Saturday, April 22, 2017

My Week as a Basilisk Lizard


It's going to be one of those weeks.

Monday - Pushkin Prizegiving (Keith Gray and I are the judges)
Tuesday - last day of term in my first year as RLF Fellow in Dundee
Wednesday - day of events at Queensferry Primary, where I'm Patron of Reading
Thursday - Silver Skin event at Linlithgow Academy
Friday - a little lie down, perhaps?

And then ... on Sunday I leave for Indonesia.  I've asked Google what the Bahasa Indonesia for anticipation is and got antisipasi, which seems too easy, but of course Google is always completely reliable on all things.  Right?

And really, all I have to do is take one step at a time ...

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Emerging Critics and Walking Mountain

Emerging Critics is a scheme run by the Scottish Review of Books in which established literary critics offer mentoring to the next generation of literary critics.  A commendable project - especially when one of the books the mentees were given was Walking Mountain*!




Thanks to mentor David Robinson for telling me about it, and thanks to Jacqueline Thompson for letting me share some of her review here.  Jacqueline writes


It begins in the vast plains of space, as grazing meteors are herded by a group of celestial beings known as Drivers. One of these meteors – ‘a huge bull’ – slips loose as the Drivers enjoy a party, and charges towards a certain blue-green planet. As openers go, it’s a curious one, and Walking Mountain, Joan Lennon’s new novel for children, is a curious beast indeed...

The mythical feel of the narrative gives it a snowy freshness, and the episodic chapters mean that events zip along nicely...

Lennon does not shy away from Big Ideas, about religion, climate change and demonization, but these are mercifully never signposted, achieved without soapbox or loudspeaker. The fate of the world hangs in the balance, and aeons pass from the first page to the last, so there is a suitably ambitious feel to the narrative, but it also feels very much contained, never sprawling or unruly...

And then she closes with this:

This is a tale that bears repeated readings. From its curious beginning to its romantic, cinematic end, Walking Mountain is testament to the scope of Lennon’s imagination. It is magical, with just enough grounding in the concerns of our time on this blue-green planet to make Walking Mountain a story that illuminates the rocks beneath our feet as much as those meteors grazing – or perhaps escaping – far above our heads.

Absolutely made my day!


* Walking Mountain is published by BC Books and is coming out at the beginning of June - not long now!

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Steps Taken

This time last year I was walking in the Borders* with a son who was just about to leave for Jakarta.  





This year I'm just about to go to Jakarta to visit him.  Little bit of spring symmetry there.

* We walked a bit of St Cuthbert's Way because I was taking part in the project 26 Steps, which gave writers a particular route and asked for a photo, a poem and a map in response.  You can see what came out of our walk here.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Reviews like London Buses ...

... or perhaps it's buses everywhere?  Whatever the truth (and that's a phrase that's too topical for comfort) I'm pleased to have not one but two reviews up on DURA (Dundee University Review of the Arts) this week.  So be invited to read a little about Jack Mapanje's Greetings from Grandpa here ...


and Robert Macfarlane's Orphans by Martin Johnson here ...


As always, thank you to the poets for giving reviewers such lovely material to work with.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Quiz-a-Whiz ...

Part of my day with the Royal Society of Edinburgh Christmas Lecture last year included answering questions for their Quiz-a-Whiz series, while looking ever so slightly insane. They made 2 short videos, one on "Writing Novels and Short Stories" and one on "Space, Aliens and Science Fiction", and here you go -




Quiz-a-Whiz is an excellent series covering a wide range of topics and featuring a wide range of, er, whizzes. You can have a browse here - enjoy!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Silver Skin in The Orcadian!

Here's a lovely article by Leah Seator in The Orcadian about Silver Skin and the Scottish Teenage Book Prize (if you click on it you can make it go bigger) from a week back -


Really pleased about that!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

March Mal

There are many ways of telling that spring is finally on its way - blossoming trees, enthusiastic sparrows, snowdrops and crocuses and the first of the daffodils.  Or the way a particular kind of afternoon light catches a sleepy cat.







Happy Season Change to us all!