Category Archives: Wednesday 21st

Janice Galloway


Janice Galloway in conversation with Zoe Venditozzi, 21st October, 18.00

 In line with Janice Galloway’s comments on punctuation in answer to a question from her audience, and in her honour, I won’t be using quotation marks in this blog – which proved harder than I imagined!

The third event of The Dundee Literary Festival 2015 starts with a question from Janice.  What does Dundee mean…surely more than Jute , Jam  and…?  Answers are shouted out.


A state of mind!

When Janice, a former schoolteacher, was at school herself, it was the teachers who got on her nerves, not the other weans – they were always the source of so much joy, especially when in their teenage years. She recalls a competition run across North Lanarkshire schools to make the Region sound more dynamic and exciting.  The eventual winning slogan, as voted for by the senior classes was:


We are now firmly ensconced in Gallowayland, as she proceeds to regale us with the tale of her journey to Dundee from Uddingston – hoping to have time for a bubble bath and a pie from room service at her hotel on arrival, neither of which happened, as  her copy of Jellyfish (the book of short stories she is here to read from and discuss) was  stolen from her bag on the train, and the taxi which had been booked to bring her to the Bonar Hall never appeared.  Instead she hailed a passing cab with a driver aff shift. The west coast camaraderie won him over; he made an exception for a fellow westie and took her to the Hall for free.

So now she’s here with us, and tells us that the best bit about writing is when she stops, and how her stories start by themselves, inspired by a scent, a memory, something she sees or hears:  something visceral.

Seamlessly, and with the able and very finely pitched interviewing style of Zoe Venditozzi (she allows Janice the time to talk without interruption, but also asks some insightful and humorous guiding questions) the talk turns to memoir/anti-memoir and the way we remember the past, which Janice says is never static. It’s like looking at old photos being a different experience from when you were actually in the moment that they were taken.

Her writing is all about capturing something imagined from a real experience, regardless of how factually or inaccurately it is remembered and written on the page.  It’s all about the personal, as she mentions you come with something, you are not empty; a human child comes into life with preferences for all sorts of things.

She reads from Greek, one of the stories in her new collection.  I have already reviewed Jellyfish and as I mentioned – there is not a weak link in the collection but this is the only disappointment of the evening for me; I had hoped that Janice would read one of the stand out stories I mention in my review , which I would love to hear in her voice.  No matter; her voice drenches the hour she spends with us,  and I don’t need to be spoiled further, like too much deliciousness or gorgeousness , it needs to be rationed.

Janice shares some details of her writing and editing processes, and talks of the feminine and masculine forms of literature – a novel is a big hard thing and a short story is the female form. Some of her stories take hours to write and some take twenty years.  Then there’s advice on style – see it purely and clearly with few adjectives; we need to do this to let readers in.

Janice talks about the human failings we all fall prey to; the self-critic on her shoulder, the product of yesterday’s six-hour writing session being thrown out because it was crap, putting your heart and soul into a piece of work and it’s  gibberishIf something’s  going badly then don’t crack on, go and do something else which is not writing.

She finishes by answering questions from the audience, one about Literary Fiction which she describes as a not for profit sloooooow-burner, and the other explaining why she doesn’t always use quotation marks as they impart a completeness, confidence and certainty which her characters and most frail humans very rarely possess.

And the hour is up.  Gallowayland has held us in its arms, filled our hearts with hope, informed our craft and has been open and truthful to the very marrow of its being.  Thank you, Janice Galloway for letting us in.

Lorna Hanlon

Dave Gibbons: The Story So Far

Wednesday 4pm: Dave Gibbons

As you may or may not know, today is the exact day that Marty McFly travels to in Back to the Future Part II. While we may not have flying cars, self-tying shoes or hover-boards, today we did have poet laureate Dave Gibbons speaking on his life and process – he even managed to work in illustrations of hover-scooters from the futuristic parallel world of The Originals. Gibbons talked of his love of science fiction and how his favourite works encompass an “infusion of action, invention and comedy.” But, his involvement with the future doesn’t end there, as he discussed his immersion in different aspects of multimedia and what he believes the future has in store for comics.

