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A Highland Book Prize long-listed author visited Fort William recently, on a literary tour that started with Lochaber High School and finished with an event at Fort William Library, writes Kirsteen Bell.
Merryn Glover was speaking about her book, Of Stone and Sky (Birlinn, 2021).
Set in a strath in the Cairngorms, the novel is about the mysterious disappearance of a Highland shepherd and follows several generations of a shepherding family in ‘a paean to the bonds between people, their land and way of life’.
It is one of 12 books long listed for the 2021 Highland Book Prize, which seeks to recognise the rich talent, landscape, and cultural diversity of Scotland’s Highlands and Islands.
Merryn’s visit to Fort William was part of Scottish Book Trust’s annual celebration of books and reading – Book Week Scotland.
Pupils from Lochaber High School pupils met Merryn in the high school library.
The group included Advanced Higher English students, as well as pupils taking part in a creative writing class, developed by English teacher Stephen Carruthers in association with Dundee University.
High school librarian Nicola Muir told the Lochaber Times. ‘It was a fantastic opportunity for our pupils to meet Merryn and ask her questions about writing and her own experiences starting out as an author.
‘I know our pupils will benefit greatly from being able to meet such an engaging, fascinating and inspiring speaker.’
Merryn then visited The Highland Book Shop, signing books in a lunchtime meet-and-greet session.
The final event of the day was the author event at Fort William Library, funded by the Scottish Book Trust. This was the first event run by the library since reopening after the Covid-19 lockdown.
Introducing Merryn, Library Supervisor Sally Hughes, said as soon as she heard the theme of Book Week Scotland was ‘Celebration’, she wanted to try and get Merryn in for an event, as Of Stone and Sky was such a celebration of the history, landscape, and community of the Highlands.
Sally later told the Lochaber Times: ‘I’m very grateful to Book Week Scotland for the funding that allowed us to put this event on.
‘It’s been such a long time since we’ve been able to hold author events like this in the library, and to have Merryn here talking about her novel was wonderful.’
Merryn read passages from her book and invited discussion with the participants around childhood memories of reading and the environment.
There were also a number of questions from the audience on the development of the novel, as well as Merryn’s writing and planning techniques.
Merryn explained: ‘Fort William was the perfect place for me for Book Week Scotland. I was really impressed with Lochaber High School which has a great librarian and a progressive English department that includes an innovative creative writing course.
‘The young people who met with me were intelligent and engaged and a joy to be with. After that, it was lovely to hang out at the Highland Bookshop, with its superb range of mountain literature and maps.
‘And finally, I was delighted by the audience which turned out for the author event at Fort William library, where Sally Hughes and team were so welcoming. An all-round beautiful, bookish day!’