Book up for a great story fest

4th July 2003 at 01:00
About 100 authors and 30,000 children will flock to Charlotte Square Gardens for children's events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on August 9-25, with the schools events on August 21, 22, 25 and 26.

Karen Mountney, the festival's children's programme director, has been planning for this since she took up her post in September.

"You've got to start planning the next programme immediately after the festival," she says. "So, after the benefit of a year's experience, I'll really make my mark."

As former children's programmer at the Scottish Poetry Library, Karen knows what grabs their imagination and has commissioned festival events for babies and toddlers, on up through the youth age ranges. She is particularly pleased to have arranged Carol Anne Duffy's debut at the children's events (on August 24) as she launches The Good Child's Guide to Rock 'n' Roll, her second collection of poems for over-10s.

Karen has also commissioned research into the reading habits of the over-16s. "We really need to understand the market before we start programming for it," she says.

"The idea of crossover between the adults' and children's events adds to the programme's depth," says Karen, who has arranged appearances by playwrights Sir Alan Ayckbourn and Ariel Dorfman.

Ayckbourn, best known for his adult work, has written successful children's plays. He will join the Royal Lyceum's artistic director, Mark Thomson, and reveal trade secrets to teenagers and adults on August 10 as they discuss his new work, The Crafty Art of Playmaking.

Dorfmann and his son Joaquin joined up to write a screenplay about New York in the lead up to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and soon realised they were creating a teenage novel. which is now entitled The Burning City. "It's pacey," says Karen. "You can really feel it building to a tumultuous event." They will talk about it on August 18.

Authors coming back to talk to their fans include Jacqueline Wilson (August 23-25) and children's laureate Michael Morpurgo (August 20, 21). Karen says: "They really enjoy being at the festival, not only as speakers but also to go to events and meet their peers."

For the schools programme, Karen has invited the German author and illustrator Cornelia Funke, who will talk about her thriller The Thief Lord, which is aimed at P5s-P7s, on August 22.

New Scottish talent is represented by Catherine Forde. She will talk about how she started writing Fat Boy Swim, aimed at S1s and S2s, on August 21.

Primary teachers can still book tickets for the three events arranged for them. New York-based Christian McEwen will talk about teaching creative writing from nature on August 22. On August 25, literacy expert and poet Pie Corbett will offer ideas for improving children's writing skills and, later, poet and anthologist John Foster will look at ways of encouraging seven-to 11-year-olds to read and write poetry.

Asked about her favourite childhood books, Karen admits to being a Roald Dahl fan. "I really like his books and I do return to them. I think my favourite is The BFG because of the made-up words."

She is also a fan of Tove Janssen's endearing Moomin books. So, will we see more Scandinavian authors at the festival in future? "It's always possible.

It's a very strong area of children's literature, but as a child I didn't realise I liked Scandinavian literature. I just liked good books."

Denyse Presley Bookings, tel 0131 624 5050

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