March/April 2014 Update

Most of March/April has been focused on the epic UK trip, which I have written about here. It was a fantastic opportunity, and has re-energised me on lots of fronts.

While away I did get the good news that my pitch for a chapter in a new book about girls and sexuality has been accepted, which is exciting. The project is an excellent one and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into writing it.

At Express we are taking off at a breakneck speed now that I have returned from my travels, and we’ve got National Young Writers’ Month in our sights. Exciting things happening there, which I look forward to sharing soon.

Limited News is quiet, thanks to a whole bunch of us being away on holidays around the same time. Hope to see more content bouncing up there soon.

Literary UK

The literary walkway out front of the Writers' Museum in Edinburgh
The literary walkway out front of the Writers’ Museum in Edinburgh

My literary pilgrimage to the UK (okay, actually tagging along on partner’s work trip and hijacking it somewhat to fit in some literary business) went swimmingly, although of course it has only made me even more keen to learn more. While there, I managed to:

  • Meet with Jenny Niven and Joan Parr from Creative Scotland, where an hour passed by too quickly. I had so much more to ask, and so much more to follow up on. I’m keen to upick many of the ideas and information I managed to glean in that meeting. It was particularly wonderful to hear Jenny’s perspectives on the differences between the two cities of literature, given she has worked in both.
  • Drop in to the City of Literature Trust offices in Edinburgh, meet Ali Bowden and sit down for a coffee with her coworker Sarah Morrison to talk about emerging and young writers. Sarah was a goldmine of information about the local literature world, I’m looking forward to investigating more of the leads she gave me for great events and initiatives.
  • Visit the Scottish Storytelling Centre, a beautiful space in John Knox House which is open to the public, and chat to the staff about the space and the programs they run there. It is such a wonderful resource, I’m jealous of the Scots.
  • Visit Edinburgh’s Writers’ Museum, which focuses on the lives and works of three legendary Scottish writers, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.
  • Visit the Roald Dahl Museum in Buckinghamshire, indulging in my love for his creative worlds.
  • Visit the British Library in London, where I saw original manuscripts of some of the most important texts in Western history.
  • See The Drowned Man, Punchdrunk’s latest immersive storytelling experience and one of the most memorable productions I have ever seen.
  • Catch up with old comedy buddy Sarah Bennetto, a powerhouse of a woman who writes and performs amazing shows, and is the creator of Storytellers Club.
  • Drop in to the Southbank Centre in London, where lots of excellent literary events take place. It’s like The Wheeler Centre on creative steroids, as it also hosts enormous musical, visual and performing arts events.
  • Indulging in literary tourism; staying at hotels where literary greats such as Evelyn Waugh wrote; visiting locations from much-loved books (like the view over to George Heriot’s School, the one Rowling reportedly stared at from her café and based Hogwarts upon); driving and walking through countryside featured heavily in some of my favourite stories, including Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire which the fictional Midsomer of Caroline Graham’s books are based upon, the genteel country views of Austen, the Oxford from the His Dark Materials series or the more sinister Oxford of Inspector Morse.
  • Spent a long time pouring over zines at Lik + Neon, seeing what London zinesters are up to and hoping for one of the four resident cats to wake up so I could pat them. And of course visiting adorable bookshops all over England and Scotland. I couldn’t even pick a favourite there were so many gorgeous ones.
  • Read a whopping 12 books, all by authors from the UK. See my detailed post about that here.
  • Writing more of my own fiction than I have managed in a very long time, including nailing down the plot of a book that has been haunting me for almost a year. I think I finally nutted out what it is I want it to be. A big achievement.

It wasn’t the giant research trip I’ve been dreaming of, but it was enough to get some good information and solid leads on where else to dig for information on my topics of interest. I did the best with a very short amount of time, and a four year old in tow.

I’m currently writing a summary of my discussions with Creative Scotland and the Edinburgh City of Literature Office, in which I hope to discuss a little about what I learned and the questions it has raised for me.

Reading UK Authors While in the UK


In my recent travels around the beautiful continent of the United Kingdom, I set myself the challenge of reading works either written about, or by people from, the UK. I asked for recommendations on Facebook, compiled a wish list of reads, loaded up my Kobo and set off on a trip intended to be both an opportunity to research and learn more about the UK literary world. More on that aspect of the trip can be read here.

So how did my reading challenge go? Quite well. Overall I read 12 books, which may seem like a lot for a three week trip, but includes two audio books and a couple of shorter titles. None of them were doorstoppers, and one is not quite finished. I read a lot at night (the joys of holidaying with a small child, your night time adventures are somewhat curtailed) and while in transit (we drove the length of the continent, from London to the Scottish highlands, took the train from Edinburgh to London, and of course the interminable flights).

Of the 12, nine I had never read before, six were written by women, three were YA, one was non fiction, two were crime, one was science fiction.

My favourites were probably the David Walliams audiobook of The BFG (it had all three of us in stitches, and it was so cool to introduce Ave to Roald Dahl), Brick Lane and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

Reading Evelyn Waugh while staying in one of the hotels he frequented and wrote in was amazing. Visiting the Roald Dahl Museum in Buckinghamshire, wandering around the village that inspired so many of his stories and buying The BFG audiobook and collector’s edition for Avery was amazing. Visiting Brick Lane after reading Monica Ali’s beautiful portrait of its immigrant roots was amazing. Thinking about Mrs Dalloway’s London while hearing Big Ben chime was amazing. Overall, I think I would say that immersing myself in writing about the locations I was actually in was amazing. Amazing? Yeah, amazing.

Of course I came home with more recommendations of UK authors to read, so I imagine there will be a sharp increase in them for the remainder of 2014.

The full list of the books I read, and some ratings and thoughts on those books, is on my Goodreads page.