Tag Archives: My favourite place

Book Week Scotland at Leith Library


It took place during the last week of November. It was the first national celebration of reading in Scotland. I had to be in my post as Scottish Book Trust Reader in Residence at Leith Library in time to promote it. It was the wonderful ‘Book Week Scotland’.

This post is about how we planned and delivered Book Week Scotland at Leith Library. We used audio, photos, videos, facebook, twitter, blogging, one on one conversations in the community and events.

Also I should say Rebecca Gordon from STV interviewed me and wrote a lovely feature ‘Leith’s Reader in Residence spreads the word for Book Week’, read it here.


We wanted to engage with as many new people as possible. We decided the best way to do that was to go to them so we planned visits into the community of Leith every day.

We also planned a week of events to get people into the library, the timetable is here.

In the weeks before Book Week we started telling people about what was coming on the Leith Library blog. I went to the Book Week Scotland press launch and interviewed the head of programme, Sophie Moxon. Here’s the blog. I also had chance to interview some of the league of Extraordinary Book lovers. Find the blog here, it includes a video of the youngest member of the league, 5 year old Edward.


We invited authors who write about Leith to share their work in the library at an event we called Memories of Leith. We featured each of the three writers on the blog ahead of Book Week to engage with people who were interested in the history of Leith as well as people interested in reading. Click on the links below to find out more about the Authors and listen to them sharing their work in audio trailers:

At the end of each of these blogs we invited people to come to our Memories of Leith event.


I ran a workshop on storytelling with audio and video at the Social Media for Social Good Conference in Glasgow on the Friday before Book Week. I was able to tell people about what we were doing and what was coming. The workshop was live streamed too. Read about it and watch a video of the workshop here.

We launched our Leith Library twitter a few days before Bookweek. We also planned to regularly post to our facebook page and the Leith Library blog.

Book Week in Leith

We visited to the Bingo, Sofi’s Bar, The Kirkgate Shoping Centre, Stein’s Garage, The Cats Protection League, Destiny Church, Leith Victoria Primary School, Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre, The Kirkgate Barbers, Alien Rock Climbing Wall, Leith Victoria Gym and The Haven Cafe.


We engaged with people and found out what they loved reading. We gave them free books, we took photos of them with their free books and made videos. We told them about our blog, facebook and twitter. We gave flyers to people to invite them to our Memories of Leith event on the Saturday.

A few of our visit locations were pre planned – we needed permission to be at Ocean Terminal, Alien Rock, Leith Victoria Primary School, Mecca Bingo and the Kirkgate Shopping Centre. The rest of the visits were spontaneous and that was part of the fun of it all. This video was made during a spontaneous visit to Leith Victoria, it was one of my favourite parts of Book Week. Watch the video on youtube.

We challenged the knitting group to knit their own scotland. We asked five year olds what books they liked in our local primary school (after making crocodiles with them). We had a Book Cafe, a Veggie Market and Bookbug’s 6th birthday party at the library.

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The Challenge 

I had to upload and blog as much content as possible in real time but still needed to head out and about every day to collect and create new content. We had a rota so different library advisors could come with me to help every day, they were brilliant. The library advisors also came up with good ideas for places we could visit to engage with genuine Leithers. It was a challenge but we did it and I got much faster at blogging and editing.

On top of Book Week I somehow ended up with social engagements every night. On the Thursday a wood buring stove unexpectedly got delivered at my house just when I arrived at the library so I had to head straight back home to heave it up the stairs. My Mum arrived later on that day for a long weekend too. I left her some keys in a cafe and met her later that evening, she didn’t mind. Looking back I’m really glad I did go out – it forced me to have a break. I know I would have worked every waking hour if I could, there was so much to cover in a limited time.

The Results

So how did it all go? Well we gave out hundreds of books to people in Leith and talked to each one of them about reading.

We engaged with people online too. We built up a couple of hundred new twitter followers and got loads more people signed up to our blog. We also had more likes for posts on the blog and on facebook compared to usual. The blog had over 500 visitors during book week so we were pleased with that.


The Scottish Book Trust did an amazing job of supporting and sharing all of the events going on throughout book week. I loved being part of something bigger, something national.

It was heartily encouraging to get their tweets and emails along the way too. Especially from Digital Marketing Co-ordinator, Danny. He emailed us to say we were the best social media contributor to Book Week in the whole of Scotland so that was a wonderful news.

We enjoyed it, we engaged with new people and we raised the profile of the library. We encouraged people to read and that’s what it’s all about. That’s why I’m working as a Reader in Residence

You can see all the pictures we took during Book Week Scotland in our Facebook Album. Read more about Book Week on the Leith Library blog by clicking on the links below:


Here are some quotes about our memories of Leith event:

From Twitter:

Very enjoyable hour – could have run for two, easily. Loved it. Thanks! Vicki Jarrett

Marianne Paget read her v.impressive”Leith,1974″ from “My Favourite Place”. Malcolm Chisholm MSP

Aunty Sue (87) was thrilled to be at the Memories of Leith event. It was the 1st library event she’s been to, she loved it and is looking forward to more. She said “You’re never too old to have new experiences,” Marianne Wheelaghan.

