Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Last Bear comes first

The winner of the first Robin Jenkins Literary Award was Mandy Haggith with her novel The Last Bear, described as 'a haunting and compelling novel set one thousand years ago in the remote northwest Highlands of Scotland, ..[it] recounts a tale of ecological and spiritual crisis from the viewpoint of one extraordinary woman.' The shortlisted writers, pictured above (L to R: me, Louisa Gairn, Philip and Myrtle Ashmole, Mandy Haggith holding The Last Bear
and Linda Gillard. Gregory Norminton was missing from the photo) tried to concentrate through forty five minutes of an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, whilst the judges discussed our work. Finally the announcement was made and sweaty palms could be wrapped around a cool glass of wine. The judges' feedback was of great value to me, with Doubling Back currently unpublished, and it was a great thrill to have been on the shortlist and met the other candidates with such diverse and interesting books.

Hats off to Mandy, I'm genuinely pleased for her. Even better, a piece of her non-fiction writing appears in A Wilder Vein, that I have edited, also published by Two Ravens Press and back from the printers any day now.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Robin Jenkins Literary Award - on the short list!

I'm delighted to find that my unpublished book Doubling Back based on walks taken with feet and pen during 2007 and 2008, is on the first ever shortlist of the RJLA. This new award is for books that have the environment, trees and forestry in Scotland as a key theme or setting, in the name of the wonderful writer of rural Scotland, and beyond, Robin Jenkins.

In a recent edition of The Author, Janie Hampton wrote about the 'torture' of shortlists, the waiting, the disappointments... But I'll just enjoy it and forget for the moment about the announcement of the winner at the Edinburgh Book Festival on 24th August. The endorsement of the judges this far is a prize in itself.

Here's a bit of blurb about the book:

In this collection of non-fiction essays, I walk and write pathways into life. Following journeys made by particular people or stories of habitual use and purpose, I draw on imagination, memory, myth, history, and explore the human resonances layered in what we might perceive as ‘wild’ land, seeking the ghosts that remain. As I embrace middle age, these walks have me ‘doubling-back’ to places and journeys which have held a personal meaning in the past. Along the way, I reflect on how and why we walk and the relationship of walking to creativity, writing and literature. The rhythms of the walk inflect the prose and in the process some new stories are created.

Two hundred miles along a drove road between Skye and Perthshire; a hillside at Abriachan in springtime which inspired Jessie Kesson’s words; a reflective pilgrimage across the Border to Holy Island; the possibilities for enchantment whilst walking to work through Old Town Edinburgh; an autumnal circuit around the Birks of Aberfeldy to confirm a sense of home – Scottish walks form the backbone of the collection. My experience of the natural and cultural environment of Scotland acts as a touchstone for diversions to other places: Medieval pathways in Spain which provide a walk-able legacy of religious tolerance; Hardy’s Cornwall; the art of barefoot travel in a Kenyan village; a re-telling on foot of a dramatic wartime escape through Norwegian mountains; and my first Alpine summit, climbed in memory of my father.