City of Shifting Light: An Introduction to My Edinburgh Book Festival Diary

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It’s been over 5 years since I started book blogging, and with each passing year it becomes increasingly difficult for me to look back at my old work without cringing. It’s an inevitability of life and writing that one will (hopefully) improve with age, but reading the pieces I wrote almost 4 years ago to the day from my last press appointment for the Edinburgh International Book Festival is akin to browsing through old baby photos, only far more embarrassing.

My early reports from the festival – half-remembered recaps reconstructed from hastily written notes in the dark – are, as you can imagine, decidedly amateurish. Not just in their execution but in their intent. I honestly had no idea what I was doing or why I wanted to do it. Getting into book festival events for free was an obvious bonus, but even then I wondered what I and my readers had to gain from the experience. If I couldn’t offer something refreshing or insightful to the kind and patient people who visited the dog and pony show that was my old blog then there was no real point to my actions beyond youthful narcissism. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t apply for press accreditation the following year. Now, 4 years have passed. I no longer live in the beautiful city I studied in, my writing focus has shifted, and my boss told me to take my bloody holidays already, so I return to my favourite place on the planet with a strong clear vision.

Edinburgh: The UNESCO City of Literature, home of Ian Rankin, Muriel Spark, Alexander McCall Smith, Kate Atkinson, Arthur Conan Doyle, and at least 3 cafes that claim to be the birthplace of the Harry Potter books. The Scottish capital where I spent 4 years studying Celtic and English literature. A city of cobbles and cathedrals, with a castle at the top. Literature runs through the very veins of the place, and with August being festival season, it’s only right that books get their fair share of the action. On top of the world’s largest arts festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival takes place away from city centre action (and thankfully out of the reach of enthusiastic flyer distributors) on Charlotte Square, to the left hand side of George Street. I shall be attending a handful of this year’s talks, from some of the world’s most beloved writers, and I hope to contextualise for you the entwined relationship between Edinburgh, literature and myself. Those two things indelibly moulded me into the person I am today, for better or worse. Perhaps by the end of this journey, I’ll be a little easier to understand!

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Ceilidh is the co-editor in chief of Bibliodaze, the one who has no idea what she's doing. She talks YA at The Book Lantern and has been known to talk theatre for The Skinny & Female Arts.

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