Our UK adventure, part 3

Atkinson-Pryce Books in Biggar, Scotland.

Dear well-traveled reader,

In my last letter, I left us on a British Airways flight north, with hot tea and milk and little biscuits. Glasgow, Scotland, was our destination.

It was a short trip from London, but night had fallen by the time we landed at 7 p.m. Samantha the publicist, as always, had us precisely on schedule — we jumped in a car to the hotel, dropped our luggage in the rooms, and headed to dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. The menu was diverse and delicious, with creamy and spicy sauces, warm naan, lamb, seafood. But once again I was distracted from the meal by the wonderful conversation.

Biggar, Scotland, landscape painter Amy Marshall, right, with a charcoal piece she did based on The Snow Child.

We joined Jack and Gillian, the Scotland regional managers for my UK publisher Headline, and Chris and Sue, owner and book buyer of the independent  bookstore Atkinson-Pryce. As we passed the dishes of curry around the table, we talked about everything from digital books to bear sightings, Alaska’s long winters to Scotland’s upcoming referendum for secession. Within no time, we were sharing a meal with friends. We ended the evening with mango and pistachio ice cream.

With the wonderful staff of Waterstones East Kilbride.

The next morning, Gillian picked us up at the hotel in her car. We headed to local bookstores so I could sign copies of The Snow Child. At one Waterstones, I was welcomed by an enthusiastic staff who had created a display for the book. One of the booksellers even brought in an illustrated book from her own childhood that included the snow maiden fairy tale.

Quickly, though, it was time to move on. Sam, Samantha, Gillian and I all piled in the car and headed southeast out of Glasgow. As we wended our way through sheep-dotted fields, wind mills, rocky hillsides, and the sudden snow flurry, Gillian told us about the area in her beautiful Scottish accent.

With a population of about 2,000, Biggar is even smaller than my hometown of Palmer, Alaska, but it is clearly a hub of arts, music, and literature. There are museums, art galleries, the Biggar Ukulele Ensemble, and, of course, Atkinson-Pryce bookshop.

But before visiting the bookstore, we attended a literary luncheon at a nearby hotel. The event was organized by Chris and Sue, and many of their favorite customers had purchased tickets to attend.

One of the most delightful surprises of the entire trip came as we entered the banquet room. Biggar landscape painter Amy Marshall was displaying a charcoal piece she had done specifically in honor of The Snow Child — a little girl and a fox peeking through the woods at a little cabin. And throughout the room, Amy’s other winter paintings lent a perfect atmosphere.

My belief that this is an artistic town was confirmed when I met Fiona Gibson, the delightful author of books including  The Great Escape, and Suzanne Rigg, another talented local author who had recently published a fascinating nonfiction history book called Men of Spirit and Enterprise.

We visited and ate our meals of roasted vegetable tarts, salmon, beef, fresh peas, and tender potatoes. (Despite warnings from American friends, I found the food in England and Scotland to be dangerously good. I think I may have to go on a diet now that I’m back home.)

After the meal, Fiona and I took our place in the center of the room and we began a conversation about The Snow Child. I could have talked with her for hours about writing and fiction. Then came the questions from the audience, and they were both touching and insightful. As we all visited, a snowstorm swept through the streets of Biggar.

After lunch, the sun came out and we walked through the brisk air down the street to the bookshop itself. The window display took my breath away — snowflakes and branches and magic. Inside, beside a glowing fireplace, I signed copies of The Snow Child. Then I went shopping. I purchased both Fiona and Suzanne’s books,as well as a retelling of the snow maiden fairy tale I hadn’t seen before. Sam found a 1904 edition of The New Testament in Braid Scots, and Chris and Sue gave him a copy of the comical Wee Animal ABC Scots alphabet children’s book, and me books by Kathleen Jamie and Linda Cracknell. Our suitcase would be a lot heavier on the way home.

But Samantha had her eye on the clock, and it was time to head to the next event. This one was in the nearby town of Moffat at the “posh” and beautiful Moffat House Hotel.  Built in the 1750s, the hotel has sandstone pillars and an elegant ambiance. Moffat Book Events had organized an intimate but full house of readers and writers. I joined Liz Roberts at the front of the room where we had a conversation about my novel, my life in Alaska, even earthquakes. Later in the evening, I had a chance to visit with everyone and sign books.

All too soon, Samantha was making quiet motions that it was time to go. We had a long drive back to the hotel in Glasgow, and an early morning interview the next day.

In my next letter, I’ll tell you about our final two days in the UK.

Cheers!

Eowyn

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Vivian Faith Prescott
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 12:08:38

    Eowyn, I am actually published in the Biggar Poetry Garden. Small world. There you will find a garden and poetry including a poem that I had published in Drunken Boat First Peoples issue.

    I love that charcoal piece of the Snow Child; it’s wonderful! And the food sounds very delicious. You are very fortunate to have made such a lovely trip.

  2. Sarah Davis
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 12:35:05

    Another interesting post cannot wait for the rest of your adventure

  3. AlaskaZen
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 13:04:40

    I just finished reading The Snow Child last night. I didn’t want it to end! I’m really excited for you and your first novel to be heading out into the world like you (both) are. Bon voyage!

  4. NathanDunbar
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 18:52:24

    More more more!

  5. Linda Cracknell
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 05:20:47

    How lovely to see my books mentioned here. I read a review of The Snow Child in the Guardian on Saturday and it is top of my list of books to buy – right up my street! Very sorry to miss your session in Biggar, and best of luck with the rest of your tour.

    • Eowyn Ivey
      Mar 01, 2012 @ 05:48:11

      Your books are so lovely in design, Linda, and I’m looking forward to reading them! By far books are my favorite keepsake to bring home from a trip.

  6. Pam Ivey
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 07:04:43

    You’ve taken us on your trip to Europe…..thank you, I am wondering what we are doing the last two days!

  7. Mark Bryant
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 13:23:49

    I haven’t had a chance to speak to Jim about my reading your posts, but this one reminds me of my trip in 1987 to take my son Kendall Bryant (now deceased) to play the Old Course for his college graduation present. We stayed at Baden Powell House in London, and Gilwell Park for our Scouting Outing. Your comments about the tubes, narrow streets, etc. really brought back glorious moments to me. I am planning to buy copies of your book to give to a few of my fellow hospice nurses as a gift this Christmas. I think you’ll end up #1 here in Georgia. Peace be unto you.

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