Tuesday 28 August 2012

Edinburgh Book Festival: Teri Terry checks it out from both sides of the Yurt

by Teri Terry
Banrock the Muse models my Edinburgh author badge,
nestled between the Edinburgh Programme & Slated!
Last week I was at the amazing Edinburgh Book Festival: the largest public celebration of the written word in the WORLD. 

I was invited to take part in two events - more on them, below - and also spent an extra day there so I could experience the whole thing from the other side.

I received the initial invite for one of the events many months ago. I was in London with fellow Slushie Jo Wyton at the time, in a coffee shop: I believe there may have been cake. I seem to remember highly undignified jumping up and down with excitement. 

...and then came the terror. 
Fear of the unknown: eyes open, or shut?
  • What if I trip on the way to the stage? Various injuries and skirt splitting disasters played out in my mind.
  • What if I blank? I've had moments like that in job interviews before, being asked a question I couldn't quite grasp, and staring back. While silent seconds tick along...
  • What if I babble? Nerves can make me babble nonsense: fact.
  • What if I miss my train, get food poisoning, get lost; what if torrential rain floods the venue; what if I lose my suitcase and have nothing to wear; what if I spill breakfast all over myself on the way?
Note: this is just a small selection of my 'what ifs'. There were many, many more.

It is a fact of the author's life these days that promotion of your books generally and at events like this is so important. And for me, I was really happy and excited with the idea of appearing at festivals to meet readers and talk about Slated. But until I actually had something like this done and dusted, I wasn't sure how I would cope. It was a step into the unknown.

The events: 

The first was in the RBS Schools Programme on Dystopian fiction with fellow SCBWI member and author of Dark Parties, Sara Grant. The second event was in the main programme with Susanne Winnacker, author of zombie apocalypse, The Other Life, and Anne Cassidy, author of many including her current Murder Notebooks crime series which begins with Dead Time.

What helped get me through the lead up to Edinburgh? Learning more about how events are organized. It wasn't a case of us needing to prepare an entire talk for an hour; it was structured with a chair, and Q&A. And that my first event was with the wonderful Sara Grant. Knowing the other author, and once we'd got together to talk about it, realizing we can both talk for England, really helped.
The other Author perk: thanks
to Jane McLoughlin (L) for photo!

When I arrived the day before - suitcase safe in room, with only minimal amounts of getting lost and rained on - I discovered the magic land of the Author Yurt. Nicola Morgan hints at its mystery and magic here. Photos aren't allowed in the Yurt, but suffice it to say, I'd like to move in. And once I had my Author ID around my neck I could come and go at will. 
L to R: Julia Eccleshare, Me, Sara Grant.
Worryingly, I appear to be checking my pulse

Everything at Edinburgh was SO well organized. On the day of the event, I didn't sleep in, or get food poisoning. 
I met with Sara and our chair, Julie Eccleshare, Guardian's children's books editor. I knew what we were going to do. Julia was amazing: calm and reassuring. Yes, I was a bundle of nerves before we went in. But once we walked into the theatre and there was a scattering of applause from all the school groups there... it was all right. In fact, it was better than that: it was awesome.

Stephanie McGregor, another SCBWI friend, had said before we went in that it'll be fine, because we're talking about our babies: our books that we've created and love. And she was right. 
Post-event: all smiles!
In the signing tent afterwards!
2nd event! L to R - chair, Grace; Anne Cassidy, Suzanne Winnacker, and Me

And another word about SCBWI buddies: the second event in the evening was more adults than teenage readers. But it was wonderful to see some familiar faces - Stephanie, Sara and Dave Cousins - in the audience.
Me, Sara Grant and Dave Cousins - night before - after
their Author Improv event: great fun!

While I kind of alternated between jumping up and down and terror at different points on the months leading up to Edinburgh, you know what? Now that it is safely over, it was SO much fun. I'd love to go again if the opportunity presents. And getting through my first really big event makes me feel I can be all chilled out about future opportunities. Please remind me of this... 

The other side of the Yurt:

I also attended as many other events as I could fit in while I was there. A few things I picked up along the way: 

  • "This book was like a boyfriend couldn't break up with: so I changed him." Tanya Byrne, on the evolution of Heart Shaped Bruise.
  • there is something about YA writers, and law degrees: Tanya Byrne, Susanne Winnacker and I all have one.
  • Anabel Pitcher, author of My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece: she wanted to be a spy; then a footballer with Manchester United; then a writer.
  • on whether Enduring Love is too contrived, Ian McEwan: "Novels are contrivances." 
  • "Humour is a funny thing, isn't it." Mark Haddon. He said it, then realized what he said. Much laughter followed.
  • on writing about the afterlife: "The good thing for an author is nobody can say you've got it wrong." Kate Harrison
  • I saw many readings while I was there, and they were all great! But a few special moments:
    • most riveted audience goes to.... Keith Gray, reading the start of his short story in Next: a short story anthology on what happens after you die. Poor Barker.
    • most animated reader goes to.... Dave Cousins, reading from his novel, Fifteen Days Without a Head. I think he should run a SCBWI workshop on this.
Very special thanks to: 
Stephanie McGregor, for taking photos for use in this blog, pep talks, and general hand-holding; Sara Grant and Julia Eccleshare for putting up with my nerves, their awesomeness at my first ever major event, and general hand-holding; Ellen from Orchard for pushing me in the right directions, keeping track of stuff, Thai and mint tea, and - you guessed it - more general hand-holding; and Susanne Winnacker and Anne Cassidy for a fab event and interesting discussion on genre (I was chilled enough by the second event to not need so much hand-holding). And, of course, Janet and everyone at Edinburgh Book Festival for flawless organization, efficiency and enthusiasm: I hope to see you again!
But most of all, to all who came along to our events, excited about books, and asking so many interesting questions: Thanks.
Anobii First Book Award
As a debut author at Edinburgh this year, I'm up for this award. It is voted for by readers, and voting enters you to win all 46 nominated books! You can vote here. It closes 12th of October. 


  1. So enjoyed reading this. Was my first time there too. Reading about all your worries beforehand there, I was going, 'Yup, yup..' and nodding away. It really is the most amazing experience. This helped me re-live it a little - thank you!

    1. I think imagining every possible thing that can go wrong - the ordinary and extraordinary - is part of what makes us writers. Though darned uncomfortable at the time...

  2. Hi Teri, thanks for that. I always wondered what it ws actually like for the authors at these events and congratulations on surviving! Most intrigued by the yurt....

  3. WOW! Sounds like you had a fab time, I'm very jealous!

  4. Sounds like it's 'In at the deep end' as soon as the book's out! Well done for surviving. Glad you had fun alongside the terror.

  5. You're so good with the 'what if's' Teri - that's why you're an author!

  6. Great article Teri – brings it all back. From the audience perspective you looked like you'd been doing events like those for years – very composed. It was great to share my first Ed Book Fest with you – thanks for the 'animated reading' vote too!


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