The magic of words

The last couple of months have been busy for me. I moved to a new office in my day job, after a year in a promoted post, in August. In August I also had a fun day out in Edinburgh with fabulous authors such as Kirkland Ciccone, Alex Nye and Roy Gill. We got to spend some time in the Author Yurt at the Edinburgh Book Festival, (thanks to Kirkland’s VIP pass), where we drank lots of tea and ate lots of crisps (authors live really glamorous lives you know). I had to get a photo beside my books in the Festival shop, before then heading off to the fabulous ‘Teen Titles’ party at Central library. Below is a snapshot of my interview in the Teen Titles magazine, alongside a photo of me at the party!

I was interviewed last year by pupils Alison and Freya when I visited their school, Portobello High. I was delighted by their reviews of ‘Follow Me’ in the magazine, particularly as Freya found it, ‘scary, gripping and dark.’

 

In September I managed to escape to beautiful Barcelona for a few days of sunshine, and during the September weekend I attended the inspirational Society of Authors weekend, titled ScotsWrite, at the Westerwood Hotel in Cumbernauld. Famous authors such as Joanne Harris, Jane Johnson and Denise Mina delivered key note speeches and helpful workshops. I loved the fact that even after penning loads of books they all still feel a sense of ‘self-doubt’ when it comes to writing.

One of my favourite quotes from the weekend was during Joanne’s talk where she said, “Playing with words is the closest thing to magic we can do. It’s voodoo.” I think this is a beautiful way to describe writing; when a piece of work starts to flow and come together, it does feel like magic. And both Joanne and Jane spoke about the journeys their writing has taken them on, the people they have met along the way, the way their words have led them on adventures and touched different lives. Something which came across was the sheer power that words can have. It reminded me why I write – I want to be part of that magic, of weaving stories into the fabric of the world, even if that world is one built within my own imagination!

The best thing about the past few months for me has been the way in which a book I have been working on for quite a long time, finally came together. And now I am working on the finishing touches to some final edits before I send my words out into the real world (i.e. to my publisher for a read). Watch this space to see what happens with book number 2…

Who is Andy Warhol?

 

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When Follow Me was released I received lovely gifts from friends, a few of which were Pop Art/Andy Warhol themed, because of the influences in my book. The photo above shows a very thoughtful gift which was put together by my very creative friend, Rebecca – I love it so much and it is a brilliant memento to hang on my wall!

Last year there was a bit of a Pop Art resurgence, with a Pop Art exhibition opening at the Tate Modern and the BBC recently devoting a whole week to the movement, broadcasting excellent documentaries such as, ‘How Pop Art Changed the World: Soup Cans and Superstars’ (by Alastair Sooke), and ‘A Day in the Life of Andy Warhol’ (by Stephen Smith). I was really interested to watch these as a lot of the observations and themes were ones I had written about and studied during my time at University, which then fed into aspects of my Young Adult novel, Follow Me.

When studying Pop Culture as part of my undergraduate degree in Communication and Mass Media at Glasgow Caledonian University, I developed a fascination with Pop Art, and in particular one of the forefront artists, Andy Warhol.  Warhol’s art was inspired by pop culture. He produced work which focused on celebrities and incorporated media headlines and everyday consumer products, such as Campbell Soup Cans and Coca-Cola bottles, into his art work. He used repetitive images, reflecting sameness and loss of originality.

I continued to read about his art, and life, long after I graduated, all of which influenced the idea to feature an underground hangout in  Follow Me called the Barn, modelled on Warhol’s infamous ‘Factory’.  Warhol’s Factory studio was a magnet for celebrities and misfits – the artist’s workplace transformed into a social meeting place, attracting not only those in the art world, but film stars and other music icons.

As the plot for Follow Me began to form in my head I thought about how attractive and appealing an underground hang-out might be for a group of bored teenagers stuck in a small town where not a lot is happening – especially if out-of-town attractive art students were the creators. The Barn within my book offers an escape and holds an allure for the young people, but there is a darker side to the hangout, creating the mystery element of my story.

What always struck me was how perceptive Warhol was about the direction society was heading, in relation to our obsession with fame and ‘the surface image’. He championed the idea that ‘art is for everyone’ and should be accessible to the masses. He was credited with the infamous line, that, ‘In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.’ With the oversaturation of reality TV and the oversharing of our daily lives – through personal photos and video clips on social media channels – it appears that today everyone is indeed having their fifteen minutes of fame. Society’s obsession with image and fascination with celebrities, (a fascination which appears to deepen when they die young, at the height off their fame), sparked off other themes within my novel.

