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Our City (Various)

Our City (Various)

James Mackenzie (Introduction)

James Mackenzie is best known as the star of BBC Scotland’s Raven, the BAFTA Award-winning children’s adventure gameshow.

Visit the Raven website at

Julie Bertagna

My first memory of Edinburgh is of a fairytale city with a castle, grand old streets, and shops full of tartan dolls and sticks of pink rock. The big castle was gloomy and scary (I was only four), but I was entranced by what seemed to be a Cinderella Castle, like the one in my storybook, on Princes Street. So I whined until I got my own Cinderella Castle – a small, plastic model of the Scott Monument. Even now, when I step off the train from Glasgow, it seems strangely like something out of a fairytale, stuck bang in the middle of Princes Street.

I like to write exciting, unusual, extraordinary stories, often about outsiders trying to find their place in the world. OneCity tackles things close to my heart. My first book,The Spark Gap, was about homeless runaways in Glasgow. Exodus and Zenith are epic stories of young survivors desperate for a home on a future, flooded Earth. It’s been wonderful to win awards for my books but the best thing is hearing from so many passionate young readers all over the world.

Visit Julie’s own website at

Cathy Cassidy

I’ve always wanted to be an author, so when my first children’s book, Dizzy, was published in 2004 it was a real dream come true. More books followed... Indigo Blue, Driftwood, Scarlett, Sundae Girl, Lucky Star, Ginger Snaps... and the ideas keep coming! I live in the Galloway countryside with my husband, kids, a bunch of unruly pets, and a tepee in the garden. I’m not a Scot by birth, but Scotland has been home for most of my adult life... it has the wildest countryside, the coolest cities, the best festivals!

Edinburgh is always buzzing with energy, excitement and possibilities... it was an honour to write something for OneCity.

Visit Cathy’s own website at

John Fardell (Author & Illustrator)

I’ve been a cartoonist for longer than I’ve been an author. My comic strips and cartoons have appeared in Viz, The Herald, The Independent and The List, among others. I also did quite a lot of work in puppet theatre during the 1990s.

So far, I’ve written and illustrated two children’s adventure novels, The Seven Professors of the Far North and The Flight of the Silver Turtle, with a third – The Secret of the Back Moon Moth – coming out in January 2009. I’ve also just written and illustrated my first picture book, Manfred the Baddie.

I was brought up near Bristol, and have lived in Edinburgh since 1992. Like many writers and illustrators, I find Edinburgh fires my imagination. It’s such a multi-layered city, in every sense. To me it seems the ideal starting point for stories of eccentric inventors, awe-inspiring secrets and extraordinary adventures.

My wife and I have lived in various parts of the city over the years. These days, we live in Corstorphine, with our two sons. I work in what used to be the garage, on the side of the house.

Alison Flett

I was born and bred in Edinburgh, and to me it’s the most beautiful city in the world. I’ve been living in Orkney for nine years now, but whenever I come back to Edinburgh it’s like coming home. It feels like I’ve put my slippers on when the train pulls into Waverley and I see the castle: the same castle I saw from my bedroom window in Leith when I was wee.

The great thing about Edinburgh is its contrasts: there are beautiful old buildings right next to fantastic new ones; you can stand on the North Bridge with the traffic buzzing behind you and look out at the calm blue of the North Sea. However, some contrasts are not so good. Edinburgh is a very wealthy city and yet many people who live there struggle to make ends meet, so it’s great to see a project committed to changing that.

I don’t imagine children are very interested in literary awards so I won’t tell you that I won the Belmont Prize for children’s poetry and the Hi-Arts short story competition. Neither will I mention being shortlisted for the Scotsman/Orange Prize and the Saltire First Book of the Year Award.

Vivian French

I’ve been an actor, a story-teller, and now I’m a writer. My first books for children were published in 1990, and since then I’ve written over 200 books, including picture books, non-fiction, modern fairy tales for fluent readers and novels for teenagers. The Tiara Club series is hugely popular, and I’m very lucky to be amongst the most borrowed authors in UK libraries – my books were borrowed over half a million times last year.

I’ve won and been shortlisted for many awards: most recently I won the Stockton Children’s Book of the Year for The Robe of Skulls. I’ve visited schools from Orkney to Oklahoma, and been writer in residence at festivals all over the world – but I’m happiest when at I’m home in Edinburgh. One day, I was standing at my local bus stop, and an elderly Morningside lady asked me what I did. “I write books for children,” I said. “Oh”, came the reply, “You’re in the right place, then. Edinburgh’s got stories in her bones and her stones.” That’s so true ... and I love it!

