Friday, 30 July 2010

Site Build Day 2

Overnight new tents leapt out of the ground, suddenly and without warning. I took another permitted yet mysterious crawl through the bushes to check it out.

2010 Man Booker Prize

Above: Booker longlister Paul Murray

Brilliant news. A few days ago, the longlist for none other than the 2010 Man Booker Prize for Fiction was announced, and guess what? 10 of the 13 fantastic authors on the list are coming to the Book Festival this August.

There are still tickets left for many of these events, and their shiny new Booker Prize longlist status serves as reason #10029430 to grab these tickets.

The ten longlisters who will be appearing in Charlotte Square Gardens are:

Emma Donoghue
for Room
Helen Dunmore
for The Betrayal
Howard Jacobson
for The Finkler Question
Andrea Levy
for The Long Song
Tom McCarthy
for C
David Mitchell
for The Thousand Autumns of Zacob de Zoet
Lisa Moore
for February
Paul Murray
for Skippy Dies
Christos Tsiolkas
for The Slap
Alan Warner
for The Stars in the Bright Sky

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Site Build Day 1

Today was the very first day of the Edinburgh International Book Festival site build. The first tent of Charlotte Square Gardens was hoisted into place in a flurry of rope and canvas. Okay, it probably didn’t work like that, but I imagine it did. I wasn’t there. But I did duck into the bushes and take photographs from between the leaves (with permission: which spoils the air of mystique I was going for, but never mind).

Friday, 23 July 2010

Brand new Book Festival website

Ahh, websites. As Salman Rushdie said, “a website’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep”. As T S Eliot said, “a genuine website can communicate before it is understood”. And as Plato said “websites utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand”.

… okay, none of those people said any of those things about websites. But websites can be valuable, trouble-free, nifty and entertaining blighters, and we’re hoping our brand spanking new Edinburgh International Book Festival website, freshly launched two and a half minutes ago, ticks all those boxes.

The beauty of it is that everything is tied together, so you’re always only one click away from further information. You can check out one of our fabulous Elsewhere pieces, then in a single click read a biography of its writer. From there, you can buy their books on Amazon, read any news or articles related to them, listen to their audio recordings, watch their videos, or go straight to reading about their events in the jam-packed 2010 programme – and from there, book your tickets!

What’s more, the place is full of high quality images of our authors – faces both famous and new – with their playful poses, studious gazes, animal friends and unexpected tattoos. Vote for our Readers’ First Book Award; learn about our RBS Schools Programme, educational schemes, tips and Outreach Programme; answer any Press queries; plan your Book Festival visit; delve into our great Media Archive; download our programmes, past and present; keep updated in the world of literature; and much, much more.

So start at the homepage, and get tucked in. Or as Aristotle said: “enjoy”.

(He really did)

Friday, 16 July 2010

What we're reading

You’re not the only ones reading up on the authors captivating Book Festival audiences this August. The team here is founded on literary enthusiasm, and many of us are taking the run-up to the festival as an opportunity to dive into the shelves upon shelves of great books that sit conveniently right here in our offices.

What follows are some of our favourite books being discussed at the Book Festival this year, a list compiled among ums and ers and “can I only pick one?”s –

Matterhorn by Vietnam veteran Karl Marlantes is a personal and powerful war epic, recommended very (very) vocally by Press Manager Frances.

The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna is Marketing & PR Manager Amanda’s favourite. It’s a love story set in Africa, a startlingly beautiful read.

My Friend Jesus Christ by Lars Husum ticks Press Officer Charlotte’s boxes – she describes it as a brilliantly funny tale that provokes faith in friendship.

Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo is a consistent and worthy favourite of Programme Manager Roland’s.

The Bird Room by Chris Killen, recommended by Programme Administration Assistant Esmé, is an irresistibly dark comedy by an irresistibly talented young author.

Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg comes recommended by IT & Systems Administrator Steve. It’s a brutally moving and honest memoir described by Irvine Welsh as a remarkable achievement.

Exposure by Mal Peet is an award-winning young adult novel, recommended by Programme Assistant Hilary, about having it all – and then losing it all.

Begat: The King James Bible and the English is a fascinating and intelligent look at the Bible’s influence on the English language, written by David Crystal and recommended by Box Office Supervisor Miriam.

From the Dead by Mark Billingham is a gripping and inspired crime novel recommended by Box Office Supervisor Thomas.

Learning to Lose by David Trueba comes suggested by Sponsorship Assistant Simone. Worthy of its awards, it is an engaging tale of a talented young Argentinian football star who arrives in Madrid.

