Portobello and West Port – book festival frenzy

Photo by Sonja Bettina Klein

I love living in Edinburgh, so much so I’ve never really managed to live anywhere else (yet). Sometimes that makes me feel a little ashamed, especially knowing as many fabulous people from around the world as I do, but then times like the last few months roll around and I remember one of the things that’s so great about this city – its festivals.

From the International Book festival in August – where I was thrilled to take part in Story Shop – to the two local and enthusiastic efforts that brighten up a dreary October – The Portobello Book Festival and the West Port Book Festival.

Both of these are run by teams of very friendly and dedicated book lovers, and it’s wonderful to see the support they pick up locally. I’ve been running around so much recently, trying to get organised that I’ve not had time to write about either of these excellent festivals in more detail, but here are a few of my highlights.

  • Giving a talk on paperless Publishing in Portobello Library, where I used to weekly max out my lending capabilities when I was but a kid. I’m also planning on putting up the hand out of useful links I wrote for this, as soon as I have a spare few minutes and the right computer!
  • Speaking to Janice Galloway at the same (I babbled a little, because I do love her work so) and then staying to listen to her in a very entertaining interview later to be on the BBC Book Café – I do recommend you tune in if you spot it.
  • Taking part in a workshop about writing and publishing (also at Porty) featuring Francis Bickmore, Alan Guthrie – who is soon launching new ebook venture Blasted Heath) and Marianne Paget – most useful and inspirational.
  • Reading as part of the Bugged event in Peter Bell Books at the West Port, where I got to read alongside excellent poets Jo Bell, Rob A. MacKenzie and Helen Addy.
  • Managing to squeeze in to see Rachel Boast and J.O. Morgan at West Port despite not having a ticket, and being blown away – you can check out podcasts of them here.
  • Meeting some fabulous writers and book lovers at all of these events, there are few things I like more.
  • So Edinburgh, I’m not sure I’ll ever leave you at this rate – keep the bookish events coming and you’ve probably got me snagged.

    A day of words, words and more words

    When it comes to writing, there are times when months and months go by and it feels as though nothing is happening, nothing will ever happen. And then there are times when suddenly, everything happens at once – this is one of those times.

    I feel as though I’m at the centre of a veritable flurry of literary things, and I’m loving it.

    Today I read some stories as part of the InkyFingers Mini Fest and when I got home, my inbox had three nice surprises for me – a bunch of my writing all went live on the same day!

    At IdeasTap, I’ve an article about financing a writing career without feeling as though you’re sacrificing the ability to write.

    There’s a wee flash piece bout a women under siege called Edith’s Voice over at The Pygmy Giant.

    And Metazen also published Yonica’s Beautiful Things, which just happens to be one of the stories I also read aloud today.

    Whew, if only every day was as literary! Although to be honest, I’m about ready to curl up with a good book now. Maybe until Sunday, when I am super excited to be reading as part of the Edinburgh City of Lit Story Shop at the Book Festival – whew!

    Sweet, messy July

    This month has been a bit of a whirlwind, and in the ‘stuff getting blown about and messed up’ kind of way, rather than the ‘swept of your feet by the awesomeness’ kind of way. That’s not to say there hasn’t been some awesomeness in there!

    And, to be honest, I’m certainly not in any position to complain – especially in light of all of the tragedies of recent days and months. It’s a sad old world sometimes, and I’m grateful to all the people who make mine a little nicer.

    I had my birthday, which was lovely, and Flight of the Turtle was published, which just happens to have one of my stories in it.

    Blowing out the candles on my TWO cakes

    Work has been less lovely and can really only be described as quite stressful, which always makes me want to get over my fear (and desire to save money!) and jack in the towel and attempt freelance, but I’ve worked hard to get where I am and I’m not sure I’m ready to give it up. Also, I’m a scaredy cat!

    I’m on the road to getting over one of my fears though: with two training sessions to give for work and three public readings coming up in the next couple of months, I’d better be able to finally vanquish the fear of reading aloud anyway!

    Wee story at Imagining Scotland

    A while ago I wrote a wee story inspired, as so many are, by one of those moments I’d rather forget about. The moment safely changed to another, I sent it along to Imagining Scotland, part of the Scottish Wave of Change projects, and they agreed to pop it on their site.

    If you fancy a wee read, it’s at

    Writer’s envy: getting it back in the box

    I hate to admit it, because I want to be able to pretend I am an all round good person, but there have been plenty of times I’ve been eaten up by envy. There are hundreds of thousands of writers out there and a good whack of them have turned me into a slinking, green eyed beast at some point.

