FROM YOUR EDITORS Advice to authors

Words & Pictures Co-editor, Claire Watts, is inspired at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The end of August is one of my favourite times of year. Why? Well here in Scotland it's back to school time, and, much as I love my kids, by the end of the holidays we're all fed up with each other and I want the house to myself. And then, of course, there's the Edinburgh Book Festival, that island of relative calm in the overwhelming bustle of the Edinburgh Festival. This week I've been having a jolly bookish time there, meeting up with fellow SCBWI members, chatting to random strangers about books, fangirling (just a little) over authors and, of course, attending as many events as my schedule and my purse could manage. I can think of few things more lovely than spending the day surrounded by books and book people in an atmosphere that manages to be both buzzy and immensely comfortable.

The first year I went to the festival I didn't book any events until a week before, and so all my top choices were sold out. I picked a couple of events each day nonetheless, going for writers I'd heard of or topics that sounded interesting. It's a policy I'd recommend - although of course it's fabulous to see your heroes, I've discovered so much amazing talent this way. Even though now I always get booking the day after the programme drops through my door, I make sure to pick a few things that are completely new to me.

My favourite events at book festivals are the ones when you have a couple of authors having a chat on stage. On the whole, I think they ask each other far better questions than the audience do. One of the highlights of this year for me was seeing Tanya Landman and Laura Dockrill. You might wonder how the book festival put these two authors together, beyond the fact that both of them are YA authors. What do the Roman slave girl of Tanya’s latest book Beyond the Wall and the mermaid in Laura’s Aurabel have in common, beyond feistiness - which is a given in a modern heroine. The link became clear when the authors read from the beginnings of their books, revealing the thrilling, shockingly impossible starting points that both protagonists have to drag themselves out of.

Writers come to the book festival to promote their new books, of course, but they're always happy to talk about their writing technique too. I’ve been reading and listening to writers talk about how they write for long enough to find that nothing anyone says is really new to me. Even so, there’s something inspiring in hearing one of your writer heroes tell you that she never really knows when she's finished working on a project and that characters sometimes take over and bend the plot to their will. Tanya and Laura were asked to give a brief piece of advice for writers. Tanya’s was:


and Laura’s:

Just do it

Nothing new … and yet quite perfect, the two sides of the coin of being a writer succinctly summed up.

Claire Watts is Co-editor of Words & Pictures. You can contact her on

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