Tag Archives: Edinburgh

New Town Magic

Friday, 30 August 2013 by Aija

 

The modern face of Edinburgh city – or so they say, as in all honesty, modern is only referring to the things you can do and what and where you shop, not the actual part of town. New Town is as rich in history and culture as the rest of the city – built in stages between 1765 and around 1850, and still retains the most of the original neo-classical and Georgian architecture. The Old and New Towns were together designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

In 1766 a design competition was held to find a suitably modern layout for the new suburb that originally spanned from Princes Street down to Queen Street, joining the crossing Hanover, Frederick and Charlotte Streets. The competition was, rather surprisingly, won by 26 year old James Craig, who, following the natural contours of the land, proposed a simple axial grid, with a principal thoroughfare along the ridge linking two garden squares. A nice contrast to the jumbled old cobble street and alleys (or “closes”) or the Old Town, especially with the stipulations of unity (such as how the wrought iron façade details must be painted black) and the communal gardens in the squares between houses. Small patches of respite amidst of the city’s hastiness.

The names of the streets speak for themselves; named after the King and his wife, St. Andrew’s Square and St. George’s Square were the names chosen to represent the union of Scotland and England, and this idea was continued with the smaller Thistle Street (for Scotland’s national emblem) between George Street and Queen Street, and Rose Street (for England’s emblem) between George Street and Princes Street. The three streets completing the grid, Castle, Frederick and Hanover Streets, were named for the view of the castle, King George’s father Frederick and the name of the royal family. Inventive, don’t you think?

What is more, the New Town is home to some of the greatest Edinburgh galleries, such as the National Gallery of Scotland, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery as well as being sprinkled with dozens upon dozens of unique smaller galleries of contemporary local artists. There is more than you can imagine to discover; personal favourite would be the Castle Fine Art gallery on Multrees Walk. Castle Fine Art is known for its rare discoveries that include the renowned Alexander Millar and the occasional exhibition of either Keith Richards or Bob Dylan, to name but a few.

And that reminds me – Multrees Walk. One of the more high-class streets in Edinburgh, located just off St. Andrew Square, Multrees is home to such exclusive shops as Calvin Klein, Harvey Nichols, Mulberry, Louis Vuitton and Swarovski as well as a few lovely cafes, such as one of the two famous Valvona & Crolla deli’s, with unmistakable style of cooking that derives from recipes handed down s over the years from the owners’ families in central and southern Italy and all prepared from the very produce they sell in their own shops.

Another rare gem we would like to recommend for the drama lovers out there, is the Hill Street Solo Theatre – tucked away down a minor street this venue is easy to miss, but the Hill Street Solo Theatre has been in nonstop action since 34 years now, and is one main stay of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! Focusing on those artists out there that are interested in developing their solo performance work as well as offering workshops and talks of solo theatre, with extensive performance schedule, we would highly recommend spending a night cultured in this unusual jewel!

For a bite to eat, how about starting with the Urban Angel on Hanover Street. Their ethos of providing natural, season, fresh and as local as possible, mainly organic, daily changing inventive menus is what draws in loyal client base that would in a heartbeat recommend the wide range of deliciousness.

An up-and–coming area of Broughton Street is just down from St. James’ Shopping Centre, and for those looking for rare treats and unique shops and places to eat, you would fare well acquainting yourself with the offerings of Broughton. On Broughton Street you would do well to check out the Basement Bar, a fun place and even the staff states that “you won’t find friendlier staff, better tunes or a bigger collection of Hawaiian shirts anywhere in Edinburgh, so what are you waiting for?”, and we are bound to agree. Also, while you’re at Broughton and get peckish, try out the Bonsai Japanese Bar Bistro – amazing choice of sushi and other dishes that will leave you wanting more even after you’ve stuffed yourself silly! Another fine choice is Treacle, with a sophisticated vintage interior and a fair trade menu that reflects the season you could not choose a better place for your lunch/dinner and/or a drink whilst exploring the Street!

