A fair to remember

Fremantle Press illustrator Sonia Martinez shares highlights from her trip to the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

It was my first time participating in any book festival so I was really thrown in the deep end at Edinburgh. I arrived to a heaving city in the middle of festival fever – the Edinburgh International Book Festival was just a part of it. I was there in Edinburgh for eight days, with presentations over four days and time for exploring the city in between. My first event was a day of outreach at high schools in Inverclyde – a couple of hours by train, where, under the theme of ‘everyday superheroes’, I talked about how I got into illustration, my process, and the books that I’ve done so far.

A highlight of the festival was watching fellow Fremantle Press author, Craig Silvey, in the festival’s Spiegeltent where, alongside Neil Gaiman and Dawn O’Porter, he was on the judging panel for the highly entertaining Literary Death Match. I had my own turn performing in the Spiegeltent for the Illicit Ink event in a night of mildly terrifying fun involving semi-live drawing and storytelling. I provided a short series of illustrations from which writers and actors had to improvise a story on the spot. There were a couple of tense moments where, judging by the participants’ faces when my rather random elephant drawings were unveiled, I thought I’d missed the brief entirely. But all came up with something brilliantly inventive ranging from tales of espionage and out-of-work actors to a story highlighting the plight of overweight bicycle couriers. I finished off the festival running a (sold-out!) illustration workshop for kids in the Imagination Lab, followed by a panel discussion event with Craig Silvey.

The most enjoyable part of the experience for me was lurking in the authors’ yurt and casually spying on literary heroes of mine such as Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman. My one regret was that I was too busy stressing over my own event to go and see the interview with Judith Kerr, author and illustrator of my all-time favourite children’s books The Tiger Who Came to Tea and the Mog series. Apparently she had the audience in tears for much of it.

In all it was a wonderfully run, very welcoming festival for authors and book lovers alike, and I felt really privileged to be a part of it.

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