27th May 2017, Shipley, Yorkshire
Coming up the the second last of my #ReadRegional events, and having been seriously disturbed by the tragedy of the bombing in Manchester a few days ago. So many lives lost, so many people hurt, so many others traumatised and affected. It all has set me to thinking about Literature, and how sometimes I’ve thought it’s self-indulgent for me, as a writer, to be peddling fiction in these turbulent times, that there are really serious issues going on out there in the world, how can i justify what I’m doing? is it morally right for me to be churning out stories when people are having to go to food banks to get food, when people in their millions are being displaced by wars across the globe, wars in which my own country is directly or indirectly implicated. It’s those kind of concerns that have prompted me to write what follows. My small contribution to think about Literature in the wake of the terrible events in Manchester.
I ask myself: IS LITERATURE RELEVANT IN THESE TROUBLED TIMES?
Or are fiction writers just indulging themselves, wasting everyone’s time and money, when people can hardly afford to buy food, let alone books?
Are we providing stories as distractions, as escapisms for people who’d be better off trying to help others and sort out the problems of the world instead of spending their time getting lost in stories?
OR is literature good for us, even here, even now? How can literature help in these troubled times?
The pace of change is fast. We no longer know where Power lies. We’re wondering what ‘democracy’ actually is, what it means, is it still important? what is our place in it?
We live in turbulent times. The faces of our long taken-for-granted civil liberties now appear as unbelievably and frighteningly fragile. Ever since Bush and Blair declared their ‘war on terror’ we have watched our world ‘leaders’ flounder, all too often taking refuge behind Them-and-Us barriers – Bush’s ‘You’re either for Us or against Us’ – rhetoric that would push us into places where Fear has the upper hand, the defining hand, where Fear of the Other (variously defined, or more usually implied and not defined at all) Rules; where Fear justifies – if not actually invites – transformations, elisions of our sensibilities, shunted through without question. Then suddenly we see we’re being confronted with harsh new realities – military personnel on the streets, for example, and our proudly unarmed police now carrying large automatic weapons … And we look and we see and we have to ask ourselves: is this now the world in which we now live?
Is this really our world? This isn’t what we wanted, it’s not what we voted for, it’s a million miles away from what we voted for.
Meanwhile the politicians we voted into power preside over massive social and political change, on our own soil and elsewhere across the globe, at the same time as they assure us that ‘Nothing has changed’, that we will defy the ‘terrorisms’ and ‘extremisms’ that currently threaten us, that we won’t allow our ‘way of life’ or our ‘values’ to be changed or compromised by the criminal acts of extremist Others …
Three cheers to Jeremy Corbyn for his brave attempt to broaden the context of our thinking about extremism and ‘the war on terror’ in the terrible wake of the Manchester bombing. I cried a lot that day, for the poor poor people caught up, killed and hurt, in that tragedy, so many scarred for life if not physically then psychologically, for the desperate families and the friends so traumatised whose hearts were broken on that day, for the emergency services who stepped in quickly and bravely and did what they could to fix what was broken, for the hospital personnel who go way beyond the call of duty to help, to heal, to save lives; and I cried with pride for all the ordinary people who did everything they could think of to offer help and support to all those in need. All this, to me, is hugely testament to our humanity, to the basic good that is in us, that is in all of us.
Coming back to Literature, and its relevance, I was listening to ace Crime-writer and top advocate for Public Libraries Val McDermid speaking at the Coastword Literary Festival in Dunbar last weekend. She was responding to a question from a member of the audience about a point I’d raised in my earlier session about the existence of evil. I’d said no-one is wholly ‘good,’ not through and through; that wouldn’t be human. We all have a bad streak somewhere, more or less deep, more or less hidden, most or all of the time. We carry baggage, we have warts, our flaws are there, compromising our goodness, simply because we are human. In the same way, people we define as ‘bad’ – people who harm others, or who grab power and use it in destructive ways – they too are human, they too share our human flaws and vulnerabilities. And Val said, in response to the question, that she didn’t believe in ‘evil’ either.
When certain elements of the ‘tabloid’ press uses ‘pure evil’ in large letters in the headlines to bump up sales for their hideous rags, they’re providing us with a shortcut to a world in which ‘good’ and ‘evil’ sit on opposite sides of a divide, with the nice people on one side and the nasty ones on the other. They invite us to join the happy band of good folk who unequivocally condemn the bad ones and who can therefore can reassure themselves that We are not like Them, and that We good people have to protect ourselves from the likes of Them by every means possible, including turning our streets into militarised streets, if necessary, and not let silly ideas like civil liberties get in the way of protecting our precious way of life. There is no irony intended, I am sure, in these headlines, though if you think beyond them to their logical conclusion, if you reflect on what they’re actually saying to us as a society, contemplate for a moment the direction in which they would lead us, you’d happen upon the irony of their stance before two minutes had passed.
And this is exactly where literature comes in. Because, as is often said, Literature is one of the few things that can SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER – That doesn’t mean the stories we should write or which we should read in these turbulent times should only be stories that directly address the social, political issues, stories that reflect, represent and help us to understand the global turbulences we are living through. The Literature that helps us, that nourishes us, that sustains us now, as at other times, doesn’t have to be that big, that all-encompassing. On the contrary, the stories that reach the deepest can be smaller, more personal, stories about characters in which we can see our own basic humanity reflected, and therefore stories through which we can get in touch with the basic humanity of others. Literature helps us connect, it sets up and enables lines of empathy and connection to people who may be nothing like ourselves, except that they are human. Literature engages our compassion, our compassion for others, whoever they are. And in this turbulent, uncertain world, compassion for others is the best kind of anchor we could have.
5th March 2017
BOOK GROUPS might want to use this Reading Guide to #TheConfessionOfStellaMoon
4th March 2017
Someone put a lovely review of my Stella in our local village magazine!
And I now have 50 reviews on Amazon!
Linlithgow Festival ….
Here’s me and San before our gig at the Linlithgow festival!
This is us on the stage, me cleaning my specs on my jumper, San stroking Christabel!
Then #ReadRegional was kicking off … Meet the team (left to right) Gulwali Passarlay, Kath McKay, John Donoghue, Andrew Hankinson, Margaret Mulligan, ME, Naomi Booth, Phaedra Patrick, AA Dhand, and Ruby Robinson. Missing from the photo are Jack Mapanje, and Deborah Andrews who weren’t there on the day.
And here’s some pictures of the lovely booklet, to which I wrote the Intro on ‘what libraries mean to me.’
Here’s the link to my page in the booklet.
Here we are in the Hexham Courant!
Here’s a pic from 2015! It’s us outside Strand Bookstore on 5th Ave, NYC. Absolutely LOVED that trip.
Had a few days in Aberdeen at Granite Noir! It was good, for a change, just watching and listening and enjoying, and not having to do anything.
And here’s the poster for our inaugural BLOODY MARYS event coming up soon!
5th February 2017
My five book choice in #JournalCulture magazine, but seems there was only space to mention the last four!
And here’s wee Shell on the CultureForKicks Blog!
29th January 2017
This year’s Read Regional line-up has just been announced …. Includes yours truly, about which I am mightily thrilled! (even if it is with a dreary sense of inadequacy that I realise I’m wearing the same outfit on the photo as I wore at the 2015 Awards ceremony …. and at that year’s London talent salon … aaarghhh)
Also was thrilled to receive a pile of #Stella books, their second printing (which, I am told is a very fine thing …). This one has a new first page which is full of nice things kind people have said about the book. Here, see for yersel!
And the back cover has an amended blurb as well! Yay!
And the front just looks the same!
Wish I knew how to make those pictures a bit smaller, but I’m not yet very good at this website malarkey yet!
It was good, at the end of last year to get into the Scottish Book Trusts 30 Excellent Scottish Novels of 2016! I was so busy at the end of last year, that I forgot to post about that.
