With Steve Birkinshaw at the Buxton Adventure Festival

HomePageStoryviewPoster2014The runnin ‘ere was just orsome‘ said Sim Benson, as his enthusiasm for his topic caused him to stumble off the front of the stage, almost into the laps of the front row.

The commitment and enthusiasm from some of the speakers brought to life the range of subjects they were talking about. I attended two excellent running presentations, and co-delivered another one.

Earlier in the day I had been working on the Wanderlust Travel Workshop, with Phoebe Smith and Hannah Reynolds. It was interesting to hear what Phoebe and Hannah had to say, and also to be able to contribute a small amount about my experience of getting published as a first time author.

charlieRAfter an impressive calzone for lunch just around the corner, we went into the afternoon’s running talks. First up Nicky Spinks introduced Charlie Ramsay, who was talking about his eponymous Round of the Nevis, Grey Corries and Mamore ranges. The most interesting point on a personal level was that he put up a slide of Grant Ramsay (from my own athletic club) at one point. Recognising him, it turned out that he was Charlie’s son, and that somehow I had never ever known that. Bizarre.

bensonsNext were the aforementioned Jen and Sim Benson, who were basically telling the story of their book ‘Wild Running’ and giving some fine examples of the places they had run. They ended by saying that they were upping sticks to take their two young children on the road for a year or so, wanting to have that freedom whilst they could. Nice move.

stevebonstageThe last session of the weekend was the on-stage interview I was doing with Steve Birkinshaw. For some reason I was worried that there wouldn’t be anyone there, but there was in fact a fabulous crowd. We had asked for comfy chairs and a drink each as we wanted to try to get away from the talking to slides format. I fired the questions and Steve responded really well, interspersed with some clips from the film of his Wainwrights in 6 days effort – which had been previewed the night beforehand. Steve tells his story well in a very understated way. If you get a chance to see/hear him (at Kendal Mountain Festival maybe) then do so,  you won’t be disappointed. In the short drinks break I signed a few copies of ‘It’s a hill, get over it’, which was grand. Always nice to meet people buying your work. I also enjoyed chatting to a couple of people who had bought copies earlier.

sponsorsIn fact, one of the best things about a festival like Buxton is the networking that takes place. I think my talk on the book at the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival got me the interviewing job here. Several connections made here will either help me, or maybe someone else, develop ideas. The writers workshop resulted in a request from an attendee to have sight of my book synopsis and publisher contacting plan/procedure, which I happily provided. Speaking to a very notable runner there produced a request for me to read a manuscript they have had on the back burner, which I readily agreed to do. Thirdly, a random conversation with someone I met at a previous book reading of mine in the Lakes produced a lead to a rare and unpublished source that may well have some invaluable information for the book I am currently working on.


Appearing at the Buxton Adventure Festival

stevebbuxtonI am really pleased to be taking the stage at this year’s Buxton Adventure Festival, on Sunday 12 October. I will be interviewing Steve Birkinshaw on stage about his recent successful Wainwrights record – all the 214 Wainwrights in the Lake District in a continuous round of 6 days. We also should have a clip from the new film of the event – ‘The Set of Wainwrights’ by Alistair Lee. Having interviewed Steve recently for my next book, I know he has some fascinating stories to tell of the highs and lows of that exceptional achievement. It takes out one of Joss Naylor’s most revered endurance records, from back in 1986. I hope to see some of you there, and will be available to sign copies of ‘It’s a hill, get over it’, which will be available at the festival. Tickets are available here.

wanderlustEarlier on that Sunday I will also be on a Wanderlust panel discussing How to become a Travel Writer. I am uncertain I have any credentials at all for this one! I guess I have a few things to say about the process of getting published, having been through it recently, and having learnt a fair bit in a very short time in the process. Was it luck, good publisher research, an amazing manuscript, or what?! Come along and find out. The panel is myself, Phoebe Smith (Wanderlust travel editor, and author of Extreme Sleeps) and Hannah Reynolds (fitness editor for Cycling Weekly, and author of France En Velo)

paperbackand hardbackThe paperback version of ‘It’s a hill’ is now out and will be available to purchase at Buxton. Although I love having the paperback, I personally still prefer the look (and feel) of the hardback version. Hardback copies are still available to buy. If you are at the Buxton Adventure Festival catch me, as I will have some hardbacks with me to sell. Amazon still have hardback copies too. Paperback copies should be in all good bookshops now. Bookends in Keswick and Reads in Grasmere have some signed copies. If you are going to fell races, particularly in Yorkshire, look out for the Third Step Books stall at many events.

