Wigtown, a small town in the beautiful Dumfries and Galloway region, is a very special place. For 19 years it has been Scotland’s National Book Town and the town is a book lover’s heaven, with every other shop selling new or second-hand books. The town also hosts a book festival every autumn, the second largest in Scotland.
This year the organisers invited me to come to the festival and do a creative writing event, encouraging children to write their own adventures, inspired by the Lily series. The prospect was exciting, but nerve wracking, as it was going to be my first creative writing event.
Happy holidays! Teaching keeps me so busy during term time that it usually takes a few days to get into holiday mode, but this year I dived straight in! The first week was spent in Sorrento and I had an amazing time, eating lots of pizza and pasta and enjoying spectacular views.
There were two massive highlights. One was having breakfast outside under the lemon trees every morning. For somebody from the West of Scotland, used to eating breakfast in the kitchen while the rain falls outside, this was utterly delightful, as was the cappuccino and freshly squeezed orange juice.
The second highlight was visiting Herculaneum. Aged eleven I read Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth and became fascinated by the history of Ancient Rome. I remember absolutely loving the brilliant BBC television series I, Claudius and as an adult really enjoyed Robert Harris’s historical novels Pompeii and Imperium. Walking around the site of an Ancient Roman town, wandering into its shops and villas last inhabited almost 2000 years ago, was incredible, and very moving. The town was buried in 79AD when Vesuvius erupted and the skeletal remains of some of the inhabitants, killed by extreme heat from a pyroclastic surge, were excavated in 1982.
I’m at home for the next two weeks, writing and reading, getting through my TBR pile at a steady pace. The first draft of The Unicorn Thieves is finished, so I’ve put that to the side for the moment and am working on Invisible Ivy. It’s partly in diary form, with events in two different time frames, and at the moment is a bit of an experiment, but an enjoyable one.
After that I’m heading to St Andrews for a week and am doing author events at Waterstones bookshops in St Andrews on the 25th of July and in Dundee on the 26th. Do come along if you can. I was thrilled to see The Awkward Autumn in the window of the St Andrews shop last week!
When I was writing both The Mixed Up Summer and The Awkward Autumn of Lily McLean I thought a lot about the importance of friendship and about the qualities which are important in a good friend. For Lily, loyalty is crucial. When her best friend Rowan fails to pick her for the hockey team she feels betrayed. As far as Lily’s concerned, Rowan ‘broke the friendship code’. But Rowan has good reasons for her actions, and doesn’t feel she has let Lily down. For Rowan, being able to tell the truth, even when it’s hard, is part of being a good friend.
Up until the end of April I contributed monthly blogs to a fabulous website https://girlsheartbooks.com/. Sadly the website is no longer posting new content, but the blogs, by a host of children’s authors, will be available online for another year. I thought I’d share a couple of my GirlsHeartBooks blogs here. One is about the launch of The Awkward Autumn of Lily McLean and the other is about my need for deadlines!
Autumn in Springtime
I have really enjoyed writing blogs for GirlsHeartBooks and feel quite sad that this will be the final one. Luckily I’ve got lots to share as it has been a busy month! My book launch was not a gigantic fail, which was a huge relief to my central nervous system. In fact, I think I’d even go so far as to call the launch a success, as everybody seemed to enjoy themselves, we sold out of books and nobody threw rotten veg at me.