11th January 2017
OK so I haven’t checked in here since 11th November … can’t believe how fast the time has flown and how quickly i’ve arrived at Stella’s six-month anniversary. Time, surely, to calm down now, stand back a bit, and take stock, as she goes into her second print-run, with a few accolades at the front, and a new bit of blurb for the back …
1st Jan 2017 THE HUMAN BOOK
Some of the books we can look forward to by Women Writers in 2017
I’ve only just discovered Roxanne Gay, call me slow, but better late than never!
And another of my dreams is about to come true in 2017! I’m on at the NCLA in April with the awesome Alison MacLeod!
End of the year and here’s my 2016 My Year in Review and one by Jacky, one of my besties who’s been the hugest help to me and Stella during this our fledgling year. Let me just say now thank you JackyCollins and VicWatson two of the best writing buddies a gal could ask for. Together we form the BLOODY MARYS and we’ll be up to some cool stuff in the year to come. Here’s Vic giving some space to the year reviews of other writing pals of mine CatherineSimpson , Matt Wesolowski and Angela Readman. Thank you Victoria! You’re a star!
Chuffed to be a finalist in the Aesthetica competition and have my wee story picked for the Annual! The story was first published in New Writing Scotland 33 but the Aesthetica comp is one of the very rare ones where you can submit already published things. This is the only piece of work I have submitted for a long time so it’s a great relief that it was placed. I think I’m over-critical of my own work. I need to loosen up! I made a resolution last year to submit something every month but I didn’t do it. This year I will make resolutions and stick to them. That’s that sorted.
Was V chuffed to be asked by Barbara Bos of WOMEN WRITERS to do a piece on ‘Why I Write’ … Why I Write. Why indeed?
Here’s an extract:
“Oh, the irony, the irony, of being asked to write a piece on Why I Write, when I’m not actually writing at all, and haven’t done for months.
I say ‘not writing,’ but I don’t actually mean Not Writing. Because I havebeen writing. I couldn’t not be writing. Only what I’ve been writing is not the kind of writing I should be doing, not what I want or need to write. That sounds like a mess of contradictions. It is.
Being a writer is like, mostly, not writing. Avoiding writing like the plague (delete clichéd simile). Doing anything and everything besides. Feeling a queer churned-up feeling, as continual as it’s inexplicable. Except you know it’s something to do with writing. Or not writing. Which amounts to the same thing. Mostly.
Why I write? George Orwell had it boiled down to four neat points (of course he did); none of them have anything to do with me, except perhaps his mention – in passing – of warring impulses. That comes quite close. OK. I can use that. I write because of warring impulses.
Motivations of women writers?
Here’s Sylvia Plath: ‘I want to write because I have the urge to excel in one medium of translation and expression of life. I can’t be satisfied with the colossal job of merely living. Oh, no, I must order life in sonnets and sestinas and provide a verbal reflector for my 60-watt lighted head.’
Zadie Smith? ‘Writing is my way of expressing – and thereby eliminating – all the various ways we can be wrong-headed.’
Flannery O’Connor: ‘I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.’
None of those apply to me. Harper Lee is possibly closer … ‘Any writer worth his (sic) salt writes to please himself … It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.’
Discontent, yes. Mine probably not ‘divine.’
Ralph Ellison talked about ‘torturing himself’ to get the words down. He talked about being plagued by ideas that wouldn’t forget him, that wouldn’t let him alone.
That’s close too.
Little snippets of sentences that tug at your soul and pester you until you write them down and then when you’ve done that you’ve given them the life-blood they were craving and you’re wishing you hadn’t caved in to them because they’re wanting more and more of you and you know it’ll be a long time until they’re done …
Writing is a physical act, it’s corporeal, visceral; it’s a compulsion like any other bodily function and is resisted at some cost to the general equilibrium of the human organism. Yet, resisted it must be. Even when resistance causes anguish. Because resistance causes anguish. Both Writing and her ugly twin, Resistance, arise in and, in their turn, cause Anguish.
I was watching a video of the artist Louise Bourgeois the other day. She’s my favourite, and I’m really interested in her writings (short sharp observations, half-formed ideas open up whole new spaces, ‘the return of the repressed’ in mixed up French and English) as well as her sculptures and her drawings. Anyway, on this video she was holding court with a group of much younger artists in her apartment in New York. One of the students said something about being an artist as a torture. Louise Bourgois snapped back, emphatically, repeating herself, repeating: To be an artist is not a torment. It is a privilege.
For me, writing is torture and privilege. In the words of the late Leonard Cohen, It looks like freedom but it feels like death; it’s somewhere in between I guess.
The urge, the need, the compulsion, the practice, the inspiration, they go up and down, out of synch, apparently at random. A L Kennedy says fear’s the only thing you have to be afraid of, and yes, fear’s a motivator, and a brake on everything.
Writing a story: an image, an opening line or fragment, one or the other. Appears. Hangs around. Doesn’t go away. Hangs around insistently. Won’t let you forget it, even though you try to, even though you’d rather stick hot needles in your eyes than pick up a pen or open up the laptop. One day you’ll give in, and write it down. Which is fatal. There follows a slow staccato, something that makes you nauseous and anxious is stuttering and stumbling forward, you’re repeatedly falling over and landing on bruised knees. Then a point of no turning back. The character’s alive, their mission’s imperative. You’re turning yourself inside out, something’s being wrenched from out of your guts.
Like Kerouac, I don’t enjoy writing. I wish I did, but I don’t. I write because it’s some kind of compulsion that I don’t understand. A kind of instinct. Sort of a necessity. As is fighting the compulsion. That is also a necessity. The whole lot’s all mixed up and a mystery, essentially.
What I like is having written. Then I can say, yes, I write because it’s the only thing that makes me feel good about myself. And that is almost true.”
23 November HEATON HISTORY GROUP with Yvonne Young
24 November Book Week Scotland: Annan Library
25 November Book Week Scotland: Stranraer Library
1st December Waterstones, Edinburgh, CHRISTMAS CRACKER event
Here’s what Joanne Baird had to say: “Had a great night on Thursday at Waterstones, West End in Edinburgh for their Christmas Cracker evening. After being entertained by Christmas songs and carols by the ladies from the Health in Mind charity and singing along too, we were treated to readings from Shelley Day, Mary Paulson Ellis, Richard Holloway, Graeme Macrae Burnet, Martin McInnes, Daniel Gray and Helen Sedgwick. I was mightily impressed that Helen ‘read’ the first chapter of her book completely from memory! I had to smile when Daniel Gray was reading about his young daughter listening to the sounds of a Hibs football match at Easter Road Stadium from their living room window. I lived round the corner from the stadium for about 25 years and knew exactly what he was talking about. And Waterstones spoiled us with wine, mincepies and festive cupcakes!”
12 December Meet-The-Author, Newcastle Book Group event
15 December NEW WRITING NORTH Northern Writers Awards Road Show, Middlesborough
14th November 2016
Here we have a sneak preview of Andrew’s lovely book, to be launched exactly one month from now …. I am soon very proud of him! Such a talented poet! Massive congrats Andrew!
14th November 2016
Found a couple more pics from the lovely PortyBookFest, but here’s one of all three of us, Mairi Wilson, Ann Loughnane, and me! NB my new boots, bought with my Durham Bookfest fee!
Between the Porty and the Dundee Literary festivals I had a few days in Galloway with Andrew. I think you can see the attraction of spending more time there.
Then it was my turn (with Sandra Ireland and Zoe Venditozzi) on 20th October at the Dundee Literary Festival
And here’s an artist’s sketch of our event! (Apologies, I don’t have the name of the artist!)
Our debut novels both have a taxidermy theme, and Peggy Hughes had arranged for our event to be among the specimens at the zoology museum … (photos: Bob McDevitt)
Alas it was not to be, but for a very good reason, namely that so many tickets were booked that we had to shift from the among the specimens to a larger venue … It was a great session, with a large appreciative audience and Zoe was really fab at chairing us. Sandra was joined on the table by Christabel (who is a mouse, or rather a former mouse, as in ex-parrot). I only sold a few books afterwards, which is always a bit of a disappointment, but hey I am getting used to it. Even much better known authors than me regularly only sell a few at book Festivals (i’m not talking here about Val McDermid, or Jackie Kay, or Ali Smith, obviously) and yeah, selling books is NOT what it’s all about.