A great paperback launch

launch_steveBGRmapThe launch of the paperback version of ‘It’s a hill, get over it’ went very well on Saturday evening. There was a good number of people there, and a good few books were signed and sold. Thanks a million to Lucy of Bookends for bringing the books (they only came a day or so beforehand) and dealing with sales of books (and tickets), and to Andy of Saddleback Cafe for use of the venue and the superb catering. After working the crowd – oh, steady on – I said a few words about the gestation of the book, my motivation for writing, and a couple of fell running stories, concluding (according to of one of my friends FB account) by saying some inspirational words of wisdom…run more fells and follow your creative dreams into practice – don’t just dream it – do it!’.

launch_steveBIn the afternoon I had met with Steve Birkinshaw and we had a long chat about his BGR for my next book. We were also discussing the way we are going to approach our ‘double act’ together at the Buxton Adventure Festival. If you want to hear the background to his amazing Wainwrights 6-day effort do come along to the session next month. It was especially good that he was able to come to the launch as well, particularly as he was competing in the Mountain Trial the next day.

launch_KennyPaulineI had also invited Kenny and Pauline Stuart to the launch and was SO pleased to see them there, as they had given a fabulous interview for the book, and couldn’t have been more helpful to me, providing some great photos of their career highlights that are in the book as well.

The book is officially published on 18 September, but is already available online, and from good bookshops. Both Bookends shops in Keswick and Carlisle, and Sam Read in Grasmere have signed copies available so please consider using these excellent shops. It is also available at Third Step Books website and from their popup shop at fell races.

As you may have noticed in the first photo I also managed some fairly unsubtle product placement for the BGR map I have recently been working on. This is produced by Splashmaps and is a wearable/washable fabric printed map, based on OS Open Data and OpenStreetMap (data which is behind the maps in the book), showing very clearly the route details of the Bob Graham Round. It is available in good sports/book shops, or can be ordered online – use code steve8 to get a 10% discount at the checkout.

Paperback book launch details

saddlebackbooklaunchThe paperback copies of ‘It’s a hill, get over it’ are back from the printers, ready for the publication date of 18 September. The launch for the paperback is set for Sat 13 Sept at 6-30pm. It is to be held at the Saddleback Cafe in Keswick. There will be light refreshments, a short talk from me (some fell running stories), and a chance to buy copies of the book 5 whole days before it is officially published, thanks to Bookends shop in Keswick, who are partnering with the cafe to hold this event. The event is ticketed, in order to be able to let the cafe know how many to cater for. So, pick up a ticket from either the Bookends shop (66 Main St, Keswick) or from the Saddleback Cafe (135 Main Street, Keswick).

UPDATE: you can also meet an absolute fell running legend at the event.

paperbacklaunchThe paperback has been updated with details of a couple of the recent fell records, including Steve Birkinshaw’s recent 6-day Wainwrights Round Record. So come along for a chat, a nibble, and a chance to be the first to get hold of the paperback of this Boardman Tasker Prize nominated book.

As with the hardback, copies of the book will be available from good book shops (including Bookends, Fred Holdsworth’s, and Sam Read in the Lakes, plus the Waterstones chain and Amazon).

Advance notice: I will be interviewing Steve Birkinshaw on his Wainwright achievement on stage at the Buxton Adventure Festival in October.

Round Latrigg fell race and other Lake District activities

rickylightfootWent to watch the Round Latrigg fell race as it fitted in with our plans whilst in the Lake District. A reasonably low profile Keswick AC organised race held from Fitz Park on a gorgeous sunny evening – unlike some of the other days in the week. 185 entries, headed home by Ellenborough’s Ricky Lightfoot in a new course record of 29-21. Was kindly allowed to take some copies of ‘It’s a hill, get over it’ along – a few of which were snapped up by runners in the football clubhouse after the race. Good to chat with fellow running blogger Rob Morris at the event, and to meet @jonny5unt3r (who pleasingly bought a copy of the book).

Some other random things that happened in the week will be blogged on in later posts. This included having a good day in Kendal library’s excellent and helpful local history section, researching for Book II, and also visiting Barrow House to look through their archive of relevant material. I also set up the launch for the paperback version of the book, with the help of Lucy at Bookends in Keswick and Andy at the Saddleback cafe.

splashmapBGRIn the surprisingly quiet Travellers Rest I had a very productive meeting with David Overton (of Splashmaps) to finalise details of our map of the Bob Graham Round, which will be available later next month in good retail outlets near you, and online at Splashmaps.

But most exciting of all was finding out that I have been nominated in a list of 41 books for the Boardman Tasker Prize for mountain literature. A massive honour just to be listed.

‘The Fellrunner’ and ‘Compass Sport’ reviews, and some thoughts on book jacket quotes

FRAreviewIt has taken a while coming but the summer issue of The Fellrunner has a good review of ‘It’s a hill, get over it’ in it by Graham Breeze. Because of earlier ‘issues’ I had thought it might not be reviewed or that it was too late [see my thoughts on ‘Being reviewed and being NOT reviewed‘], but it is a balanced review. After a comparison with Richard Askwith’s book, he notes that ‘Hill is a worthy and useful addition to the fell running literature and, with its record of detail, an excellent reference book‘.

