Stairwell Books, a north of England publisher, based in York, is sponsoring their own Scottish Writing festival at the Scottish Storytelling Centre adjacent to the John Knox House Museum on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. The festival features Scottish Writers or authors with books based in Scotland. The event takes place on the Friday the 17th and Saturday the 18th of September. On the Friday evening there will be talks and presentations from Rebecca Smith, whose Young adult Novel, Shadow Cat Summer is set in the Highlands, Yvonne Hendry, whose novel The Water Bailiff’s Daughter set in the Lowlands is gaining traction, and a guest spot, by accomplished poet Bob Beagrie who is based in Northumberland’s Teesside University.
On the Saturday, Stairwell has invited a number of Scottish and Northern publishers to share the Scottish Story Telling Centre with tables of their own books. This is a great opportunity for readers to see and buy a range of excellent books that which may not grace the shelves of the large retail bookselling chains.
Over the recent lockdown Stairwell Books has published a number of books set in Scotland and written by Scottish authors. To celebrate this achievement Stairwell is holding a two-day book festival at the Scottish Storytellng Centre. The opening evening, £5 entry that gains you a £5 voucher toward books, features three authors. Rebecca Smith, best-selling author of Jane Austen Writer’s Club (and Jane Austen’s actual great great great great great niece) will be presenting an illustrated talk about big cats, and using animals in children’s fiction, to promote her brand-new book about the Highlands, Shadow Cat Summer. Yvonne Hendrie, now a spokeswoman for Ayeshire Cancer Support, will talk about The Water Bailiff’s Daughter, set in a magical West Scotland, as well as her upcoming novel about Robert Kirke. And to finish out the evening, performance poet Bob Beagrie will read poems that are also set to music by Project Lono.
Saturday offers a free book festival from 10am to 4pm at the SSC, with tables given over to local booksellers as well as Stairwell’s authors. Over 50 Stairwell Books titles will be available, from children’s picture books and middle grade fiction to Young Adult, to social history, poetry and story collections, and literary novels. Sci-fi, fantasy, history, poetry and literary novels will be available from Fly on the Wall Press, Shoreline of Infinity (whose in-house periodical was named 2018 British Fantasy Society’s Magazine of the Year) and Guardbridge Books. Authors will give short readings throughout the day, including Edinburgh Fringe theatre favourite Shannon O’Neill (poetry), Katy Turton (historical fiction), whose acclaimed novel of the Russian Revolution is gaining notice, and Alwyn Bathan with a hilarious adventure story about ferrets. Rounding the day off will be readings from near-future YA dystopia O Man Of Clay by Eliza Mood, and South Wales Evening Post Sports Book of the Month, The Great Billy Butlin Walk, by Robin Richards.
The Friday event will be recorded and uploaded to Stairwell Books’ YouTube channel for folks who live far away, have access issues, or cannot attend both days, but do try: what promises to be a brilliant night out will be essentially free when you purchase books at the Saturday book festival. You can take an inside peek of all of Stairwell’s non-poetry books online at Blackwells and the Stairwell Books website.
Shadow Cat Summer is the story of 12 year old twins Katrina and Alex, who find themselves staying with artist Aunt Clara and forest ranger Uncle Archie after their mum has a breakdown and enters treatment for alcohol addiction. Almost right away, the twins find themselves hunting for what seems to be a big cat. Local livestock do seem to be disappearing. But is this a case of two children missing their mum, and letting their fears get the better of them? Best-selling children’s author Ali Sparkes writes, “A wonderfully atmospheric and lyrical story, unsentimental but so affecting.”
In Young Adult fantasy The Water Bailiff’s Daughter, Helena Hailstaines, a shape-shifting otter now trapped in human form, finds her way in life in rural West Scotland between the World Wars. Costa shortlisted author Martyn Bedford praises the story as “A wonderfully different novel.”
Whereas we are truly exhausted by that certain C word, When We Wake, We Think We’re Whalers From Eden, by poet Bob Beagrie, explores how the sense of self along with every aspect of life changed overnight with the pandemic. Hopeful, pragmatic, with small brief flashes of angst, this is a collection described as “recurringly catch-in-the-throat good” by Char March, and will stand the test of time.