After an early bus ride into Edinburgh and a cup of tea and a pain-au-chocolat in Starbucks on George Street, I headed for the author's yurt and an interview with Craig Naples of Writer Pictures. Craig dumbfounded me by bringing out a copy of one of my old fanzines - Demon Issue from the mid-1980s - a nice surprise actually.
My first event was Seeking the Rainbow Orchid - an illustrated talk on how I made the book, character development, research, inspirations, and even a bit of comics history thrown in too. With The Complete Rainbow Orchid out for a year now, not being a big name, plus a rather limited age-range suggested for my very all-ages book, I was nervous about attendance, but actually the auditorium filled up very nicely and it all went really well, with a good crop of questions at the end. I was surprised at the queue for my signing afterwards; I'd allowed half an hour - it went on for an hour and three-quarters. I missed an interview (sorry Emma!) and I was 45 minutes late for a lunch appointment.
Photograph courtesy Jeremy Briggs.
So things were a little bit of a rush for my next event - Comic Consequences with Vivian French, Nick Sharratt and Dave Sutton. This was a live drawing event where audience members shouted out various things - an emotion, the weather, a place, etc. - and the three of us would have to make up and draw a story on the spot, each given 30 seconds or a minute before Viv rang the bell and the next person took over. It was an absolute blast. Our main story had a robot falling in love with a penguin at a zoo in Switzerland and flying off to Edinburgh where it was swallowed by the Loch Ness Monster, who was emerging from the city's dormant volcano, before being burped out back to Switzerland and becoming an exhibit back at the zoo, now combined with the penguin thanks to a bolt of lightning (I think). My high point was probably Nessie emerging from the volcano, my low point was attempting to draw a hyena, in public, without a safety net.
The four of us had a signing afterwards, as well as giving away some of the flip-pad drawings from the event. I managed to get a book signed by Nick, for my daughter, before our event - we have quite a number of his books in our house. Viv, Nick and Dave were excellent company, I really enjoyed it, even if I originally thought myself bonkers for agreeing to do such an event!
Despite the weekend crawling with comics people, I managed to not see most of them. A quick wave and a hug with Sarah McIntyre, a brief handshake with Philip Reeve, a few words with Paul Gravett and Joe Gordon. I did get to sit down for half-an-hour with Graeme Neil Reid and Jeremy Briggs, and then it was off to my final event, a reading for Amnesty International's Imprisoned Writers series.
Photograph by Elyssa Campbell-Barr.
I had no idea what I was going to read (I thought it was going to be an excerpt from a graphic novel) until some slides arrived at my aunt's the evening before, but that all changed anyway, as at the last minute everything was swapped around and I was given a two page piece penned by A. L. Kennedy to read. My co-readers were Hannah Berry and Rutu Modan, and again, it all went well, including a discussion with questions on getting messages across graphically. Not being very well prepared for such a discussion, I nonetheless managed to add some relevance with a bit about the Tintin book The Blue Lotus, and both Rutu and Hannah had much of interest to say (see the Stripped report here).
All done for the day, Jeremy Briggs kindly walked me to my bus stop, and I had a 20-minute ride back to Colinton before I was able to completely unwind and collapse on my aunt's lovely big sofa. The whole visit was very nice, and both my aunt and uncle, as well as my wife and two year old daughter and four-month old son saw the Comic Consequences event, so that made it a little extra special too.
Congratulations to all involved in the Stripped line of events at the Edinburgh Book Festival - Kirsten Cowie, Hannah Trevarthen and Janet Smyth and others - it was a triumph and a real boon for the UK comics scene. I've heard such good things about so many of the other events.