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  • Alistair Braidwood

Fully Booked: A Preview Of Aye Write 2023...

From 19th – 28th May Glasgow’s Book Festival Aye Write is back - bigger and better, with something for everyone. Lovers of fact, fiction, poetry, prose, autobiography, biography, crime (real and fictional), memoir, and any other form of writing that takes your fancy, are all well catered for.

This year's festival is mostly split between the Mitchell Library and Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall with plenty of guests from home and abroad, perfectly suiting a book festival which has always been international in scope, but with its roots firmly planted in the city.

You can find what's on and when by perusing the full programme here which will help you plan your festival, and you can also keep up to date with events as they unfold by following Aye Write on Twitter, Instagram, or on Facebook.

But before you do that below are SWH!’s carefully selected Top 10 highlights to give you something to think about.

Click the orange titles and links below for further details on our selected events, and to go to relevant interviews and reviews.

Leila Aboulela's River Spirit: 1890s Sudan. When Akuany and her brother are orphaned in a village raid, they are taken in by a young merchant, Yaseen, who promises to care for them – a vow that tethers him to Akuany throughout their adulthood. As revolution begins to brew, led by the self-proclaimed Mahdi, Sudan begins to prise itself from Ottoman rule, and everyone must choose a side.

Yaseen feels beholden to stand against this false Mahdi, a decision that threatens to splinter his family. River Spirit is the unforgettable story of a people who, against the odds and for a brief time, gained independence from foreign rule through their willpower, subterfuge and sacrifice.

In Lorraine Wilson’s Mother Sea, an island community facing extinction, can hope rise stronger than grief?

Sisi de Mathilde lives on a remote island in the Indian Ocean. With the seas rising, the birth rate plummeting and her community under threat, she works as a scientist, reporting on local climate conditions to help protect her island home. But her life is thrown into turmoil when she finds herself newly widowed and unexpectedly pregnant.

When a group of outsiders arrive and try to persuade her community to abandon the island, Sisi is caught between the sacred 'old ways' of her ancestors and the possibilities offered by the outside world. As tensions rise and the islanders turn on one another, Sisi must fight to save her home, her people and her unborn child.

In Doug Johnstone’s The Space Between Us we meet Lennox, a troubled teenager with no family, Ava who is eight months pregnant and fleeing her abusive husband and Heather, a grieving mother and cancer sufferer. They don't know each other, but when a meteor streaks over Edinburgh, all three suffer instant, catastrophic strokes...only to wake up the following day in hospital, miraculously recovered. When news reaches them of an octopus-like creature washed up on the shore near where the meteor came to earth, Lennox senses that some extra-terrestrial force is at play.

Ever Dundas’s HellSans is set in a fictional UK, where HellSans is a ubiquitous typeface, enforced by the government in all communications and in all public spaces. It is the ultimate control device. The majority of the population experience bliss when they see the typeface, but there’s a minority who are allergic to it. The HellSans Allergic (HSAs) are persecuted, and live on the streets or in a ghetto on the outskirts of the capital city. HellSans is written in three parts. Parts one and two can be read in either order which provides a unique approach to the perspectives of the haves and have-nots in the run-up to the revolutionary conclusion.

Exploring the natural world with the wonder and reverence we usually reserve for the stars, In Ascension by Martin MacInnes is a compassionate, deeply inquisitive epic that reaches outward to confront the greatest questions of existence, looks inward to illuminate the smallest details of the human heart, and shows how - no matter how far away we might be and how much we have lost hope - we will always attempt to return to the people and places we call home.

Leigh grew up in Rotterdam, drawn to the waterfront as an escape from her unhappy home life and volatile father. Enchanted by the undersea world of her childhood, she excels in marine biology, travelling the globe to study ancient organisms. When a trench is discovered in the Atlantic ocean, Leigh joins the exploration team, hoping to find evidence of the earth's first life forms - what she instead finds calls into question everything we know about our own beginnings.

Ryan Love’s Arthur and Teddy Are Coming Out tells the story of a grandfather and grandson coming out and their journey’s finding their place in the community. This novel has been selected as one of the Independent’s 19 debut authors set to make their mark this year. Ryan Love is a NCTJ qualified journalist, has been Showbiz Editor at Digital Spy and has written for publications including the Telegraph, Attitude Radio Times and Yahoo.

Fran Littlewood’s Amazing Grace Adams takes place across a single day and tells the story of Grace on the day she decides to push back. A story of marriage, catastrophe, redemption and grief Grace seeks to regain control of her life. Fran Littlewood has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London and was taught by Andrew Motion, passing with distinction.