Another place for a good night out, we would recommend is the Fingers Piano Bar on Frederick Street. Although it does get extremely busy on weekends, even weekdays can provide you with a treat of piano players who truly know their trade, while you enjoy that excellent drink. All in all, great atmosphere and worth the crowds, if you’re in that kind of a mood. Reviews might be more than mixed, but try out for yourself, don’t believe all that hearsay, we say!

And if you’re looking for something really special, it is the Voodoo Rooms you want. Hidden away on West Register Street the Voodoo Rooms offer an award winning bar, with specialty rums, tequilas and amazing cocktails, and food served daily! But preposterously fine drinks are not the best part – the best part are the live shows that the Voodoo Rooms host, not just for the Fringe, nono – but throughout the year! The Voodoo Rooms aims to provide an electrifying eclectic and exotic range of music, cabaret, exhibitions, screenings and much more to ensure that you shall return, over and over again. And by the way, our staff party there just recently was a blast, great wine for good value and a show for a donation price that we know from experience the Voodoo Rooms are recommendable for that night out – fantabuloustic!

Does dusky purple lights that cast romantic shadows on the walls, jazz-centric music and fine dining sound like just the night for you? Then for a little bit of extra glamour, the Jam House is an experience not to pass. Superb! And for wine connoisseurs there is the treat of Whighams Wine Cellar on Hope Street by Charlotte Square, which has become a leading wine bar and restaurant in Edinburgh, frequented by local dwellers and visitors alike.

It’s not all about party-all-night and eat-yourself-silly, now, is it? Some of the finest views you can have of the city is up from Calton Hill. Climb up any time of the day to enjoy the sunrise or sunset over Edinburgh city centre on one side, Leith on the other and the rest of Edinburgh spreading in all directions – you can even see the ocean from up the Hill! The many monuments up on the Hill provide a rest after the climb, and especially the Athens’ Pantheon, which was built as a memorial to the Napoleonic Wars, is known for many locals and readers for a place to sit and take in the day, read a book or enjoy your picnic – if you get up on the monument itself that is!

The elegant, spacious housing that was to be the answer to the overcrowding of Old Town has proven to be a gem for The Edinburgh Address as well – we are proud to have not one, not two and not even three apartments in the area, but all together we have four gorgeous apartments in the midst of the New Town grandeur.

The two grand apartments we proudly represent are the New Town Chic @ Northumberland Street and New Town Boutique @ Northumberland Street. Conveniently right by each other, the two apartments are perfect for a larger group (can sleep all together eight) or two smaller groups (each sleeps four) when looking for a bit of luxury where to rest after a day of exploration, hill climbing, fabulous dining followed by wine, cocktails and a show or a few. Both of the apartments are ideally located in Edinburgh’s prestigious and central New Town and are in an excellent position from which to explore Edinburgh, being less than 10 minutes’ walk from both Princes Street, with its city centre shopping and the delightful Stockbridge Area. And you’re in for a treat, as with both of these apartments we currently have special offers, which you would be wise to take a use of!

What more is there to say? New Town has magic, hidden treasures in all its little alleys, nooks and crannies, and you never know – if you venture all the way down to Young Street, you will get a glimpse of the sordid night life of one of Scotland’s most well-known literary characters; Ian Rankin’s Rebus is known to frequent the Oxford Bar in Rankin’s novels. Why not become part of that fictional atmosphere, and make it a one-night reality.

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October in Edinburgh

Wednesday, 02 October 2013 by Aija

 

Edinburgh city, a strong contestant for years for the best city in UK, with the happiest inhabitants, most culturally vibrant and the best travel location, never sleeps – even in October.

As always,  Edinburgh offers much to its vast student population, great things for the more stable residents as well as showing its best for the families with children as October is also Mid-term break from schools.

