We stand outside, drinking in the palpable excitement which is as much part of the Ullapool air as the drizzle. The surprise is not how many greying heads there are, but the sheer number of people who have made it to this semi-far-flung corner of the West Coast in time for a 10 am event. We’re here.
And so is Janice Galloway! Introduced by Faith Liddell, she soon commands the stage, more than meeting her simple objective: ‘not be dull!’ Tetchy technology (a dodgy microphone) trips her up – but does she fall? Far, far from it – she turns it into an opportunity for spontaneous stand-up comedy while the tattoo man in shorts and woolly hat fixes her up with a replacement.
And we’re off – Galloway immediately wins me over with the comment that ‘some of the best reviewing is now online.’ Hear hear! Don’t we at The Wee Review know it!
She begins by introducing the audience to Jellyfish, the collection of short stories which is her most recent opus to hit the shelves. She is a loyal lover of short stories, a defender of the form and its place in the Scottish literary canon, and readily admits that this is probably the ‘most planned’ collection of short stories she has ever written. She sums the thematic link up in the title image: ‘We are all jellyfish, incapable of helping ourselves when we get stranded’. At this point the microphone plays havoc again. Tattoo-man is back and fixes a new gadget to her top. ‘That’s the size of my ass!’ she exclaims. The audience erupts and she adds, now amplified: ‘You were NOT supposed to hear that!’
Back to the book and Galloway reads from a short story called Distance in which Martha, an overprotective mother, reaches the end of reason and consequently, her relationship. Is Galloway most comfortable on the edge of madness? Liddell asks. “Probably” Galloway laughs.
The event is a fairground spin through Galloway’s interests: from our connection with nature to her admiration of Muriel Spark; from readers’ right to interpret her work to her preferred writing style (“I’m a fan of the wee sentence”).
Janice Galloway ‘s teaching past surfaces unexpectedly – when a mobile ringtone cuts through the hall, she doesn’t hesitate for a second: “Whose phone? Own up!” But like any inspiring, irreverent, thought-provoking teacher, she is comfortable holding her audience’s attention, making us think and feel for ourselves.
A thoroughly entertaining event.