The Edinburgh Literary Salon

28 09 2011

A Night at the Edinburgh Literary Salon

The Literary Salon is a monthly event run by Edinburgh City of Literature. Held on the last Tuesday of each month (apart from August), it aims to bring together writer, poets, agents, publishers, bloggers, bookshop owners and all other kinds of bookie people under the one roof to socialize in an informal manner.

And guess what? It works.

Held in Edinburgh’s centrally located Wash Bar, last night’s gathering was my first. The theme of the evening was that of graphic novels but it varies each month and there is no restriction on what anyone can talk about.

The first person I spotted on walking through the door into a packed pub, was Darwin in Scotland author JF Derry. He was in conversation with Ian Rankin and two graphic novel authors. I said hello to everyone but graphic novels aren’t really my thing so I struggled to get into it.

I spoke to Ian Rankin for a bit, sharing a couple of jokes, and discussing Twitter and the intricacies of posting URLs to it, then got talking to a lady about a myriad of topics including social media, books, the book festival and writing. It was only when I write out my name sticker we were all supposed to have on, that we realized who each other were—we’ve been swapping tweets for a while—it was @lillylyle!

The topic of how small the literary and artistic communities are in Edinburgh came up all over the place as I met a few other people in the same vein. Ali Bowden, the Director of the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, came over and said hi. She knew my name and thought we’d previously met but I was pretty sure we hadn’t. I think she maybe recognised me from my book festival blogging exploits but we got interrupted so I never managed to finish the conversation to find out.

Ian Rankin photograph copyright © Scott Hunter
Image: Copyright © Scott Hunter

I saw an old face from my old writing group back in the day: Andrew Stott had popped in and despite not recognising me at first (me!), we caught up with the all the gossip from the old group and what we’ve both been working on since we last met.

I’d taken the time to check out Chris Scott’s online portfolio after this year’s book fest, as he’s one of the official photographers often to be seen scouting around for shots of authors in and around the tents. His work is really good and he does a lot within the literature community in Edinburgh, so when I bumped into him I asked him about some of it. Remarkably, he’s still a student although his work doesn’t reflect it.

JF Derry, who had been working around the room in the other direction to me, came back around and we got another pint in. He introduced me to Peggy Hughes from the Scottish Poetry Library. Peggy is also the person who created the West Port Book Festival, and so you can now expect me to be writing a blog or two from there when it kicks off mid-October.

I finished the night by sharing another pint with Derry. We covered a wide range of topics including, but not restricted to, publishing, writing (where we want both to be with it), the influence of higher status authors on us, parenting and travelling.

By the time I left, my head was buzzing. It was a great night and well worth being there, and I get the feeling that my first experience of the salon was a typical one for many. It attracts, and is supported by, authors and literary people from all levels, but in the salon everyone is equal.

wash barThere is no star-studded autograph hunters or people openly pitching work, just a widening of a social network with a professional theme over a couple of drinks.

Outwith the book festival, some authors can find it a struggle to find ways of interacting with other writers and people in the industry on such a basis, so the literary salon is perfect. I’d recommend any writer wanting to meet other writers and people in the business should get along.

Information on the Literary Salon can be found here:
www.cityofliterature.com/litsalon

The City of Literature can be found here: www.cityofliterature.com

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