Archive for February, 2011

Do I write rather odd books?

Do I write rather odd books?  I hope so!  I got an email recently from a reader saying she’d really enjoyed Rocking Horse War (she wrote, “I felt like I was actually one of the characters, I was in my bed reading and I imagined that there would be a movie of Rocking Horse War, it was a great feeling,”) but she also said “I found bits of it rather odd.”  And I thought – is that a good thing?  Do I write rather odd books?  Then I thought –  if rather odd means: unpredictable, unusual, surprising, unlikely … then I hope that I do write rather odd books, characters, scenes, stories and endings.  So thanks for the review, and I’ll get back to the keyboard, and find some more rather odd things to write!  Long live odd!

Archive for February, 2011

Sumerian skulls and stories

 Just back from a short family holiday in London, where I dragged my kids round lots of museums I needed to visit for research.    

My favourite was the Ancient Mesopotamia room in the British Museum, which had lots of amazing artefacts from Ancient Sumer, because Ancient Sumer is a time and place I’ve spent a lot of time inside my head recently while researching The Mountain’s Blood, my retelling of the Sumerian myth about Inanna.  When I was writing the book, I did all my research from books, in libraries or online, but in the British Museum, I saw the remains of this fascinating civilisation for real. 

Actual carvings of this goddess whose character I tried to understand, whose story I tried to tell.  Real examples of the very first writing.  A bloke who led a wee tour round the room, who claimed that the Sumerians didn’t just invent writing, but also the wheel!  And a couple of squashed skulls, from the wonderfully named Death Pits – though looking at them made me feel a bit intrusive, because even though these two people died thousands of years ago, I’m not sure if it’s fair to dig them up and put them in cases for us to point at and say, “gross!” and “yuck!”  (Because they were gross!) 

However I also discovered that the British Museum has 130,000 pieces of Sumerian cuneiform writing in its back rooms, and that they are still translating them.  So there might be lots more ‘new’ anicent myths about Inanna and Enki and Utu waiting to be told.   Who knows, I might even retell a few more of them myself!

Archive for February, 2011

Brilliant DRAGONS from kids (and scarves too)

I realise that the previous two posts will have given the impression that I only do events in Perthshire.   I do love Perthshire but you can see me elsewhere too!

I was in the wonderful Blackwells bookshop in Edinburgh last weekend, in the kids’ department in the basement, telling Sumerian myths and talking about the kickass goddess in the Mountain’s Blood.  And at the end, I was signing books and chatting to the really impressive number of customers who had sat down to listen to me (and it wasn’t even raining outside!) when a boy (whose name I won’t use unless he says it’s ok!) very quietly handed me a homemade blue dragon.  With wings, and bright eyes.  And a tiny intricate bracelet on one of her blue legs.  It was Sapphire.  He had made a real live (well, real felt) version of the dragon from First Aid for Fairies and Other Fabled Beasts.   And he gave her to me, to keep, to inspire me to write more books!  I was so touched.  She’s quite delicate, unlike the muckle beast in the books, so I only cuddled her very gently.  And she’s now sitting splendidly on my printer, telling me to hurry up with the next book.

But she’s so impressive, I wanted to share her picture with you – so here it is, below.


 (And the background, that cheerful blue and red tartan, is the official Fetterangus Primary School tartan, designed by the pupils of a very small school in Aberdeenshire.  I had to travel through snow to visit them last week, so they very kindly gave me this warm scarf as a present.  And doesn’t Sapphire look good on it!

So thanks to the very talented dragon-making boy for Sapphire, and to Fetterangus School for the beautiful scarf!

Archive for February, 2011

brilliant questions from kids

I suspect that much of my blog will be taken up with brilliant questions from kids, because for me they are always the highlight of any event.  My favourite EVER questions are the questions Inverkip Primary sent me from the characters in my first book.  I actually got into an argument with the centaur while answering them.  You can find them in the Q&A bit of my website.

