Dreich was invented for days like this. We had to concede to turning on the lights when we got out of bed on Saturday, 15th October. The sun was just drowning in dour clouds that seeped and dripped drizzle into a temper-ridden wind without the slightest hint of remorse. At one point we contemplated turning on the heating. It was enough to keep even the wiliest characters indoors on ordinary day. But with a reading of The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick on the cards, it was never going to be an ordinary day. So we donned our waterproofs, packed up the car and braved the elements between home and Picaresque Books, located on the Dingwall High street.
I find it unquestionably delightful to be read to, so it was nothing short of mesmerising when Helen set down the book and recited its opening pages instead. Listening to her, two things were strikingly obvious: that she is a writer who pays great attention to the soundscape of her story; and that this is a story that excites her, that, despite all the re-writes and edits, she still wants to tell. Her careful, fluent recitation made it clear that this is her story- her words, not so much learned off as embodied.
After reading from several other sections of the book, Helen answered the audience’s questions with a pleasant and sincere enthusiasm. She did not hesitate to tell us her backstory- a career in science, ten years of writing (including two novels and a collection of short stories buried in a bottom drawer), a seasonal predilection for writing, and the importance of personal integrity when working with editors. And above all that, the admission that she is still made nervous by the idea of someone actually reading her work.
Helen will be in Waterstones Oban on Saturday 22nd October, followed by an event at NessBookFest on 12th November, and a panel called ‘Putting yourself out there’ at Highland Lit Salon for BookWeek Scotland on 22nd November. If you have the opportunity to get to any or all of these events, go for it- you’re in for a real treat.
PS I must give personal thanks to Picaresque Books owner David Duguid. When we arrived, buggy and all, completely sodden, with minutes to spare, he fussed around us in the most kind-hearted way, apologising for the absence of a coat rack and asking us where would be the most comfortable place for us to sit. It sounds a small thing but it is wonderful to be so warmly accommodated and to feel we were welcomed as a family, not as those people who brought a baby. Thanks David!