Page last updated at 09:49 GMT, Thursday, 2 October 2008 10:49 UK

Stumbling on a literary oasis

The marquee at Wigtown has played host to a wide range of literary figures over the last few days

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South of Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Turning onto the A714 it does not feel like you are heading to a literary heartland.

You would think it more likely you might hit a cow or drive straight into the sea.

Yet a few miles down the road I stumbled across an oasis for book lovers.

It was a typically blustery Galloway October morning as I drove into Wigtown.

In another world I would have half expected to see tumbleweed rolling through the streets or the saloon doors swinging open in suspicion at the arrival of a stranger.

Book town marquee
Book lovers have been able to see all kinds of writers

Instead, there were lots of women clutching bags full of books.

This is Scotland's national book town, you know, and it's a badge it wears with justifiable pride.

Wigtown has grown into this somewhat lofty role.

The quality and quantity of bookshops has increased and the number of spin-off businesses also seems to be on the up.

In addition, the book festival - now in its 10th year - attracts an impressive range of writers.

Anyone who ever read could probably find somebody of interest.

I landed on a day with a definite female theme.

Denise Mina, Fiona Gibson and Kirsty Scott were among the writers taking part.

There was something wonderful about huddling together in a rain-buffeted marquee in south west Scotland while discussing crime fiction.

Everyone has a novel in them, they say, and most people want to talk about it at length

It provided an atmospheric backdrop to some interesting insight from Mina who already boasts a large number of novels, plays and even comic books.

But all is not sweetness and light in the world of literary festivals.

I overheard a couple of women discussing what events they intended to attend in the days ahead.

One author was cruelly cast aside for another as they planned their campaign with military precision.

I had a vision of the poor shunned writer being left talking to a sheepdog and its owner.

And that's never an easy audience.

However, there is something special about slipping into this world of books.

It is a chance to chat with writers and also get involved in a discussion with other readers too.

Denise Mina
Denise Mina was among the speakers in Wigtown

Everyone has a novel in them, they say, and most people want to talk about it at length.

I think, secretly, many hope a visiting author might realise the brilliance of their unpublished story idea and secure them a six-figure book deal.

Mine never materialised.

Nonetheless, it was a memorable day.

I got my signed copy of The Last Breath, picked up some advice about how to write with children in the house and shared one of my favourite stories about unusual baby names.

(It's one I heard on the radio where a young mum spelled out her daughter's name to the DJ. It's K-A-L-L-Y, she explained, just like the place in France).

What makes Wigtown all the more intriguing is its location.

You would expect to find a big book festival in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen, perhaps, certainly not slap, bang in the Machars.

It's a pleasure to wander off the beaten path and find such an event.

For anyone with a love of books, it is definitely worth making that left turn off the A75.

Mixed fates of book town rivals
26 Sep 08 |  South of Scotland
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25 Sep 06 |  South of Scotland
Book town festival gets under way
24 Sep 06 |  South of Scotland
Festivals find financial support
31 May 06 |  South of Scotland
Big names to line up at book town
22 Sep 05 |  Scotland


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