Door Closes on the Open Book

 

The End of A Chapter and the Start of Another

interior of the 'Open Book'
interior of the ‘Open Book’

We’ve been home now for four days. Our stint as booksellers-in-residence at the Open Book second hand bookshop is now over for the husband and me. It was a great adventure. We hope we’ve left the Open Book slightly tidier and the stock a bit better organised – having built on  the hard work of our predecessors in the project. Now it’s over to our successors-in-residence to continue the process.

You’ll have seen from my earlier posts on our time in Wigtown that we met all sorts of interesting and lovely people – both local and visitors to the town. We did a bit of exploring of this corner of Scotland and liked what we saw. It was good to visit the other bookshops in Wigtown as well. How wonderful to have them all, and to have people who are so committed to selling real books in real independent shops and who are prepared to work so hard to do so. It was an eye-opener as to how much goes into running a successful bookshop and it’s definitely a labour of love. More power to all independent bookshops!

During the fortnight, although there wasn’t a lot of spare time to write, I did get to do a bit of thinking and planning in connection with my writing. And I met several local authors and  we shared experiences, thoughts and ideas – this in itself was such a valuable opportunity.

The Martyrs' Stone, Wigtown
The Martyrs’ Stone, Wigtown

So thanks to the Wigtown Book Festival Company and all those behind this unique project, especially to project manager, Anne for the chance to be part of the Open Book. Thanks, too, to Joyce from the Old Bookshop, to the owners of the Glaisnock Cafe, (yummy),  to Jayne and to Sarah from the writers’ group, and to  everyone else  who made us so welcome.

And most of all thanks to the Open Book shop. It was fun getting to know the best wee bookshop in the world.

END OF CHAPTER

Kelvin Walkway, Glasgow
Kelvin Walkway, Glasgow

It’s a long drive from Scotland’s National Book Town to our home in the Hebrides, so we broke our journey north on Saturday with an overnight stay in Glasgow. We stayed at a hotel in the city’s vibrant west end and so were able to enjoy a walk in the Botanical gardens and along the River Kelvin walkway, as well as a lovely dinner out at a nearby Italian restaurant.

Then on Sunday we drove the rest of the way home. And what a drive home it was. It was a beautiful day and  the west of Scotland was looking stunning. Loch Lomond, Glencoe, Kintail, to name just a few of the places, were all showing off their full glory – Scotland was at its most jaw-dropping and glorious best.

Scorrybreac, Skye
Scorrybreac, Skye

It’s nice to be home. The weather has continued to be good and I’ve already had the chance to enjoy one of my favourite local walks.

NEW CHAPTER

Since getting back,  I’ve also been catching up on all my own writing jobs and looking to further the plans I finalised while I was away.

There are two deadlines tomorrow.

One is for my contribution to Words with Jam, the online writers magazine that I’ve been on the staff of since its inception around four years ago. The theme of April’s issue is History and I got two pieces off to the editor yesterday.

The other deadline is for an  application to be included in an opportunity being offered to writers by XPONorth. Below is an edited extract from the organisation’s publicity for the opportunity.

XPONorth (Writing & Publishing) is delighted to offer seven independent, self-publishing authors living in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, the chance to sell and promote their work at the Indie Author Fair 2015. The Fair takes place at Foyles Bookshop, London, on Saturday 17th April 2015.

The Fair is part of the London Book Fair Indie Author Fringe Festival, run by The Alliance of Independent Authors/Indie ReCon, and Triskele Books are hosting the 2nd Indie Author Fair at Foyles Bookshop.

Authors selected for the showcase will be offered support and mentoring in developing their marketing and promotional materials and platforms in readiness for the Fair.

Indie authors living the Highlands and Islands can apply to participate in this showcase either to be present in person with their books at the Fair (books, plus promotional materials), or to have their books available on the XPONorth display forsale and with promotional materials.

Whether for readers, writers, publishers or observers of the publishing scene, this will be an unmissable event – an opportunity to say hello to the best indie authors in the business, meet suppliers, talk to experts, buy/sell some books. The event will be FREE to the general public.

( XPONorth Wrtiting and Publishing is delivered by Emergents Creatives CIC Ltd, and the programme is funded by European Regional Development Fund and HIE.)

