August was a busy month – things kicked off for me with a reading from Goblin at Blackwell’s Writers at the Fringe on Thurs 10th August. It was a great crowd and fabulous atmosphere.
I was excited about being an Author at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this year, and I appeared on Wed 16th with Hwang Sok-yong. Unfortunately, the event didn’t go to plan as the translator was out of his depth, which made it a very difficult and awkward event, but chair Stuart Kelly managed to keep things going and we made it through. Illustrious Monsta-handler Eris Young reviewed the event for The Fountain.
I also had the honour of reading at one of the Amnesty International events, focussing on Syria. It was a very sombre, moving event. I read an extract from the song Haram by Refugees of Rap, which I’ll share with you soon. If you would like to help, please support Amnesty’s important work.
I went to several events throughout the festival and highlights include:
The Outriders (a fantastic project that paired up writers to travel across the Americas) reunion started off in darkness with the powerful voices of Jenni Fagan and Bonnie Jo Campbell sending shivers through us. There were also plays and readings, followed by a brief Q&A.
Juno Dawson and Renni Eddo-Lodge (chaired by Laurie Penny) were brilliant and articulate and I highly recommend Renni’s book Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race – it’s an urgent, important book.
The wonderful Penny Pepper (brilliantly chaired by Ryan Van Winkle) rocked the stage as she talked about being a punk disabled girl moving to London. I liked the intimacy of the event, but she truly deserved a bigger audience. As Penny talked about being human and how her experience is universal, I wondered if the audience was small because many people don’t think an event about disability is relevant to them.
It also made me consider my own experience as a disabled person with an invisible disability. I was sitting in an event at the Book Fest, surrounded by people, and I thought about how exhausted I was, how my whole body hurt, but no one around me would know I was in pain and that this was ‘normal’ for me now. I’m sure when people see me out and about at events or parties they assume I’m OK, but I’m in pain and exhausted 24/7 (thankfully not always severe) and they don’t see what it takes for me to get there in the first place, and the time I need to recover afterwards. I’m not writing this for pity (pity is as pointless as chronic pain), but to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with this kind of invisible illness, the impact it has. This is political, especially given the human rights abuses perpetrated against disabled people by the British government. I’m working on a novel (HellSans) that explores disability and society, but I’ve actually written very little about living with a chronic illness. I plan to explore it more, particularly with regard to my writing career. (Just before posting this I found out Lady Gaga has announced she has fibromyalgia, which is horrible news but at least she is raising awareness and forging connections, which is lovely to see).
To wrap up, I have to say the highlight of the festival for me was getting to meet Jenni Fagan and Mariana Enriquez, writers I hugely admire. Mariana is a fellow Manics fan so there was a lot of Manics-related gushing. Also, despite feeling awkward in front of a camera, I really enjoyed the Chris Close experience and was pleased to have my portrait hung up in Charlotte Square for part of the festival.
EIBF is finished, but you can still vote for Goblin in the First Book Award until Friday 13th October.
Interview & Upcoming Events (September & October)
I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Lisa Guidarini for Glasgow Review of Books.
August is over and we move into my favourite time of year where the slanting melancholy end-of-summer light fades into the darkness of autumn. As soon as it hits Aug 31st I’m all ready for two months of spooky delights leading up to Halloween, beginning with re-reading my Charles Burns collection.
But before my holy day on Oct 31st, I’ll be appearing at Wigtown Book Festival on Saturday 23rd September talking all things Goblin with the illustrious Peggy Hughes. I’ll then be at Dundee Literary Festival on Saturday 21st October with fellow authors Helen McClory and Gillian Best talking about our debut novels.
I’m currently holed up in my cave working on HellSans. After the shock of Chester Bennington’s death, I’ve been listening to Linkin Park on repeat and the brilliant, surprising, experimental A Thousand Suns is the current HellSans soundtrack. I’ll leave you with Blackout and The Catalyst, and I look forward to seeing some of you in Wigtown and Dundee.