It’s been exactly a month since my Story Shop appearance. Cor, time’s flown! Now that the tents are packed up and Edinburgh’s gone back to some kind of normality, I’ve been looking back at the madness that was August, and here’s my vaguely coherent thoughts on it all…
Let’s be honest: the Edinburgh International Book Festival is serious business. The closer it got, the more I started to get nervous. I mean, it’s where the cream of the literary crop come to show the world what they’ve got. And there I was one day with a fellow Story Shopper, being dragged to collect my lanyard at the hallowed, richly carpeted floors of the mythical Author Yurt, a place that inspired not one, but two Twitter parodies this year. Here it is in all its shiny glory:
The weird thing about this green room is that despite being rammed to the gills with celebrities, it’s one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been in. You can stagger in, someone will hand you coffee strong enough to fell an elephant, you can sit and get work done and nobody will bother you. And what’s more, you can gape at all the actual famous people mere feet from you. People I was very close to but too chicken to chat to included Billy Bragg, Philip Ardagh, AL Kennedy, Juno Dawson and Alwyn Hamilton, who was sat with her agent admiring my squashy Lego notebook (and said so on Twitter afterwards). Oh, and I queued for the lovely hot dinner with the director of the festival, and there was nary a comment about just how much quinoa I troughed through. Or sweet dessert canapes I chomped. Or, er, the really nice free whisky and wine I quaffed. Look, what I’m saying is I would legit live in that Yurt all year round, and they’re lucky they didn’t find me sitting in Charlotte Square when it was all over, stringing fairy lights round a two-person tent while sobbing about free cheesy oatcake snacks.
Know what else is amazing, though? Seeing your name up on the screens, on the boards outside and in leaflets, which is the best ego boost. I got chatting to a couple next to me in an event, and they actually hunted me down afterwards to say they didn’t realise I was in the Story Shop thing I told them about, and they were really keen to see great local authors so promised to come. Actual future fans, there.
Anyway, what about the performance itself? I was lucky enough to have a glorious sunny Friday, so the Spiegeltent was pretty full – not just with people I knew, either. The lovely Eleanor from City of Literature gave me a Rocky-style pep talk, the other amazing Story Shoppers waved at me from the side of the stage, and frankly I was fizzing with nerves. After a brief introduction I suddenly had to lose those nerves, stand in front of the lectern and read out my wee story. Why don’t you make a cuppa, sit back and watch the whole thing right now?
Well, I still don’t like my voice, but I’m told I didn’t look nervous at all. And the best thing? The audience. Everyone was rapt, listening to every word, and one lady in particular was fab. As the story got darker, she started to look more and more horrified – actual open-mouthed terror – and you know what? That was the most encouraging thing ever. Just wait till she reads my novel. She might cry.
By the time it was over, I kind of wanted to do it again. Having instant feedback from a story is fab, and people applauding your words is the best feeling. I had to get used to new fans, too, like the lady who’d stayed in the part of the Highlands my story’s set in, saying how she knew of the very kelpie I wrote about. Or the couple that actually grabbed me on George Street, while I was wearing the magical lanyard and admiring the mini-kelpie statue, and were all ‘WE LOVED YOUR STORY, WE DIDN’T KNOW WHAT KELPIES WERE UNTIL YOU TOLD US AND WE SAW THIS STATUE’. They went on about his bigger brothers in Falkirk, blew me a kiss, and wandered off. Kelpie marketing board? That’s me. I was floating on a cloud of pure joy.
The rest of the day was a blur. We celebrated with some of Team Story Shop and other writer pals in a bar. We dined like kings in the Yurt. City of Literature had thoughtfully put on a party to celebrate Story Shop’s 10th birthday, so there was even more free wine. There were also numerous tearjerking speeches from other alumni, more wine, lots of laughs, some wine, a couple of selfies and I’m pretty sure there may have been more wine too. Did I mention wine?
So as you can see, I celebrated my big moment of fame in a restrained, professional manner. Rumours that we pinched the balloons from the 150th Story Shop reading, took silly pictures of them around the square then hijacked the signing table several drinks into the night are entirely false. What do you mean, there’s pictures of Team Story Shop 2016 caught in the act? Oh.
Well, a good time was had by all. Now that the safe, encouraging Book Festival bubble has gone, I’m so thrilled and honoured to have been a part of Story Shop, and it’s such a tight group of talented writers I’m lucky to count as friends. I’m super-motivated to keep on writing and get published, and it’s all thanks to a historical kelpie, a small idea and the magical ‘Author’ lanyard that makes bar staff fall over themselves to lavish attention on you, which now has pride of place dangling over my desk to cheer me when I’m sad. Yay, I’m a real actual proper writer, you guys!
(PS: If you’d like to read other stories like this and you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, then here’s a quick plug for my short story book. BUY MY BOOK. 💖💖💖)