Warhol became more than just his art – everyone wanted to know him and be with him. He actively encouraged and embraced this fame and recognition, and also constructed an ‘image’ of himself to portray to the world (donning a wig and sunglasses).

Through my studies I became more fascinated with the story behind his art work, and to me he became both an Icon and product of the postmodern world -Warhol himself is the art.

Sooke stated something similar in his Soup Cans and Superstars documentary, saying Pop Art images are now ripped off and used to sell products.

On the night of my book launch I wore an Andy Warhol ring -a clay construction of his face, created by an artist Flamingos and Giraffes on Etsy. Unfortunately Andy’s face fell off sometime during the after party! I’m sure this is fitting in some way…

I also wore a pair of Campbell Soup Converse trainers to my first school event. The quote on the shoe box is from Warhol  ~ Art is what you can get away with. (He used to customise his own Chuck Taylor trainers with silk screens). If you pop into the gift shop in the Gallery of Modern Art you’ll find Campbell Soup prints, donning the names of areas in Glasgow.

If you ever hear people mention Andy Warhol and wonder who he is, take a look around – his art is out there, in many forms, waiting to be consumed…

 

 

Follow Me gets a mention in Books of the Year

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I’ve had a wee bit of a #famousforfifteenminutes type of a weekend. I was really excited to see Follow Me mentioned in the Books of The Year section in the Sunday Herald Life magazine, chosen by Scottish Crime Writer, Alex Gray as one of her favourite reads of 2015. My publisher, Strident, has the write-up on their website, which you can read here .

I was also apparently featured on the cover of a Renfrewshire free paper on Friday, called Paisley People, but I have yet to get my hands on a copy of this to see the article!

I’m also delighted that my author profile is now live, (after a wee bit of a delay), on the Scottish Book Trust Live Literature Author Database. You can see that here  This means that schools and community organisations who are registered for Live Literature Funding in Scotland can book me to do a workshop/talk, with support from SBT. Here’s more information about this great scheme here

 

 

 

 

 

A visit to St. Columba’s and dressing like a pirate

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Yesterday I visited a group of thirty 4th years in St. Columba’s High School in Gourock. As it was the start of Book Week Scotland this was a perfect time to talk about books and writing. My journey there was eventful as my train got stopped due to an accident affecting the line, with no news on when they would be up and running again. I had to jump off and get a taxi down and just made it in time! I had a very interesting conversation with the taxi driver about books, writing, dyslexia and art, so that actually helped to calm my nerves.

At the event I delivered a presentation about my writing journey, what’s involved in getting published and the inspiration behind ideas. I then asked the pupils to write a short flash fiction story, using some of the images of headlines I had posted up to inspire them.

One of the pupils, James Patterson (what an appropriate writer name!), let me read his very imaginative story – I’ve posted a photo of that below. A couple of the girls great stories too. It was brilliant to see everyone’s enthusiasm and I enjoyed talking to them all. If any of you are reading this, I hope you gave the 3 letter word story challenge a go!

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At the weekend I was in Winchester for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference which was brilliant. It was great getting to meet creative people and talk about writing. I also attended some really informative workshops, and it reminded me of the magic you can feel when you are involved in creating books. (and of course the hard work involved!).

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A highlight was taking part in the mass book launch party on the Saturday night in the Winchester Discovery Centre (the library). All of the participants book covers’ were emulated on the big cake, which looked and tasted amazing! There was a sea/pirate theme, so I decided to dress as an alternative pirate. This is a photo of me below in my pirate gear, on stage with my book. RRrrr. I loved Winchester too and hope to return one day soon!

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A little dinner, and a winner

Last week I was at the Erskine Writers group annual dinner. As the group meet during the day it’s nice to catch up with everyone at the dinner. As a postal member of the group I get to stay in touch via email, and through updates on the blog, and also meet up with most of the group every year at the Scottish Association of Writers conference. I’ve been a member of the group since I was about seventeen. Erskine used to run evening sessions which allowed me to attend more regularly, and it was here I met some of my best friends. Over the years there have been so many interesting talks from a range of writers, and lots of inspiring workshops. Being part of a writing group gave me the confidence to start sharing my work with a wider audience, as well as teaching me more about structure and presentation for submissions.

