Page last updated at 01:00 GMT, Saturday, 15 August 2009 02:00 UK

'Take a chance' on book festival

By Lisa Summers
BBC Scotland news

Edinburgh International Book Festival
Visitors to the festival are being encouraged to seek out new authors

More than a third of the 700 events at this year's Edinburgh Book Festival have sold out, organisers have said.

The festival, now in its 26th year, will bring 750 authors from 45 countries to its Charlotte Square home.

Among the big names whose shows have sold out are Richard Dawkins, Margaret Atwood, Garrison Keillor, Cherie Blair and Ian Rankin.

Richard Holloway, who is acting as the festival's guest director, urged visitors to take a chance on new names.

Mr Holloway stepped into the role of guest director after Catherine Lockerbie stepped down early due to ill health.

He said he definitely would not be putting himself forward as her successor.

Gaelic culture

The retired Episcopal bishop of Edinburgh and interim head of Creative Scotland added that the challenge for the new director would be to find new ways of doing the same things, such is the reputation of the festival worldwide.

He said it was the "gems" in among the big names and the opportunity for visitors to discover new or less well-known talent that had made the festival the foremost literary event in the world.

Mr Holloway recommended the Canadian author Alistair MacLeod.

He said: "He represents a type of Scottish Culture in many ways that we lost hundreds of years ago.

"There was a particular group that went to Cape Breton in Canada and they preserved a complete version of Scottish Gaelic Culture.

"The songs, the folklore and it still has a kind of intactness about it and it is represented by this writer Alistair MacLeod."

Richard Holloway is the festival's guest director
Richard Holloway is the festival's guest director

Another recommendation from the organisers was Hilary Mantel who is hotly tipped for this year's Man Booker Prize.

There is also what they are billing as an invasion of Swedish authors such as Eva Runefelt, who will appear alongside Michael Symmons Roberts, and Per Wastberg, who is to be paired up with the biographer Michael Holroyd, as part of the Meeting Sweden section.

The small Georgian garden in Edinburgh's west end has been transformed into a bustling village of marquees, tents and yurts for the next 17 days.

For the first time, the book festival will branch out beyond Charlotte Square.

To launch her new novel, The Year of the Flood, Canadian author Margaret Atwood has created a unique accompaniment of music and song at St John's Church on Princes Street.

Visual literacy

Children's events will be integral to the festival as it always has been.

More than 300 authors will feature, with themes of adventure and discovery prominent.

Children's programme director Sara Grady said: "Edinburgh is the only literary festival to always have a children's event."

"This year an 'illustrator in residence' has been employed.

"Becoming a reader has a visual literacy element to it.

"Picture books, graphic novels that sort of thing. And we wanted to reflect that dialogue between pictures and text and how they can tell two sides of the same story for young kids.

"So we have an illustrator in residence. She's a Scottish artist named Catherine Rayner. She's very early on in her career but is a shooting star."

The festival's programme manager Roland Gulliver highlighted major draws such as 'cult' American story-telling event, "The Moth".

Founded by New York-based poet and author George Dawes Green, who wanted to attract friends to share their tales and stories in his apartment, it has grown into a literary sensation.

Mr Gulliver said: "This thing has grown in New York from this little informal event to this remarkable, almost industry, called "The Moth".

"It has a fantastic website and they do these events all across America.

"And they are coming here in the middle weekend of the festival for the first time in Europe. There will be a series of stories from a range of different people who are in Edinburgh or coming specially for the event".

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