Dundee Literary Festival 2017

Hip hip hooray! Tomorrow marks the beginning of my favourite bookie event, Dundee Literary Festival, which takes places in my native city.

This year’s event which takes it’s inspiration from the great thinker, biologist, mathematician and classics scholar, D’Arcy Thompson whose book On Growth and Form, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, peers inside the books and stories featured at the event, analysing their structure, form and secrets too.

Jam packed with literary stars from crime writer Denise Mina, Man Booker Prize shortlister, Graeme Macrae Burnet and Tracy Beaker author and Honorary Graduate of the University of Dundee, Jacqueline Wilson – there really is something for everything at this extraordinary book festival.

I’m looking forward to attending a number of events over the long weekend, including a writing tutorial with YA author Joan Lennon on Friday, Literature in Britain Today with Tim Robertson, Director of the Royal Society of Literature on Saturday and Beyond Our Times with Irish author Sara Baume and Journalist Mark O’Connell.

It’s going to be a fabulous few days and I’m looking forward to reviewing the events that I see, next week!

For more information and to book tickets, visit: https://literarydundee.co.uk/festival

Dundee Flower & Food Festival

Once a year, all the foodies and all the flower lovers gather together in Camperdown Park, Dundee for the Flower & Food Festival. With Michelin star chefs, award-winning food and fabulous musical entertainment and some of the most beautiful floral arrangements you could ever hope to see – it’s an annual event not to be missed.

One of the displays inside the children’s tent

This year’s festival was no different. With food demonstrations from the likes of Gary Maclean, Nick Nairn and Tony Singh and entertainment from Andy Day of CBeebies fame – it’s little wonder that the food and flower festival welcomed over 20,000 guests over the weekend.

For me, the highlight of the weekend is always the food tent. Packed full of mouth-watering food and seductive alcoholic beverages – the tent is a treat for the eyes as well as the belly. I could have spent hours happily wandering through the displays, sipping glorious gin samples, whilst sampling the latest chutneys and jams.

Other highlights included the spectacular flower displays and the fabulous children’s tent, which was packed full of family friendly activities, entertaining my own two kids for at least an hour.

September wouldn’t be the same with out this event, it really is the perfect way to say goodbye to Summer and welcome Autumn.

For further information about the Dundee Flower & Food Festival, visit: http://www.dundeeflowerandfoodfestival.com/

*Disclaimer – I was given a free pass to the festival in exchange for this fair and honest review.


Au Revoir Edinburgh International Book Festival

They say that all good things must come to an end. How I wish that wasn’t true! With the Edinburgh International Book Festival closing earlier this week, it was time to say goodbye to my happy place for another year. For me the festival represents everything that I love: words, books, storytelling and the city of Edinburgh itself.

On my last visit to the festival on Saturday, I had the pleasure of seeing three amazing events. The first one was Hari Kunzru with David Mitchell – two brilliant and inspiring authors who I have long since admired. The informal chat about Kunzru’s new ghost story White Tears, was punctuated by music from the Delta Mississippi Blues, which made it all the more interesting and memorable.

My second event of the day was Sara Baume & Oddny Eir, two female author who use nature in their writing. Both Baume’s novel, A Line Made by Walking and Icelandic author Oddny’s debut, Land of Love and Ruins, sound utterly fascinating and I can’t wait to read them.

My last event of the day was Take Me to the River at the Baillie Gifford Imagination Lab. The talk featured YA author Claire McFall, who was there to discuss her novel Trespassers and Martin Stewart, whose debut novel Riverkeep is up for the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s First Book Award. Chaired by children’s writer, Lari Don, the event explored the myth and folklore around death and loss in a light and quirky manner that went down very well with the audience.

When I left the festival to catch my train home, I took one last look around the beautiful gardens with a heavy heart.

Au revoir, Edinburgh International Book Festival. Until we meet again.

Funbox Underwater Adventure

It doesn’t matter how many times I take my girls to see Funbox, it’s always an absolute pleasure. So when I found out that they were returning to Dundee, I knew we had to go.

This summer’s production, Underwater Adventure, sees the gang taking a voyage beneath the waves to the bottom of the ocean in a show that promised to be full of frolics and plenty of capers!! So how could we resist?