How Not to F*** Them Up! by Oliver James is recommended by Administrative Director Andrew, who, fittingly enough, is a father-to-be!

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit Anniversary by Jeanette Winterson is being enjoyed, among many others, by Festival Administrator Alice. A celebration of the renowned classic.

Room by Emma Donoghue, recommended by Development Officer Eli, is a novel, both uplifting and devastating, about a single locked room.

The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric has been highlighted by Sponsorship & Development Manager Loïs. It’s a daring and stunning work of tremendous power.

A motley selection, I’m sure you agree. But I wonder if you agree with our choices…

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Elsewhere updates and meet our Booksales Officer!

Above: Elsewhere writer Jason Donald

The homepage of the Edinburgh International Book Festival is looking particularly delicious nowadays, because on it we’ve now got links to Elsewhere pieces by Jason Donald, Michel Faber, A L Kennedy, Eleanor Thom, Allan Radcliffe, James Robertson, Louise Welsh, Denise Mina and Doug Johnstone. That’s a very tempting group of very talented writers with nine very weird, wonderful, striking, funny pieces, all on the theme of Elsewhere.

As the Book Festival continues to advance towards an exciting August, we thought we’d give you an insight into what happens behind the scenes. Read on for a Q+A with Tracey Rosenberg, Booksales Officer of the Book Festival team.

What was your career path before you came to the Book Festival, and what is your role here?

I've worked in several independent bookshops, both in the States and the UK, so was thrilled to be hired last year to work in the festival's bookshops. This summer, I'm Booksales Officer, so I work with the Booksales and Retail Manager to ensure the three on-site bookshops run smoothly. In the build-up to the festival, I primarily do admin work - entering books onto the EPOS system, preparing signage and information for the shops, helping to interview and hire bookshop staff, using approximately eighteen zillion spreadsheets to keep track of books and authors and events, organising stationery boxes, that sort of thing.

When the festival goes live, I'll be overseeing goods inwards, the signing tent, and the cash office, and will be one of the people dashing around the site while talking into a radio. Our shops are extremely busy - it's like being a Christmas temp, except in August - so my job is never dull.

Originally, I wasn't too sure about the title Booksales Officer, but it does have a nice ring to it, and occasionally - as with last year's Guest Director, Richard Holloway - people decide that as I'm an officer, they should salute me!

What qualities do you need in order to thrive at the Book Festival?

In general, enthusiasm and a lifelong love of literature, but of course every area has its own particular combination of essential qualities. I'd say the most important tools in my kit will be stamina, a thorough knowledge of the programme and the books in the shops, and the ability to communicate with the customers as well as all my colleagues. The most difficult part will be refraining from nipping into the main bookshop after my shift 'just to tidy that shelf'. Given that I'll be spending hours on my feet, I'm grateful that my dad gave me an incredibly good pair of boots for my birthday.

What events are you most looking forward to this year?

Cartoonist Garry Trudeau, as I grew up reading Doonesbury, and quite a few poets, some of whom I've had the honour of appearing with myself: Ryan van Winkle (who's appearing as part of the Word Express event) and Ron Butlin and I were all previously involved in an ESRC Genomics Forum event run by science fiction writer Ken MacLeod. Don Paterson, Adam Foulds, and (of course) Seamus Heaney are also on my hope-to-see list.

As a writer yourself, do you see yourself performing at the Book Festival in the future?

I would certainly love to! One of the things I like about the festival is that even though we attract some of the biggest names in literature, there is always space for new writers - two examples this year are the Elsewhere short stories project (which has several related events) and the City of Literature's Story Shop, which takes place daily in the main bookshop. I'm quite keen on the Unbound programme, which should also give new writers a chance to shine, and there's at least one event specifically focusing on graduates of Scottish creative writing programmes. Hopefully, if I keep working on my own writing, I'll be deemed good enough to invite - though I suspect it will be some time before I'm able to sell out the RBS Main Theatre....

What's the most exciting part of your job?

I know I should say 'meeting the authors', and indeed it's always a thrill when someone like Garrison Keillor turns up at the till, but to be honest, what gives me a buzz is when a customer vaguely remembers a book - it was a crime novel, and it had a reddish cover, and the author's name maybe begins with a vowel...? - and I'm able to track down that book and put it in their hands. One of my favourite bookshops, the late lamented Cody's of Berkeley, California, used to treat bookselling not as a job but as a vocation - which is not only my personal attitude but an approach which, I think, fits very well into the overarching ethos of the Book Festival.