Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards, EIBF 2012

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Edinburgh International Book Festival
Jenni Murray, Ali Smith, Simon Stephenson, Janice Galloway, Angus Peter Campbell
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First launched in 1972, the annual Scottish Book Awards have developed into a major prize for writers covering four categories -  literary fiction, poetry, literary non-fiction and first book, from which is selected the overall Scottish Book of the Year.

In partnership with Creative Scotland, the 2012 Book Awards are sponsored by Baillie Gifford, one of the leading Investment Management firms in the UK.

This year, from an entry of around ninety books, a team of judges drew up a shortlist and then category winners.  From this list of the four best books of the year, the general public is invited to vote for their favourite book -  most democratic!

At the Edinburgh Book Festival on Friday 17th August, the Book Awards ceremony was introduced by Andrew Dixon, Chief Executive of Creative Scotland.  We heard about the powerful importance of the arts - while there were 16,000 athletes at the London Olymics, 25, 000 international artists, performers and writers have arrived for the Edinburgh Festivals to entertain a wide audience.

Here we were in Edinburgh, named the first Unesco City of Literature, he said, which celebrates the fact that “ from poets to storytellers, screenwriters and playwrights, Scotland is rich in literary talent … this is a creative nation, a nation of writers”.

The host for the evening was Dame Jenni Murray, of BBC Women’s Hour with engaging,  vivacious style. The four category winners, (who each receive £5,000),  first read an extract and discussed their books, before the overall Scottish Book of the Year was announced, with the writer receiving £25,000.

Winner of the fiction award, Ali Smith’s novel “There but for the”  is a Kafkaesque, satirical tale about identity, narrated in her quirky, linguistic style. In conversation with Murray, she explained that while she sets out the initial scenario and characters,  her novels take on a life of their own, gradually unwinding without a structured plan.

“Let Not the Wave of the Sea” by Simon Stephenson, (winner of the first book award), is a moving account of the tragic loss of his brother, Dominic in the Indian Ocean Tsunami. He described how the story had to be told, and that he set off on a journey overseas, a time  to travel, to grieve and remember their life together.

The award for literary non-fiction went to Janice Galloway for the second volume of her autobiography, “All Made Up”,  about her adolescence growing up in rural Ayrshire. After an hilarious, dramatised reading, about school rules and Latin verbs, she confessed that “this is not about me”, but that her experiences of teenage years give “the gist of what happened”.

And finally the turn of poet Angus Peter Campbell, whose anthology,  "Aibisidh",  is a collection of  verse in Gaelic and English.  He read a couple of poems in both languages, then described their sense of place, the island of Uist, where Gaelic is "the sound of language, the sound of childhood, beyond memory”.

So now decision time; from the literary talent on stage it was impossible to predict which book had been voted, Scottish Book of the Year 2012.

The award was presented to Janice Galloway for her autobiography,  “All Made Up.”

The Scottish Book Awards financially assist Scottish writers, but they also highlight not just one winner, but four excellent books.   This was a captivating hour of inspiring, emotional storytelling, from the comic to the tragic, a literary event much enjoyed by the large audience at the Edinburgh Book Festival.

Event: 17 August, 6.30pm