Warning of “seismic shifts” in the way people are reading and writing, crime writer Ian Rankin joined Scotland’s Makar Liz Lochhead to publicise the country’s first national Book Week yesterday.
There are problems in literacy and libraries under threat, but young people are reading “more than ever” in text messages or on computer screens, the Rebus author said.
The Scottish Government unveiled its plans for the first Book Week Scotland yesterday, consisting of a week-long series of events around St Andrew’s Day. It is backed by £150,000 from the arts agency Creative Scotland.
The culture secretary, Fiona Hyslop, called it a “national, inclusive celebration of reading. It will encourage Scots from all backgrounds, of all ages, and with all interests, to embark or continue on a reading journey.”
The initiative includes a book, My Favourite Place, an anthology with the public invited to submit entries alongside commissioned pieces from professional authors, with thousands of copies to be distributed free. It is one of several public participation projects that are part of the Year of Creative Scotland 2012.
Ms Lochhead has already submitted a moving poem, Favourite Place, about the caravan site at Glen Uig, which she visited for years with her beloved husband, Tom Logan, until his death in June 2010.
The poem powerfully recalls their journeys to Glen Uig and her first visit there alone, and many people have written to her since it was released through the BBC, she said.
“It was sore writing it, it was sore reading it for the radio, but I knew it would be alright, because I could do it in bits. It’s still my favourite place, but it’s painful to me, obviously,” she said.
The project will be overseen by the Scottish Book Trust, with a full programme rolled out in October. Chief executive Marc Lambert said it was aimed “to ensure that books do get to the heart of every community in this great country.”
People are being encouraged to write in any form about their favourite place and submit a photograph as well, he said.
Rankin’s new novel, Standing in Another Man’s Grave, is released in November, with a return appearance for Detective Inspector John Rebus. He predicted about 25 per cent of his former hardback sales will be through e-books.
He said: “There are seismic shifts under way in reading and writing. We know that there are problems with literacy, we know that libraries are under stresses and strains. We know that we have to get people reading and keep them reading. Everybody who can help with that should help with that.
“We don’t know what is going to happen to publishing or even traditional writing… this is a chance for us to debate that and make sure people’s attention is focused is on publishing, writing, and specifically on reading.”
Young people access text and narratives on video or computer games, and rhymes through song lyrics rather than poetry, he said. “Narrative is everywhere, just not as we would recognise it as old timers,” he said.
His favourite place is around the Oxford Bar, Edinburgh, Rebus’ watering hole, in an area with views ranging from Edinburgh Castle and Fife to the First Minister’s official residence. “It’s Scotland in one look,” he said.
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Monday 20 May 2013
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