Having said which, I sold loads at the Berwick Literary Festival on 22nd October which is where I went next. I am not sure how to explain it, because there were more people at my event in Dundee than there were at Berwick. My Dundee event was joint with Sandra, as I’ve said, and she did sell and sign more than me, partly because she was on home ground and partly because it was a kind of launch for her. And, at Berwick, another difference was that I was chaired (very very expertly I might say) by the awesome Gerry Foley who has his own following of people and i expect most of my audience was there for Gerry and not for me! No matter! Gerry is a former political editor for ITV and he was completely on the ball for my book, and obviously admired and enjoyed it, so there was no need for any hard sell since Gerry had them all eating out of his hand within minutes. Anyway, tons of books were sold, and i came away pretty pleased!!
I don’t have any photos of Berwick as i was there on my own, so here’s another nice one of Galloway instead …
See how the light’s so lovely, so many moods, changing all the time …
Oops I have found a Berwick photo on my phone, but it’s only of my Stella in the bookshop window …
And now, a Galloway painting by Helen Lee. I’ll tell you the full and amazing story of that, one of these days, but I’ll have to clear it first, like you do with Memoir stuff … I’m hugely looking forward to seeing this painting in real life
Tons of fun was had at the end of the month at Grantown’s Wee Crime Festival
It was fun being with my Contraband pals, and meeting Caro Ramsey and William McIntyre, and seeing Lesley Kelly again. Plus the hotel was lush, and the food was lush, and Marjory who runs the wee bookshop in Grantown and who organises the festival was a very canny lass (in the Geordie sense), and Andrew got to hang out with us, and the trip there through the autumn tinted highlands was beautiful, so altogether we had the BEST time and it was a really great one to finish off the 2016 round of festivals with my Stella.
That’s Marjory’s bookshop where I bought a book by Stefan Zweig
And that’s the Garth Hotel where all the action happened
and these pics are from the crackpot murder mystery play (written by Saraband’s own multitalented Douglas Skelton) we did on the first night (me as Loxie McLovely)
and that’s me doing a quick reading from my book
and that’s the nice write up we had in the local paper!
and on the way home, near Pitlochry, I found a very nice hat that had my name on it
And at Halloween weekend my Stella was chosen by Edinburgh City of Literature as their Halloween Read …
Now the most recent event was the inaugural NoirAtTheBarEdinburgh convened by Mark Legatt, Jacky Collins, Vic Watson and yours truly. That took place at the trusty Wash Bar on 9th November (what a day. USA presidential election brough bad news but i have resolved not to write about that …. and the death of the lovely wonderful Leonard Cohen)
you can see there was a bit of a good line-up there, and here’s me, reading
and some of the other readers Neil Broadfoot, James Oswald, Lucy Cameron, Vic Watson, Tana Collins, Russel McLean and Lesley Kelly
and here we are all at the end, looking tired and happy!
The next night, being 10th November, was a NIGHT TO BE REMEMBERED!
I went to St Andrew’s, to Topping’s, to hear Ali Smith reading from her new (post-Brexit) book Autumn … Well, see for yourself what happened …
Plus we had very excellent fish and chips
and i have this lovely memory to draw on whenever spirits get low
Now all that remains to update is to mention the Scottish Book TRust’s Book Dare challenge. Mine was to post a photo of me with my favourite book, and here it is
so i guess it’s over and out, goodbye and good luck, until the next time!
NO it’s not! I forgot to say my Stella’s been picked for the Top 50 Indie Books for Christmas by Wordery … it’s one of only 10 novels in that 50 ….
See y’ll next time! Thanks for listening!
11th October 2016
Oh my, I’ve been soooo busy with #Stella stuff, gadding about hither and thither, I haven’t had a minute to update this website, and when I have had a moment, I haven’t had the energy to do a thing … So let’s think what news there’s been – mainly about the book, because that’s been my entire life since July, since before July in actual fact!
WIGTOWN BOOK FESTIVAL 2016
[Here’s a fab quick round up from LeeRandall]
So first up, #Stella and me were at the fantastic WIGTOWN BOOK FESTIVAL on 28th September but we actually hung out the rest of the week because there were so many great things to see and, true to rumour, the Green Room was THE BEST Green Room you ever saw or you could ever even imagine!
Every year Shaun who runs The Book Shop in the main street (it’s a fabulous second hand bookshop, the biggest in Scotland, with a mile + of shelving and 100,000 + books ….) Shaun opens his doors and hands over his entire first floor to be the Writers’ Retreat for the duration of the festival. How generous is that?! Not only is it a beautiful space – it’s Shaun’s HOME after all, and he has impeccable Bohemian taste – but there’s the Best atmosphere: warm and welcoming, happy, friendly, everyone enjoying … and a cosy log fire in the grate, and lovely food on a long table – lobster as well – and wine and coffee and anything you could want! So you go in there between events and you get yourself a coffee and a pastry and you just sit down and hang out and chat with whoever happens to be there … Imagine that, for a debut author, my first ever actual book festival appearance, and it was that kind of amazingness I encountered the minute I arrived in Wigtown! Absolute perfection, that Green Room. I’ve been spoilt, truly spoilt. Any other Green Room after that is bound to be a massive disappointment. And I’ve discovered, chatting to writers that, for them, the quality/atmosphere of the Green Room can make or break a festival appearance … This is some learning curve I am on!
I’m not going to do name-dropping and tell you who I met in there or what they were like or what they said, because there’s a kind of air-of-confidentiality in a Green Room; it’s unspoken, but the whole thing’s so informal, and it’s a space for relaxing and being yourself and not having to wear your public pants; you’re aware of the unwritten rule that what happens in there is for those four walls only. So I won’t mention names, but suffice to say i did get to chat with some Famous People and nobody was putting on airs about being famous or being better than this unknown little debut, which was lovely, very lovely, encouraging and refreshing and well, REAL, which was a nice surprise. To go to your first ever actual book fest and find that there’s space where you can be yourself – well, that came as a lovely surprise. Writing friends came and went, and my agent and my publisher, and it was great to just relax and enjoy with them. And some press people. And I met a lovely woman who i immediately recognised as a kindred spirit and I’m hoping we’ll stay in touch. I was interviewed for live radio (local), and a podcast, and another radio programme … It’s all a blur, my memory’s rubbish because I was too excited to take it all in and remember it as well …
As for the events, I made notes about them, so I can refer to them and tell you about what I saw. Entry to anything is free to participating writers (so long as they’re not sold out already) so I took the opportunity and went to loads. That’s the nice thing about book festivals, is you get to hear about stuff you didn’t even know existed, you discover books you hadn’t known about and suddenly you’re desperate to read …
There’s a kind of magic, when you’re among booky people and kindred spirits and you see all the people out there in the audience and it’s a bit overwhelming when it’s your own event because you look out at that sea of eager faces and you’re humbled to think, Heavens, they’ve all come here for ME. It’s like when you get married and everyone’s wishing you well. Yep, humbling. But even beyond that – which is epiphanous, life-changing – there’s something magic about just being among all those people who love books and love reading enough to come to a book festival, truly amazing really.
First up, I did a 9am THINKING BREAKFAST session on What do we mean by SELF? Coffee, croissants, and a bit of philosophical chit chat? don’t mind if I do. Really well attended, amazing how many folk are raring to go philosophically speaking at 9am! Including long-time Stella-supporter and fellow writer EIBF 2016 #StoryShopper LAURA who got up at 5am to drive from Edinburgh to get there on time …. Laura gets the LovelyBrightEyesAt9am Award on this occasion.
There she is! Laura Clay!
Then that was me and the awesome PEGGY HUGHES doing to biz! Peggy’s amazing. She makes the whole thing run so smoothly, like we were just having a chat in your front room. And I did three tiny bits of reading from the book.
