Well, the clocks have gone forward so it’s officially spring now. Get ready for slightly warmer days and the hay fever coming back with a vengeance. Each month seems to get busier and busier, and the next month is positively bursting with literary goodness. But we somehow have to narrow it down to the best and brightest – and what a month this is going to be!
With festivals, Man Booker winners, empties and some amazing one-off events, I suggest you clear the diary, make notes and prepare to take some sick days.
4 – 12 April, Mitchell Library, Glasgow, events separately ticketed
The Aye Write! Festival is back with a line-up packed with names that would make even the Edinburgh Book Festival jealous. Nine days packed with some of the best writers in Scotland means that you’ll struggle to limit your ticket buying to “just a couple”. The festival is always an eclectic mix, showing that variety really is the spice of life.
Highlights include: Frankie Boyle and Aidan Moffat talking about the books that made them; Ewan Morrison discussing his new film Swung; Denise Mina, Sophie Hannah and Alex Gray all on the same stage; plus names like Louise Welsh, Christopher Brookmyre, Vic Galloway, Mark Z Danielewski (see below) AL Kennedy, Luke Brown and Jenni Fagan.
Tickets have been flying out the door but if you’re lucky, you might still manage to snap some.
7 April, 6:30pm, The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, £10
After a successful US tour, the Australian literary salon hits the UK, bringing together some phenomenal women writers for a wonderful night of performances, whilst also raising money for an animal rescue shelter. The line-up includes Regi Claire, Rachel McCrum, Jenny Lindsay and Sian Bevan, all coming together to revive the lost art of letter writing. It promises to be a night of outrageous talent, fantastic performances and an element of the unexpected.
If that isn’t enough to tempt you along, I don’t know what is!
10 April, 6pm, Dundee Central Library, free (ticketed)
A woman that needs no introduction, the youngest Man Booker winner’s tour brings her to the City of Discovery, where she will be in conversation with the ever-charming Peggy Hughes about books, prizes and her literary career to date.
12 April, 4:30pm, Mitchell Library, Glasgow, £8
The other highlight of the Aye!Write! festival that deserves a proper mention is the book launch of one of Scotland’s greatest writers. Alasdair Gray will be discussing his new book Of Me And Others.
Of Me And Others is an ambitious “not a biography” that not only lives up to the usual intelligence and wit that Gray’s books always exude, but at its core there is a level of heart, humanity and humility that is rarely seen in any book, making it not only charming, but unbelievably touching. It is passionate, sometimes angry, and certainly always interesting. Even if you have never read a Gray book, this book has a life all of its own that won’t fail to draw you into the life of the author and the people who he lived that life with and for.
12 April, 6pm, Mitchell Library, Glasgow, £8
I don’t how they managed it but Cargo Publishing managed to get one of my favourite authors of all time to come to Scotland. It is my highlight of the Aye Write! festival but as this is the first event in his The Fifty Year Sword tour, I think it deserves its own mention. The enigmatic Mark Z Danielewski will be appearing with Ben Marcus at their ‘What The Novel Did Next’ event, where he will be talking about writing (definitely), cats (quite possibly) and what the heck his tweets of black boxes are all about (hopefully).
13 April, Mono, Glasgow, £5
We’re having an empty… There was no such thing as the perfect line up – UNTIL NOW.
Alasdair Gray. Mark Z Danielewski. Nicola White. Kate Tough. The best of the literary giants combined with the best of the new voices, and only for a fiver.
There’s going to be booze, books and banter, with readings, DJ sets and the promise of the best evenings of the year. This is going to be one of those “Were you at that Cargo Party when…” kind of nights.
18-19 April, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, events separately ticketed
A wonderful collection of events that celebrates the life and achievements of publishing legend John Calder. A champion of publishing, encouraging the radical and the avant garde (with Beckett and Trocchi being an example of some of his daring decisions) the man is a titan in the publishing world, having published over 6000 books which include Nobel prize winners .
The Traverse Theatre will be packed with fantastic events, the highlight arguably being the man himself in conversation with Alan Taylor. Calderfest promises to be a busy celebration of an amazing life that was dedicated to books.
18 April, 7:30pm, The Counting House, Edinburgh, £5
I’m really excited about this month’s Rally & Broad because it has one of my favourite poets EVER performing. Caroline Bird will be treating us to a no doubt stunning performance. She’ll be sharing the stage with Jack Webb, McGuire, Kite & The Crane and Sarah Stewart, all kept in line by that fabulous hosting duo – Jenny Lindsay and Rachel McCrum.
Rally & Broad also have Glasgow evenings each month so if you can’t get out Edinburgh way, you can always catch them on a visit to the Tron.
1 May, 4:30pm, Looking Glass Books, Edinburgh, free
Following on from his Kindle bestseller, Hit & Run, Doug Johnstone’s latest novel, The Dead Beat, looks to be one of his best so far.
There’s nothing more depressing than death, except perhaps writing about it. As soon as Martha starts her job as an obituary writer for the paper, she is forced to start confronting the uncomfortable darkness surrounding her parents’ past when someone seems to commit suicide while on the phone to her.
Johnstone knows the ingredients to deliver a cracking page-turning thriller and The Dead Beat is no exception to its predecessors.
Not only does Johnstone do a brilliant reading, he also gets the guitar out for a bit of gigging too. His launches are always a good night and even if you haven’t read any of his previous works, you should come along and see what you’re missing.
2 May, The Glad Café, Glasgow, £10 (includes £2 off the book)
The tie-in book to the fascinating TV series Road To Referendum is launching its paperback (for those of you who were stalling because you “don’t buy hardbacks”) in the Glad Café in Glasgow.
The List called it “the most accessible piece of writing concerned with the independence debate…one of the shrewdest commentaries on Scottish politics.”
Macwhirter’s calm and intelligent approach in the book is an excellent platform to encourage people on the evening to ask questions and talk about the potential future for our country.
With that all-important date creeping up on us, perhaps you should pop your head in?
Photograph of Mark Z Danielewski by shellEProductions