From evaluation forms:

Excellent, thanks so much. Can we have more?

I loved this event – I used to cry when I was little if the library was shut and I could not change my books. I never find time to read much now but I will really try – also I would like to write down memories of my grandparents.

By Email:

I really did enjoy my time at the library…. thank you again for all you did. You are a star. My family love the blog!!! Author Millie Gray

And a more general one from Elspeth Murray that made us smile:


What’s next? 

I’ve been in post for 3 months now so it’s time for me to report to the Scottish Book Trust on what I’ve been doing. I record all of my hours and work in a spreadsheet so I’ll send that.

I’ve 6 months to go at the library and I’m excited about what’s coming up. We’ve got a blog about a Leith heron from Author Lari Don. Our library advisor, Linda is going to be reviewing baking books. We’ve got a three part blog special on the history of Leith with Millie Gray. Our book group are going to start blogging book reviews next year and I’ll be working with teenagers to make podcasts about young adult fiction.

On Christmas eve we judge our Festive Furballs competion. If you’ve not heard about it do check it out. We’ve had photos sent in of a gerbil, a pony, a rare amphibian and even a deceased badger all in Christmas gear. It makes me smile on a daily basis! Find the photos on facebook here or read about it on the blog here.

Lastly I’ve been asked to lead the reader development session at the CILIPS (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) Conference in June 2013. I’m totally honoured and a little nervous but really looking forward to it.


Posted by on December 20, 2012 in Education, Events, Film, storytelling


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Bernard MacLaverty gives you permission to write badly

The Scottish Book Trust and BBC Scotland are collecting stories about our favourite Scottish places. They’re looking for diary entries, stories, poems, letters, song lyrics or a short scene from a play.

This national campaign to get us writing includes free writing workshops with internationally renowned authors, what a rare and wonderful thing?! I booked onto the first free workshop at North Edinburgh Arts with Bernard MacLaverty.

I enjoyed the workshop. Bernard spent time getting to know us and reading examples from his novels. He also had some great advice…

Bernard’s Top Tips:

Start by saying “today I give myself permission to write badly”. If you try to write a masterpiece it’s hard to write anything at all. If you give yourself permission to write badly it’s easy to write and you never know, a masterpiece might come somewhere along the way.

Write to show and not tell. You could write ‘Mary was in love with the boy next door’, that’s telling. But to show would be to say ‘Mary waited by the curtains looking at the red door as it opened…’ and so on.

When I work with teenagers they all want to write something that astounds you, something to change the world but actually I just want them to tell me about their Granny or a place or something someone said.

Our Task

Bernard had planned to get us to write a postcard from a favourite place.  Beginners are encouraged to go to these workshops but since but we were all professional writers he set us a different task. We had to describe a room from childhood using the five senses and in the third person. A show and not tell exercise.

We had just ten minutes to write it and I gave myself permission to write badly. Here’s what I wrote:

She swept the smooth wooden floor of the caravan with her socks, sliding and sweeping. More fun than a broom, not conventional sweeping. This was dangerous. One slide too far and you’re on the floor. She perfected the motion, sweeping the dust of last night’s fire, of today’s food. Up and down and around and back. Up and down and around and back. Sweeping it into a small, fluffy pile. She took a dust pan and swept it up. There wasn’t a bin so she found a bag and tipped it all in.

We read our paragraphs to Bernard and the rest of the group for feedback. Here’s what people said about my paragraph:

  • It pinged a memory and is likely to do so with others (Bernard talked about how he used to polish the floor with his socks as a child)
  • I think someone is about to come to the caravan or something is about to happen, there’s suspense building, it’s exciting…
  • It seems to be a short story already, keep going and make it into one
  • It reminds me of a description from Hemingway about a fish (but it wasn’t really about a fish) is this really about sweeping?
  • What was she avioding? What was coming next? What was she really thinnking?
  • The repeated phrase worked because it showed the repetative nature of the task

I’d strayed a little from the brief, earlier in the workshop I’d been thinking about Skye as a favourite place. It’s unbelievably beautiful and was somewhere I stayed earlier this year. Here’s a picture I took on a bike ride with my mobile:

When asked to describe a room from childhood I didn’t really want to leave the beautiful island in my imagination and so I described where I stayed on Skye instead. The rest of the group didn’t know that when I read my paragraph.

The best thing about the workshop was it made me want to write. I had loads of ideas and was poised with my pen raring to go while the task was being discussed. I think that’s what these workshops are all about, meeting great people, being inspired and putting pen to paper.

Do you have a favourite place? Book onto a my favourite place writing workshop here. Read about other peoples favourite places here. The closing date to submit your writing is 31st August, submit it here.

The Scottish Book Trust loved this blog post so they reposted it on their blog here.

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Posted by on June 15, 2012 in Events, Writing


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