Author and Arran resident Alison Page took time out of her very busy schedule to talk to the Voice and tell us about her new book The Westie Fest!
Hi Alison. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your new book The Westie Fest.
Hi Elsa. I am married to John and we live in Lamlash. Between us we have 5 grown up children spread all across the world – Glasgow, Cornwall, Norway and Australia. We have one grandson, Sebastian who is 16 months and we see him regularly in Glasgow. I am an elder in Lamlash Church and until recently was their Newsletter Editor. I volunteer for Mary’s Meals – I currently coach delegates on their Leadership Academy and am involved in several fundraising ventures on the island including Arran Skinnymalinks.
I was a Civil Servant for 33 years and in the Organisation Development/Learning arm for 20 of those. I took early retirement at 50 and started up my coaching and learning consultancy business “Routes To Flourish” based here on Arran. I have enjoyed working with many of the island businesses over the last 5 years including VisitArran. I designed and delivered the “Arran Welcome” destination knowledge training event for VA.
The Westie Fest is about a wee West Highland terrier called Corrie, her love for her Papa and all threaded around a Highland Games Festival based here on the Isle of Arran.
It’s a delightful story. Where did you get the inspiration for the character of Corrie?
So glad you like it! The Corrie character is based on my own westie who is 13 years old – she has a lovely nature (for a terrier) and hasn’t ever run barking to the door when you put your shoes on and pick up the lead! Yes, she is most definitely quite unusual/unique for a dog in that respect. Also, I enjoyed a wonderful relationship with my own grandfather who lived until he was 92 years old – so all of that is threaded into the storyline.
In the book Corrie and the other westies participate in all sorts of Westie Fest Games, and they also take a tour around the island. The many references to Arran, and the beautiful drawings by Kirsty Oxley, really bring the story alive. You clearly know Arran well! Have you lived here long?
We’ve lived in Lamlash for over 10 years but my family have holidayed on Arran since the 1960’s.
Have you always wanted to write children’s books?
No! All quite surprising and such an enjoyable experience really as there was no pressure on me whatsoever. Writing a book wasn’t on my “bucket list” or something I considered doing at all until I started ‘ferry louping’ each week. The idea for the Westie Fest came about when I used to meet so many other West Highland terriers when travelling back and forward to Arran in the doggie lounge on the Cale Isles– especially on peak Easter and summer sailings. I always said it was like a Westie Convention.
You have been very busy since publishing the book with the launch in the middle of July at the Glenisle hotel, and a series of readings lined up at local events. What are your plans next for the book? And will there be future stories for young (and old) readers to look forward to?
The response to The Westie Fest has been terrific, I am just delighted it is appealing to all ages, not just the 4 – 6 age group I had in mind. I have been invited to do a reading/meet the author event in The Mitchell Library, Glasgow on 20th October which I am very excited about. Going forward, once the schools are back, I’d love to get involved with readings in schools and nurseries. A P1 teacher who has read The Westie Fest mentioned that there’s certainly a super link with the Scottish theme/element of the Curriculum for Excellence.
“The Westie Fest” is the first book in what might become a series of books called “Corrie’s Capers” – it just depends how successful this one is!! I’ve certainly got a head full of ideas, just need some funding to support it. I’ve discovered that publishing a book is a very expensive business.
Having attended the Edinburgh Book Festival for years, I’d really like to explore the possibility of hosting a children’s book festival here on Arran next summer. We could start off with something small and low key . If it’s successful and there is sufficient interest, we could allow it to grow organically. If there are local authors interested in this, I’m keen to hear from them.
Sounds like a great idea Alison! Good luck with that, and thank you very much for talking to the Voice.
The Westie Fest can be found in shops around Arran and soon will be in libraries and outlets on the mainland too. See Alison at her upcoming readings including one on Thursday 2nd August at 2pm in the Arran Library and also at the Highland Games on Saturday 4th August. And for even more Corrie capering, or to contact Alison see www.westie.scot