye for detail.
I remember the fun we had going on trips to Glasgow’s Kelvingrove, Transport Museum and Pollok House so that Sally could do research for her illustrations.
Sally was always delighted when she heard of children who had taken Hamish to their hearts, sending us pictures, ideas for stories and families who told us Hamish was their favourite bedtime story, or cuddly toy.
Clan Gathering July 2009
We had an amazing time together working on the Hamish McHaggis books, which were a close collaboration; we were very much a partnership. We had huge fun over the years with book launches and events in Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Glamis Castle, at Balmoral, and on the Falkirk Wheel, and at the last Clan Gathering in 2009, when Hamish was the children’s mascot and we met people from all over the world who became dedicated Hamish fans.
We painted up a car as Hamish’s Whirry Bang and there is a full size Hamish
as well as the little soft toy Hamish, which Sally just loved to cuddle.
Sally was a kind and generous friend and colleague, and a delightful person to be around and she will be sadly missed but her delightful images will live on in the books to remind us of her.
When I am writing I often take a break and nothing makes me relax more than cooking, and especially making bread.
When my children were small for more than a year, between my second and third child, I never bought a loaf of bread. Instead I baked about 3-4 smallish loaves every few days.
I worked out a way to make it fit easily into my routine by starting after tea in the evening putting the ingredients together and kneading the dough and putting it away in a large bowl, in the fridge overnight.
The next morning I would knock the dough back while the children were having breakfast which only took a few minutes, and put it away somewhere warm to rise again. After lunch I kneaded it again and placed it into loaf tins to rise a final time. After tea was out of the oven I popped the loaves in and they were ready to leave cooling while the children were put to bed.
I even had fun experimenting with different flours, but in the end the most practical for us was a third strong white flour, a third wholemeal and a third berrymeal (which had seeds in it.) This made a delicious loaf that sliced easily and everyone was happy to eat it.
There is something very satisfying about kneading bread and then seeing it rise. Even more wonderful is that delicious smell of newly baked bread permeating the house.
I find that breadmaking has made its way into my writing every now and then. It can be an interesting way to occupy a character while something is happening, or a discussion is taking place, the kneading of the bread can be used to highlight the emotional turmoil of the character or spark memories that the smell evokes.
Oe of the other wonderful things about breadmaking is that it has no strict timescape, it can rise for longer or shorter, as time demands, and there are so many variation that it is never boring.
So I am off to check and see if my bread has risen yet and kneading has already given me time to work out a kink in the plot I am working on, so win-win!
Continuing the blogs about our recent trip to Australia and then New Zealand, where we were lucky enough to be invited to visit friends at their farm, just in time to see them shearing some of their sheep.
Here they are in the pen waiting their turn.
I was very impressed with the speed and dexterity of the sheep shearers.
And the quantity of wool they were producing that all had to be swept aside and collected in large canvas sacks that were compressed before being closed.
This is a tally sheet from 27th Dec 1952!
Then it was time for a trip around the farm. Those look like Hobbitses hills!
After the farm we headed up to Lake Taupo.
If you are looking for a way to entertain your kids why not stop at McDonald's and let them look inside their plane.
But I think I prefer the lakeside, and the peace and quiet down at Oruatua
But soon we were heading back to Auckland where the view from our hotel made me a trifle dizzy at times!
We took a ferry trip, and went for walks, and found some quite amazing trees
While we were in Auckland we met up with the lovely Trevor and Diane who were on holiday there, too. They run the Kids Lit Quiz in Newcastle.
And we also had a lovely evening and a delicious meal with Wayne Mills, the quiz master himself, who was touching base at home in between his international travels to bring the quiz to even more countries than ever before. I have no idea where he gets the energy! Hope to see you all later in the year when the UK heats are on.
Before we knew it time had come to catch our big white bird and take to the skies on the way home.