I’m delighted to have Barbara Henderson with me today. I met up with Barbara at a gathering of authors and bloggers at the Edinburgh Book Festival and as usual, she had a big smile on her face. That’s her at the back with the lovely blue scarf on. As she explains in this guest post, this year more than ever she had a very good reason for that smile!
Edinburgh International Book Festival: A love letter
View from the train en route to Edinburgh
Edinburgh International Book Festival has been a fixture in my life for nigh-on a decade.
What’s not to love? It’s an excuse to visit the fantastic city where I spent many happy student years! Where I met my husband, had my first child and the setting of countless happy memories. Over the years, popping down the A9 to EIBF was a great way of sharing our…
When an author I greatly admire, Merryn Glover, talked about putting together a blog tour around the anniversary of the India/Pakistan partition, I jumped at the chance to be part of it. Some first hand recommendations of India books for kids? Yes please! Here is what she says:
I grew up in Nepal, India and Pakistan, so it was always important to me that my children – brought up in Scotland – had an understanding of that part of the world. Along with my memories, photos, films and two special visits, I shared my love for those countries through books. As August 15th this year marks the 70th Anniversary of India’s Independence, Barbara suggested I write a post about my favourite India books for kids and teens. There are squillions of great titles out there, but these are the much-enjoyed books still on our shelves and available in the UK. Listed roughly in order of reading age.
Mangoes & Bananas, The Sacred Banana Leaf & The Great Race: Nathan Kumar Scott
Nathan Kumar Scott (http://www.nathankumarscott.com/my-books) is an old school friend who has written a series of picture books based on Indian folk tales, each title drawing from a different form of folk art. The results are exquisite books with enchanting stories.
This book was a gift to my sons from a former teacher of mine and is sub-titled “A Mathematical Folktale”. It’s an adaptation of a traditional Indian story that uses a girl’s clever plan to explore both maths and morals. It’s also beautifully illustrated in a style drawn from Moghul art.
Indian Tales, A Barefoot Collection: Shenaaz Nanji & Christopher Corr “The trip of a lifetime!” the book announces and so it is, with brightly coloured maps, stories and information from eight regions in India and a long list of sources at the back.
The Jungle Books: Rudyard Kipling – We all know the wonderful Disney film, but how many of us have ventured with Mowgli and his animal friends through the pages of Kipling’s books? I can guarantee a wild time!
The Village by the Sea, Anita Desai I taught this poignant story of poverty and courage to my S1 English class in India many moons ago and fell in love with it. By a Booker prize-winning author, it is strong writing that will draw readers close to the characters and the dilemmas of their lives.
The Wheel of Surya, Jamila Gavin This is the first of a trilogy that begins with a brother and sister in India when their lives are splintered by Partition in 1947 and they end up on a boat to England. I read it to my sons on a visit to India when they were 12 and 10, and we were captivated. The other books in the series are The Eye of the Horse and The Track of the Wind
Malgudi Days, R K Narayan I first discovered this glorious little collection of stories when I taught S4 pupils in Kathmandu and have returned to it many times since. Short and deceptively simple, they are full of wisdom, humour and deep humanity.
Narayan said of India that ‘the writer has only to look out of the window to pick up a character and thereby a story.’ Which is good news for us, as we need only to dip into one of the many brilliant books from India to meet those characters and enter their stories. Join me there!
Merryn Glover is a writer of fiction and plays with work widely anthologised and broadcast on Radio Scotland and Radio 4. She has also worked as an English, drama and dance teacher and currently spends two days a week in a high school library, loving the magic of bringing books and kids together.
Her novel for adults (and intelligent older teens), A House Called Askival, is set in north India and spans 70 years of history, including the cataclysmic events of Independence and Partition.
Recording a book trailer in a single day was always ambitious.
Recording a book trailer in a single day when it rains solidly for about eight hours – now that might be a problem.
I picked up film guru Ross in the morning, and hopefully we headed off north to Strathpeffer – not only a lovely Victorian-looking place, but crucially, with a drier forecast. Alas, not with much luck. The buildings were grand, right enough, but not close enough together to create the impression of 1889 Inverness. On top of that, my previously willing talent had become a little self-conscious about walking and running around in the Victorian gear we’d borrowed from the theatre. We did many u-turns, reversed our way out of corners, drove along this street and that, before finally admitting the game was a bogey. Back to Inverness we went without a single shot in the can.
