Lin Anderson Reports from the Edinburgh International Book Festival
A sunny garden in August. The hum of voices. An ice-cream seller. Delicious! A lady sitting next to me perusing a list of events. The schools are here. A mix of uniformed pupils and those allowed to come dressed as they fancy.
What does an author at the book festival think of it all?
First of all, I have a confession to make. I live in Edinburgh, so I can come to this enchanted garden any time I like (rather than stay at home and write). I can spend all day in the author's yurt, author spotting, eating the delicacies that magically appear – a tray of home-made strawberry tarts yesterday. My second confession is, that as one of the first graduates of the new Scottish Screen Academy, I also have a delegate's badge to the Film Festival. But the truth of the matter is – the book festival is my favourite place – an oasis in the beehive that is Edinburgh in August.
That's not to say it's quiet here. As I write, at least a dozen school groups are picnicking on the grass. We never had days out like this when I was in school. (Later in the yurt, chatting to Nicola Morgan, she revealed the truth of it. We never got to meet an author, when we were in school. We thought they were all dead!)
But come for breakfast and find a quiet peaceful start to the day. 'Wake up to Words' – what a wonderful expression. Or come and watch the summer sun set and the lights come on.
For a writer, there is no better place to be. A place where everyone loves books. Here writers are appreciated, challenged, laughed at and with, questioned, sometimes even interrogated. But the written word is queen (or king).
And what a place to meet fellow writers. Away from that lonely room with just the computer for company; constantly checking the email hoping someone will have written to you. A wonderful way of putting off having to actually work.
In a short time in the yurt before going off to see Rosie Thomas and Kate Mosse, chaired by Paul Johnston, I chatted to Philip Ardagh, children's author, whose series featuring Eddie Dickens has just been sold to Warner Bros. He has also co-written a children's book with Paul McCartney called 'High in the Clouds', due out in paperback in October. I was delighted to learn that Paul is a really nice chap, since I was in madly in love with him from age 13 to 15. My only consolation being that he married a Linda, just the wrong one.
I also chatted to Helen Simpson 'one of the most subtle artists of the short form' who'd appeared a few days before and was now relaxing and soaking up the festival. What struck me with each of the authors I spoke to, is how much they love coming to Edinburgh. And to prove it, they come back year after year. The yurt is a big draw, so well done, the person who came up with that idea!
But the yurt wouldn't have such a great reputation if it weren't for those who man the welcome desk.. A big thanks to the ever helpful and charming, Ran and Elysia (I wonder if you have to have beautiful names to get a job there?).
Authors aren't the only people in the yurt. I made for the man in the yellow coat as soon as he appeared. Eddie McMenamin the lollipop man who sees the hoards of schoolchildren safely across the road and into the festival. Eddie's been doing that job for five years. I also discovered he came from County Donegal and since my mum's from nearby, we had a nice chat about Ireland.
My evening brought my own event with my great pals and fellow crime writers Alanna Knight and Alex Gray, chaired by Kate Mosse. What fun we had. Why are all the people who read crime, so nice?
But perhaps the blessing of the day came in the form of the couple from Cowdenbeath, who came to speak to me afterwards in the signing tent. This was their first time at the book festival and they loved it. It's their festival too now. The more the merrier.
© Lin Anderson