Tag Archives: Edinburgh International Book Festival

Podcast – at the EIBF 2017


In August I appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival alongside Meena Kandasamy – we spoke about Flesh of the Peach, When I Hit You, violence, womanhood, identity, feminism in the west and in India – and had some brilliant questions from the chair, Lee Randall, and the audience.  If you didn’t get the chance to attend, or just fancy listening again, you can now hear it here (on itunes) or here (on the main EIBF site)


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The Unsung Letter No 22

I immediately fell in love with the novella and Gurba’s narrator Desiree Garcia when I read it earlier this year. I devoured most of the book whilst waiting for a flight and during the subsequent airplane journey itself – actually the perfect place to absorb this novel which has a main character grappling with all the things going on inside her head as well as around her. 

Read more – subscribe to The Unsung Letter, a weekly missive on an underhyped book, sung to the rafters by a different writer/critic/book pusher each time. This week it’s New Zealander Andrea Quinlan.


Just a quick one this week  – I’m off to Leeds to read at Blackwells with three other debut novelists. Also – yesterday the Edinburgh International Book Festival catalogue was released: check out who is in it! Tickets go on sale next Tuesday, and a link will be here then.

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Story Shop at the Edinburgh International Book Festival










What a beautiful venue the Spiegeltent is! Huge huge thanks to Esther and Eleanor at Story Shop for their support and excellence.

You can watch the whole thing here if you like!


ps – another 16 performers will be on for Story Shop. Take a look at the lineup here!

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On the Edges of Vision Book Launch!






I’m thrilled to announce the launch of On the Edges of Vision will take place on the 20th of August at 7pm in Waterstones Argyle Street, Glasgow. Here’s the public Facebook event page – feel free to add yourself if you can make it! There will be stories from the book, and chat with Kirsty Logan, author of The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales and The Gracekeepers, and plenty of free wine and nibbles. Copies of the book will also be available. I hope to see some of you there!


I’m also reading at Story Shop at the Edinburgh International Book Festival – at a free event on the 15th of August, 4pm in the Speigeltent (that’s the famously atmospheric wood-and-stained-glass tent). Copies of the book will also be on sale in the onsite bookshop, where I will be milling around after the event, probably contemplating spending too much money altogether on books.


More news – Vol. 1 Brooklyn lists On the Edges of Vision in its August preview. I’m honoured to be in excellent company there, so have a look (always the siren song of books).


Almost had enough of puffing myself up, but one final thing – the Kickstarter has eleven days to go, and if you’d like to get access to the tour blog, you can donate just £1 and I’ll send you the password once it’s live. It’s a little special I’m running, mostly in order to share the blog with more people, somewhat to do with the amount of coffee I may need  to furnish my days while on tour.


Thank you for all the support and good wishes and donations. August is set to be a busy, head-spinning month. All my best, and hope to keep you updated without flooding you with too much of myself (and not enough pictures of wildness and waves and so on)

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Patience 2

It only takes a little while sometimes for a mood to turn, for the puddles to start drying up (today I saw that before my eyes, steam curling off just-soaked pavements).


In the last few days, while writing and not writing, I have:


received a video of a beloved writer reading her work out to me, from her lovely garden, with light everywhere.


and very shortly afterwards –


received word that I will be reading stories from On the Edges of Vision at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August, as part of an emerging writers’ series. A dream.


If you will be in Edinburgh on the 15th of August (a Saturday) please come along. Here are the details, and the names of other writers/readers. If you can’t make it, recordings of the works will be up on the website after the event!

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What is Voice? Zadie Smith at The Edinburgh Book Festival


D and I went to see Zadie Smith last night. It was quite a good event – the first time she has apparently spoken or read from her new book, and afterwards, the first time it was sold to the public. She was as elegant as you’d imagine, and a great reader.


However the event was also frustratingly short, in that Smith seemed to wish to take her time with questions, to unfurl them a bit, but things were moved on, many other questions posed from the interviewer and the audience. Some were good, probing questions, others not.


One question I thought led to a very interesting answer. A woman in the audience got up to ask, how do you find your voice? To which Smith had two responses. The first was to dismiss the question as one she heard often from her students, and which spoke of a late Capitalist idea of possession. . You cannot earn or get a voice. That the idea of a writer having  a voice is a fallacy. She said that she wrote sentences and put them together the best she could, and that was that, tying it to earlier statements about how she felt no concrete sense of self. No sense of a continuing self, no sense of a continuing voice.


She then went on to address why she wrote in the way she did – to write of people of colour the way white people wrote of themselves. (yourselves, she said, gesturing out at the mostly white audience). The woman asking the question was a woman of colour too, from Canada. It was about showing that people of colour do not have a sense of themselves as Other, or exotic. Which was of course a point that still needs to be made, but I was more interested in the complexities of her first, dismissive response.


My first impulse is to question the idea of voice as a Capitalist construct. Because we can see variability in the styles of writers from long before the age of Capitalism. In the city states of Athens and Rome, in the courts of Japan, or carved on great standing stones. These writers across the ages have written floridly, sparely, intensely, precisely, differing from each other across different languages but also from their peers. I can’t help but think voice is a real phenomenon.


Not, indeed, something you can change about yourself like a new pair of shoes, but something intrinsic. Forged of your environment, of the way your parents spoke to you, or your friends. Quirks of your brain – synesthesia, or blindness, or a mathematical bent or so on. The absurdity of war destroying the world around you, or the calm of a peaceful era, these must all shape the way you, the writer, shape your sentences.


Whether voice is stable or not, I don’t know. It seems across some writers’ bodies of work to be the case; despite experiments there is a core of sameness. I’m thinking of Woolf, as a good example because she didn’t really hold to the idea of a stable sense of self either. Yet her voice is always lyrical and dancing in a range of particular ways (it may be that she differs greatly in her diaries, I have not read those).


Now, perhaps Zadie Smith did mean to allow for nuance, and I missed this. As I said, questions were flying all over the place. But it’s a fun thing to debate anyway. So I’d like to ask you – what is voice, to you?


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