Then there was a signing. I think I sold six books which I am told isn’t bad at all …. It didn’t sound many to me, but apparently it’s normal, unless you’re Val McDermid of course. And probably there was a time when Val only sold a handful …
Then Peggy interviewed me for a radio show and then again for a podcast and someone took this hideous picture of me. I’m assured i don’t actually look like that which is a relief.
The next day was me at THE MIDGE (think New York, The Moth) telling my Secret&Confession about how I killed my chemistry teacher when I was 14.
And finally, for Wigtown, that was the sunset on 1st October from the place where we camped ….
And I should have said that on the last day, just before we left, the amazing BookShopBand were playing in the bookshop. I’ve found a link there to a song made entirely from first lines from books … They were really a pleasure to listen to.
THE EVENTS – I’m not going to tell you about them all, just I found the most provoking in one way or another!
First was SARA MAITLAND – always enjoy her things, she’s so honest and intense – talking about Twelfth Night, a play all about JOY she tells us, a profound mediation on Joy.
Next was journalist Charlotte Gibson with her book Castaway. She’d reported on the refugee crisis but in this book she gathers some of the personal stories from people trying to start a new life in Europe. It was a moving talk, and i imagine the book could be a difficult read because of its subject matter. The author said she’d written it because she wanted to ‘humanise refugees’, and ‘bring them alive in their stories.’ She wanted to tell stories that would make people understand what they’d been through, and their courage, and to help people relate to their experiences. I enjoyed the talk and it was well received in a packed hall. The only thing missing for me was some discussion of the ethics of writing others’ lives, of ‘giving voice’ to silenced or misrepresented minorities. There’s definitely a conversation to be had around those issues, recently re-surfaced wrt fiction round a piece by Lionel Shriver that proved to be ever so controversial … Here’s the link to the controversial speech!
Next up, Lee Randall introduced ANNA PASTERNAK, great-niece of Boris, and her book about the real-life LARA – a heartbreaking story of the woman who was his mistress and muse, and who suffered unspeakably on his behalf, including being imprisoned and tortured and sentenced to hard labour. Olga and her daughter were not released until 1953 when Stalin died and there was an amnesty. But still Boris did not marry her. She typed the manuscript and they continued as lovers until his death … A very sad and moving story of a woman of great devotion and courage … And the inevitable question still hangs in the air: Why, why, WHY did she do this? The horrid thing is that, as women, we all sort of know Why, only it’s hard to put it into words that don’t just skim the surface.
I went also to an Open University session on CREATIVITY run by ex-architect David Jones. I was a bit disappointed because I was hoping for something with a lot more theory and a lot more substance. I’m very interested in the creative process, and in what creativity is, and how – if at all – it can be understood. I’m fascinated by the workings of unconscious processes across all of the Arts. Think Louise Bourgeois. So maybe my expectations were far too high. My psychological background and interest in psychoanalysis had primed me for something that didn’t happen this time. Instead there was much general talk about cognition and thinking and brains and neurons which weren’t my cup of tea but other people seemed fascinated!
I really enjoyed fellow Sarabandista Chitra Ramaswamy introducing her book EXPECTING which is about pregnancy – a chapter for each month of the experience, and linking all the time to culture and literature and art … Fascinating. She drew unlikely parallels between birth and death and the way history and cultures hide both behind ritualised veils of stories and silences. Yep, fascinating!
Next I went to another Sarabandista Graeme Macrae Burnet with his Booker-shortlisted (YAY!!!!!!) HIS BLOODY PROJECT (it’s been compared to Hogg’s True Confessions …) introduced by the scary Stuart Kelly, former Booker Prize judge who has a bit of a reputation for being, well, scary. But Stuart seemed genuinely to have enjoyed Graeme’s book and there was a v interesting in-depth discussion about it’s voice and its structure and its resonances with other Scottish literature, some discussion about echoes, and stylistics, and vocabulary, and the tortured history of crofting communities, and misuses of power … It was a great event, incredibly well attended by a very engaged audience. Graeme is a great reader (as well as being a brilliant writer) and there was a massive signing queue at the end ….. GO GRAEME! It’s not long till we hear the result of the Booker … He and Sara (publisher) are surely on hot coals …. So many people are rooting for them!
The Most-Intriguing-Book-I-Encountered Award goes to Max Porter for his best-selling highly acclaimed innovative short literary novel/novella Grief is the Thing with Feathers (link/think Dickinson), expertly chaired by Jenny Brown. In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother’s death. Their dad, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness, when into their lives walks a crow. The author talked excitedly, sometimes in the voice of a crow, telling us Where the book came from – he wanted to write the sibling relationship as a single character, not as two single people – he wanted to write about Grief because he was angry about the marketising and sanitising of grief and Hallmark and the cycles of human hypocrisy – he wanted to portray the real pain and chaos of grief. He chose a Crow because he likes crows and because of Ted Hughes and because crows symbolise death. The book hops and moves (and squawks?) like a crow, by turns beautiful and despicable. It’s part novella, part fable, part poetry, part essay on grief. Yes, the boundaries of The Novel are here being tested and twisted and tickled and slapped. The characters aren’t named. That’s because they’re archetypes, they’re templates; the author wants the reader to make of them what they will. “The narrative white space in the book is meditative,” he says proudly. Crow teaches the dad and the boys that healing comes through storytelling. Yes, Grief can be generative. But you never get over loss. “You just learn to use it in a different way.”
DURHAM BOOK FESTIVAL
Together with Helen Sedgwick THE COMET SEEKERS and Lucy Ribchester THE AMBER SHADOWS, and chaired by Sasha de Buyl, we did our NEW WRITING FROM SCOTLAND event at the Durham Book Festival on Saturday 8th October, then afterwards I went to hear writer friend Carmen Thompson reading from her lovely new BOOK OF GODLESS VERSE. There was no-one from #TeamStella at our event, so hence no photographs 😦 but I did take a pic of an indulgent pre-event breakfast I had at Patisserie Valerie …
Actually, the croissant was stodgy and the coffee was weak … Ha! Should have gone to #CaffeNero, which is my favourite!
Fortunately there was some decent coffee and some nice things to eat in the Green Room – OK, it couldn’t realistically compete with Wigtown’s, but by heck it had a good try! Ancient tall gothic leaded lights, huge high vaulted ceiling and armoury around the walls and a massive great locked black chest, heaven knows what was once stored in there … Will Mackie and Rebecca Wilkie from New Writing North were welcoming and relaxed despite the huge amount of organising they were involved in … It was queer seeing my writing pals from Scotland out-of-context as it were, but thrilling to do an event together!
Afterwards, had a lovely flaneur-stroll round the town – Durham’s lovely, but generally pretty crowded at weekends with Hens and Stags – and spent my entire event fee on a pair of new Blundstone boots, the ones like Bethan’s with the red elastic I’d been coveting for months … And took a photo in the window of the amazing Scorpio Shoes – see, it’s Irregular Choice making shoes to the theme of Alice-in-Wonderland! Whatever next, eh?!
That could have been Durham, but when I got back to the car I was bewildered and dismayed to discover a parking ticket …. It seems the one I’d bought (no sticky back) must have floated onto the floor when i slammed the car door … So that’s 25 quid gone, just like that. But my spirits couldn’t stay low for long because I was so looking forward to heading up to Porty, of which more below.
PORTOBELLO BOOK FESTIVAL
After Durham it was straight on up to Edinburgh for the always fabulous weekend that is the Portobello Book Festival. Our event – me and Mairi Wilson, author of the award-winning URSULA’S SECRET – chaired by writer Anne Loughnane, was amazing. Loads of people there, all asking questions, all joining in before we’d even got finished! It was amazing, there was such interest in our FAMILY SECRETS theme … We went on for an hour and a half and it could have been longer, only there was another event wanting the room! Thoroughly enjoyed it! If ever there was an event that just worked a pure treat, that was it! There may be photographs, though I don’t have any of my own. I only have a pic of my again indulgent pre-event breakfast at the Beach cafe … Lush on a plate in there! Much better than yesterday’s!
