Thursday, 31 March 2011

Catch Up

Three months since my last post. This one will have to be a catch up.

I've been to several really worthwhile events connected with the Scottish Writers' Centre recently. One of these was the writers' groups' showcase competition. We held the presentation of prizes at The Mitchell Library at the beginning of March as part of the Aye Write Festival and, for me, it was especially delightful to play a role in The Mitchell Library again as one of the servants of the servants of art (as Prof Willy Maley would say). It didn't feel like decades since I had worked there! I'm sure the event's Green Room used to be WAG Alison the City Librarian's office where I went for my first job interview in 1974.

The competition drew entries from across much of Scotland, from Angus to Dumfries and from Edinburgh to Lochwinnoch. The six finalists inspired the audience with their very able readings. Here's a photo of the six winners with the two judges, David Kinloch (poetry) and Maggie Graham (fiction). Also shown is Irene Hossack of the Scottish Writers' Centre – a very able host for the event and a good friend. I'm grateful to her for this photo.

Left to right: Maggie Graham, David Kinloch, Carol McKay, Jack Hastie, G W Colkitto, Grace Fenwick representing Kriss Nichol, Nancy Holehouse, Theresa Munoz, Julie Macpherson and Irene Hossack.

On Saturday 26th of March, I took part with the Scottish Writers' Centre committee, in the Gaelic Book Festival at the CCA in Glasgow.  Leabhar's Craic - books and banter - is an vibrant event which gives Gaelic speakers the opportunity to gather to chat about their passion for books and writing. We at the Scottish Writers' Centre are keen to involve Gaelic writers in the work of the SWC as our aim is to be inclusive across the whole of Scotland, representing writers in all the languages of Scotland. Our session at the Book Festival was certainly animated; we also had a feature and advert in the programme and we're optimistic about future liaison and cooperation with the Gaelic writing community.

And now, on to publishing news.I was very pleased to learn, recently, that Mainstream Publishing plan to bring out As I Lay Me Down To Sleep (which I co-wrote with Eileen Munro) as an e-book. I find that a very exciting development. They expect an increase in sales and publicity for this title once Eileen's sequel is published in the summer. I also learned, on Monday of this week, that Mainstream have sold the rights to the book to a French publisher which is also really exciting. Good luck to the translator! As I Lay Me Down To Sleep, French style, should be available in the shops in France at the end of 2011. And today, I received my royalty statement. We've sold over 45,000 copies since AILMDTS was published in August 2008.

Since I divorced my agent last year, I've been looking for a new one. I had some word back last week from one prestigious and reputable London agent. Sadly, there's no contract for me as things stand but the agent did express many positives about the book (A Spell in the South) and gave me lots of good feedback. It's disheartening, yet at the same time it's encouraging that he was prepared to spend so much time e-mailing me his response. The agent suggested some significant changes to the plotline. This strikes me as bizarre, given that I always thought I was quite good at plot! Certainly, it's much harder to handle plot in a full length work and the clutter that is in my brain has surely influenced my storyline. Anyway, the agent's going to think about it a bit more and get back to me with more detailed suggestions. Then it's up to me whether I follow them or not. The novel must have some strengths if he's prepared to be so helpful. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

I'm happy to say that Chris Powici, editor of Northwords Now, the free literary magazine of the north, invited me to review a novel by Glasgow-based writer J David Simons. You can read my review of The Liberation of Celia Kahn here.

Lastly, Keith and I are investigating e-book publishing with a view to bringing together a collection of my short fiction. I've had ten stories published in literary magazines and anthologies over the last decade but it's very difficult to interest a publisher in a short story collection in the present economic climate. Yet, many of my students ask me where they can get their hands on my publications. With the advent of e-publishing and print on demand, and encouraged by the proliferation of small chapbooks by authors we admire and respect, Keith and I now think it's time we looked into this seriously. More on this later.