My application is away. I’m not planning to attend in person, but it would be good to have my books promoted and on offer there, so fingers are crossed.

A week from today I’ll be off back down to Glasgow. I’m attending the annual, weekend conference of the Scottish Association of Writers. So I’ve got travel arrangements to finalise and promotional materials to gather. This is a great opportunity to meet other writers, to catch up with my fellow members from the Edinburgh Writers’ Club, to network, attend workshops and to see if I’ve had any success in the Association’s conference competitions. I’ve entries in a few categories so maybe, just maybe…

Then, after I get home, it will be all systems go for the April publication of my first children’s novel. More of that in a later post.

 

 

 

 

 

Subversive rants and grateful raves

It’s the second Tuesday of the month so it’s whine and whoop time. I’ll start with my gripes and save the goodies till later.

The grumpy, cynical and subversive bits of my old bat personality are well and truly stirred up this month. I hardly know where to start. So deep breath, focus and here goes…

Politics – or rather UK politicians – when did they stop being political? Was it in the 1980s? Did Thatcher strangle the passion out of them? And by naming the blessed Margaret, I’m not trying to be party political. I’m getting at the whole blooming lot of them, regardless of affiliation.

Being a politician is now, more than ever before, a career. Politicians are no longer driven by a passionate commitment to change or preserve things for the greater good – whatever their perception of that greater good might be. Now it seems to be about personal ambition, promotion, power and fame. Of course these ‘perks’ have always been part of the motivation and reward for success in politics – but it seems to me that they’re now the sole motivation. Posh boys dominate on all sides and it’s all more X-Factor than solid apprenticeship and hard slog. All of them take the short-term view, basing decisions on what will work for them during their short tenure – and to hang with the long view of what will be best for their constituents in the long run.

As for Scottish politics – good grief! It’s embarrassing. There’s wee Eck Salmond’s vanity project a.k.a. the campaign for independence. In Scotland we are subjected to a cynically controlled trundle towards the 2014 referendum. Meanwhile almost one in four Scottish children live in poverty. Yes, it’s relative poverty and not the absolute poverty of a child in famine hit country in Africa. But that doesn’t make it acceptable. Some of our youngsters eat only one meal a day i.e. their free school lunch – with some having nothing between the Friday one and the Monday one. Some parents are going without food themselves in order to feed their children.

And local politics are no better. I live in the local government area with the most scattered population in the UK i.e. the Highland Council area. The council is currently holding a series of budget consultation meetings which the public are invited to attend.  However these meetings have been poorly advertised and held in the evenings at a wet and windy time of year in places with no public transport during the day, never mind in the evening. They have also been held on only one evening in each location. Oh, and in an area where the council is a major employer, employees like myself aren’t allowed to express an opinion in public about council business. So I can’t comment personally on what is up for discussion but I’m told that’s what’s causing the most consternation is the proposal to save money by cutting the school day for primary children. Draw your own conclusions on this one.

And breathe…

So to the good bits – my wee granddaughter continues to be a joy. Nine months old already and what a privilege it is to see her every day. She and her Ma and Pa are living with me and Mr Writeanne as they’ve relocated to Skye and are awaiting the sale of their flat before they can get a place of their own here. It’s so fascinating watch her develop – something new every day. I wonder anew at the amazingness of the human brain and its capacity to learn and develop.

This weekend me and Seanair (Grandad) will be in sole charge of the grandbaby as her parents are away for the weekend to celebrate their anniversary. Can’t wait.

In other good news stuff – On the writing front – I got my entry sent off for the Mslexia magazine children’s novel competition. I feel a great sense of achievement just to have got it to this point. I’ll know in November if it’s got to the shortlist. I’ve also completed my contribution to the October issue of Words with Jam, the writers’ magazine. I’m proud to have contributed to every issue of this magazine since its inception. I also just received my second royalty cheque for the kindle version of my novel. That’s quite a buzz. And now the competition deadline for the children’s novel is past, I can leave it to one side for a while and get back to my second adult novel. My writing keeps me sane and is my anti-stress drug of choice. I love my day job teaching children with special needs but it is exhausting at times. However, I always find the energy to write no matter how tired I am.