Chaired by Dundee University’s own comic’s lecturer Chris Murray, Gibbons is briefly introduced, focusing on his relationship with Dundee (being awarded an honorary degree last year), his emphasis on encouraging the reading of comics in education, as well as the creation of the Dundee Comics Creative Space (opening soon). Chris then handed the event over to the man himself who proceeded with what he called his “autobiographical presentation”; the accompanying image reading “The Story so Far.” Gibbons then delved into a montage of stories about his childhood, specifically his family and their support of his love of comics. The most touching memory is of Gibbons aged seven being bought an American Action Comic featuring Superman by his grandfather. Gibbons describes this comic as a “nugget of colour” when everything else around him seemed a perpetual grey. This memory also tied inWatchmen with Gibbons’ roots to Dundee as his grandfather worked as a postings officer who was situated for a time in the city. This meant that Gibbons’ father grew up here and knew a D.C. Thompson artist, to whom he sent young Dave’s drawings. It is because of this that Gibbons feels that Dundee has played an important part in him being here today. With a clearly planned narrative arc, Gibbons later leads us back to the same comic he was gifted as a child, talking about the extreme thrill he felt when he was eventually asked to draw Superman for an American company – always referring to himself as a fan.

But Gibbons didn’t just talk about his strengths or successes. Included in the biography he gave is the disappointment he felt when he was given the opportunity to rewrite one of his co-created characters: Rogue Trooper. He explained that by giving the character a different origin story, his readership soon lost interest. So instead of merely highlighting his huge successes (Watchmen and his partnerships with comic icon Alan Moore simply glossed over or mentioned in reference) Gibbons gave equal attention to his failings, acknowledging that writing is not his strength.

Throughout the lecture, Gibbons also integrated his experiences working with different multimedia. He talked about his involvement with the computer games industry, having done character design for Beneath the Steel Sky and Bionic Commando. He said he finds computer games “similar to the fandom of comics”, where as a child you would read the medium and then write your own. He also briefly mentioned the product design on the Owl Ship in the film adaptation of Watchmen, praising the detail to which it replicated his illustration in the graphic novels. Towards the end he also promoted a couple of apps and digital readers such as May Fire and Magic leap, praising the digital format of comics for allowing privacy to readers, recognising the social taboo attached to reading comics as an adult. He explained how the rise of digital comics has in turn boosted readership, and ironically increased sales in book format.

Ending the event with an emphasis on the importance of comics in schools and promoting CLAW (comic literature awareness), Gibbons has succeeded not only in describing his own evolution as a comic book artist, but the changing opinion of comics in society and their gradual academic acceptance and appraisal. Gibbons then ended his presentation with a series of Q&A, the accompanying slide reading, much like the end of Back to the Future Part II: “To be Continued.”

Kate McAuliffe

Festwatch 2015 Introductions

DSCF1400I’m Lorna Hanlon, and I’m one of four Publishing module students on the Mlitt Study and Practice of Writing who is writing and editing this Blog for Festwatch 2015.

I’ve loved reading and being read to since I was a small child; favourites have been anything and everything from Beatrix Potter and Richard Scarry to Michel Faber and AM Homes, and it’s been one of the main passions in my life for over 45 years

I’m excited about Dundee Literary Festival 2015, and looking forward to the wide selection of guests and events; year on year it just seems to get better and better!

One of the first events I will be attending and reviewing is Janice Galloway (in conversation with Zoe Venditozzi) this Wednesday at 18.00.  I absolutely loved her latest short story collection, and you can read my Review of Jellyfish on Dundee University Review of the Arts (DURA).

In order to update my knowledge of the work of this iconic Scottish writer, I have been reading my way through her seminal first novel, The trick is to keep breathing, and I’m also listening to the audio book of her first “anti-memoir”, This is not about me, which is read by Galloway herself, lending it a real authorial authenticity.  Both works are quite different, but share a strong and compelling voice.


I am delighted to have caught up with the work of someone who has already become one of my favourite authors; Wednesday’s event is a must-see for anyone who wants to learn more about one of Scotland’s most accomplished living writers, as Ms Galloway surely is.