Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood at Long Pen Signing

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Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood
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The Edinburgh Book Festival Director, Catherine Lockerbie introduced this "extra special pioneering event" featuring two remarkable Canadian writers. Alice Munro appeared by video link from Bayfield bookstore, Ontario, Canada, and Margaret Atwood was live at the Main theatre tent in Charlotte Square Gardens, Edinburgh.

It promised to be "breathtaking technology, breathtaking literature."  Atwood herself invented the Long Pen, a process whereby authors can sign books by a long distance internet link up. Although it's wonderful to meet writers in person, the long pen is ideal for those who are unable to travel and it's environmentally friendly.

It certainly was a fascinating and exciting experience to see and hear Alice Munro, smiling and laughing on the huge screen in front of us as Margaret Atwood began to chat to her with her usual deep voiced, bone dry wit.  

Alice Laidlaw Munro's latest book, "The View from Castle Rock" explores her roots in the Scottish Borders, her connection to author James Hogg, and her family's emigration to Illinois and Canada.  "On a clear day you could see America from Edinburgh's Castle Rock"  or so Alice's great, great, great grandfather believed. This leads her on a journey to find out who her family was and why and when they left Scotland. 

Based on her personal history, the book is a collection of Stories. "You could say that such stories pay more attention to the truth of a life than fiction does. But not enough to swear on." 

Alice described her research visit to Scotland over three months, touring Melrose, Selkirk and the Ettrick Valley, to trace her family tree. Writing non-fiction was totally different for her, this was about real people, finding letters, memoirs and biographical facts and figures.  To questions from the audience, topics included the movie, "Away from Her",  based on her short story about love, marriage and nostalgia, "The Bear Came over the Mountain", her favourite novelists, life's achievements and regrets.

She admitted that Canadians, like the Scots, are brought up not to be proud or "puffed up -  we are not allowed to be like that!"  

And then a few lucky people, picked by raffle tickets around the audience, were able to get their books signed across the ocean by Alice Munro through the amazing Long Pen. The signature is genuine and valid. Truly magical. 

The View from the Castle Rock - Alice Munro, Chatto and Windus.