Aye Write and Write Now festivals

Posted: March 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

This blog has risen from the ashes of my previous blog, thanks in part to a session on “www.writer” run by writer and IT  wizard Cat Dean at the Write Now conference. This was part of Aye Write, Glasgow’s literary festival, and organised by the tireless and indefatigable Bryony Stocker. I went along for both days and had a very interesting time. The downside is that I have tons to do!

The best feature of the conference was its linkage with Aye Write. The Edinburgh International Book Festival has a series of workshops but these don’t link up with the main event. The Mitchell Library is a great literary venue, better than the tent city in Charlotte Square, and has more of a cutting-edge feel. I’ve always found EIBF to have a “Sunday newspaper supplement” feel to it, a bit like the Festival versus the Fringe, and Aye Write has that more democratic feel that is characteristic of Glasgow versus Edinburgh.

The sessions were excellent, and kicked off with a good overview of publishing in Scotland. We had a “trade fair” over the middle of the day, and my publishers Wild Wolf sold a good few books and made some new contacts. Sara Sheridan gave an excellent talk on author and book promotion in the afternoon, and the next day had more of an academic focus, featuring some fascinating discussions on teaching creative writing and the role of the historical novelist. I think writers are learners and, to an extent, teachers, and this is an area of academia that stretches beyond professional education. I found two particular sources of inspiration: Maeve Tynan spoke of her approach to teaching creative writing using known examples rather than the myth of “originality” and Raymond Soltysek provided a powerful critique of the teaching of creative writing at secondary education level. I’m not an educator, but I plundered a short story idea from Maeve Tynan’s paper (“Reflections”) and Raymond is a towering inspiration to all who meet him:  a passionate advocate of writing at all levels, and an enormously talented writer himself.

We had a seminar from the Scottish Writers Centre: I’m a member and all Scottish writers should be. This is the greatest opportunity to advance the craft of writing in Scotland for a long time: by writers, for writers. It is only £10 and there is now a physical home on Sauchiehall Street, in CCA.

The closing session was great value: Ewan Morrison, Zoe Strachan, Alan Bissett. Ewan’s book “Tales from the Mall” will expose the damage wreaked on society and the economy by out-of-centre shopping malls, and he focussed on the “death of the book” with a deluge of fascinating evidence.  (I do wonder if the market will differentiate between his Amazon-equal examples of 5 authors selling 5million books each and a million authors selling 5 books each). Zoe is a great advocate of the renowned creative writing course at Glasgow University, and has mentored many excellent writers. I can’t help wondering if this has a potential downside, homogenising writing and excluding grassroots writing, but I can’t fault the idealism and demonstrable quality of the course. Alan tells great tales from his own publishing experience, as the Angry Young Man of Scottish Writing, and he wears the bovver-boots and leather jacket to prove it! The downside of this session was the  lack of discussion, as we ran out of time and, in general, it would have been better to have more opportunities for talking, as that’s what writers do best when they aren’t writing or reading!

It was a great weekend. I hope this conference will happen again next year, in whatever form, and it is a “must” for writers interested in developing their skills and making contacts out there in the writing world.

 

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