Another positive is that autumn is my favourite season and I am enjoying the softer light, the turning of the leaves, the nip in the air. This year the heather is particularly magnificent with all the hills sporting a gorgeous purple blanket. And a wee robin has taken to visiting the garden feeder on a regular basis – so that and the selection boxes in the co-op gives an intimation of end of year festivities.

And that’s it. Gosh that feels better. Thanks for listening.

Tioraidh till next week!

 

May the force of the darling buds be with you

Another month has ended. My real life, my writing life and my working life have all been very busy throughout April and May doesn’t look as if it will be any quieter.

In real life, the Easter holidays were enjoyable and fun. The husband recovered from his lurgy and we got over the disappointment of our cancelled holiday. This was made easier when our daughter, son-in-law and our gorgeous granddaughter, Eva, came to stay. The wee one is four months old now and smiles and babbles away at anyone who pays her any attention. She also developed a liking for one of our floor-lamps and it got the most enthusiastic chatter of any of us – especially when lit.

And then it was back to school. It was lovely comparing notes with the granny colleagues as several of us had been able to spend time with our grandbabies during the break. It’s hard to believe that it’s term four already and that the school year will end in eight weeks time. We’re already preparing for the new intake of five-year-olds in August and it only feels like yesterday that our present Primary Ones arrived. The school is already going Olympics crazy and there is an absolute extravaganza of stuff planned for the next few weeks – all related to the Games.

As for the writing – it can be hard going after a busy day at school but I usually make it to my desk after dinner – and I always get a bit done at the weekends. Novel number two is coming along nicely. I’m two-thirds of the way through the first draft and I’m at that stage where the characters are always with me – and I half expect to meet them at the co-op they are so real to me.

I was very chuffed to be mentioned on the cover of April’s issue of Words with Jam, http://www.wordswithjam.co.uk/  the writers’ magazine that I’m a ‘staffer’ on. I’ve been with the magazine from the start but never had billing on the front page before. The founding editor, Jane Dixon-Smith, is amazing and has taken WWJ from solely free online editions to e-format and print versions. It is now a well-established, high circulation and entertaining and informative journal. The staff is even getting paid now!

I was also very pleased with the results of offering my novel ‘Change of Life’ as a free download for Kindle on one weekend in April. Hundreds of copies were downloaded and paid sales also experienced a boost afterwards. The book made it to number 3 on the Kindle paid Women’s Fiction chart on Amazon and to number 63 in the paid general fiction Kindle chart. I did enjoy my fifteen minutes of fame.

And still on the subject of writing I have also joined The Alliance of Independent Authors http://allianceindependentauthors.org/ . This is a new body started by Orna Ross and it aims to support, represent and advise independent authors and looks well worth being a member of if you’re a ‘struggling’ indie author.

As for island life – well – lambing is over. The weather has been amazingly good and the lambing snow has been confined to the hilltops. Foxes are proving to be a pest as always and a colleague lost a lamb the other night to Mr Fox. I know they have to eat but it’s the way they just take the head that gives me the shivers – and they leave behind these wee headless corpses. On a happier note, there’s already a healthy number of tourists enjoying our beautiful surroundings.

The days are lengthening and the beautiful sunny days are ending with spectacular sunsets and magnificent displays of the Northern Lights. For some amazing photos of the Aurora over Skye go here: http://www.glendaleskye.com/sightings.htm#aurora .  Skye is truly Hebridean heaven at the moment.

Slainte Mhath to all my readers and tioraidh for now.

The Craic from Packing Cases to a Housewarming Turbot…

English: The North Cuillin ridge from Portree.
Image via Wikipedia

So, where was I? Ah, yes, moving house. It’s done. Hurrah! We’re exhausted, but it’s done. It was quite a bourrach for a while there. But now the boxes are unpacked and it’s good to be reunited with all our stuff that’s been in storage for the last seven months. It’s also good to bring our nomadic existence to an end. Once more we have a home of our own. There’s still all the pictures to put up and some new curtains to be made – but mostly everything is in place.

We have surplus furniture in the garage, but I’ve already managed to sell some of it by advertising on the local free ads page on Facebook. Still got a couple of wardrobes to go and then there will be space for the ‘Big Beamer’ – otherwise known as the husband’s motorbike. Needless to say there will never be space for the car to go inside.