So now, as A L Kenndy says, it’s ONWARD! Thanks for listening folks!
Next time, I’ll be telling you some good and exciting things about new events coming up (Dundee’s next, on 20th, see my Events tab) and some very very VERY exciting news about NOIR AT THE BAR, EDINBURGH Yes, you heard, Edinburgh!
My contribution to #ReadingRhys on Poppy Peacock’s blog!
18th September 2016
Just a pic from the Lit&Phil event, with Sean O’Brien, on 14th September, chaired by Jacky Collins
13 September 2016
Oh my. Everyone I know is completely rooting for GRAEME MACRAE BURNET whose second novel HIS BLOODY PROJECT is now SHORTLISTED for the flippin’ BOOKER PRIZE!
Contraband/Saraband is BESIDE ITSELF and RIGHTLY SO!!!!
Get yr fingers crossed for our Graeme!
Oh My!!!! Just back from BloodyScotland and what a fabulous weekend! You can see lots of photies on their Facebook page … I’m back home now, and will post some bits about the events I went to, but right now still feeling like I’ve hit the ground running after the wonderful Val McDermid gave my Stella such a lovely endorsement to the *whole audience* by way of a spontaneous intro to my *Spotlight* slot … So I need to gather in the bits of me that are currently scattered all over the place and gather my thoughts and read through the squiggles I’ve made on the backs of tickets before I can post something sensible … and meanwhile here’s a picture of me on the same stage as the Queen of Crime herself …
And here’s a round up of the #Spotlighters at Bloody Scotland, from the CrimeWarp blog!
And today’s a day taken up with excitement and anticipation as friend and fellow Sarabandista heads down to London to hear the results of the BookerPrize shortlisting …. I’m not going to settle at all today, let’s face it …
As JackyCollins always says: MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!
See you later!
7th September 2016
Very chuffed and happy and proud and honoured to have one of the coveted *SPOTLIGHT* slots at #BLOODYSCOTLAND this year! Here’s a bit about it and the new writers you’re going to get a wee glimpse of!
AND it’s #ScottishPublisherWeek with the PortobelloBookBlog, today featuring @Saraband and my #STELLA as a #GIVEAWAY! Click here!
And tonight I’m on at #NoirAtTheBarNE! Look at that amazing line-up! There will be photographs ….
28th August 2016
Some pics from the #StoryShop 10th birthday celebrations!
That was taken in the Spiegeltent after the 15oth story was read by Anniken Blomberg (far right). It just so happened that there were those other StoryShoppers who’d come along just to listen.
And later that night, there was a party ….
Lindsay May and George Anderson and Angela Jackson are in here among the usual suspects!
That one’s of us lot from the 2013 cohort! 5 of us have gone on to publish books, one of us has a full ms currently with an agent, and the other’s doing loads of SpokenWord …. Go StoryShoppers!!! Catherine Simpson, Jamie Sutherland, Vicki Jarrett, me, Louise Kelly, Ross McCleary, Martin MacInnes
Then last night, in the Spiegeltent, we had the rare and wonderful treat of hearing KEVIN BARRY reading from his story in the HEADLAND anthology, jointly published by EdgeHillUni press and FREIGHT books (ed. Rodge Glass). Kevin Barry’s second to none when it comes to contemporary short story writers, totally love his work and could listen to him reading for ever and ever. What a gifted guy! [Andrew’s downloading an audio copy of his latest novel BEATLEBONE as we speak.] Afterwards we went on to the FreightBooks celebrations in the party tent. Here’s a pic of Catherine Simpson and Ever Dundas (whose debut novel GOBLIN will be published by Freight next year) and me clutching glasses of fizzy stuff. Love my writing pals!
FREIGHT, and my agent Jenny Brown, have got massive good reason to be celebrating just now, cos another one of their authors SARAH MAINE is having mega-success in the USA! there was an article about it in the DailyRecord the other day but the link’s no longer working so I can’t post it, but basically it was a massive thumbs up fro FREIGHT and JennyAgent and other Scottish indie publishers including my own SARABAND!
Lovely event last night at Blackwell’s #WritersAtTheFringe – Helee was there, and Ginny and Bob, and Lindsay and Barbara, and Lou, Angela, Toni and Jane, and Sylvia and Moira … It went really well, though I doubt many books were sold cos all my lot already had theirs! Ginny was very generous with her praise and invited me to do an event in Wivenhoe. And then today, a very generous review from Anne Hamilton on #LothianLife … here is the link. And tonight’s the 10-years-of-StoryShop party at the EIBF so I am heading up to that for my five minute slot of what #StoryShop meant for me …
“StoryShop2013 was a real turning point for me! StoryShop was the very first time i felt like an actual proper writer. I hung that lanyard round my neck, strolled into that yurt, and have never looked back. I actually stood next to Ali Smith, but didn’t dare talk to her! Real writers were, at that stage, too awesome for words! Immensely grateful.”
16th August 2016
Here’s a Facebook ‘memory’ from a year ago today. It tells me i need to keep going despite recent writing doldrum. Actually, it’s not a writing doldrum, it’s a publishing doldrum thing. I realise too late in the day that the two are very different animals. Anyway, here’s the encouraging thing from EIBF last year, copied and pasted:
“Nothing’s not connected,” said Ali Smith. She said it only a few minutes after I had made some notes on the back of my ticket concerning some thoughts I was having about Muriel Spark. I have been thinking about all the layers of others’ work and how they are compounded and sediments down in our own ‘original’ work. I am in the process of turning some of those thoughts into a story. Muriel Spark has been v significant for me. As has Ali Smith. Then, weirdly, Ali Smith started talking about Muriel Spark. She talked about a poem Muriel Spark had written called Authors’ Ghosts …. I went cold all over thinking about the synchronicity of all this, for me it was an epiphanous moment, and I don’t think I’m describing it very clearly but that’s cos I am sort of in a state of shock. Writer friends will know what I mean. I hope.
I posted a review of Sisters by a River on Amazon and Goodreads. Need to catch up with my reviews!
I’m in the EIBF Storify thing on Twitter again!
15 August 2016 – EIBF day3
Well, as predicted, my Stella didn’t get shortlisted for the #NotTheBooker prize, though i do admit i was harbouring a sliver of hope there’d be a last minute miracle. Didn’t happen. Fortunately i was having lunch with lovely writing friend Rita Bradd when the news arrived. Then an afternoon event was uplifting – poems on mixedness from Zaffar Kunial and Jackie Kay, guaranteed to boost flagging spirits. & now, tons of support coming in from commiserating writing friends who’ve all got various versions of the teeshirt.
Came back to the flat and finished reading Barbara Comyns’ first novel. Extraordinary. Didn’t like it as much as her The Vet’s Daughter, but it’s unique and interesting nevertheless. I may read it again. It’s not really a novel. (What the hell’s a novel?)
Talking of which, I heard Eimar McBride (introduced by Peggy Hughes) yesterday – she is a very interesting writer … totally unique, reminds me of James Joyce (not as in Dubliners which is comprehensible) though, as I have never studied literature, I may be talking complete tosh. Anyway, i will get her new book. I found ‘Girl’ hard going but persevered cos Peggy said twas really worth it and i trusted her, and yes, yes it was, worth it. This new one sounds good, different, but linked she says.
Feeling disappointed disjointed etc and wondering how wise it is to step into Muriel’s shoes right now … I know this is going to be a tough call. But I have to follow where the story wants to go, I want to, not just have to, I want to write what I want to write, and in my time and in my way and blah blah blah. Sod to the rest of it all. I have to tell Muriel’s story as Muriel tells it to me, and there can be no compromises, not this time. Life’s too short. Eimar MacBride took 9 years to write her second book. That’s just how it can be. She says the voice, the language, didn’t come to her until the end ….
