I spent much of my morning hidden behind-the-scenes, preparing newsletters and press briefings about literary Edinburgh – the less glamorous side of Festival life.
I crept out to see Jennifer Egan and Karen Russell in conversation with The Guardian‘s Lisa Allerdice, and came away curious to read both books. Karen’s Swamplandia is set amidst an alligator-wrestling family in the Florida everglades while Pulitzer-winning Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad is a series of 13 interlinking stories, one told through the medium of Powerpoint. Their conversation strayed into questions of gender and writing, encouraging women to be confident about their literary ambitions – it was a topic Caitlin Moran also covered the day before.
I then headed to hear Malcolm Fraser set out his ‘provocations’ for how to build a City of Literature, and to listen to Creative Scotland’s chief Andrew Dixon respond to the architect’s views. Malcolm talked us through the genesis of his beautifully-designed Scottish Poetry Library and Scottish Storytelling Centre, and proposed a new centre. Andrew agreed that buildings were important for a city’s cultural regeneration, but that £3 million, if invested in people and programmes, could also have a major impact – a view I’m very much in agreement with.
Conversations about Edinburgh’s heritage continued later that night, as I met Guest Selector Audrey Niffenegger. After a nice chat with her sister about Edinburgh architecture, and highlighting a few beautiful buildings off the beaten track, I sent them off in the direction of a late-night tapas bar.
The night continued at Unbound, the live lit Speigeltent evenings. Gutter magazine was in charge of the McHigh evening about illicit highs, and while I didn’t catch all the readings, I was in time to see the excellent Amy Burns. Amy pitched as part of my terrifying Dragons’ Pen event last year, and I’m chuffed she not only gave a great, amusing reading but has lots of interested publishers.
Amy was followed by one of our country’s real literary stars. Alan Bissett held the attention of a rapt crowd as he chose to read from Irvine Welsh (‘I’m supporting a struggling writer‘) and his own new novel, Pack Men, recently glowingly reviewed by the Scottish Review of Books. Alan told me he’s had abuse from a Rangers’ football fan: he’ll know he’s judged the tone of the book just right if he gets ‘equal amounts of abuse from Celtic and Rangers fans. But I don’t want to get a doing.‘
Daily Shoe Challenge – I wore vintage ballroom shoes, pictured here on the rugs of the Authors’ Yurt, and didn’t get a chance to dance with Arlene Phillips. But I have other dancing shoes, for other Unbound nights.