Book Week Scotland: Day 1

Jennie Erdal (right) with Paula Morris of University of Stirling creative writing dept.
Category: Reading

Stirling MacRobert kicked off its Book Week Scotland celebrations yesterday with a My Favourite Place reception and two very special events.

The city's Makar, Anita Govan, was first on stage for the Meet the Makar event.  She spoke of her life's journey and how she became a poet, alternating between storytelling and poetry – an excellent blend for a performance poet with a highly autobiographical approach to the art form.  Though her road to writing was a tough one, Anita's passion is palpable.  Diagnosed dyslexic at 10 years old, she spoke of a teacher who gave her a poem to learn each week, which she says planted the seed for her future career.

As Makar, the Stirling-born poet organises inter-school poetry slams and teaches at local high schools.  She describes this as handing children their right to speak, giving them an opportunity to dispel the editor on their shoulder and to find out that they are not as boring as they think.  Being dyslexic taught her to try again, to give it another go – and it sounds like it was a lesson hard and well learned.  Anita says that her style is passion over comedy, though comedy goes down well in Scotland, and it is fair to say that her passion does, too.

Speaking of comedy, the Book Week Scotland Celebratory event that followed got off to a cracking start with a very comedic reading.  Glenn Merrilees made his hilarious and poetic contribution to the evening with a poem titled Arrochar.  His poem expresses the various discomforts of being away from home on a family holiday, and its familiarity and flair is wonderful to hear aloud.  You can read it for yourself in the My Favourite Place book – which is available for free at Book Week events throughout the week.  Glenn is a member of the public, but read like an old pro.

To round off the evening, the Stirling book club gathered to meet former ghostwriter and translator Jennie Erdal.  The author joined us to speak about her debut novel, The Missing Shade of Blue (a reference to David Hume – not another shades of colours imitator).  Erdal is best known for her memoir, Ghosting, which chronicled her 20 years as a ghostwriter for a man whom she describes as a "bulling, egomaniacal man".

She spoke eloquently about writing in its various forms, accepting her past trials and stating that she thinks of herself as a "recovering ghost" and admitting that, "there is nothing like writing to make you better at writing – and I certainly did a lot of it." In what must have been a book club's dream, she spoke at length about the themes in the novel, which is set in Edinburgh and follows a man who translates the works of David Hume.  Its themes range from male friendships to the concepts of bonheur and joie.  Despite never having read the book myself, it was a fascinating journey through the author's mind.  To round off she gave a recommendation: Julian Barnes' essay and short story collection Through the Window.

A big thank you to the staff at MacRobert for hosting such a special event, and you can check back tomorrow to hear my experiences at the Dickens Debate this evening at Wishaw Library.

‘Til tomorrow, happy reading – and don't forget to get in touch with The League of Extraordinary Book Lovers for a recommendation!

Nicola Balkind

Nicola Balkind is a writer, editor and avid reader. She contributes to a number of books, blogs, and the BBC Scotland Movie Café, and is the editor of World Film Locations: Glasgow.