Overheard by Steph and Bethan through the wall of a hotel room, years ago, when they were doing their road trip across America : “Put yer underwear on!” Dunno why I remembered that. Or maybe I do.
13 August 2016
Well, it’s the first day of the Edinburgh International Book Festival today, and it’s been fab. First up, great reading from Ali Smith – added bonus was that she was introduced by Jackie Kay! The main tent was jam-packed, and it was a hugely appreciative audience, and a brilliant reading by Ali from her new book AUTUMN – the first of four tomes to be called after seasons … She read from a MS, cos she’s only just submitted it to the publishers this week! So hot, but not even off the press! Anyway, as always the writing/reading was sooooo clever and sooooo captivating and sooooo thought provoking and so utterly WOW! So, that was a great start to the day. And after – I never went to get a book signed cos i already have all hers – but I did go to say HELLO and got a lovely warm reception from both. Just made my day. I tweeted loads of quotes from Ali’s talk cos she said some memorable things.
Second up was the 3pm Edinburgh City of Literature StoryShop slot, great story from Debbie Cannon, and very well-read!
Spoke to Eleanor Pender about the 10-year StoryShop celebration and my wee talk (I will be one of three ex-StoryShoppers to talk about my experience and the impact SS2013 had on my writing career …. Strange to think of me having a third ‘career’ …
Fellow authors Jane Alexander and Anne Hamilton recognised me and came up to introduce themselves which was brilliant because frankly when you’re on your ownsome at these massive events you can get a bit lonesome and be convinced everyone’s with their pals but you … So that was nice! [STOP saying NICE !!>>>]
There was a great atmosphere in Charlotte Square – there always is – and it didn’t rain.
I took a photo of the Saraband bookstand in the bookshop this morning when I got there … and by the time I left at about 4pm it was somewhat depleted which was nice! [Aaaargh! You said NICE again!!! WTF are you trying to DO?] I should have done ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs …. Maybe tomorrow!
Some great feedback on #Stella from various quarters … incl a bookblogger … Leah Moyse. It’s truly heartening to be getting such positive feedback from such diverse readers and I am v grateful.
I’m doubtful though whether #Stella is going to make it onto the #NotTheBooker shortlist 😦 I think she has 28 votes, but that’s way not enough to get picked for the shortlist, and there is v little time left. I have a lot of friends who haven’t voted (despite me prostrating and humiliating myself by asking and asking some more …. aaaaargh, it’s AWFUL to have to do this self-promotion thing …). And some surprising people have voted for her for which I am deeply deeply grateful. But yeah, I’m at a loss to understand why so many actual friends haven’t voted … Maybe because the whole thing’s too public? I think some friends may have divided loyalties, caused by knowing several people on the longlist … I really don’t know what the reason is, but to me it’s looking like one brilliant opportunity is slipping away …… Shortlisting I think would have had a major impact on sales, and on Stella’s visibility. I have no illusions whatever that Stella could have won the thing mind you, none whatsoever!
Anyway, here is the NICE photie of the Saraband stand at EIBF2016!
Now I’ll just see if I can copy and paste any of those Tweets I did from AliSmith’s excellent talk …. That seems to have worked, but obviously they’re in reverse order!
12 August 2016
V pleased to be featured on Christina Philippou’s blog today!
Back in Edinburgh last night – crazy, teeming, festival-ridden – and a treat to go to my first ever Blackwell’s #WritersAtTheFringe event … specially good were Martin MacInness reading from his astonishing sparkling debut #InfiniteGround, and Billy Letford – always awesome – giving his second collection #DIRT its first outing. His poems are earthy, gritty, transporting – great mixture. Bought a copy for Andrew’s birthday. Ace time was had, fabulously hosted by Blackwell’s own Ann Landman. Place was packed to standing room only but thankfully i managed to grab a seat.
Today I’m having a literary lunch with Angela Jackson, then off to Glesgae. (OK, I’ll tell someone who cares)
Port Logan yesterday. Today we have rain.
10th August 2016
Hello from Van Coulo in Port Logan. And I’m chuffed as heck to be included on the Scottish Book Trust’s Live Literature database!
Also the programme for the Durham Book Festival is out! I have a slot on 8th October on the New Writing from Scotland panel with Lucy Ribchester (The Amber Shadows) and Helen Sedgwick (The Comet Seekers).
See my EVENTS tab for more details of Durham and other events at the Wigtown Book Festival and the Berwick Literary Festival whose programmes are now out
Update on the #NotTheBooker situation is that #StellaMoon now has 25 votes …. Thanks HUGELY to everyone who’s taken the trouble to vote (cos frankly it’s not entirely straightforward how you’re sposed to do it) and PLEASE keep ’em coming, and your fingers crossed …
And ‘scuse me if I put another review to be proud of, this one from ‘#BookBitch’
The Confession of Stella Moon by Shelley Day
This is an assured and stylish debut novel. At its heart is a heroine who is at once intriguing and repulsive. She is flawed and confused and wonderfully real, a welcome tonic to the passive “girls” that populate so many modern thrillers.
Shelley Day is an excellent world builder. There is something slightly otherworldly about her decaying boarding house – a dark, Gothic place that seems to sit just parallel to reality, a place that is frightening yet immersive.
The sort of cult novel that, while writing about those on the fringes, doesn’t deserve to sit on them itself.
It’s so good to see people I don’t even know writing these things about Stella. You don’t need me to tell you it’s too easy to get low about writing … I think many fellow writers feel they live right on the edge of a pit into which it’s possible to fall any moment, without warning, and who knows how deep it is … So yes, it’s so good to get these pieces of encouragement. I don’t know that I will ever feel good – or even ‘at ease’ – about being a writer (How would I cope if a horrid negative review came??? I’ve no idea!). The writing life kind of might look glamorous – or whatever – from the outside but, believe me, it’s a tough call, and a lonely one. You spend a lot of time (or I do) feeling completely inconsequential and invisible. My former lives as Lawyer and Academic Psychologist, and even when I was Prof and HOD, were far far easier, psychologically speaking, then this being a novelist malarkey.
5th August 2016
The Wigtown Book Festival programme is out and my two slots on the 28th are confirmed! This will be my first ever actual proper book festival appearance! (Details on the EVENTs tab)!
And as of today, Stella has 15 votes for the #NotTheBooker shortlist !! …. and I’m still hoping to rally more troops ….
Here’s what TinaGharavi put when she voted:
VOTE: Shelley Day – The Confession of Stella Moon (Contraband)
The book is smart. The writer is smart. The central character is smart and sassy. Just what we need in this day and age. A shero we can believe in. Don’t miss this
And Stella has 24 reviews on Amazon so far! 22 are 5* and 2 are 4*
Here’s the most recent one from Brigid Smith:
Stella Moon, self-confessed killer of her own mother, has just got out of prison. But the shadows of her old life won’t let her move on, and she ends up having to stay in her grandmother’s boarded-up boarding house with the creepy Frank Fanshaw, as more and more dark secrets from her past emerge. Incredibly intense, with descriptions that make your skin crawl, you feel you’re really there with the characters and the book is a total page-turner as Stella grips onto you and won’t let go!
And the one before, from ‘AlliD’ who I can’t identify!
It’s a long time since a novel sank its fangs into my brain in such a spectacular way. This beautifully written and gripping tale has more twists and turns than a slalom ski run. Multi-layered, dark, delicious prose from Shelley Day. Suffice to say I devoured it in one sitting and can’t wait to see what this wonderful author delivers next. Reader, beware. Stella will haunt you for some time to come.
4th August 2016
Called in at Blackwell’s Edinburgh to sign some books! They were all there piled on the table ready for the #WritersAtTheFringe events happening every Thursday throughout August!