Lynsey May’s Weak Teeth tells the story of Ellis’s relationship breakdown and navigating returning to her childhood home. Ellis juggles the challenges of job insecurity, an empty bank account and mouthful of unreliable teeth while her world unravels over a long, hot Summer. Lynsey May won first place in the Fresh Ink novel contest in 2020, is a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award in 2013, a beneficiary of the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship in 2015 and achieved a coveted spot as Cove Park’s Emerging Scottish Writer in 2016. Her short fiction has been published in various journals and anthologies, including The Stinging Fly, Gutter, New Writing Scotland and Banshee.

Graeme Armstrong is a multi-award winning and bestselling author from Airdrie. His teenage years were spent within Scotland’s ‘young team’ gang culture, an experience that features in much of his writing. He writes in Scots dialect. After reading English as an undergraduate, he completed a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Stirling and is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Strathclyde. His debut novel, The  Young Team, was published in 2020 and became a Sunday Times bestseller. It received the Somerset Maugham and Betty Trask Awards and was Scots Book of the Year in 2021.

Camilla Grudova is the author of The Doll’s Alphabet and Children of Paradise. Her anarchic and often inexplicable short stories recall the distorted fairy tale landscapes of Leonora Carrington, Angela Carter and Barbara Comyns, and her novel unfolds in a similarly surreal vein. She lives in Edinburgh.

K Patrick is a writer based on the Isle of Lewis. In 2021 they were shortlisted for both the White Review Poetry and Short Story Prize, and in 2020 were runner-up in the Ivan Juritz Prize and the Laura Kinsella Fellowship. Their debut novel, Mrs S, will be published June 2023. Relayed in bodily, impressionistic brushstrokes, Patrick’s novel speaks to their sensibilities as a poet: the writing is sensory and tactile, leaning toward intimation and gesture to convey the protagonist’s longing and want.

Rachelle Atalla enjoyed a big success with her debut The Pharmacist and she has followed it up with Thirsty Animals.

With the water supply in the Scottish cities drying up, Aida is forced back home to live with her mum at their rural farm. For now, they are safe with just enough to get by. Yet at the border, tensions are close to breaking point as more and more southerners chase the delusion that Scotland is an eternal spring - while fewer and fewer are allowed through. The service station where Aida works grows emptier with every day. Then, when suspicious strangers arrive at the farm asking for help, Aida and her family face a terrible decision. How much water can they afford to share?

Andrew James Greig was longlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger 2020 and shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Whirligig and now brings us A Song of Winter.

Edinburgh is basking in an unnaturally warm winter until the snow starts falling. When a student disappears, along with his climate research, and the national government close down all communications, Professor Finlay Hamilton realises there is a link between his own research into dark matter and the freak weather. Suddenly he is in a desperate race to save his wife, Jess, and their young family from a catastrophic event. His only help is a man from Jess's past, a past he never knew existed.

John McGlade’s Invisible Schemes, is a biting satire that shines a light on the marginalized working class and how reality, time, and all other certainties are blurred beyond recognition to those who aren’t paying attention.

No-one is buying McCann's drugs, and he wants to know why. So he orders his idealistic young nephew Mark to visit the housing schemes that make up his crumbling empire, and report back. But what Mark finds on his travels will change both of them, and their city, forever. As Mark's increasingly strange tales from the schemes begin to uncover their true, hidden nature, he also unpicks the dark secrets around McCann's relationship with his dead father. Invisible Schemes will take you on an unforgettable journey to the city's unseen edge, where powerful forces are awakening.

Emma Grae’s The Tongue She Speaks, explores issue of identity, language, prejudice and teenage bullying.

Glasgow. 2007. Emo culture is thriving, but fifteen-year-old Cathy O'Kelly's world couldn't be more insular. It's her first day at high school. Bullied out of primary, she's got a new start after two years being taught at home by her Mammy. She's dreaming of getting the marks she needs to be a proper Scots writer and avoiding getting on the wrong side of the neds. Again. But her bully doesn't wear a tracksuit. Mark's a third year in an oversized hoodie and Converse. A poet. Or so he wants to be. When he learns of Cathy's dream, he's makes it his mission to tear it down - and win her admiration. Will a chance encounter with a punk band at Glasgow's seminal underage club save her? Or will a different kind of bully push Cathy further into herself?

Scots What Hae!'s Ali Braidwood will be chairing this event

Churches are all around us. Their steeples remain landmarks in our towns, villages and cities, even as their influence and authority has waned. They contain art and architectural wonders - one huge gallery scattered, like a handful of jewels, across these isles.

