As an English Literature student, studying in a place of literary value was of great importance to me. When I first started at St Andrews, I was worried that the bubble wouldn’t provide me with the same literary satisfaction Warwickshire, which is close enough to Stratford-upon-Avon for regular visits, did. But If you know where you’re looking, there are some wonderful literary gems in St Andrews and the surrounding area. Something which really captured my attention is the vast amount of author talks available. The variety provides something for everyone who loves to read; from local authors to worldwide names, to free events which are virtually on our doorsteps as students. There’s so much going on, it’s well worth looking into all the different author talks available.
I could just give you information on locations of author talks, but if you’ve never been to one you may be wondering what’s the point? There’s so much value you can gain from hearing an author speak about their work. It provides a fountain of understanding about the influences on their work and often is very inspiring. I still remember the first author talk I ever went to. It was my ninth birthday and Anne Evans spoke about her new book The Beast. As an aspiring author, I was filled with joy to know that some people can make it in the writing world and to see the person behind the books I loved was mesmerising. Twelve years later, I still feel the same about author talks. I heard David Almond speak in St Andrew’s last year and his passion reignited that drive to write which can be lost as you grow up and lose the optimism of childhood. Hearing Almond say that he too always wanted to be an author provided a wonderful feeling of unity. When he discussed how he, a boy from a small village, managed to make it as an writer it truly felt like anyone could make it if they tried. Hearing about rejections and hardship humanised the man behind the story. If you’ve ever wanted to be an author, hearing an author speak reignites that spark within you and thrusts onto you the courage to try. Even if you have no interest in being an author, attending author talks reinstates the magic behind the craft of writing and leaves you with a new found respect for authors.
My favourite place to attend author talks in St Andrews is Toppings. Toppings are brilliant for student discount priced tickets and you can often claim the ticket price off the book that the author is discussing at that particular event. The beauty of Toppings author talks is that there is something for everyone, regardless of your taste. Something particularly exciting is the chef talks which involve food! In October Gill Mellor visited Toppings to discuss his latest cookery book and demonstrated some recipes for the audience to taste test. If this sounds like your kind of thing, Morgan McGlynn’s cheese making and testing on 27th March is one not to be missed. Later in the year, other Chefs including Sabrina Ghayour and Jose Pizarro will appear at Toppings for talks on their recipes.
Big names in the literary world do book launches in Toppings. The one which piqued my interest is Ian McEwan’s launch of Machines Like Me on 24th April. McEwan is best known for Atonement and the launch of his new book is something to be excited about. This is a wonderful opportunity to hear from a very successful author as well as potentially getting a nice personal signing from the man himself! Later in the year historian Alison Weir will be doing a talk in Toppings, so if fiction isn’t your reading style, there’s no need to worry, Toppings has talks which cater to all! From Politicians to Professors, NHS Midwives to Young Adult discussion groups, there really are so many exciting talks to attend.
The highlight of a place like Toppings, aside from its beautiful atmosphere, is the pride taken over national Scottish authors. Many of the talks in Toppings are made relevant to St Andrews, really giving a sense of pride in the literary merit of the town. One to look out for is Ian Bradley discussing The Fife Pilgrim Way, a historical account of the route Monks took around West Fife. Getting a feel for the history of Fife should be incredibly powerful, making you think about who else has stood where you ‘re standing next time you’re on a stroll in the picturesque St Andrews and surrounding areas within Fife.
Waterstones in St Andrews and Edinburgh also do author events and there is information about everything you can attend on their website. If you’re interested in author talks, the best place to start is book shop websites or to check out University run events. There is so much literary merit in St Andrews waiting for you to uncover. Get inspired and appreciate local and global authors who take the time to visit St Andrews.