    But you know what? I think a little jealousy can be a good thing – as long as you’re not bitter about it and you know when to put a cap on it. After all, if I hadn’t read passages that made me think ‘shit, if only I could write like that,’ I doubt I’d have worked so hard on the writing I have done.

    If I hadn’t ever opened a best seller and wondered what the writer had that I didn’t, I could have missed out on experimenting with a bunch of different styles until I found a few that fit. And if I hadn’t seen my contemporaries making names for themselves, I might not have dragged myself off my ass long enough to start trying to do the same for myself.

    anti drama monkey

    The Anti-Drama Monkey

    The other thing is, the harder I’ve been working at all of these things, and the more writers I’ve been meeting, the less jealousy I’ve been experiencing. Why is that? It’s not down to any major massive best selling success on my part. Instead, I think it’s because I don’t feel frustrated as all hell most of the time and because the majority of writers I’ve met have been really very lovely people, who I want to see doing well.

    I’m not going to lie and say I never feel just a teeny bit jealous every now and then, I hang around with a lot of very talented people after all, but I know when to put those feelings back in the box. Sometimes a little chocolate and a few drinks are needed to tempt it in there, but it’s all for the greater good!

    Bettering my day

    This is one jam packed looking week, but luckily (apart from a trip to the dentist) all of the engagements should be interesting and fun ones. That’s how I feel about it today anyway. Yesterday, I was in a pretty bad mood by the time the afternoon rolled around – work looked never-ending and the thought of doing all of the fun things I have planned for the week gave me that weird, worried feeling I think all people who try and balance a writing/working/social life suffer every time their calendar gets a little busy.

    When am I am going to have time to write? Such a selfish question, but one that bugs me so often. So there I was, grousing away, and then I got an email from Ether Books saying they were going to publish another couple of my stories. All of a sudden, the grumpiness lifted: it’s possible to make it all fit, I remembered, you just can’t have it all at once. Sometimes you have to put up with a rubbishy day of deadlines and work problems, and you have to accept you won’t get much done for the rest of the week and you have to resign yourself to getting up a couple of hours early in the morning. It’s worth it.

    The new story on Ether is called Bettering Yourself and it’s free at the moment, so go ahead download for your iPad/Pod/Touch if you fancy a little subtle horror on your lunch break.

    Bettering Yourself – Hypnosis to make the fat melt away? She knows it’s too good to be true, but it doesn’t stop her hoping.

    Hope everyone else is having a good week, whether they’ve managed to book themselves a quiet one or they are running around headless chicken style like me

    Open call for words and pictures on a musical note

    I’m a little late on this, but if you’ve got some spare time or some musically-themed words or pictures this could be just what you’re looking for. This is an open call for submissions on a musical theme from the lovely people who published my chapbook recently, so obviously I’m all for them!

    This is what they say:

    “Whether it was a tune that drove you to tears, then to the page; a melody that can transport your mind to another time; or a debaucherous adventure centred around a killer gig, we’d like to present your work as an homage to the relationship between literature and music. Submissions should generally be less than 5,000 words, and a piece of music should play into the narrative. Artwork should be sent as high-res jpgs to submissions@forpub.com.”

    I’m not sure if I’m gonna make the submission date, due to gallivanting all over the pace in the last few weeks and a backlog of work to get down to – but you all definitely should! 🙂

    My want has teeth

    My want has teeth. Strong jaws and muscles undeterred by rejections that make fingers falter and thoughts circle like vultures. My want is in the bone and the marrow and it doesn’t matter if it’s smashed, it knits itself clean again. It pulls me forward, forages unbidden, gnaws on obstacles, knows what it’s doing.

    I’m conscious of it. It speaks to me at night in spits and squeals. My want grinds things down but it makes nothing smooth. There are jagged edges ahead and but it says to pay them no heed. It takes me onwards even when eyes are covered and agnostic prayers muttered.

    I tell myself I’m holding on tight to my want, but its bite is far stronger than my restraint.

    Why shouldn’t stories be sad?

    People sometimes question the worth of sad stories in comparison to uplifting ones, or deplore the fact that a lot of creative fiction deals with some of life’s less savoury aspects, but personally I think that fiction is the ideal place for as much misery as you can handle.

    I don’t need to write about happiness and I don’t need to read about it. I find it where I can in my real-world and love it and appreciate it and treasure it as best I can, but I can’t preserve it. To do that would kill it; bleach its wings and stifle its intoxicating flickers.

    So I leave happiness free by not trying to write but, conversely, write about sadness to let it out of the cages our minds build for it. Once the sadness’s are gone, once they available to be pawed over by all and sundry, their claws are blunted.

    I read well-fondled sadness’s to exercise my empathy, to feel the stretch that reminds me that feeling something for strangers, fictional or not, is what gives me everything else.