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Book Week Scotland offers events and inspiration

By Barbara Henderson

What week is it? The answer should be obvious to any reader in the land – it's Book Week Scotland, the Scottish Book Trust’s flagship initiative to promote reading.

As a children’s writer, I will be visiting schools in Inverness, Aviemore, Fife, Perth and Scone as well as a couple of shifts in the day job – I think I may have to invest in a secretary!

But while I drive up and down the country, you’d be mad to miss out on the public programme – this year entitled Blether. The variety of events on offer is staggering.

By the time you read this column, the party will be in full swing, running as it does from November 18-24. But never fear, there are plenty of bookish adventures still to be had.

For example, Culloden Library will host a free and un-ticketed Bookbug Loves Scotland for little ones on Friday, November 22, at 10.15am-10.45am (a local in-service day, so no school) and a similar Bookbug event will take place at Inverness Library on Saturday, November 23, at 11am-11.30am.

One of the free workshops for adults which caught my eye is The Grass is Blue: Evocation of Place – Where Landscape and Language Meet, held at the beautiful Moniack Mhor on Sunday, November 24, from 1.30pm-4.30pm. The workshop will explore where English and Gaelic cross over.

The workshop is suitable for storytellers and writers of all genres (novelists, poets, dramatists, short fiction) and proficiency or knowledge of Gaelic is not required – just a receptive openness.

You'll come away inspired with startling new perceptions of the world around you, some new stories and a greater awareness of Gaelic. The workshop leader is Gaelic poet, writer, musician and broadcaster Marcas Mac an Tuairneir and it is sure to be an inspiring and interesting afternoon in glorious surroundings.

To book, and to find out more about other Book Week events elsewhere, go to www.scottishbooktrust.com/book-week-scotland/events. Don’t miss out!

Last year, I spent most of my Book Week in Sutherland where Janis Mackay was a writer in residence when I began my writing journey.

I first came across Janis in 2013 at the then Inverness Book Festival. We chatted briefly after her event and when she heard that I was shortlisted for the Kelpies Prize that year, she offered to meet in Edinburgh.

I will never forget her kindness that day. I was unpublished, but she took me into the famous writers’ yurt as her guest before the ceremony – I was even lucky enough to spot Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie from a distance. And no, I didn’t win!

Janis spent over half a decade up here in the north, both with the Lyth Arts Centre and Northlands Creative Glass. She looks back fondly: “So much inspiration there, and such wide empty skies and sea birds and seals. I was inspired to write, and out it poured.”

Her Magnus Fin books for ages 8-12 are set in Caithness, as well as her books for younger children, The Wee Seal (a true story of a seal born in her garden) and the Selkie Girl.

“There was so much in the landscape to inspire stories,” she says, recalling working in Helmsdale Primary School and teaching creative writing for North Highland College, travelling many miles between Thurso, Wick, Dornoch and Dunbeath.

The Watchmaker's Wife has just been released and is her first novel for adults. “It has been a long time in the making,” she explains. “I actually began writing it when I lived in Caithness. It is based on the colourful life of my grandmother, but with a fictional element, a sort of Downtown Abbey glimpse into domestic service, plus the challenges of Scotland at the beginning of the 20th century. It is a kind of social history.”

Look out for: The Watchmaker’s Wife by Janis Mackay. After 10 years in domestic service, Johanna is determined to make the best of her marriage to watchmaker Willie Lockhart, but she is still haunted by memories of the man she loved – and lost to the Great War.

The Watchmaker's Wife by Janis Mackay.
The Watchmaker's Wife by Janis Mackay.

Buy a copy at janismackay.com

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