To celebrate Scottish Book Week, I was asked to talk at two very special libraries: Brookwood Library in Bearsden and Montrose Library in Angus.
As I live in Glasgow, Bearsden felt almost like home ground. Then Montrose is the small town on the east coast of Scotland where I grew up, so there were many familiar faces in the crowd (including my first English teacher – a bit nerve-wracking!).
I thought I’d post a few extracts from the talks I gave, so should you want to have me along in the future, you’ll know what you’re letting yourself in for.
‘Moments like this always make me think of the Jerry Seinfeld joke: more people list public speaking as their number one fear than death. So the next time you’re at a funeral, have a look around, more people would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy.’
‘If I was going to sum up all the novels I’ve written, I’d say that they are all books about strong heroines: girls who know what they want and how they’re going to get it. Although many things get in their way, they are always determined enough to overcome.
‘Some of my heroines are glamorous, some are stubborn, some are sexy, some are comical, but they all have this vein of determination running through them to get on in life, to achieve their dreams and ambitions, no matter what.’
‘Family life can get in the way of writing quite a lot. When children are tiny, unless they are asleep or with someone else, forget it, you’re not going to get anything done.
‘When my children were small, they used to come to my desk and sing, demand attention and dribble juice onto the keyboard.
‘Now they are older, 10 and 14, I still find an incredible amount of my time is taken up with them: ‘Can you drop me at tennis? Pick me up from athletics? Take me to hockey? It’s choir today; it’s orchestra tomorrow… I’m going to the cinema, there’s a birthday party… what’s for dinner? I don’t want ham sandwiches in my packed lunch.’
‘Multi-tasking is not the word. Like most of the Mothers in this room, I’ve developed the kind of super brain that could probably run Dr Who’s Tardis.’
Inspired by Annie Valentine
‘The thing I love about Annie is that she takes part in life. She’s not a spectator, she’s not someone who’s going to say to herself: ‘Oh, I wish I’d done that.’ She did it! I think that’s what readers really like about her.
‘Because there’s a danger when we have children, settle down, become domesticated that we give up on our own hopes and dreams. And I would really, really urge you not to do that.
‘I love the saying: “As you get older you don’t regret the things you’ve done. You regret the things you haven’t done.” I really hope that’s true, I’m so looking forward to not regretting all sorts of things I’ve done.
‘Anyway, it’s a great piece of advice. So if you take anything away from here tonight, I’d like you to set yourselves a goal: an interesting, just for you, I’ve-always-wanted-to-try-this sort of goal, a just beyond your comfort level goal. And set aside a little time every week, a regular appointment with yourself to move towards it.
‘That’s how I began my very first novel: two mornings a week when baby Sam was with a friend and one weekend morning when his Dad took sole charge. That was about nine hours a week, every week. But it had a compound effect. If you stick at something in quite a small way for long enough, it will come to fruition.
‘And you’ll learn all kinds of interesting things in the process – especially about yourself.’
Huge thanks to the Scottish Book Trust for making these talks possible and to the brilliant staff and organisers at Brookwood Library, Bearsden, and Montrose Library, Montrose, Angus. Thanks also to Henry Hogg, booksellers, Montrose (where I used to go and spend my book tokens when I was small!).