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Oldies but still Goodies

Florida, Idaho and Scotland…

I think I can pretty much guarantee those three destinations have never followed upon one another the way that they did for us during this trip back. It was fun and crazy, and not likely to be repeated.

I’ve recounted the Idaho part of the literary half of the trip, this week: a rundown on Scotland.

(Paul Hendrickson, one of the authors at the SVWC, has recently published a different take on Hemingway and his myth looking at him through his relationship with his boat. This was a drawing I did during his keynote speech one night).

But before that, our last night in Idaho. I was born and raised in Idaho. It is an amazing land. Rugged and gorgeous and with a speckled literary pedigree. Ernest Hemingway fell in love with the place and came there often to hunt and write. It is also where he ended his life at the end of a shotgun one July morning in 1961. Ezra Pound was also born in Hailey, 12 miles south of my hometown. Amazing poet, but he also went a bit round the bend and spent a large chunk of time in an insane asylum. Like I said: spotted.

Growing up in Idaho was expansive: our high school required three outdoor trips a year, one of which we did on skis in the winter and slept in snowcaves. We were hardcore. But at the same time, it was stultifying. Conversations were about mountain bike rides, skiing, fishing, hunting, soccer, when I liked to read and draw as I just wasn’t very good at the other stuff. And I loved making things. My partner in crime in all of this was my best friend growing up, Matt Leidecker. I believe most of my childhood was spent at Matt’s parents’ house just round the corner from my own. We studied for tests, made things and, when Matt’s parents were out of town, had parties. He’s gone on the become a pretty amazing, self-taught photographer.

On the night before we left Idaho, 20 years since I graduated from high school there, Matt’s mom, Jody, hosted a party. It was so wonderful. Here was the home I’d remembered spending so much time in as a kid. It was largely untouched. But what was insane was that all of the kids who used to hang out there, now had kids. Matt and his wife Christine now have Sara (a.k.a. Lulu) and little Max (an 11 on the 1 to 10 cute scale). Randy, the neighbor in who’s hands our lives were put in daily when we’d carpool to school (and he’d drive like Evel Kneivel) now had wife Aris and two adorable boys. Matt’s older brother Erik has his wife Gretchen and their two girls. And there Lyndsay and I were with Sprout. But in my head, I’m also still a 16 year old dude with a crippling fear of talking to girls and romantic action is still way in the future, because the last time I was in that house, that was all the case.

It was amazing though. Thanks to Jody for hosting and providing such a lovely little time capsule and hardcore, but charming, cognitive dissonance.

Anyway, the next morning, we checked out of our hotel in Sun Valley, drove to the airport south of town and managed to fly out through the layers of forest fire smoke that had kept the airport closed for several days before. Sun Valley to Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City to Detroit. Detroit to London. Then London to Edinburgh. It’s not “camping in a snow cave” hardcore, but it was pretty intense. Sprout was good, but by the end was not particularly amused.

Edinburgh is amazing. Gorgeous, gnarly old architecture, streets dripping with history and land masses in the middle of the town called things like “Arthur’s Seat” (as in King Arthur and tables without corners). The night before my talk, we were put up in a lovely hotel just across the street from Charlotte Square where the Edinburgh Bookfest takes place. The next day, up early, I prepped, and paced and walked to and fro.

When the talk finally came around, I was a bit nervous as this felt like one of the bigger talks I’ve done on the tour. I anxiously awaiting the writer chairing my event, Scottish crime writer and graphic novel writer Denise Mina. I was a little nervous meeting a celebrated, well established writer like Denise, but she was awesome. As soon as she saw the three of us, she asked if she could hold Sprout and then picked her up and gave her a cuddle like a professional auntie.

The talk went down well (at least no fruit was thrown) and the conversation with both Denise on stage, and people who asked questions, was a lot of fun. The highlight for me was at the end when a couple of (very) old Scots old age pensioners came up to say hello. The man told me that he now thought he understood why his “slightly odd” nephew reads all those picture books. The woman thanked me for the talk, but then pointed at Lyndsay and said and glorious Scottish brogue, “I’m the mother o’ four, the grand mother o’ nine and that great grand mother o’ eight. Don’t let him [pointing at me] call her “Sprout”. She’ll never live it down.” She then winked and walked off.

One wonderful surprise for me also was that, hidden in the back, were Bryan and Mary Talbot. If you don’t know him, Bryan is a UK comics legend and Mary, formerly an academic, has recently been bitten by the bug and become a comics creator herself. I had literally just recommended the book they’d created together, “Dotter of her Father’s Eyes,” to people in my talk at the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference. And there they were attending MY talk in Scotland. Because, Corinne Pearlman, my editor, knows them, we all ended up going for a drink. It was lovely.

That was the Thursday, on the Friday, Nicola Streeten, a fellow Myriad author, whom I’ve had the pleasure of speaking alongside several times, and I spoke at a great independent bookshop called Word Power Books. It was a more informal and cosy affair as part of the Edinburgh Book Fringe.

But the highlight of most of this was being able to stay at our friends’ Andy and Ruth’s and hang out with their Jack Russell terrier, Mr. C. We are great home made curries and Andy and I talked into the night about comics, both reading a making. This is the same Andy that, if he hadn’t told Corinne to check out my book, it might never have been published. He and I, along with a mutual friend, Tom Eglington, have been keeping up another blog called Paper Cavemen. Check it out. Both Andy and Tom have gorgeous work.

Okay, that’s enough to fill in the gaping holes of my less than regular blogging schedule. Now, back to script wrangling for the next graphic novel. I’m getting very excited about it and am looking forward to when I’ll be able to post some images here.

Until next time…

Nye (aka George)

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