Went to Martin McInnes’s launch of his lovely debut INFINITE GROUND at Waterstones tonight. Was a fab event with much celebrating! It was Graeme Macrae Burnet who introduced Martin and there were many !!!whoooooops!!! for his Booker long-listing. Sooooo many people rooting for HIS BLOODY PROJECT to make it to the short-list. AND BEYOND!!!!! And as Graeme says, it’s not only good for him, but fantastic for Saraband, and for all Sarabandistas! Martin’s book sounds fascinating and I am v looking forward to reading it. He did #StoryShop with me in 2013 and I thought then he was a brill writer.
2nd August 2016
Just heard my book’s on the #NotTheBookerPrize long-list!!! The shortlist is by PUBLIC VOTE so I need to rally the troops …. The link to the LongList and for VOTING is here
31st July 2016
Fellow Edinburgh writer, Toni Jenkins, posted some lovely pics she caught yesterday in Blackwell’s re their August series of Writers at the Fringe events! Starting this Thursday! And I’ll be doing my little bit on 25th!
31st July 2016
“Highly troubled and massively interesting character ” ….
“Articulate and sensitive writing from an author with detailed background knowledge of her subject” ….
“Beautifully crafted debut novel” ….
Absolutely gobsmacked that my Stella seems to be striking such a chord.
Here is another cracking review, this one from a bookblogger BookAndBrew. I am bowled over by the amount of support we are getting!
And I’ve had to stock the village shop in Embleton up with books for a third time! They are selling on average one a day to holiday peeps …. which is utterly amazing! And Adam Moody who runs the shop is truly supporting us – ‘his contribution to literature’ – refusing to take ANY commission! The generosity of people that is coming through has utterly bowled me over. People really want my Stella to do well!
Now, if I was selling one a day at Waterston’s they would have my books all piled up in the window! And if that was happening on Amazon, I’d be up there among the best sellers! Go Stella!
Now here is a pic I took on Thursday at Waterstone’s in Princes St. A lovely little pile of Stella books on the shelf! I was trying to make the most of this experience, really trying to get into the moment, because it’s not every day you see seven copies of your debut novel on the shelf in Waterstones for the first time! So, yes, I was trying to savour the moment, but there was a niggling little niggler at the side of my mind, trying to push its way in. The niggler was telling me to lift a few books from the shelf and plonk them on the table at the front. Then lift a few more, and plonk them on the Crime table. This little voice was saying over and over,
“Do it! Just Do it! Nobody’s going to see your Stella on the shelf!”
(Stella might stay forever ‘on the shelf’ like a spinster if you leave here there!)
“Go on! Move her to the table! …. Just Do it!”
But I didn’t. I did not. Call me old fashioned. I simply took this photograph instead. Call me what you like. Remind me about shy bairns … Remind me about the lengths Andre Kurkov had to go to to get his debut out there … But heed this! Shelf life ain’t so bad …
Today, my fellow author Lesley Kelly (who was on the NLS panel of new writers with me on 21st June and whose excellent book A Fine House in Trinity is doing v well and has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize with Bloody Scotland) reported on Twitter that she’d been into said Waterstone’s yesterday and bought a copy of Stella and the bookseller told her it was a great book and he’d really enjoyed the launch …. So, maybe there is a ‘shelf-life’ for Stella after all!!!
Or maybe that bookselling person was my friend Martin McInnes who’s about to launch his own amazing debut next week … I will tell you more about that later. But meanwhile, here’s a pic of my little Stella waiting patiently on the shelf in Waterstones … She’s under ‘D’ on the Crime shelves on the first floor if you want to go and say hello.
Final few words today: It’s Bank Holiday here in Scotland and I’m sitting here by the sea in Port Logan, trying to soak up the peace of the place, its wonderful peacefulness and its magic, and I’m trying to know what is the next step for me to take, what will be the right one, for me, and for Stella. For the last couple of months I’ve been caught up in the whirl of Stella’s skirts, my own feet have hardly touched the ground, I’ve had so much to do just getting her launched and trying to spread the word as best I can. Now Stella’s out there and to a huge extent what happens is out of my hands. I’m very heartened so far to see what a positive reception she’s getting. I need to find ways of getting her out to a much wider audience of more general readers, i.e. not just friends of friends of current networks in Scotland and Newcastle. I am taking a few days to breathe, and gather stock, see where to go next. I have many possibilities, some of them pressing. But I am still haunted. Increasingly I have images of Stella dancing, dancing on a beach, images that are impossible to displace, dancing in my head.
27th July 2016
I was thrilled to bits the other day when Angela Jackson nominated my Stella for the Not-the-Booker prize! But today, AMAZING news was that fellow Sarabandista Graeme Macrae Burnet has been long-listed for the ACTUAL ManBooker Prize with his brilliant book His Bloody Project! I am totally rooting for him, and for A L Kennedy with her novel Serious Sweet. I’ve got my fingers crossed that both of them make it through to that coveted shortlist!
Graeme is a friend and a colleague and he’s published by the same Scottish publisher as I am (Take a look here at our imprint’s Facebook page). His magnificent success in making it to the most coveted long-list in the literary world is doubly trebly gladdening for me in the light of my visit to a certain bookshop in a certain town in the South of England yesterday. I’d gone in to inquire about them hosting an event for my book … Entirely straightforward you might think? Think again.
What I encountered I will politely describe as a patronising attitude – an appallingly patronising attitude – that basically translated as: me, and my debut book, and my Scottish publisher, were simply too insignificant for such an important shop to even contemplate … The sales assistant looked my book up on the computer. ‘It’s Scottish!’ she said, shock in her voice, as though Scotland had nothing to do with anything that mattered, as though citing Scottish meant she need not explain any further why my book was of no interest whatsoever.
I’m sure this wasn’t designed to be humiliating. But the exchange went on in public and it went on for an inordinately long time as the young women repeated herself and repeated herself to make sure I had fully understood (I was standing in the Q and had simply gone there to ask to see the Events Manager. He could not be located and so the young woman behind the desk took it upon herself to talk me through 10-15 minutes of public humiliation). This is all too raw to talk about right now so I am not going to finish the story. But, suffice to say, if that young woman troubles to look through the publishers in the Booker long-list, she’ll find listed there the very Scottish publisher she was so disdainful about yesterday. And I hope she learns some small lesson from it.
They’ll be ringing up as we speak to get a load of Graeme’s books onto the their table, no doubt! *shakes head in dismay*
So, yes, Go Graeme! Go Saraband! Go Contraband! You ROCK!
As for my book, the village shop keeps selling out! My Stella’s very popular here with holiday folk, and i have had to order more! Onward! As A.L. Kennedy says.
And today Jackie tweeted that my Stella had arrived, and was keeping her company on the train.
And award-winning writer and friend Angela Jackson posted about the insecurities of a debut author. Have a read. See how her writing flippin’ *sparkles* ….
Yes, Onward. Sometimes good things do happen!
21st July 2016
GREAT NEWS today! Books from Scotland picked my Stella as one of their Top 5 in New Fiction. One of the others was Peter May. Another was James Kelman. And a third was the one that won this year’s Dundee Book Prize. Just sayin’.
So today was a good day, a very good day. There was other good news, but I am not allowed to say just yet ….
Breakfast was in Cafe Nero with the awesome Jacky Collins, and that kicked off the day to a great start, and thinking way outside the box, which continued over lunch in Peter’s Yard with one of my most favouritest of people, the brilliant Angela Jackson. We talked a lot about her second novel, The Darlings. I absolutely cannot wait for that!
Since then, I’ve been doing the accounts in fits and starts. yawn yawn yawn. So completely tedious, and all the worse for being behind the deadline and knowing it absolutely has to be done ….
While every bugger else is at Harrogate. Damn them.
20th July 2016
Dropped by Waterstone’s Princes St today and signed about ten books for them … Felt good, but I was too shy to take a photo of them labelled up on the table!
The Hotel and the village shop are selling signed copies for me now as well …
It’s all starting to happen!