At this year’s dinner I received a lovely Quaich Trophy as I won first place in the Flash Fiction competition last year. The photo below is of myself and Elizabeth (on the right), the president, who handed out the awards.erskine dinner

In other news, my Mum, Rosemary, and I were interviewed for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Blog. My Mum has been a member of the RNA for years and when they saw her sharing news of my book they were interested to find out more about our shared love of writing, and how we support one another. My Mum has always been a massive support and inspiration to me, (and she also introduced me to Erskine Writers), so it was really nice taking part in an interview like this. You can read that here 

And lastly I wanted to share a brilliant photo from my launch night of me with my cover artist, Ida Henrich. Ida shared this on her new facebook page today. You can check out more of her work here. It was great getting to meet Ida on the night, and she even came to the pub with me and my friends after the launch to help me celebrate. I also found out that the woods Ida photographed for the cover were in Pollock Park and one of my friends told us that there is actually a place called the Old Barn near here. Spooky!! I don’t think the ‘Old Barn’ is as cool as The Barn in Follow Me though 🙂

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Launch Night

Cupcakes!

Cupcakes!

Follow Me ~ the books!!

Follow Me ~ the books!!

Famous for 15 minutes

Famous for 15 minutes

Me reading at Cafe W

Me reading at Cafe W

Last Friday evening was the launch night for my YA mystery, Follow Me, at Waterstones, Argyle Street in Glasgow, with my publisher Strident Publishing Ltd. What a night! I really couldn’t have asked for a better launch – I took along my mini coca-cola bottles, with Marilyn Monroe badges, encouraging everyone to be ‘famous for fifteen minutes’ by joining in posting about the launch on social media, with the hashtag #followmetothebarn (I had lots of fun looking through the tweets the next day). I also had my cupcakes with edible book cover toppers from the brilliant eatmyface.co.uk. My publisher, Keith, at Strident, was kind enough to supply wine and other soft drinks and my parents also brought along other savory nibbles.

My publisher, Keith, did a Q&A with me and I read out short extracts from my novel in-between. He knows Follow Me nearly as well as I do now, so his questions were very intuitive and it made it feel like a friendly conversation. I was overwhelmed by the amount of support from friends and family and it was brilliant looking out into the audience at such an encouraging and happy crowd! I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t feel nervous at all, which kept me calm when reading, and meant I enjoyed every minute of the night.

I had my first taster of signing books at the end, and it felt surreal, but amazing, to be sitting in Waterstones surrounded by my own books, with people wanting to buy a signed copy!

A strange co-incidence of the evening was when I met two women on the stairs, who were looking down at the set-out chairs, wondering what was going on. I invited them to come along, and later, after postings on social media, I realised one of them was part of a book group who had communicated with me via Instagram a couple of weeks ago. Neither of us had realised on the night! She was kind enough to write a little post about my launch here 

Afterwards I went for drinks to Drury Bar and Kitchen and they played a perfect selection of rock and alternative old-school tunes. It was lovely to be able to share such a special night with so many friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen for years. Even my old Primary Head Teacher turned up, which really made my night!! She was always so encouraging of my reading and writing in my last couple of years at primary school.

I’ve put up slideshow of photos on the right hand side bar of my homepage – see if you can spot yourself! Big thanks to Derek Mooney who took loads of photos on the night and to Lorna McLaren, Peter Morrison and my Mum, Rosemary, and other friends who posted photos on social media.

Thanks again to everyone who came along and made it such a brilliant night. It’s one I’m never going to forget.

You can order Follow Me now on Amazon here or order into your local Waterstones here

Ready for Take Off!

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Tomorrow is the BIG LAUNCH for Follow Me at Waterstones, Argyle Street, Glasgow 6.30pm. I’m putting the final preparations together today for little things I want to take along. I’ve put together a montage photo (at the top) with some moments from my day yesterday. One big moment was getting to hold my book Follow Me for the first time in my hands – such a great feeling! And I also received a pop art card from one of my work colleagues – that’s me, Andy Warhol style, which is just brilliant. All of my work colleagues, friends and family, have been so supportive and excited for me and it makes the whole run up to launch day even more exciting for me!
The coke bottles are a little extra thing I am taking along to my launch, keeping in with the Andy Warhol, pop art theme.

One of my biggest champions since I could read and write was my Mum, the writer Rosemary Gemmell, and I was delighted to be interviewed on her blog yesterday. You can read that here  I couldn’t ask for a more inspiring and supportive Mum and it’s brilliant being able to share a love of words and writing with her. I was so happy when she got her brilliant book, The Highland Lass published earlier this year (one of many), as I know this was a story close to her heart, and I think this is probably my favourite book of hers.

There will be updates from launch night soon!!