We have had a great incentive to get on and get the house organised as our daughter, her husband and our gorgeous eleven-week-old granddaughter are coming to stay on Thursday for a long weekend. It’s hard being three hundred miles away from them, so I’ll be making the most of the visit.

I still can’t quite get over the fact that I’m a granny but I absolutely love this new status. The love you feel for a grandchild is as, if not more, intense as you feel for your child – but it’s also different – in an (for me) inexplicable way. We’re also very glad that my very dear father-in-law got to meet his wee great-granddaughter before he passed away so suddenly in January. His passing has left a large gap in our family life, but his children carried out a most poignant and fitting funeral service for him where we felt his presence more than his absence.

My new study is very comfy. I’ve commandeered the fourth and smallest bedroom as my lair. It looks south over the garden to the Portree hills and the Cuillin ridge beyond. I think I’ll be very content to write in this room and I’m so grateful to have a room of my own. My writing has been so disrupted over the last few months – with one thing and another – that it will be good to finally get back some rhythm and momentum. My children’s novel is ‘finished’ (first draft) and is fermenting quietly in the background. My second novel for adults is almost finished the first draft stage and that is my priority. Then it will be back to the children’s book to start the rewriting process.

I still write for Words with Jam – the bi-monthly writers’ mag – haven’t missed an issue and am so proud to be associated with Jane Dixon-Smith’s most marvellous creation. Next edition is out in April (available both in e-format and paper copy) and the theme is storytelling. After my visitors leave, I must get  on and write my next piece.

The island continues to be almost permanently swathed in grey. It’s hard for us Hebrideans to believe that there’s a drought in parts of England. We have had almost unrelenting rain, wind and dreichness for many weeks now. The bairns at the school are hardy though. We make sure they’re well wrapped up and out they go in all but the most foul of weathers. But the children – and the rest of us – desperately need to see some sun. It would be nice to go for a walk without all the waterproof gear on.

The current main concerns for many islanders are – lambing in a few weeks time, the Co-op’s plans for expansion in Portree, the possible arrival of one of the ‘big boy’ supermarkets, the continued practice of some companies to charge outrageously for delivery to the island – we have had a fixed road connection to the mainland, i.e. a bridge, for many years now – and the change over from the Crofters’ Commission to the Crofting Commission – yeah, spot the difference?! We can only hope the new governing body for crofting is less bureaucratic and more efficient and crofter friendly than its predecessor.

Oh – just been interrupted by a knock at the door. Scuse me.

Windowpane flounder

Aw, our next door neighbour is a fisherman and he’s just handed in a humungous turbot. He told me there’ll be plenty more. The kitchen smells of the sea – incredibly fresh fare – Mr T was swimming in a loch this afternoon. Right must go – have to look up turbot recipes on interweb.

Oidhche Mhath/Night Night.

PS if you’ve spotted/been puzzled by the muckle amount o’ guid Scots words in this post – that’s because I watched a braw wee programme on BBC2 Scotland the nicht a’ aboot the Scots language. It was called Scots Scuil and followed six Scottish bairns who spent a week at a special residential Scots school and developed their abilities to talk, sing and write in the language. I was fair ta’en wi’ it, so I was.

 

Tony Blair and The Third Pig Detective Agency…

…are just two of the features in the latest edition of  Words with Jam

OCTOBER ISSUE OUT NOW.

Go to http://www.wordswithjam.co.uk/currentissue to see the latest edition of this fantastic FREE e-zine about writers and writing.

“As well as Tony Blair On Himself, cover author, Bob Burke, talks about his path to publication; David Robinson explores the advantages of e-book as a medium for your work; we are pleased to have been asked once again to feature the results for the second quarter of Flash 500, and there’s an article on How Not to Lose Friends and Alienate People. 
Not to be missed, Catriona Troth has some tips on getting the most from your library card. There’s more satirical letters in Dear Ed. Manager of the Canterbury branch of Waterstones tells us why bookshops WILL survive. And Anne Stormont comes back with part two of Just Do It.
Gillian Hamer explores the phenomenon that is Stieg Larsson; Danny Gillan gives us a piece on The Right to Write as well as another Comp Corner challenge to stretch us; and Michelle Romaine explains Microsoft Word’s Track Changes with a quick How To guide. 
Oh, and Perry finally reveals what happened to his cat …”