October in Edinburgh is especially exciting for families. For the pupils being on holiday, families are forced to think of other forms of entertainment. How about the Scottish International Storytelling Festival? From 18th till 27th October, this years Festival is all about journeys –  with nomads, explorers, pilgrims and voyagers.  Audiences are to be transported by travellers’ tales that span worlds of geography, fiction and landscapes of the heart, the wanderlust of myths, legends and ancient traditions bringing some magic into the city of literature!

For the older kids, and the parents, there is another kind of festival – the Oktoberfest, bringing the best of Bavarian spirit right into Edinburgh. Strange, right? What does an ancient Gaelic nation have to do with Bavarian “high culture”? Well, nothing – it’s just that little quirky spark that sets Edinburgh apart, celebrating traditions and the best bits from around the world. Mark it on your calendars, as it definitely will be an event not to be missed – 9th till 13th October!

For art lovers of all ages, the Scottish Parliament is providing a true rare treat – in a first for any Parliament, the Scottish Parliament is set to host a free exhibition of more than forty Andy Warhol works of art exploring the themes of power and politics. The exhibition titled Andy Warhol: Pop, Power and Politics exhibits nearly fifty of Warhol’s finest works, supported with workshops where art lovers can learn more about Andy’s extraordinary screen printing method. The exhibition coincides the International Legacy Festival of Scot-American Andrew Carnegie, who believed art and culture should be accessible to all. The exhibition is free and running from 5th October till 3rd November – book your tickets now, especially for the workshops!

Ending this wonderfully quirky month is the Beltane Fire Society‘s Samhuinn Fire Festival on 31st October. A spectacular show made of volunteers who put on the grandest of shows for one night only. And what better place would there be to celebrate Halloween than where the celebration originated. Spooky things are on their way – are you ready for All Hallow’s Eve?

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Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble…

Sunday, 06 October 2013 by Aija

Scotland is by many accounts considered the home of Samhuinn – a traditional Celtic holiday. The end of summer and beginning of winter is embraced, and it is believed that this change in season causes two worlds to nearly collide; the druids would prepare a feast for the one day a year when those from beyond could join the living in a celebration.

Lighting bonfires and wearing costumes to frighten away evils, and laying out a feast of new harvest fit for a king for the kinder sprites was a norm on a night when the doorway between living and the dead would open in search of an opening for a permanent residence. The twilight is inviting, and so Halloween is the favourite time of the year to many in the city as it is a perfectly valid excuse to be a little naughty, a lot frightful and perhaps a pinch childish, too. This year, like every year, the city explodes with activities all themed with Halloween and horror for all the family, the hoards of students and tourists alike.

Who loves Halloween more than children? Costumes, candy, tricks, candy, ghouls, candy. Well, at least if American television is to be believed. Instead, traditional Samhuinn is more about the ghouls and activities of lantern making, bonfires, secret haunts and witchery in the grander scale. Some of the most exciting children’s events for Halloween has an almost-adult like myself trying to find a good enough excuse to join some of these events myself!

Friday 18th & Saturday 19th October: Halloween Hoedown – Puppetry Workshops

  • Ages 7+. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art – STUDIO. 2pm & 3.30pm (1hr)
  • Free, booking essential. Learn how to make your own puppets with Yugen Puppet Company.
  • Part of Scottish International Storytelling Festival.

Sunday 20th October Bewitched!

  • Free, drop-in. Ages 7+. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art – STUDIO. 11.30am (1hr)
  • Join traditional storyteller, or Shennachie, Jess Smith and hear magical tales of witches and the supernatural from the Scottish travelling culture.
  • Part of Scottish International Storytelling Festival.

Saturday 19th – Thursday 31st – October Spooky Happenings at Almond Valley

Encounter unearthly creatures on a trail of terror, collect the clues and claim a small prize for your bravery. Join in with creepy crafts and gruesome games, and have a spine-tingling good time.

Friday 25th October Friday Fright Night

6pm-9pm. Doors re-open after dark for traditional Halloween games, a moonlight trail, and a ghost train journey into the depths of the night. Come dressed to kill. Almond Valley Heritage Centre, Livingston.

