Archive for August, 2009

PM Programme

August 28, 2009

A short extract from The Tin-Kin, acted by John Eddie, was broadcast on PM on BBC Radio 4 yesterday. Professor Tom Devine and I were also asked a few questions about Scottish history and identity by reporter, Nigel Wrench. The broadcast was live from the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

If you want a listen, our bit on the radio begins about 49 minutes into the programme. You can hear it for seven days after broadcast. Click here.

The dramatisation was made by myself and Chris a few months ago, unrehearsed in my aunt and uncle’s living room in Elgin. You can hear more dramatisations, with different friends and family playing the different voices in The Tin-Kin, on my podcast. Click here.

It was nice to meet the Professor yesterday because I’d read and referenced his book The Scottish Nation when I was studying linguistics. Click on the covers for more information on any of these texts.

Taransay Fiddlers

August 26, 2009

Like a growing number of my posts, this has nothing at all to do with writing… but anyone who has spent any time with me knows about the Taransay Fiddle Camp.


They have a new website full of videos and mp3s, so now the world can enjoy the fun and capers dating back to about 2002. I have gone to the island every year since 2005. The music’s not the only thing going for it. We eat like Kings. I’m telling you, you’ll not find a better oatcake in all Caledonia and we are treated to daily platters of cakes and scones, everything homemade by the lovely Catherine and Isobel.

By the Thursday of this year’s camp, a certain fiddler (who shall remain anonymous) returned for not seconds or thirds, but sixths of cake. And why not? As I was told by one of the locals on my first camp “Ellie, this is the Hebrides, if you don’t eat you’ll blow away.”

There is also a lot of whisky and laughter about all manner of absurd things.

For anyone that clicked on that last link, I would not advice the use of this product while drinking whisky, not that I’ve attempted it myself.

Edinburgh Events and More

August 23, 2009

This week saw two events in Edinburgh, and several other things going on. I’m going to do about four posts in one here.

On Sunday 16th, I did a reading at Peter Bell. It’s my favourite kind of bookshop, the kind where you might come across a ginger cat sleeping on a pile of old hardbacks. There was a nice audience there, and it was great to read with Elaine di Rollo, author of The Peach Growers’ Almanac (A Bad Education for Girls). This event was part of the West Port Book Festival. Thank you very much to Peggy for inviting me to read, and for the fantastic cakes. I am a big fan of cake.

Click on the images below for Elaine di Rollo’s novel. Everyone enjoyed her reading, and we share an interest in old medical ailments and cures. I got two copies of the book, for myself and for my mum.

On Tuesday 18th August I had a really wonderful time at the Edinburgh Book Festival reading with Catherine Hall. I thought I’d be really nervous, because it was a sell out and it felt like a big deal(!) but actually I just loved every minute. Thanks so much to the staff of the festival, to everyone who came to see us, to Rosemarie Burnett who was the chair, and to my editor at Duckworth, Mary Morris, who came up to support me.

Here’s a sneaky picture by Chris, which is a bit naughty because you weren’t meant to, but we did.

festival ed

Catherine Hall’s book is called Days of Grace, and I would really highly recommend it. I read it while I was in the hairdresser having my hair done for my wedding, and alarmed the hairdresser by bursting into tears because Catherine’s writing is so beautiful. It was lovely to meet her in Edinburgh. Click the image for an Amazon link.

Our event was also mentioned in the following article in Wednesday’s Scotsman. Click here.

I said I’d put up some pictures of the honeymoon in Ireland, so here are just a few. All by Chris Dooks!




This week, I will be talking to historian, Professor Tom Devine and presenter Nigel Wrench on Thursday’s PM Programme on BBC Radio 4 between 5pm and 6pm, live from the Edinburgh Book Festival. We’ll be talking about Scottish identity, and a short dramatisation from The Tin-Kin will be played as well.

I am so excited to be off to Canada at the end of October for the International Festival of Authors in Toronto, where I’ll be reading from The Tin-Kin. More on that soon.

Finally, thank you also to everyone who is voting for me in the Guardian Blog’s Not the Booker Prize. If anyone hasn’t voted yet but would like to, you can do that till Midnight tonight!



Literary Heaven

August 17, 2009

The Times published an article on Saturday to mark the opening of the Edinburgh Book Festival, and asked me to choose five of my favourite Scottish books from the last 50 years. This is what I sent them, complete with pretty pictures, and links to Amazon if you click on them.

“Fifty years of literature is a lot when you’ve only been alive for thirty of them, so I’m going to offer you a top five from my adult life, in no particular order.”

I began reading Glister by John Burnside at a Harris bus stop in page-curling fog, and finished later that night by torchlight in a tent. Such stark conditions were perfect for the chilling, beautiful writing. So creepy the little hairs on my arms were on end for days.

I know Jon McGregor was born in Bermuda and lives in England, but he had a Scottish granny, and grannies trump political boundaries. More importantly, I adore the musicality and close observation of his writing, particularly If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things. So it’s going in.

Millions of children queuing to get into bookshops is a good thing. If you tut-tut at Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling because you’re a highbrow sort of person, get over it, or read the series in another language. You can talk about spells and broomsticks when you go on holiday.

This is Not About Me by Janice Galloway is non-fiction, so perhaps I’m stretching the boundaries again, but what I love about Galloway’s fiction is it’s soap and water honesty. There’s no tarting-up or only showing the pretty side of things, and that quality runs right through this autobiography.

A recent debut, Choke Chain by Jason Donald, deserves recognition. The South African setting is strong, and I love a good sense of place. It’s a family story with a tense plot and a rewarding ending, and it’s told with great sensitivity.

To see the actual Times article click here.

Please Vote for The Tin-Kin

August 14, 2009

If you enjoyed The Tin-Kin, I’d really appreciate a vote in a competition on the Guardian website. You can vote and find out more here. Voting closes at midnight on August 23rd.

Thank you!


For the Gaelic Speakers Out There

August 12, 2009

I just noticed that The Tin-Kin was the subject of a discussion programme on BBC Radio Nan Gàidheal. If you speak Scottish Gaelic and want a listen, or if you are just interested to hear what the language sounds like, click here. I think it’s available only till Saturday so you’ll have to be quick.

The last Gaelic speaker of my family passed away in 1971, so unfortunately I have only a poor grasp of what’s being said. One of the guests is the Traveller Essie Stewart, who I saw on a storytelling television programme. She seemed like a lovely person and I’d like to meet her one day. I hope she liked the book at least a little bit. The man she is speaking with is a historian of place names, from what I can gather, but I’m not sure.

More posts soon!

There’s a lot of book stuff coming up, and even though it’s not book related, I want to share  a couple of Chris’s photos from our honeymoon in Ireland.



Listen Again

August 4, 2009

If you are overseas, or if you missed the story on Radio 4 today you can listen again here:

This will be available for 7 days after broadcast.