This week I’m… #writerslife #amwriting

This week, I’ve:

Found out more about the Tudors… My friend bought me a couple of tickets for events at the annual Aye Write festival, a reading and writing festival that takes part in Glasgow every March/April. We’re both big Tudor fans; the fact that none of them were nice people and some of them downright dreadful doesn’t deter us.

portrait of Mary Queen of Scots

The first talk was by the historian and broadcaster, Kate Williams, discussing Elizabeth and Mary, the rival queens. Throughout her life, Mary was betrayed by those around her—from her half-brother, the lords at court, her husbands and finally Elizabeth herself. Kate Williams pointed out that Mary adopted many of the same statesmanship practices as Elizabeth and yet they didn’t work in Scotland for various reasons. The historian felt her mother’s sending her to France as a young girl was the first mistake, and if she had a time machine Kate Williams said she would have gone back to the 16th Century and stopped Mary going to England after her lords revolted against her.

Henry VIII

The second event focused on Henry VIII and the men around him, where writer Tracy Borman argued the king wasn’t “the one dimensional monster” he is often portrayed as. I’m not convinced, but her talk was fascinating and I loved her suggestion that Henry’s father was a long-lasting influence on his son. Fact fans—Henry VIII died on what would have been his father’s 90th birthday.

Friends, I’m not terrible cultured. I love book events because they are… er, short. Yes, and thought-provoking too but my focus isn’t required for too long and I have been to few book launches or events that I haven’t found worthwhile. I like hearing a writer read his or her own work as it adds something special to the experience. Some years ago, I heard the late author Andrea Levy read from The Long Song and it was spine-tingling.

Bird-watching in the Levengrove Park. So far, no-one’s told the weather spring is upon us. The daffodils have poked their heads out only to find themselves battered to bits by wind and rain. However, on Sunday the rain and winds took a well-deserved rest, and I took myself to the local park nearby for a bid-watching session organised by the local rangers. Since taking up bird-feeding last year, I’ve discovered a new-found appreciation for the birds of this fair island, whose numbers have nose-dived in recent years. As usual, humankind and its greedy acquisition of everything around us, is to blame.

Book sales

And finally, I’ve saved the best bit for last—selling books. In the last week, I’ve sold 107 copies of Ten Little Stars. Some qualifiers dear friends; the book is free. I paid £3 for a promotion deal on Kobo*. But I think any writer will tell you, the currency of readers often feels more precious than hard cash. I’m not that altruistic. My long-term aim is to be able to write full-time and make an income from it. I have four books for sale and only one of them has made me money so far. My years of not selling fiction don’t discourage me—visibility is my main problem—but the 107 sales in one week are gratifying. The Kobo dashboard tells me the bulk of them are in Canada (home of Kobo), but I’ve sold in 19 other countries too—from Latvia to Turkey, Australia to South Africa, the Philippines, the UK, Spain and others.

I’m one year older this week. Inside, my eighteen-year-old self survives though she objects to the wrinkles and grey hair, and sometimes pipes up, “Still, Emma? You keep doing this and have yet to get the message it doesn’t work?” To celebrate, Sandy and I went to Inverary for the night, travelling through snow-topped hills and past sun-danced lochs, ate sublime food at the Inverary Inn and drank wine. As birthdays go, it was hard to beat.

*Dear other writers—Kobo promotions and ads are three hundred times easier and more effective than Amazon ads.

Social Reform – Marrying in a Place with Conscience

Readers, you may have noticed I steer away from mention of husband-to-be… He’s a bit online shy and would prefer an anonymous role, so apart from the odd picture of him BBQ-ing in atrocious weather, I respect that choice.

My, er, anonymous other half, enjoying the Scottish summer and pontificating on the subject of wedding venues

I did, however, ask if there was anything he thought I should blog about. In the interests of democracy of course, slightly because my imagination had run dry and in an attempt to make myself look marginally less self-obsessed. I mentioned everything I had blogged about previously – in the fine tradition of blogging it’s all been about ME, ME, totally fascinating ME – which was why the obvious writing course to him was the venue as I hadn’t written about that previously.

So – we are getting married at this amazing place called the New Lanark Mill Hotel. New Lanark is a fascinating place. Many moons ago, there was an industrial revolution, where Britain moved from farming and small-scale production (I simplify this hugely) to huge-scale manufacturing.

[Think mills, think mining, think ship-building, think dreadful conditions and slavery for workers etc.]

Anyway, a Welsh social reformer called Robert Owen moved to New Lanark in 1799, taking over the management of the mills from his father-in-law and established fantastic conditions for his workers*. They got a day off! Young children couldn’t work in the mills! People were allowed and encouraged to socialise and do cultural things!

Fast forward 160 years or so and Robert Owen’s mills went to wrack and ruin in the 1960s once they went out of use. Step in the conservation people and by the 21st century, it has been made a World Heritage Site. It’s also a great day out –  museums, exhibitions, restored cottages, Robert Owen’s house, a walk by the Falls of the Clyde etc. The big mill has been turned into a hotel and it is there where we’ll wed (if Mother Nature spares us and neither of us change our minds in the next nine months).

In a ‘doing VisitScotland’s job for them’ kind of way, I’d urge you to visit if you ever get the chance. It’s a fab place – history and nature combined. And flip, the food is fantastic**…



*From a 21st century viewpoint, they were still sh*t – one day off a week, so you could go to church, find out how to read and do your washing (without electricity, washing was a really rubbish job).

** Just one wee quibble from my intended. He’s rather narked at the price of a pint of beer at this otherwise faultless establishment.