Saturday 26th October: Harry Potter Film Showing & Wizarding Ball

Ghillie Dhu does it in style; Get sorted to your house upon entry, enjoy a food banquet and a butter beer or two whilst taking part in Quidditch, Wizarding Ball and watching the first of Harry Potter films! 12-5pm, £10.00 Per Person (All Ages).

Saturday 26th October The Big Halloween Big Draw

Free, drop-in. Ages 7+. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Two. 1.30-4.30pm. A magical potion of Halloween fun for budding artists, inspired by the exhibition Witches and Wicked Bodies. Find your funny bone by creating your own mixed media dancing skeleton; make a magnificent magic wand from brightly coloured paper, silks and ribbons and use traditional pen and ink techniques to join our ‘Witches Gathering’ by drawing your very own witch to add to our eerie group work. Free entry to exhibition for participating families.

Friday 1st November The Meadows: The Sick Kids Halloween Freaky Friday Monster March

The Sick Kids are holding the first ever Freaky Friday Monster March event. There are plenty of spooky shenanigans planned for this fancy dress sponsored walk around the Meadows, from 6-8pm. Terrifying and fun in equal measures, entry fee is just £7 per person!

Technically a little old for trick or treating? Cannot pass off your obsession with Harry Potter due to the fact you have kids as your kids are already in college or don’t have kids at all? There are some very special treats for the rest of us as well, as Halloween is not all about kids 

Thursday 31st October: Halloween Murder Mystery – The Sorority

Blue Murder Events and Ghillie Dhu have framed up for the perfect Halloween event for crime fictions fans; Following a tradition started almost two thousand years ago, The Sorority Coven meet.   However, they have come a long way from the pointed black hats, billowing cloaks and broomsticks of their ancestors. There are pressing issues for The Sorority to discuss…

Friday 1st November: Club Noir Halloween Horrorama

  • At the Picture House, Edinburgh, 11pm till 3am for some Kitsch horror.  Bloodthirsty burlesque. Glamorous Scream Queens with fetish for Halloween. Cabaret of 14+ acts: striptease, dance, live music, variety. Devil, Madame De Sade, Ghosts, Lady MacBeth, Playing With Fire, etc, etc.
  • Also starring DJs playing vintage and modern music.
  • Dress up.  Like only a Club Noir audience knows how! Anything Goes.

And to wrap the Halloween season up is the ever breath taking Beltane Fire Society’s Samhuinn Fire Festival, October 31 from 9pm.

And last but definitely not the least, travelling from a bit further away, a student? Not is the city alive with ghouls and witches, ready to frighten the bravest of souls, is the Frankenstein’s Halloween Party Week from 25th October till 3rd November every night till 2am- and not just any party week, but one of the biggest Halloween parties in Europe! Come dressed for occasion and jump cue!

The Edinburgh Address loves Halloween just as much as the next person – therefore, our October is filled with special offers to coincide with the busy October! Browse through the special offers on the homepage and find the perfect location to stay whilst getting frightened out of your wits – or while enjoying a calmer Halloween, enjoying the best of the Edinburgh autumn has to offer.

Have horrifying Halloween!

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“If it comes down to it, then eat the baby food” – Society of Young Publisher’s Internship Panel

January 14th, 2013 | Posted in Blog | Aija
Tags: baby food, careers, Internships, postgraduate, publishing in Scotland, publishing studies, SYP

At the annual intern event of the Society of Young Publishers  junior staff members from various Scottish publishing houses gave, in a rare opportunity for us fledgling publishing students, insight and information on how to get one’s foot in in the publishing business. Sobering realities were spoken, albeit in warm tones.