When we arrived at the theatre, it was already packed full of little mermaids and tiddlers who were hyped up and ready for the laughter and fun to begin. And they weren’t disappointed! As usual, the show included some new and very catchy tunes and some old classics such as My Father Went To Sea, Sea, Sea and The World Must Be Coming To An End – all of which were accompanied by some very funky dance moves which the children (and ahem… a few of the adults) copied with glee.

The show went down a treat with the whole audience adored Cha Cha Cha-ing along to the Funbox rhyme. As always the gang came offstage after the gig, ready to greet their fans. They are always so generous with their time posing for photographs and chatting with the kids, adding to the excitement of the day.

I can’t tell you how much I love taking my kids along to these shows. After seeing the Singing Kettle myself when I was a girl, I know how exciting a trip to the theatre can be for kids. When I take my girls along to see Funbox, I know that we’re not just having a good day out, we’re making memories that will last lifetime. So thank you Funbox. Keep up the good work!

Funbox are currently touring Scotland with their fabulously fun productions. For more information and to book tickets to see them live, visit: www.funbox.co.uk

*Disclaimer – I was provided with tickets to see Funbox in exchange for this fair and honest review.

Interview with scientist, children’s author and illustrator Dr Ana Isabel Ordonez

This month we chat to scientist, children’s author, illustrator Dr Ana Isabel Ordonez to find out about the inspiration behind her work…

Your children’s books feature a whole host of animals including Aye Aye and Roibeard the Giraffe. Can you tell me what the inspiration for the characters was? 

Most of my characters emanate from a poignancy, animals are poignant; usually this emotion becomes so compelling that I feel obligate to write, the same way some people feel compelled to talk to someone when going through weird places. When I read back over my work I can see how it’s me who’s writing but that each bit of writing personifies a different angle of my character and a different time too.

What has the response been like to the books? 
The response has been very good! People seem to really enjoy them. Hopefully animals like them too! After all we’re all just evolved monkeys really, aren’t we? I’m kidding…almost…

Your books have a strong message about animal rights and the importance of their natural habitat. Is this something that you have always felt passionate about?

Animals are losing rights and sadly future generations won’t have the opportunity to see the animals that we do today.  We have a lot to learn from animals, they are often much wiser than us. While humans like to believe that it’s love that makes the world go round, it’s the connection between human beings and animals that’s important. It’s that relationship that makes our time on earth joyful.

Do you have a writing routine that you follow?

I’ve always felt that I’m somewhat of an instinctive writer and illustrator. I’ve had no formal training, all of my knowledge about technique, form and meter I’ve conquered through studying the great writers, poets, and by reading their work time and again.  As writer and children illustrator it’s important to remain unrestrained, staying formless and inhabited in both style and utterance. I write from 4am to 9am without stopping – I need calm and reflection from what I experienced during the hours I’m awake. I also sleep a lot – up to 9h a day, but always in small fragments. Gosh I sound a bit like a lazy cat!

How do you spend your time when you’re not busy writing?

Being! That’s a big job! I spend my time having the courage to be myself! But aside from that, I travel and go biking, swimming and walking. I also enjoy reading a lot. Sometimes I simply do nothing – that’s something I’m becoming an expert in! It’s not easy to stay in the “emptiness of nothing” but nowadays I can spend hours just watching my pet turtle running about!

What are your favourite children’s books?

Wow that’s a tough question to answer! But I do like the work of Horatio Alger, Bernard Ashley, Aesop, Charles Dickens, Nicholas Stuart Gray, Roald Dahl, La Fontaine, Pavel Bazhov, Andrei Platonov, Jules Verne, Antoine de St Exupery, Aleksei Tolstoi…. the list is endless.

What inspired you become a writer?

I’m not sure if one becomes a writer. Life has drawn me in lots of different directions. On one hand, I’ve always been attracted to science, with its truth based on facts; but on the other hand, I am fascinated by ethics and the surreal.  Writing for me has always been about exploring most harrowing themes of human, animal, insects, minerals, music, poetry experience, irrespective of topic but keeping the wonder alive.

                       Aye Aye in space!

I self-publish my work, which I love because nobody tells me what to do! I have a great distribution worldwide but I’m always looking at new ways of doing things too. I like to explore new universes, I don’t like the sense of permanence. Every day is a teared up page of an infinite book.

Do have any further books in the series planned?

Yes, I’m working on a new story about Aye Aye and her pet Euricoty. The book is filled with lots of fun, laughter and a bit of naughtiness! It’s good to be naughty sometimes!

We look forward to reading more about Aye Aye and her adventures very soon!