But I was asked another EXCELLENT question last week, which made me stand still and speechless in front of a hundred kids in a theatre.  I was at the Winter Words Festival in Pitlochry – the bravest book festival in Scotland, where they confidently and optimistically invite writers from all over the world to make it to Perthshire in the depths of winter.  And it works!  Though I do usually wear climbing boots and carry a rucksack to get there…

So, in keeping with the climbing boots and rucksack look, last week I spoke to a lot of P7, S1 and S2 pupils from Pitlochry High School, about my new book Mountain’s Blood.  And a girl in the second back row asked me, “Would you rather live in the real world, or in the world of your books?”  I have never been asked that before.   And I really didn’t have a pat, soundbite, easy answer.  So I probably looked a bit gobsmacked and dottled and even gormless for a wee while.

But then I gave as honest an answer as I could – I pointed out that I have two kids, and they are in the real world, so there is nowhere else I’d rather be.  BUT that the adventure books I write (the fabled beast books, with Helen and Yann) are probably set in the world I’d like to have lived in when I was about 11.  So I’m happy in the real world now, but that I’d have happily swapped it for a magical fantasy world when I was younger.

I do love being challenged by completely new questions.  It makes me think hard about how I write, and sometimes even think hard about who I am.   So if you think of any questions which can mess with my head, go for it!

Archive for February, 2011

lari’s first attempt at a blog

This is my first attempt to write a blog, and as a writer who normally rereads and edits my novels at least 100 times before letting anyone read them, writing something so immediate, something which I can’t look at again next week and rethink next month, is a bit scary!

But I’ve decided to put a blog up on my website because I realised that my website itself wasn’t changing that much, except when I publish a new book and put the cover on the homepage.  Also I do a lot of events in brilliant places, and meet fascinating readers who ask really interesting questions about writing, and I thought a blog would be a way of sharing that with you.

In fact the visit that finally made me decide that I really would get round to a blog was at the very end of January, when I spent a day in Aberfeldy in Perthshire, at a very new library in the Breadalbane community campus.  It was such a beautiful library, in such a fabulous place, with such an enthusiastic librarian, that I thought I should shout a bit about it.

The library isn’t in some dusty old building in a corner of the town which no-one visits.  It’s in a huge new building which also has a café, a swimming pool, squash courts and both the local schools – primary and secondary.  The library is right at the front of the building so you have to walk past the library door to get anywhere else.  And the library has a massive wall of windows, so as you walk out of the car park all you can see are these lovely shelves of books, just beckoning you to come in and browse and borrow!  It’s a lovely library, and I wish more libraries were like that.

There is a great central library in Dundee, which is attached to a shopping centre (how clever is that – go and buy your messages, and borrow some books, at the same time).   But most libraries are in very old buildings, often with no parking anywhere near, and often not near anything else useful.

And given how little money is spent on libraries, it doesn’t look like many other towns will be as lucky as Aberfeldy, and get a shiny new modern library any time soon.

And that’s the other reason I decided to start a blog …

I spent most of last week, having got back from the lovely library in Perthshire, writing emails, letters and press releases, trying to firstly stop Edinburgh Council cutting secondary school librarians’ hours (a battle which I think we may have won!  So get out there, and campaign – sometimes it actually WORKS!) and also supporting a brilliant Scotland-wide protest at the Scottish parliament last Saturday about all cuts to libraries.

And the more people blog, and twitter (I don’t twitter – a website is enough for me just now!), and campaign, and contact their local MSPs and councillors, the more chance we have of saving our libraries.  Libraries, whatever kind of building they are in, are vital to our education, to our culture, to our authors and our readers, and if we don’t fight for them then they will fade away.  And making a bit of noise online is one way to do that.

So – if you want to comment at all, or link to this blog, then please follow the instructions which I hope appear below.  Let me know what you’d like me to blog about (let me know if this reads like a blog at all!) and let me know which is YOUR favourite library.

(And if you have any problems either linking to or commenting on this blog – because I freely admit I have NO IDEA what I’m doing when I’m putting this up, then just email me!  (  Because even a techno-idiot like me can open an email…)

Archive for February, 2011

Blog Coming Soon

I’m currently working on starting a blog – please come back soon