The panel of eight, chaired by Dr. Padmini Ray Murray of Stirling University’s publishing studies, shared their labour intensive attempts of cracking into publishing – starting from advice on how to write a thorough research dissertation that can be used to one’s benefit when applying for a job, to some of the bittersweet intern experiences (such as having to promote a baby food cook book and actually having demonstrate the excellence of the cook book by eating some of the gourmet choices, and thus securing a rave recommendation) and with the comforting notion that a lot of luck is in question, and it might take months (or as in one case) about a year before a young publisher would land on their first job within an actual publishing house.

The key is to do as many internships as possible, to be social, hardworking and foremost, to be proactive. Nothing will be gained from sitting on one’s bum, waiting for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to just drop in your lap in the form of a job advert or offered internship through the (hopefully) varied connections. The general consensus between the panel was to be bold enough to contact publishers and publishing houses, big and small, and tell them you are available to work for a week or two weeks and to emphasize on top your already existing skills the fact that you are out to learn. Naturally this should go with a thorough knowledge of the publisher’s goals and previous titles, just so you can dazzle them with a proper explanation as to why you think they would be the best to provide you with invaluable experience.

Interestingly enough, many in the panel mentioned how applying for smaller companies is in many ways a better opportunity, as big publishing houses have enough to deal with as it is and often do not need interns in the way smaller companies are able and willing to take a youngling in with open arms — especially if they are willing to work, FOR FREE.

Armed with new motivation and more hands-on information (it is always good to know others have struggled as well) on how to secure an internship and further on, a career in publishing the students filed out to the Edinburgh dusk, ready to try out their own publishing wings as soon as possible – secured with the conviction of actually being ready to eat that baby food, if it comes down to it.

 

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Visiting speaker: Peggy Hughes, City of Literature

November 17th, 2012 | Posted in Blog | Aija
Tags: City of Literature, Edinburgh, events, literature, Peggy Hughes, publishing, UNESCO, visiting speaker

The delightful Peggy Hughes amused the Publishing studies 2012/2013 class  with her lively presentation on the UNESCO badge of City of Literature  – a designation, which was bestowed upon Edinburgh back in 2004. The City of Literature Trust  is head by Peggy herself and her boss Alison Bowden.

Why Edinburgh should be designated as a City of Literature by UNESCO, you might ask. Well, when a group of prominent figures in the literary scene having a post-prandial discussion they came to the surprising conclusion that as Edinburgh was “brilliant at books,” something should be done to make sure this would become general knowledge. Simply because Edinburgh has a huge literary heritage, and has a vibrant contemporary scene – already hosting some of the world’s most well-known and largest poetry and literature festivals and events.

Organisations from grassroots up to government level Edinburgh worked together to create The Bid, an audit of all Scottish literary accomplishments in two volumes – talking about putting things in a nutshell – We Cultivate Literature on a Little Oatmeal. It took a bundle of Scottish treats (whiskey, haggis, bagpiper among others) to convince the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

Among her lively and very fast paced presentation, the class was entertained with best bits of past events that had aimed to hold Edinburgh to its badge of honour as well as a selected few spoilers over the upcoming events. Working together with other Edinburgh literary events and organisations, the City of Literature has proven to be worth every bit of the designation, more than holding its own among the others with its goals of establishing partnerships, promoting participation, learning as well as advocating awareness towards Edinburgh and keeping the focus on creativity, bringing people together in literature.

Thank you to Peggy for the grand insight into the Scottish literature scene and its uniqueness, and I’m sure the class cannot wait to see the ‘Stache-mob or join the Literary Salon.

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Edinburgh vs. Hollywood – no contest!

Edinburgh vs. Hollywood – no contest!
Written by Aija   
Monday, 14 October 2013

 

I recently saw a film that took place in Dublin, near where I had lived years ago. And that little titbit of personal reference got me thinking of films based in Edinburgh. There are quite a few actually, but for the sake of keeping thing interesting, I’ve chosen to enlighten you as well as myself on four particular.The first two were originally novels by Irvine Welsh, the wild child of Edinburgh, writing observatory stories about the underbelly of the most popular city in Europe. Mainly written in Scottish vernacular, Welsh incorporates not just the uniqueness of Edinburgh city, but also the uniqueness of language, with its singsong qualities of the dialectal style and the rhyming slang. Describing the existence of the squalor underground in culturally rich Edinburgh to the finest detail, Welsh has even the most desensitized reader thinking twice.

