Scottish Writers Showcase University of Glasgow 2019
Review by Pat Byrne
Another brilliant event in a fabulous venue with an eclectic mix of literature presented in the gorgeous University Memorial Chapel. 22 August, 2019.
Louise Welsh, Prof of Creative Writing, at Glasgow University welcomed people from across the world to share some of the best of Scottish Literature – writers included: “Ambrose Parry” (pseudonym used by the writing duo Christopher Brookmyre and Marisa Haeztman), Amanda Thomson, Ajay Close, Martin Macintyre, Anna Levin, and Polly Clark.
First of all Louise introduced the audience to Publishing Scotland International Publishing Fellows from Germany, France, Norway, Lithuania, US, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Marion Sinclair, C.E.O. Publishing Scotland spoke about their work regarding the internationalization of Scottish Writers and how the organisation has been bringing publishers to Scotland for 45 year.
Writers presenting their work at the Showcase
Ambrose Parry – The Art of Dying
Christopher Bookmyre read from Ambrose Parry’s latest book The Art of Dying – the second in the historical crime series set in Edinburgh in 1840s. The husband and wife team of Brookmyre and Haeztman, who form Ambrose Parry, have pulled together medical fiction, crime and history in a voice very much of its time. The story kicks off with an opening that cannot fail to draw the reader in: “No decent story ought to begin with a dead prostitute.’ Based on real events the book presents something new, exciting and informative different. It was ‘a joy to write’.
There’s a fine line between kill and cure.
(Published by Canongate 29 AUGUST 2019)
Amanda Thomson – A Scots Dictionary of Nature
Next up was Amanda Thomson talking about her Scots Dictionary of Nature. I wouldn’t have expected this book to generate so much laughter but those old words are fascinating and Amanda’s enthusiasm was captivating I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book. Amanda is a visual artist, who teaches at Glasgow School of Art. When researching for her PhD she explored Scottish forests of Abernethy and Morayshire and albeit approaching this as an artist, she found that old words helped both in ‘understanding of place’ and ‘connection to place’ and became fascinated by their resonance and quality of onomatopoeia. She explained how she became intrigued by words she found in a secondhand copy of John Jamieson’s 19th century A Dictionary of the Scots Language. Amanda gave examples of some of her favourite words at the behest of Louise Welsh. Including: Civileer (n) an inquisitor whose job it was to apprehend persons taking a walk on a Sunday.
Ajay Close – What We Did in the Dark, to be published in Spring 2020.
Award winning writer Ajay Close read from her fifth novel What We Did In The Dark Based on the writer Catherine Carswell, she explained that she found the gap in information about this character ‘irresistible’. ‘You can read about everything that happened to her except her marriage’. Carswell’s marriage to Herbert Jackson was something she felt compelled to write about. Her reading from the book was brilliant, highlighting conflict with dramatic dialogue.
(What We Did In The Dark will be published in Spring, 2020)
Martin McIntyre – The Summer of 78 – Samhradh ’78
Martin McIntyre, winner of countless awards, gave a very lively reading from his book The Summer of 78 . With dialogue both in Gaelic and English this is bound to be a captivating book with a strong sense of place and conflicting cultures. Even in his short reading you got a strong sense of the characters, as a young fellow returning to visit his home in South Uist meets his grandfather.
Anna Levin INCANDESCENT We Need to Talk about Light
Anna Levin’s special interest is in people’s connection with the natural world, and she aims to make complex scientific subjects accessible. The world is getting more lit up but is this a good thing? Her own personal difficulties encountered through changing light led her to explore its impact on nature, our built environment, health and psychological well-being. Light and how it affects us seems to be an issue hitherto ignored and Anna hopes that her book will ‘make people talk about it.’ (Published Saraband September, 2019)
Polly Clark Tiger
Polly Clark explained that ‘there is no shortage of tigers in literature’. In her book she has set out to show how humans and wild creatures can connect. A zoo keeper in a previous life, the focus was of her book is on the Siberian Tiger and how this animal has a capacity for revenge, ‘grudgebearing’ shared by people. Polly gave a detailed description of her experience writing the book starting with how ‘she found a guy on the Internet’ who helped arrange her trip to Siberia. Where she encountered ‘a hostile landscape’ and amazing ‘resourcefulness among the people’ . She didn’t expect to actually see a Siberian Tiger but the tracking can tell so much, especially, from ‘The White Book’ – the narrative written in the snow by the tracks of a variety of animals criss crossing and leaving their story in the snow. .
Polly certainly looked the part in her Tiger printed dress.
(Tiger available from Quercus Books, May, 2019)
The After-Party at these events is always fun and great to run into so many Glasgow Writers out supporting this fabulous event. I briefly caught up with Zoe Strachan, Elizabeth Reeder, Graeme Macrae Burnet, Sarah Smith, J David Simon and Claire MacLeary – I got to see photos of my friend Sylvia’s new granddaughter and that lift home from Ingrid and David was very welcome.
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