To our dismay, it still rained enthusiastically in my home town and the setting of the book’s opening chapters. Time for a reboot. The talent (my son) got changed into less conspicuous gear and we headed out for lunch. Amazing what a bowl of soup can do for the dejected spirit – by the time we left for the museum at 2pm, the whole thing seemed tight, but almost possible again. We arrived early. The talent got changed and emerged a little reluctantly into the tourist-path between Inverness Castle and the town. Twenty minutes of scrambling up castle hill through long grass in boots way too big for him yielded our first usable footage. Ross the camera guru was beginning to smile.
Into the museum for our appointment with the Victorian Punch and Judy puppets it was. I felt a Tony Blair quote coming on (oh dear!): I feel the hand up history upon my shoulder…
Handling and filming the very puppets with which the Morrison family had entertained Highland audiences for over a hundred years (from Victorian times), now that’s a privilege you don’t get every day. I had a fan-girl moment. I apologise for the completely unhinged grin in this picture. I have no excuse, I was carried away by the moment.
We emerged, feeling the need to celebrate with hot chocolate and churros. That done, we took a trip to my house which wasn’t far away: We needed my main character to witness a huge fire from the top of a tree.
My bright idea of playing flames footage on a laptop and holding it in front of his face was only partially successful. We even tried to film this in our tiny bathroom, the only room which we could black out completely. The talent was trying to look terrified, with me holding the laptop screen above his head so the flames would dance on his face, Ross crouching below to film and daughter 2 holding a branch of fir tree and waving it in the actor’s face as if moving with a breeze. After all that effort, Ross scrutinised the screen: ‘No – too dark.’ We tried again outside and in the kitchen. It would have to do. On to daughter 2’s dancing feet, and some lovely landscape shots of Loch Ness.
The rain had cleared up by then, leaving behind a moody layer of cloud and mist. Oh well. Some fiddle-scraping in a flowery field might give the summery impression we were after. Worth a try, anyway. As evening fell and the town emptied, the talent became a little more relaxed, and we were able to get some running shots in the old town, up and down the tiny patch of cobbles we had found in a lane and over an old Victorian footbridge. Good enough, Ross reckoned, and that was good enough for me. With the husband home from work and our stomachs full of pizzas, we headed for our final stop. What are the chances – the beautiful staircase in Eden Court’s Bishop Palace, normally accessible round the clock, was being used for a wedding! Noooo! I needed a nice old stair for my murder victim!
And no, we could not return the next day – we had today, and only today, before Ross-with-the-camera was off to Glasgow again!
The husband, reluctantly supportive, seemed relieved. ‘Oh well,’ he sighed, grinning out his relief and steering towards home.
‘No wait. One more try!’ I had heard of the beautiful staircase in the Royal Highland Hotel, although I had never seen it. ‘You’ll never get permission at this short notice,’ the husband argued, but he must have felt confident he was right – he pulled in by the station and I tried my charm offensive with the receptionist. I need’t have worried. No problem at all, apparently. Film away!
My husband’s grin quickly turned to a grimace when I told him that yes, I expected him to lie down, upside down, on a staircase in a tourist-crowded hotel lobby on a Friday night, and play dead. I still can’t help laughing pretty hysterically when I look back on it! The only thing still missing was a little footage of an old clock which Ross and I sneaked in on the way home just after 11 pm. A long, long day. Will it work? Who knows.
Learning more, learning faster, learning better. I am engulfed in the second lot of edits with Punch, rephrasing, rewording and re-thinking the manuscript after six weeks away. Unlike a lot of my writer friends, I actually enjoy this process more and more. It reassures me that someone else (in this case Cranachan editor Anne Glennie) has cast a beady eye over my words. I don’t mind being told that I overuse ‘just’ and ‘lapping’ and and ‘stumbling’ – I am genuinely grateful that somebody would point this out before I can publicly disgrace myself!
And multi-tasking with the best of them, I am also turning my attention to the Punch book trailer. I loved making the book trailer for Fir for Luck (find it here if you haven’t seen it!). LOVED it!
Maybe it is the varied nature of it: a small-scale project. Writing a screen-play for a mere minute of Youtube output, sourcing props and costumes and music, making the whole thing work. I absolutely adore the whole process.