Trainspotting follows a group of heroin addicts in the late 1980’s, where no matter how you look at it, the lives of the characters are going to end up in purgatory or something worse. Welsh has a knack for tapping in to the subculture. The energy in the film pulls you in, but at the same time you feel like a voyeur and wish you had never peeped in the first place. The allure of the lifestyle has Renton as hooked as the viewer is in following the fast paced film.

What is even more intriguing is that after two decades, the original cast, also with the original director Danny Boyle, of Trainspotting coming together, set to return for a sequel. Based on the follow up novel Porno (2002), the script is finally in progress and the film is planned to be released in 2016, or the twentieth anniversary of the original. Boyle laments on the reasons of doing a sequel; “The reason for doing it again is that people cherish the original, people remember it or have caught up with it if they never saw it because they were younger.”

Also from Welsh comes Filth. Just couple weeks ago Filth opened in cinemas across UK and, as we have grown to know with Welsh, is already tearing viewers and critics into two very distinct groups; those who hate it, and those who love it. Despite which group you might belong to, might be best to avoid the film with a full stomach as Welsh rips right into the seamiest side of human nature with his main character Bruce, who is anything but pleasant, as far from anti-hero even as you could imagine. You cannot sympathize with Bruce, but you can – and you will – pity him.

Much in the vein of Trainspotting, Welsh one again dips into the junkie filled general horridness of Edinburgh’s underbelly. Welsh himself said Filth was the one from his books he most wanted to see being made into a film, as it had the “most potential for a bold filmmaker.” Not for the faint hearted, as anything by Welsh is tapping into that “peculiar extremism to Scottish self-destruction, (…) perhaps because it has to work so hard to drown out the vocal little Puritan lurking in the Scottish psyche” .

Too heavy, too potentially gut wrenching? Then you would probably enjoy the feel-good Edinburgh’s cinematic gift to musicals – Sunshine on Leith. First a stage hit and now a feature film that enchants audiences. Who would have thought to make a film of two young soldiers, returning from Afganistan to re-enter civilian life – and to make it a musical? Preposterous, you might think. But Sunshine on Leith might not be the best film you have ever seen, but it certainly is very likeable. The music of Scotland’s very own the Proclaimers provides the tone and soundtrack (think of Mamma Mia and Abba and you get what I mean) for the film, a jukebox musical that will have you dancing and singing even days after you saw the film.

Whereas as Trainspotting did not offer much in the views of our gorgeous Edinburgh, Filth and Sunshine on Leith both have those of us who have not been here as long as well as those who have grown up here exclaiming in excitement “that’s where I …!” or “Remember just there…!”

The lyrics of the Proclaimers’ repertoire employ as the narrative drive – for example when during I Met You, Davy sings the line “And then one night I went to Morningside and you were waiting” to Yvonne, who, sure enough, has a flat in Miss Jean Brodie’s former neighbourhood.

And one more for the road, something quite different than the first three described films. Angel’s Share is rough, and not just round the edges, but it dives into the life of the young ne’er do well Robbie’s life during a time when he has to make the roughest decisions of whether to continue down his squalored ways or become a better man. Definitely the kind of film you would not expect to get under your skin but does. Director Ken Loach is a master at Loach is a master of sudden, disturbing shifts of mood, and embedding the comedy in works that are often deeply sad or tragic .

Technically not an Edinburgh film, as Robbie and his fellows are based in Glasgow, but they do venture out to Edinburgh for some whisky tasting, and that is where they get their grand idea that ultimately leads to Robbie’s transformation. Angel’s Share is tuned into the seemingly permanent youth unemployment and the despair and communal erosion it engenders. But the realistic and humanistic tone is bracingly optimistic, and when Robbie packs Leonie in their van, to start a new life in Stirling, you know you have witnessed an ultimate redemption Robbie needed in order to put his old life behind him.