In Steeple Chasing, award-winning writer Peter Ross sets out to tell their stories and through them a story of Britain. Join him as he visits the unassuming Norfolk church which contains a disturbing secret, and London's mighty cathedrals with their histories of fire and love. Meet cats and bats, monks and druids, angels of oak and steel. Steeple Chasing, though it sometimes strikes an elegiac note, is a song of praise. It celebrates churches for their beauty and meaning, and for the tales they tell. It is about people as much as place, flesh and bone not just flint and stone. From the painted hells of Surrey to the holy wells of Wales, consider this a travel book . . .with bells on.

A thoroughly beguiling tour around the manifold riches of Britain's churches, Ross' immersive book ranges from unassuming parish to mighty cathedral and tells a defiantly human story of art, architecture, history and culture.

An interview with Peter Ross for the SWH! podcast talking about Steeple Chasing will be available soon

In 2018 poet and author Michael Pedersen lost a cherished friend, Scott Hutchison, soon after their collective voyage into the landscape of the Scottish Highlands. Just weeks later, Michael began to write to him. In Boy Friends he confronts the bewildering process of grief, what starts as a love letter to one magical, coruscating human soon becomes a paean to all the gorgeous male friendships that have transformed his life.

Tanya Franks’ son Zach was nineteen when she discovered him rerouting the wires of their landline, sure that the phone was bugged, that his friends were Mafia, that the helicopters swirling above were deployed by spies, that he couldn’t trust anyone – her included. That moment upturned and unmoored everything. It would strand them both in a profound and terrifying isolation the way that perhaps only a psychotic break – or loving someone who is experiencing one – can.

Zig-Zag Boy is a journey along the tough frontiers of love and madness. As Tanya fights for answers and understanding – coming up against broken healthcare systems in the UK and the US – she is forced to question whether there were warning signs she missed, whether Zach will be able to have a normal life, and what ‘normal’ really means.

Scots What Hae!'s Ali Braidwood will be chairing this event

Dealing with loss and desiring revenge, two women join forces in Kirsty Logan’s mesmeric dark tale. Now She is Witch is set in a richly drawn world where women grasp at power through witchcraft, poisons and sexuality.

Some of what they say about witches is true.

She dug her mother's grave in the poison garden so it would stay hidden...

Lux has lost everything when Else finds her, alone in the woods. Her family, her lover, her home - all burned. The world is suspicious of women like her, neither maiden nor mother. But Lux is cunning; she knows how to exploit people's expectations, how to blend into the background. And she knows a lot about poisons.

From the snowy winter woods to the bright midnight sun; from the horrors of plague to the relief of healing; from lost and powerless to finding your path, Now She is Witch questions the oppositions that shadow our lives. In rich and immersive prose Kirsty Logan conjures a world of violence and beauty in which women grasp at power through witchcraft and poisons, through sexuality and childbearing, through performance and pretence, and most of all through throwing other women to the wolves. This is a witch story unlike any other

Based on a chilling true story, Orpheus Builds a Girl is Heather’s debut novel

Wilhelm von Tore is dying. As he looks back on his life he reflects on his upbringing in Dresden, his beloved Grandmother and his medical career during the second world war. But mostly he remembers his darling Luci, the great love of his life, his dark-haired beauty promised to him in a dream years before they met.

Though only together for a few months in her first life, their love is written in the stars. Using scientific research compiled over decades, Wilhelm ensures that, for him and his beloved, death is only the beginning. But through the cracks in Wilhem’s story there is another voice, that of Gabriela, and she will not let this version of events go unchallenged. She tells the story of her sister Luciana, fearless and full of life, and the madman who robbed her from her grave.’

There will be an interview with Heather Parry in the June issue of SNACK magazine

Why play to 12,000 people when you can play to 12? In Autumn 2021, Robin Ince's stadium tour with Professor Brian Cox was postponed due to the pandemic. Rather than do nothing, he decided instead to go on a tour of over a hundred bookshops in the UK, from Wigtown to Penzance; from Swansea to Margate.

Packed with witty anecdotes and tall tales, Bibliomaniac: An Obsessive’s Tour Of The Bookshops Of Britain takes the reader on a journey across Britain as Robin explores his lifelong love of bookshops and books - and also tries to find out just why he can never have enough of them. It is the story of an addiction and a romance, and also of an occasional points failure just outside Oxenholme.

Scots What Hae!'s Ali Braidwood will be chairing this event


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