17th July 2016
Last night, the most enjoyable event yet, ‘cos it was in my village! The village hall was packed – 62 local folk and holiday people, including two from Germany, three from the Netherlands and a man from Sweden. It was amazing to see so many happy faces turned out to support me and Stella, totally amazing. There was huge enthusiasm for the book, as Beth Robson Moody asked her questions to explore the background and the writing of the book and steered us through my three little readings. Beth’s not used to public speaking, but she was fantastic! Everyone was so interested and appreciative, and we ran out of books – all 50 sold! I’m a bit overwhelmed at the moment, with all the good will and support that’s been shown to me over the last ten days. I’ve updated this website and now I’m taking the rest of the day off.
And yesterday I discovered the book was for sale on Tanum, which is a Scandinavian bookseller, with stores in Oslo (been there, got the tote bag) and elsewhere! Check it out! Tanum, Oslo
Oh, and Stella’s got 12 very excellent reviews on Amazon so far. Take a look at those! Amazon reviews
14 July 2016
Malcolm also managed to take a proper author photo for me. It’s come out way better than most because he is a professional and highly experienced photographer and a longstanding friend in whom I have complete trust. So see for yourself! Photos of me are usually completely crap, not to put too fine a point on it ….
14th July 2016
Launch at Newcastle Waterstone’s last night was totally fabulous! I’m very grateful to the lovely staff at the shop, to Jacky Collins for her brilliantness, and to everyone who came to support me and help set our Stella off on her road! There was more than 90 people there, and all the books bar four were sold. And so many people were wanting to cuddle me. It was Ace. Click on my Events tab up there, if you want to see the pictures!
13 July 2016
NEWCASTLE LAUNCH DAY today! and Stella’s up on the Porty Book Blog! It’s great to see so many people rooting for for Stella. She has 8 reviews on Amazon already! All five star ‘cept one which is 4, so very pleased about those!
Especially especially brilliant was one by former colleague at CNR and the BSA Auto/biography Study Group, Maria Tamboukou – a very very clever lady whose opinion I would always completely respect. Here’s what she said about Stella:
“Shelley Day’s novel, ‘The Confession of Stella Moon’ has been an inspiration. And not only because it is an absolutely absorbing noir. While enjoying its purely literary qualities I also admired the way the author created multi-levelled and complex characters, avoiding simplistic good/bad guys dichotomies, her careful attention to the spatiality and embodiment of memory, her sensitivity to gender issues, to name but a few of the insights that spring from her novel. Having spent some time in Newcastle myself and having walked its coastlines I could also look back and re-imagine the Newcastle I knew with its landscapes and surroundings some fifty years ago. What a gift Shelley Day! Thank you!”
I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see my Stella being soooo appreciated – and understood! It’s way more than I dared hope for.
Now, you know I’ve been working on my new novel provisionally titled Clara Says set in Paris, only Clara’s just zapped off to Oslo … (don’t ask what that’s all about). Well, so many people are asking me for reassurance that Stella does alright in the end … People want to know what happens to her after the book is closed, which has to be THE most encouraging thing an author can hear!! Well, because of the support that Stella seems to be gathering, I have been thinking about reverting to my old idea which is to write Muriel’s story … I have a lot of material gathered for that, and notes, and quite a bit of writing. Once I get these big launches out of the way (which take an emotional toll, it’s impossible to do any actual creating between those and the admin PR etc i have to do alongside), I will see what’s what with our Muriel. I’ve already got her box down off the top shelf and dusted it off. … Watch this space.
I have been tempted to look at Stella’s Amazon Ratings. I know. *hangs head in shame*. So many people advised me against it because (a) it’s utter tosh (b) it’s a complete roller-coaster of utter tosh-ness and (c) it’s addictive. I wish I hadn’t looked. One minute it’s 11,000 (which sounds crap but is actually verging on bloody brilliant, when there are 2 million books out there. I was practically leaping with glee), then two days later it’s 112,000 …. aaaargh! and i’m precipitated into the pits of doom. Some people say the Kindle scores are more accurate and more stable and i must say i am tempted just to have the teensiest peek at those ….
(That was us at Waterstones, Newcastle. Picture credit Malcolm Hepple)
11th July 2016
Went to Waterstones Newcastle today and met with Jo and Caroline, had a coffee, and chatted about Wednesday. That’s all under control and I’m really looking forward to it! There were loads of people in the shop, browsing books, very heartening to see so many book lovers in this world of Amazon and Kindle. I bumped into my friend Rosie on the way out; she’d come in to buy my book to make sure she didn’t miss out on Wednesday …. The place seats 90 and I can’t imagine that many will be coming … but you never know … Edinburgh turnout surprised us and all the books were sold … ! Newcastle has 70 so hopefully that will be enough.
My reviews are starting … I see 5 so far (tho Amazon says 4) – all very positive. I don’t know how Amazon organises these things … Poppy said she’d posted one, but it hasn’t showed up. And yesterday there was one from Nick, and now it’s disappeared … And Amazon says 4 when there are actually 5 … Amazon, a law unto itself!
Maria Tamboukou sent me a lovely message about how much she’d loved the book, and so I asked her to put a review up … I’m telling people that reviews are absolutely crucial to getting a debut novel noticed. There’s a real danger that a debut – even a very good one – can sink without trace, and I’m sure that’s the fate of many. I don’t know if there’s anything you can do to prevent that, but I’m sure reviews must help with visibility … surely.
Tonight I have to print out tickets for the Embleton bash, ready to distribute those tomorrow. And fill out the Bloody Scotland Spotlight form, and keep my fingers crossed.
9th July 2016
Hardly can keep up with myself, it’s all happening so fast! Today I’m featured on Anne Williams’ Blog!
It’s such a privilege to be featured on four blogs so far. Very heartening for a debut novelist to discover how kind and supportive and inclusive the literary community is … I’m so grateful! BookBloggers rock!
8th July 2016
And today I’m up on Vic Watson’s Blog!
7th July 2016 EDINBURGH LAUNCH DAY FOR The Confession of Stella Moon! Hosted by Waterstones, Princes St, Edinburgh
That’s me and my agent Jenny Brown at Waterstones before my reading started, and before all the books sold out like hot cakes!
For more pictures from the Edinburgh launch, click on the Events link
7th July 2016
Today’s my BIG LAUNCH day, and I’m on Linda Hill’s blog! Thanks for inviting me Linda, and for making this day even more special!
5th July 2016
THE CONFESSION OF STELLA MOON was featured in The Literary Consultancy’s Newsletter today! Their help, way back in 2012, was instrumental in getting me past some major gatekeepers – which may be THE most difficult issue for a debut novelist. The timely help provided by the TLC, supported in my case by New Writing North, marked a crucial turning point for me and Stella.
4th July 2106
When THE CONFESSION OF STELLA MOON was still a work-in-progress, it won the Andrea Badenoch award. Part of that was a ‘free read’ and MS appraisal with The Literary Consultancy. They loved my book, advised some editorial changes – which I carried out to the letter – and then they helped me find my agent … Their help and their backing was absolutely crucial to me getting me this far and I am really grateful to them. Here is a piece they wrote about me on their Website when my agent sold my book to my publisher.
2nd July 2016
First review of #StellaMoon’s been posted on the Amazon website!
28th June 2016
A wee spread in July’s Journal ‘Culture’ magazine! with a big Thank You to Laura at New Writing North for getting this organised!
27th June 2016
The Newcastle launch of my book is being advertised by Waterstones as about to “take the crime fiction world by storm”! Newcastle launch, 13th July, 7-9pm
27th June 2016
Proud and thrilled to be on the Chat About Books blog today! Thank you so much for inviting me!
The Confession of Stella Moon will be launched at Waterstones, Princes St, Edinburgh on 7th July. FREE EVENT. All welcome. Full details on the ‘Events’ tab, or check
Publication was still five months away yet The Confession of Stella Moon appeared in the Irish Times today in their list of books to look forward to in 2016.
A truly compulsive drama of guilt, manipulation and paranoia, the narrative shifts effortlessly between otherworldly scenes, searing memories and everyday realities. Laced also with plenty of quirky humour and an irresistible 1970s ambience, this thriller is a highly original but always page-turning read.