Like last time, I approached family friend Ross with my request. I can sort of film and sort of edit, but he can do both, without the ‘sort of’ – and he does it really, really well. Sadly, I can’t afford a king’s ransom, but he is going out with my niece now, so asking him to do the trailer for a small fee became easier :). ‘Sure’, he said, ‘I’ll happily do that if you can produce it!’
I had never thought of my all-rounding as ‘producing’ before, but if that’s what he wants to call it…
I dived deep into the costume cupboard to find vaguely Victorian stuff for my 12-year-old to wear as he sprints across old bridges and over cobbled stones. And, while there was some running in the trailer script, we also needed at least a little bit of puppetry, especially given the title of the novel. I hunted for wooden Punch and Judy puppets on Ebay (with only limited success). I asked around and eventually succeeded in borrowing a giant-sized Punch puppet head from my research expert. Would it do? Not sure – as it had to be a functioning puppet… I reached for the sewing machine. But hang on, I had seen some images of actual Victorian puppets in my research, credited to Inverness Museum. I wonder…
Worth a go, don’t you think?
I popped along to the museum in my Sunday best, only to find that the person I needed to impress wasn’t actually there. I politely asked for her email address and sent my begging letter that night.
The wonderful reply came back today: Not only will they allow us to film in the Museum this Friday, but they will bring the puppets up from their depot an hour south of here especially! I feel like dancing. Mr Punch may only make a brief appearance in the trailer, but I’m sure for me he’ll be the star of the show!
See ya! I’m off to buy some stripy fabric to use in the shots.
I am trying to begin beating the promotional drum for Punch, which after all isn’t out until October, so I need to think creatively: how can I weave Punch into what I am already doing?
There is a cautionary tale of failure here. Bear with me.
Take the fantastic opportunity that was XpoNorth this last week. I was invited to be on one of the panels, discussing publishing and writing in the Highlands and Islands – a great honour, considering I’d been in the audience for similar events for years – always looking yearningly at the performers and wondering what it must be like living the dream as a published author. And now I was on the other side.
It was exciting, and there was a huge buzz about Eden Court. I attended a very helpful event on breaking into screen writing, after which I had only a few minutes until my XpoNorth Live interview – a television station set up to give trainees a taste of production. It all seemed very professional.
Now, I’d given this a little thought. Blue is an ok colour on me, and I had a lovely blue scarf – that should go ok with a plain blue top. You probably won’t see the bottom half, so I put on comfy jeans and headed out. I’ve never been one for much make-up. I didn’t even really think about it. Shame on me!
I arrived on set and took my seat – not just one camera, no: several, including one which slid sideways to pan across the scene – my jeans and my plain top were going to be in plain view! As well as all that was in them. Deep breath!
What followed can only be described as an undignified wrestle between me, my top, my scarf and the microphone, which had to be threaded through from the inside. ‘Be easier if you took the scarf off,’ the friendly man suggested. ‘I’ll keep it for you.’
And so it came to pass that I sat answering questions from the perfectly made up, glam interviewer – me in a plain blue t-shirt, with no make-up on, shiny faced and looking as if I’d made no effort whatsoever. And you know what else? I didn’t mention Punch once!
My lovely SCBWI group online said lots of lovely things after I wailed to them about this, and I know, I know, I know… they are right. There was a little coherence in what I said, and mostly, what came out of my mouth consisted of words and sentences vaguely related to the question.
But in the unlikely event that you are ever asked to appear on camera, take it from me:
Have your bucket of make-up ready
Don’t even think about wearing a scarf, and most importantly…
Last Wednesday, I spent the morning at Dalmarnock Primary School in the east end of Glasgow. This wasn’t my first visit to the school as I was there earlier this academic session to deliver training for the teachers in the Reflective Reading programme. But this time, I was there to meet the P7 pupils as part of their World of Work event.
I’d been invited along to chat to the pupils about my ‘job’ as an author. Like most authors, I don’t earn a living from my writing and do other jobs too so I don’t list my main occupation as ‘writer’. But for the purposes of suggesting a diverse range of options to the pupils I was very happy to represent writing as a career choice. I was also keen to take part in the event as Dalmarnock PS is a fabulous school which recently benefited from the Pupil…