The term Angel’s share, well-known for the connoisseurs from the distilling lore, transform with Robbie from a joke about capitalist exploitation that turns at the end of the film into a metaphor for generosity and gratitude.

All of these films, and more, make Edinburgh that much special.

 

Locations worth seeing from the films:

Trainspotting was mainly filmed in Glasgow, though you can see how fast you can run from  the Princes Street to Calton Street Bridge – why not.

Stroll around some of the more off-beat alleys and passages much like Bruce in Filth

Dance in front the National Galleries like in Sunshine on Leith, or 

Go for whisky tasting as in Angel’s Share in either the excellent The Scotch Whisky Experience or equally great Whiski Rooms.

 

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Welcome back Haymarket and Shandwick Place!

After six years of construction, numerous promises and extended periods of exhausting inconvenience, grumbling commuters, loss of business in the areas and overall dissatisfaction of Edinburghians, finally the tram line, operating between York PLace in New Town and Edinburgh Airport, is nearing the finishing line and is set to start running May 2014. But what is better – Haymarket (Dalry Road to Manor Place) is set to reopen to traffic around 12 October and Shandwick Place crescents to open around 19 October!

Unbelievable!

The ability to arrive to the Haymarket station and actually get to where you need to go with the constant construction related noise pollution, the muddy up-turned streets and, if you drive, being able to navigate straight to the city centre rather than finding winding alternative routes seems like an unlikely novelty.

Laura Jones, a regular Haymarket station commuter, exhales a sigh of relief and snort of contention. Laura speaks of the craziness that was contagious among pedestrians and frustrated drivers alike, the irregularity and pure hazardness of public transport and the general constant congestion of roads that had her opt for using Waverley station – even though Waverley station was further away from home. It was just easier and more pleasant way to walk. Laura, effectively pointing out, traffic is never easy anywhere in the city, but at least from the pedestrian point of view, having Haymarket and Shandwick open for traffic and pedestrians again will just enable faster, easier and less dangeours commute for all involved.

The small business owners, inhabitants of the two respective areas and the influx of tourists and other visitors to Edinburgh are embracing the news perhaps with a little scepticism but nonetheless eagerly happy to claim back the streets!

(Originally Posted in the Edinburgh Address Blog on 19.9.2013)

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Bloody Scotland Masterclass – Agents’ and Publishers’ Panel

October 7th, 2013 | In Stirling University Publishing Studies Blog |

One of the perks of this year’s Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival in Stirling was the opportunity to hear the best of the field offer advice to hopeful writers on the process of writing, publishing and whatever comes in between.

The Agents’ and Publishers’ panel was lead by Claire Squires, director of Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication on September 13th. The panel discussed what happens after the next hopeful front list bestseller has been written and when the author seeks to have the manuscript accepted either by an agent or a publisher.Image

Taking part in the panel were Jenny Brown, of Jenny Brown Associates, and David Shelley, of Little Brown. Jenny is equally inspiring and intimidating for an aspiring literary agent such as myself, having opened her agency in 2002 after years of formidable experience, not forgetting being the founder of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. If that’s not enough, she and her associates have become the biggest literary agent in Scotland and one of the leading agencies in UK, with international reputation.

David on the other hand represents the other hurdle in the writer’s way towards bestselling stardom – the publisher. David, who has worn many a different hat under the general title publisher has not settled for one particular job title – he also guests as an editor for a few selected authors within Little Brown, including Val McDermid and Mitch Albom (and yes, JK Rowling too, but let’s focus on other exciting aspects of David’s career, shall we?).

