An evening with Zoe Strachan

The Reading Room presents writer Zoë Strachan on Tuesday, May 30, for an evening reading and probably delicious discussion on all writerly topics.

Zoe

Zoë will talk about her work, including a sneak-peek at her work-in-progress, a new novel called Lips That Touch. It’s a love story set between 1935 and 1966, in small town Scotland and is based in part on family stories. She intends to discuss research, process, publishing and “everything in between”.

If we are lucky, this will include her 2011 novel, Ever Fallen in Love, which was Shortlisted for the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Scottish Books Awards 2012 and the Green Carnation Prize 2011 and was nominated for the London Book Award 2012 . The story plays with a frenzy of tension, interweaving the tone and pace of young, queer love with the mature hindsight of regret and envy.

Her first novel, Negative Space (2002), lauded as a powerful portrayal of grief and healing, was the winner of a 2003 Betty Trask Award and shortlisted for the 2002 Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award. Her second novel, Spin Cycle (2004), is set in a launderette and tells the story of three of its workers; it is a “murky and dazzling” novel about women in emotional turmoil.

Strachan’s short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies and have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4. She has written many articles and reviews for newspapers, including The Herald, The Scotsman Magazine and The Sunday Times.

Her stage play, Old Girls, opened in Glasgow in 2009. She has also written a stage play, Panic Patterns, with Louise Welsh, performed in Glasgow in 2010. Her short opera, Sublimation, written with composer Nick Fells, was part of Scottish Opera’s Five:15 series in 2010, touring Scotland and also travelling to South Africa.

Zoë teaches on the Creative Writing Programme at the University of Glasgow and is an established tutor, teaching courses for the Arvon Foundation and Moniack Mhor. A Scottish Book Trust scheme allows her to visit festivals, schools, prisons and community groups, to share her expertise. She is a writer who excels in digging deep into haunted searches and memories, exposing the raw layers of psychology. The detailed exploration in her writing should elicit profound discoveries in our own writing, so this is a chance to rev up motivation to get in there and write–or appreciate those who do.

She is on the Board of Directors of Glasgow Women’s Library; a Patron of the Imprint Festival in East Ayrshire; and a supporter of Scottish Pen. Zoë lives in Glasgow with her partner, writer Louise Welsh.

Patrons wishing to dine before the reading are welcome to join some of us at Edinbane Inn, around 6 p.m. Our evening at Edinbane Community Hall begins at 7:30 p.m. Admission for non-members is £5. Our very reasonable memberships are always available.  Be sure to check out our book table for interesting reads at bargain prices. Copies of our Anthologies 1 and 2 may be purchased for £8.50 each.

Refreshments will be served. Everyone is welcome. For more information, contact us at skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or message us on Facebook (The Reading Room – Skye).

Author Michael F. Russell to Appear at Reading Room

At last, a writer who isn’t up with the Willow Warblers – or at least, admits he isn’t. Great news for us slackers who always have been given the impression that 6 a.m. coffee was the prerequisite to successful production.MichaelFRussellPhoto

Michael F. Russell, author of Lie of the Land, has given us a novel that questions how far the state will go to preserve an orderly society and examines an Armageddon in which human technology plays a central role. The Reading Room is happy to welcome him as our guest reader on Tuesday, April 19.

It’s always useful to go to the person on the street to see how a product really performs, so I went to Amazon reviewers, all of whom were happy with their book purchase. One wrote, ‘The backdrop of a controlling state, universal lack of privacy and technological advances being used against the population all add to the sense of dread, which contrasted well with some of the richly descriptive passages about the Highland landscape. There are a couple of story strands in particular which were very effective and left me feeling uneasy. We might all like to think we’d behave honourably in difficult times, but would we?’

Michael Russell Lie of the LandAnother person said he bought this book on something of a whim from a bookshop in Portree, whilst holidaying on the West coast of Scotland, and hasn’t regretted it. ‘It’s something more than your standard post-apocalyptic fayre, largely because the author concentrates more on characterisation (particularly the lead, Carl) than on technicalities (though there’s enough of that for the plot to be believable). Altogether, a well-constructed book that I would recommend to anyone with an interest in sci-fi.’

Other readers expressed similar positive reactions:

‘I would not call it anything like ‘terrifying’ as other commentators have, but more an imaginative exploration about what happens when society breaks down.’

‘Loved the atmosphere, great story. What a great book, you can hear the silence as you read, the tension is heavy, like a storm building, slowly.’ 

‘What I liked about this, was the descriptive writing, you get pulled into the book, as if you are walking with the characters. It would make one hell of a TV show.’

The Scotsman’s reviewer, Stuart Kelly, observed that one of the most persistent complaints visitors (and residents) make about contemporary Scotland is the patchy mobile phone coverage. He wrote, ‘This serves as the novel’s clever, twisted conceit…Russell’s premise is similar to Stephen King’s in Under the Dome, but, I have to say, he does a better job with the conceit. While King, as usual, fluffs the ending (childish aliens did it!), Russell manages to give a coherent reason for the predicament, build to a closure without it becoming a black and white shoot-out, and suggest that the story of (the main characters) may not be over.’

Kelly added, ‘Despite the horrors that slowly, slyly emerge, there are also passages of genuine beauty.’ Russell impressed the reviewer by avoiding the ‘cosy catastrophe’ trap, and Kelly finishes with the comment, ‘It is as cosy as a handful of gorse raked across your back. It announces a talent to be followed closely.’

Michael F. Russell is deputy editor at the West Highland Free Press and writes occasionally for the Sunday Herald. His writing has appeared in Gutter, Northwords Now and Fractured West.  Lie of the Land was shortlisted for the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award in November 2015. He lives on Skye with his partner and two children.

The evening will begin at 7:30 p.m., with the 2016 AGM, at Tigh na Sgire, in Portree, next to the Community Hall.

Mr. Russell will appear from 8:00 p.m. Everyone is welcome to join us for the evening. Entry for Michael F. Russell is £3, non-members; members are free.

Refreshments will be available. We also have some good reads for sale in our book corner and copies of our second anthology, A Stillness of Mind, are available for £8.50. See you there.