Public Lecture of the Publishing Scotland’s International Fellows Glasgow – review by Mary Irvine
‘Main entrance, first right, first left.’ I was early. Reliant on train times, and the ‘drop of a hat’ cancellations, I had taken an early train. No problems. Partick not busy. Metro to Kelvinbridge. Pleasant walk through grassed area to steps leading up to Gibson Street and on to University Avenue, arriving at the main entrance to the University of Glasgow.
The architecture of the original university never fails to impress. It reflects not only its physical majesty but is also a testament to the many who have benefitted from its service of learning. Passing through the gates I turned right, past the John McIntyre building where for two years I volunteered for ‘conversational’ English with overseas students, many having travelled thousands of miles, leaving their homes for the first time.
‘First left’ led me to The Square which evoked a forgotten memory. I’d been there before to take tea with the Principal. (Along with c. 50 other volunteers.) My destination was the Memorial Chapel which was the venue of the Public Lecture of the Publishing Scotland’s International Fellows Thursday 23 August 2018.
Louise Welsh, Professor of Creative Writing and our hostess for the evening, introduced Fellows from several countries around the globe, including Germany, Italy and USA as well as Scotland. Marion Sinclair, Chief Executive of Publishing Scotland gave a short introduction, stressing the importance of international connections and relationships.
The main event then followed
The first writer to read was Glaswegian Alan Parks who read from his debut crime novel ‘Bloody January’, set in Glasgow in the 70s. A strong extract that would tempt any crime enthusiast to buy the book. The follow-up, ‘February’s Son’, will be available from February 2019. I suspect a series of twelve books here.
Second up was Mick Kitson (and yes I do remember his band The Senators) who read from his debut novel ‘Sal’, a novel labelled ‘Young Adult’ but on hearing Mick’s extract I would have thought a much wider audience would want to read this book. Sal is thirteen and very much a teen of our times. The voice is hers and is particularly strong, one that draws the reader instantly.
Third up was Louise Welsh, introduced by Zoe Strachan. Louse is a prolific writer and this time she chose to read the Prologue to ‘A Lovely Way to Burn’ which is the first part of her ‘Plague Times’ trilogy. And what a prologue! Suffice to say I have bought the kindle edition and I’m not an ‘apocalyptic’ fan. I just wanted to read more.
The fourth was Malachy Tallack who, after two very successful non-fiction books, had just produced his debut novel, ‘The Valley at the Centre of the World’ based on Shetland, where he has lived most of his life. A moving extract, a foreshadowing of the themes of the book with its focus on place, community, relationships, caring and responsibility – amongst the people, between the people and the land. Certainly one to evoke thought and discussion.
Chitra Ramaswamy who read Chapter 7 of her first book publication – as opposed to all her other publications. The book is ‘Expecting’ a book about her pregnancy but this is not a manual, a ‘what to do/ not to do’ book. It is rather the story of a journey. One woman’s journey throughout her pregnancy. It is a memoire of personal discovery, a book everyone can read. And the book that won the Saltire Scottish first Book of the Year Award in 2016
After each reading Louise engaged the author in a short q&a session. It’s always interesting to hear writers ‘differing views and ‘takes’. When all the readings were finished the writers assembled to answer questions from the very appreciative audience. There was quite a heated discussion on the ‘placing’ of books by bookshops into only one genre, when many books fit comfortably into more than one.
We then repaired to the wine and buffet reception. With a delicious selection of savouries and sweets, convivial conversation and in the wonderful setting of the Memorial Chapel at Glasgow University it was a most pleasant, stimulating and rewarding evening, well worth my journey from the sticks.
Mary Irvine, August, 2018
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