Jenny launched right into the session by emphasising how crime writing is still the fastest growing genre in the UK (and one of the leading internationally), with approximately 30% of the book market. David agreed – crime writing is definitely the most commercially growing genre that is remarkably consistent despite other market or trend fluctuations – fluctuations we know all too well that publishing is harshly dependent on. As the trend moves on, so will the publisher. Be confident, know your trade, know your next steps and especially – know whom you are talking to when making a pitch. You might think you have the voice that gives the very angels orgasms, but your agent might disagree. Let your story do the talking. All fine tips from the literary agents’ mouth.

Both Jenny and David agreed that trends are nearly impossible to keep up with; what is “hot” right now could very well be over by the time you have the manuscript of a bestseller that nicely fits into that pigeonhole all finished and ready to be pitched. Trends move on faster than anyone can write, and rather than focusing on fitting into that niche, both Jenny and David emphasised, an aspiring writer would do well to focus on being passionate and finding your own voice, your niche, rather than doing lavish imitations of others’ work. Jenny also – to my great pleasure – emphasised how translated crime writing is breaking the barriers and entering the UK market. David remarked upon the cold realism of marketing; it is nearly impossible to bring out a title that is based on the same basic idea as one published before. There is no space in the market for two great Fife based detectives, but there might be space for one great detective from Fife, and the other from – why not – Stirling. How you present your setting is what makes you, as a writer, unique.

Classic crime is being brought back as well as being retranslated. Foreign authors are intriguing, whereas deceased writers are proving to be some of the toughest competition to the wave of new writers. One particularly interesting piece of advice that David provided for budding writers was to imagine further than one novel. He has found himself attracted to authors who can envision at least a couple volumes of a series, can explain character traits and subplots beyond that one particular event in the novel they are currently pitching. A good series of novels with an ever-evolving character can very well be the key to cracking your way into the crime-writing scene.

Claire led the discussion to the actual publishing process; what channels are there for new writers? How can one get their manuscript read, represented and subsequently published? As expected, both David and Jenny agreed on this point strongly; get an agent. It is nearly impossible to break into publishing without being professionally represented. Most publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts so agents act as a quality control filter for publishers. Jenny emphasised having manuscripts edited by a professional freelancer – never submit anything you are not absolutely sure is the best it can be. And this is doubly important for self-publishing authors.

Be confident, know your trade, know your next few steps and especially – know whom you are talking to when making a pitch. Let your story do the talking. It is even more advisable to target your agent and publisher. Do your homework – know whom you are pitching to and make sure they know why you have chosen them. Or perhaps if you’re desperate and unsure of your manuscript, a box of chocolates never hurts – doesn’t necessarily help either, but definitely never hurts.

Claire opened a topic that is much debated in publishing circles – self-publishing. Jenny explained how self-publishing allows more control and can lead to enticing a wide readership, which in turn encourages word-of-mouth and reviews before landing under the ears or eyes of an publisher. Self-publishing allows the writer to test the waters and to cater for the readership before attempting to break into the market. Although, writers would do well to note, that if you have already published something on the internet, the good bet is that a hopeful publisher would prefer to publish something completely new from you – or perhaps offer you a series deal. David did mention how even editors browse through self-publishing platforms – such as Authonomy – as you never know what you might find.

The panel concluded with questions from the master class participants; one particularly memorable was one lady from the master class, who has a number of novels (18 to be exact) published online but no one had yet approached her nor returned her numerous attempts to contact agents and publishers. Jenny’s initial reaction was to enquire what does she believe an agent could do for her that she cannot do herself? What indeed. To leave on a hopeful note, Claire asked both David and Jenny to give the master class some final words of inspiration. David encouraged the budding writers never to give up, as the first book published is rarely the first book written, and to especially venture into other avenues than traditional forms of publishing – digital, self-publishing and the like can prove to be a writer’s saviour, enabling an initial point of contact, enticing on its own merit. Jenny emphasised the necessity of wide reading, because all that we read will feed into what we write, how we write and how we present ourselves. There is hope for everyone.

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