Visit Vivian’s own website at

Keith Gray

When I was at primary school I was definitely the best tree-climber in the school, but probably one of the worst readers too. I avoided books. There were so many trees where I grew up that I didn’t really have time for reading. But I soon realized that tree-climbing wasn’t going to turn out to be a proper job, no matter how good I was at it, and my friend gave me a copy of The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall. It was this book that instantly made me want to become a writer.

I’ve now written several award-winning books for teenagers and young people including The Runner, Malarkey, and Ostrich Boys. Recently, I had the fantastic experience of being the Scottish Book Trust’s first ever Virtual Writer in Residence. I live in Edinburgh with my girlfriend and our parrot, and we have some brilliant trees very close by...

Visit Keith’s own website at

Elizabeth Laird

Travel has always been in my blood: I was born in New Zealand, but grew up in London. Since then, I’ve lived in many parts of the world, including Ethiopia, Malaysia, Iraq and Lebanon, and my feet just keep on itching! I now flit between London and Edinburgh. I love Edinburgh because of the smell of sea, the lure of the hills, the buzz of the streets, and the ghosts of my ancestors on every corner.

My books include contemporary fiction and historical fiction, as well as shorter novels and picture books for younger children. Some of the stories are set overseas, in Kurdistan, Ethiopia, Lebanon and Pakistan, and some are set in Britain, and deal with the problems and concerns of young people growing up here today.

I’ve been lucky enough to win many awards, including the Scottish Arts Council Children’s Book of the Year, and have been shortlisted for the Costa Awards, the Blue Peter Awards, and five times for the Carnegie Medal. My books are translated into more than fifteen languages around the world.

Visit Elizabeth’s own website at

Jonathan Meres

I was born in Nottingham and left school at 16 to join the merchant navy. I spent the next seven years sailing around the world. I left the sea to become a rock star, but became an ice-cream van driver instead. After that I got a job as an actor. Like you do.

Since then, I’ve acted in childrens’ theatre, as well as on the telly and in movies. I was even a comedian for ten years. I called myself Johnny Immaterial. I’ve got awards to prove it!

My proper job’s writing though. I’ve written lots of things for TV and radio, as well as picture books and books for older children and teenagers, such as the Yo! Diary! series, Love Dad, Fame Thing, Clone Zone and Diary of a Trainee Rock God.

I never actually meant to live in Edinburgh. It just kind of happened. I’m glad it did though. From one side of my house I can see Arthur’s Seat. From the other I can The Pentland hills. As I write these words I look out my study window and see a number 33 bus go past. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

Visit Jonathan’s own website at

Nicola Morgan

You could say my childhood was a little different from most. Until I was eleven, I lived in a boys-only boarding school. When I went to a girls’ boarding school, they were strangely unimpressed by my tree-climbing and weapon-making skills.

I became a teacher, but all the time I was trying to be a writer. It took me many years to get published, but now I write books full-time (when I’m not doing school talks or festivals throughout the UK and in Europe). I’ve won some awards, including the Scottish Arts Council Children’s Book of the Year Award for Sleepwalking, and I was shortlisted for the Aventis Science Prize for Blame My Brain. I‘m also proud of having invented Brain CakeTM, designed to power your brain. (Recipe on my website!)

Edinburgh is now my home. Its streets, history and people often inspire my work, such as the gory Fleshmarket and my next novel, Deathwatch, about a girl being stalked by an insect-collector. Be careful when you’re out and about in Edinburgh: you could end up in my next book …

Visit Nicola’s own website at

Alison Prince

I grew up in South London during the war. We were bombed rather a lot, but I enjoyed collecting shrapnel. I got into writing accidentally on a TV series called Joe, followed by Trumpton and stories for Jackanory. I’ve now written over forty books, and I was thrilled to win the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award in 1996 for a Robin Hood story set in modern Glasgow, The Sherwood Hero.

My first baby was born in Edinburgh. During the months before he arrived, I walked for miles all over the city. Walked through the Old Town, up and down the stairs and wynds; down the hill from the Castle and across Princes Street; along beside the tumbling Leith Water, and round to places where the wind blew through long grass. I climbed up high, and stared out over the docks and the sea. Later, I worked in schools further out in the city, and saw how different it was there from the grand buildings of Waverley. I remember feeling quite lonely in Edinburgh, and perhaps that’s why the boy in my story is absolutely alone (at the beginning, anyway), except for the voice in his head. I live on the Isle of Arran now, and love it, but I still come back to Edinburgh from time to time.

Visit Alison’s own website at