Wednesday, 29 August 2012

346 days to go

August 2012 watched two hundred thousand people fall in literary love with eight hundred authors.

Michael Morpurgo sang ‘Only Remembered’, unaccompanied. Jackie Kay stood up and by way of introduction said “I'm from Scotland and I'm a lesbian”. David Walliams made four hundred kids fire questions at him. Chris Riddell drew a monster in the middle of the Gardens. Val McDermid dressed up as a pirate. Jeremy Paxman admitted he can't dance. John McCarthy told us how to laugh when you're locked away without sunlight. Neil Gaiman rolled about on the walkway. Michael Palin did the Bolt pose. John Sampson made everyone sing. Ali Smith caused two journalists to throw away their pens and just listen.

That's about 1% of what caused a mass outbreak of glee and awe this month in Charlotte Square Gardens.

I'm loathe to say what I'm about to say, because it seems obvious to the point of being hackneyed. But I'm going to say it anyway, because it's the truth: my highlight of the 2012 Edinburgh International Book Festival was the World Writers' Conference. The keynote speeches were astounding, and I've never known a Book Festival venue to be so alive. There were guffaws, swearing, hissing, cries of “hear hear!”, and a philosophical quandary the size of a small planet. Actually there were a few of those.

If you're one of the Writers' Conference delegates and you're reading this, please know that your mind is bloomin' delicious and I would like to eat it. (If that's okay with you.)

The Book Festival would not simply whip itself out from under us like a tablecloth and leave us shivering. It's left plenty of stuff for us to be getting on with. The memories, yes, and the books, and the autograph you got Jeanette Winterson to scribble on your left hip (admit it) – but there's also all this:

Video & audio recordings
Five video recordings of some of the biggest events from this year's Book Festival, along with a plethora of audio recordings, will become available – completely free of charge – in the Book Festival media gallery over the next few weeks. So if you weren't in Edinburgh this August, you won't miss out after all.

Writers' Conference
This was just the beginning. The biting intellectuality of the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference events will continue, starting with the Berlin International Literature Festival next week and then moving on to sixteen countries around the globe. Keep an eye on the Writers' Conference website for videos and updates. And continue the debates on Twitter with hashtag #worldwritersconf

The Book Festival's very own book packed with brand new writing on the subject of “Elsewhere” will be available in shops soon. You can read the pieces (by a great range of writers, from Theresa Breslin to A L Kennedy) on the website; and listen to many of them being read out by the authors themselves.

The Anobii First Book Award
A celebration of debut novelists, the Anobii First Book Award gives us – the readers – forty six nominees to choose from. Which new book really awed you? Voting closes at 4.30pm on Friday the 12th of October 2012.

The next Edinburgh International Book Festival programme will be announced in June 2013. Charlotte Square Gardens will open its gates once more to the book-loving public on Saturday the 10th of August 2013.

This is me signing off. If you've been reading – thank you! For tolerating my silliness and my strange punctuation, and for taking part in the social media side of the Book Festival, which has been just as triumphant as the grassy bits.

I'm tempted to finish on a stream of mushy adjectives. But instead I'll finish with a quote from John Calder (Writers' Conference founder, and supporter of the Book Festival long before it was even conceived). He stood up during the debate on the future of the novel and said this:

"Literature is art.

As long as there is life, there will be art".