Festival Time

Pitlochry Winter Words is coming and I am terribly excited. I love this little festival.

For those who aren’t familiar, Pitlochry is a mountain town (mountains to the UK = hills to those in the US) that rests on a burn and is a perfect spot for outdoorsy type activities like hill walking, kayaking, mountain biking and literature festivals. So, okay, literature festivals may not be on the top of the list for outdoor activities. But in just the same way the mountain towns of Sundance and Aspen have fostered a home for film and comedy, Pitlochry will accommodate some rich literary talent.

Okay, and maybe the Pitlochry – Sundance – Aspen connection is a bit tenuous, but Scotland is an unusual nation, and housing a week-long book festival in the middle of rural Perthshire is pretty much the norm around here. Scotland hosts 34 literature festivals throughout the year, as well as hundreds of salons, individual readings and author events. With a population of only 5 million, and an estimated 700 book readings a year* (that’s including each reading at each festival, plus all the individual book events throughout the year), Scotland must have the most author readings per capita of any nation. That’s one well-read country.

Therefore, housing a literature festival in a small mountain town is not unusual for Scotland. But what is unusual about Pitlochry is the relaxed atmosphere. Some Festivals can have this vibe of pretension, where the authors are kept separate, people speak in hushed tones, and only conversations such as ‘the state of the modern narrator in an unreliable society’ are permitted. Pitlochry isn’t like this. Everyone is here to have fun and relax while talking about books – kind of like a night out at the pub with the book club. (Some people’s idea of hell, my idea of heaven.)

As you may gather by my enthusiasm and general salesmanship, I will be at Winter Words. I’ll have two rolls at the Festival: to help with the event by introducing several authors and to teach a four day writing course.

At this point I am introducing Robert Penn, Sally Magnusson, Kenneth Steven, Ian Buxton, James Robertson, Maisie Steven, Robin Pilcher and Stuart MacBride. I have met about half of the authors I’ll be introducing, I’ve read each of their books, and those that I’ve seen read before are true entertainers.

This is exactly what I love about working these festivals; seeing how the different authors present their work. Some simply get up and read a passage and then answer questions, which allows for the audience to hear the stories in the voice of the writer. While others may not read from their book at all, and will instead tell stories about the writing, or even completely other unrelated tales. But no matter the individual authors’ presentation styles, attending a festival gives the reader a chance to understand the mind of the author – a treat for any book lover, and an invaluable experience for any fledgling writer.

Also, as I’ve already stated, I’ll be teaching a four day prose writing course, and I recently found myself making a statement regarding this course that I was shocked to hear come from my own mouth. So, for fear of writing a post that is too long and filled with too many points, I shall stop here and direct you to the next page to find out what shocking statement I have made

*I made an educated guess at the 700 readings. If anyone has the exact number of author related events in Scotland throughout the year, I would be very interested to know what it is.

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