CompasssportreviewsmallA few days later the June issue of Compass Sport (Britain’s National Orienteering Magazine) arrived, which has a great review by editor (and sometime fellrunner) Nick Barrable in it. After noting it ‘should probably adorn all fell runners’ bookshelves‘, he concludes the review with the comment: ‘Overall, a fine choice for any runners’ library‘. [Click the image for the full review]

That second quote looks like making it on to the cover of the paperback when it comes out. I am working with Sandstone Press on choosing which quotes are best. Is it really the best quotes, or the ‘most famous’ that should be used? Which neatly leads me to a link to a piece in The Guardian yesterday by Nathan Filer (winner of the 2013 Costa Book of the Year). In an article entitled ‘Why you should ignore the superlatives on book jackets‘ he reveals how they often happen through friends doing each other ‘favours’. [Disclaimer: I know Nick B a little]

The Bill Rollinson Prize for Landscape and Tradition

themarqueeI had a brilliant day attending the 2014 Lakeland Book of the Year Awards yesterday. It was held in a huge marquee in the beautiful grounds of the Inn on the Lake in Glenridding. Mike and I drove over from Staveley on a glorious sunny day. Bucks Fizz in the Orangery started proceedings before we had a fabulous luncheon, and for me a ‘calming’ pint of Marston’s EPA. Then came the real action. The mainman Hunter Davies said a few humorous words of background, and introduced fellow judges Fiona Armstrong and Eric Robson. The awards were in 5 categories, with 15 shortlisted altogether. What the authors didn’t know was what category they were in, but it turned out that it was neatly arranged that there a shortlist of three books per category. One couldn’t help thinking that the odds on a category win were shortening, but that was dangerous thinking, and could lead to unnecessary disappointment. The table I was on had 3 shortlisted authors on it, all in different categories. Weirdly, we had spotted a pile of books on the judges’ table, and thought ‘surely the winners aren’t there on show’. Initial excitement as I squinted, then disappointment as I couldn’t see a distinctly thick green-wrapped tome. OK, relax and be ready to applaud others.

thejudgesThen, the judges went through each category in turn. The three ‘contender’ books were introduced with some apt summaries (and/or were quoted from) to set the scene, and then one of the event sponsors was called forward to open the envelope and announce the category winner. The first category was The Striding Edge Prize for Guides and Places, which went to Stuart Miller’s Canoe & Kayak Guide to North West England  – who was on our table. Then came the Zeffirellis Prize for People and Business category, which was won by Undressed For Dinner, which charts how Simon Temple-Bennett and his wife turned their home into an internationally-renowned hotel. They were also sitting at my table, so expectations were becoming low indeed – what chance, etc. My category was last [I think, the day became a blur around here] and was the Bill Rollinson Prize for Landscape and Tradition. By now it was obvious that the judges actually had seperate piles for each category, so hope was not all lost. Fiona Armstrong started the category off by saying some very nice things about my book, how she wasn’t especially interested in running [she is actually a fisherperson, if there is such a word] but had been captivated as she read through the book. She extracted the story of Malcolm ‘Bighead’ Canmore choosing his messengers on the basis of their performance in a specially arranged fell race (this was in 1064, see p27) as her ‘sample’. Then the reasons why the other two books had been shortlisted, and a few honourable mentions for near misses.

certificateThe pause before the sponsor revealed the name after opening the envelope seem interminable, but he said ‘Steve ….’ and I felt a bit like the crowd must have felt when McWhirter said ’3 minutes …’ when announcing the result of Roger Bannister’s sub-4 mile [OK, that is stretching it a bit, but you get my drift]. I think I might have hugged Mike as I went up to be presented, and certainly thrust my mobile phone into his hand with the implied suggestion that he might record the moment.

thespeechAll winners were asked if they wanted to say a few words, and I did – no surprise there. I must admit to having thought about whether to have a little speech ready but forced myself not to. So I mumbled something about being a writer and feeling that I should be able to say something appropriate as it came to me. As Keith Richardson was in the audience I told a short anecdote about how I really wanted to write a biog of Joss, but that he got there first and so I had to move to a wider subject. Then I think it was thanks for the recognition for the book, and encouragement to others to go down the interesting path of writing about whatever they were passionate about. I sat down and shook hands round the table. I believe I may have called out ‘top table’ across to the other 2 winners in our group. Then Hunter Davies went through the overall winner shortlist (of 4), before announcing that Simon’s Undressed for Dinner had won.

KeithandRebeccaThe formal bit over we posed for pictures with the judges and relaxed. I had a great chat with Rebecca Robinson, who was on our table. She runs for Kendal AC and is an excellent fell runner, with marathon ambitions. Impressively she had just run up and down Helvellyn whilst waiting for the event to start. The picture shows me having a chat with her, and also with Keith Richardson with whom I discussed writery/Naylory stuff.

DougScottBut the best of all was being introduced to one of my heroes. Himalayan (and big wall) climber Doug Scott was there as a paying guest and he was highly amused by the story (which appears in the book) I told him of being asked if I was him in a pub once and saying ‘yes’ for some strange reason (I may have already had a drink) – and then being plied with more drinks all night as a result by someone thinking I was famous.

A fabulous event, and for me a fantastic feeling of achievement and pleasure at being an ‘award winning author’.

[A report of the event in the Bookseller, which lists all category winners. ‘It’s a hill, get over it’ is available from good bookshops and from Amazon]


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