I’m delighted to have Barbara Henderson with me today. I met up with Barbara at a gathering of authors and bloggers at the Edinburgh Book Festival and as usual, she had a big smile on her face. That’s her at the back with the lovely blue scarf on. As she explains in this guest post, this year more than ever she had a very good reason for that smile!
Edinburgh International Book Festival: A love letter
Edinburgh International Book Festival has been a fixture in my life for nigh-on a decade.
What’s not to love? It’s an excuse to visit the fantastic city where I spent many happy student years! Where I met my husband, had my first child and the setting of countless happy memories. Over the years, popping down the A9 to EIBF was a great way of sharing our love of reading with our kids. Steve Cole, Jaqueline Wilson, Lari Don, Anthony Horowitz, Abi Elphinstone, Katherine Rundell: so many gifted authors to introduce them to! Where do I start? And in between children’s events, I delighted in catching glimpses of Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie milling around into the bargain. Now based in Inverness, the festival became a fixture in our calendar – a lovely way to round off the summer holidays before going back to school.
All this time, I had been writing too. Puppetry scripts, then short stories and eventually children’s novels. I hadn’t told many people this, but I longed for the other side. I admired writers because I knew how hard it was to create tension. Or humour. Or raw emotion. I so badly wanted to be good at it!
In 2013, with our family trip already booked, I discovered the most fantastic news: a manuscript I had entered into the Kelpies Prize had been shortlisted, and I was invited to the ceremony. Guess where: Edinburgh Book Festival! 2013 will always be a very special EIBF memory as it was my first brush with the publishing world. Agents and publishing-insiders milled around at the venue, and published authors I recognised from the backs of book covers spoke to me as if I was one of them. My words were read out to great applause, and then… someone else was announced as the winner. Not this year then, but getting to the last three meant I had been close, so very close. I chose to take some comfort from that and wrote on.
Three novels (and three years) later, it finally happened: Fir for Luck, my Highland Clearances novel for children, was published by Cranachan. Fast forward to August 2017: just last weekend was my very first EIBF with my own book on the shelves. I wasn’t doing an event (I reckon I’m not quite in that league yet), but Fir for Luck was going to be for sale at my annual bookshop-of-pilgrimage in Charlotte Square.
I was on my own when I first entered, although the place was already busy on the morning of opening Saturday. Slowly, I walked around the Scottish publishers’ shelves in the centre of the tent and my stomach danced when I spotted it – not only on display, but at eye level, too! And all the Cranachan stable of children’s historical fiction beside it! I hadn’t been prepared for this strange mixture of elation and emotion. I took a step towards it, but a family got there first, inspected my book – and added it to their pile.
Time to be brave – I suck at selfies.
‘Excuse me, would you mind taking a wee picture of me. Yes, right here. BECAUSE THAT’S MY BOOK!!!’
I’d like to think I didn’t actually shout at them. I hope I didn’t. But that slightly tearful, slightly unhinged smile you see in the picture there, that’s it: my EIBF moment which no other will ever top.
Thanks Barbara for that lovely guest post. I’d be smiling too! Fir For Luck was published by Cranachan Books in September 2016 and you can order a copy online here: Fir For Luck. It has 32 reviews on Amazon and every single one is 5 stars – another reason to smile! If you’d like to read my review, you can do that by clicking here.