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Cover of First Light

An anthology celebrating the life of author Alan Garner

"Now comes FIRST LIGHT, a celebration of the work of Alan Garner, whose books explore the mysterious subterranean links between the present and the past, between psychology and landscape, between the real and the dream. If the rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs and dens of the land of Britain had a voice, it would sound like Alan Garner telling a story.” - Philip Pullman

---

The purpose of the storyteller is to relate the truth in a manner that is simple: to integrate without reduction; for it is rarely possible to declare the truth as it is, because the Universe presents itself as a Mystery. We have to find parables; we have to tell stories to unriddle the world.

ALAN GARNER, The Voice that Thunders (1997)

Described by Philip Pullman as ‘the most important British writer of fantasy since Tolkien’, Alan Garner has enraptured generations of readers with novels like The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Moon of Gomrath, Elidor, The Owl Service, Red Shift, and The Stone Book Quartet. His huge knowledge and love of folklore have been shared in his collections of fairytales, Alan Garner’s Book of British Fairytales, A Bag of Moonshine and Fairytales of Gold. His later novels, Strandloper, Thursbitch and Boneland continue and deepen his exploration of the language, folklore and history of the particular patch of Cheshire that is his own ‘boneland’. This extraordinary body of work has fascinated and inspired readers and writers alike for more than fifty years.

Alan Garner turned 80 last year, and in celebration, many of the writers, artists, archaeologists and historians he has inspired are contributing pieces to this volume. Whether a literary essay or a personal response to Alan’s work, a memory of the time they first read his work, or a story about the man himself, each piece will be a tribute to his far-reaching influence. Edited by the acclaimed novelist and journalist, Erica Wagner, it will make a beautiful and important book for anyone who cares about the power of story to enrich and transform.

Confirmed contributors include: Margaret Atwood, David Almond, Dr Teresa Anderson (Jodrell Bank), Frank Cottrell Boyce, John Burnside, Susan Cooper, Amanda Craig, Maura Dooley, Helen Dunmore, Stephen Fry, Cornelia Funke, Neil Gaiman, Ben Haggarty, Nick Hennessey, Andrew Hodges, Tom Holland, Elizabeth Garner, Professor Ronald Hutton, Paul Kingsnorth, Olivia Laing, Katherine Langrish, Hugh Lupton, Robert Macfarlane, Helen Macdonald, Gregory Maguire, Bel Mooney, Professor Richard Morris, Neel Mukherjee, Richard Ovenden (Bodleian Library), Neil Philip, Professor John Prag, Philip Pullman, Ali Smith, Ian Thorpe (MGS), Salley Vickers, Rowan Williams, Michael Wood, Elizabeth Wein, Dougald Hine.

What am I pledging for?
As well as the receiving the book and enjoying the rewards listed opposite, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of First Light will be donated to the Blackden Trust, a charitable trust that works to preserve and share the ten thousand years of history, two ancient houses and countless stories that have emerged from the acre of Cheshire land which has sustained Alan Garner for almost sixty years and where all his work has originated.


Erica Wagner is an author and journalist, born in New York City, but resident in London. Her first job was helping her mother open the fan mail for The Muppets, but she came to England in the 1980s, and was educated at Cambridge and the University of East Anglia, where she was taught by Malcolm Bradbury and Rose Tremain. She went on to become the Literary Editor of The Times between 1996 and 2013.

Erica is the author of Gravity (1997) a collection of short stories and Ariel’s Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of Birthday Letters (2000). Her first novel Seizure (2007) was described by the writer Claire Messud as ‘lyrical, compelling, profoundly unsettling…a novel like no other’. As well as editing First Light she is working on a new book, The Chief Engineer: A Biography of Washington Roebling, the Man Who Built Brooklyn Bridge.

She has judged many literary prizes including the Orange Prize, the Whitbread First Novel Prize, the Forward Prize for poetry and twice been a judge for the Man Booker Prize.

[THIS INTERVIEW IS NOT AN EXTRACT FROM THE BOOK BUT OFFERS A GOOD INTRODUCTION TO ALAN’S WORK]

VALLEY OF THE LIVING DREAD

Erica Wagner

The stone is a mile from Thursbitch. A carved stone on the verge of a Cheshire lane, now perpendicular to the road but when Alan Garner first came across it -- bounding over the moor one Saturday in July, a little over 50 years ago -- it was flat against the bank, its back hidden. Garner saw:

HERE JOHN TUR

NER WAS CAST

AWAY IN A HEAVY

SNOW STORM IN

THE NIGHT IN OR

ABOUT THE YEAR

1755

Poor John Turner, but not much more to it. Yet in clearing the grit to read the inscription, Garner realised that the back had been carved as well. As darkness began to fall, his arm hooked behind the stone, his fingers found another inscription:

THE PRINT OF A

WOMANS SHOE WAS

FOUND BY HIS SIDE

IN THE SNOW WERE

HE LAY DEAD

H

The "h" of "where", having been mistakenly left out by the carver, is neatly added below, as the mason would have been paid by the letter.

John Turner was a local man, a "jagger" or packman, his business in his time to transport goods out of Cheshire and back again. He would have known the road and the weather: why would he have died so close to home? On a grey September morning, as I stood by the stone with Garner's wife, Griselda, this mystery that half a century ago sparked his new novel had lost none of its power. Why this death? Why so memorialised and yet the date uncertain? Only the single print of a woman's shoe? Stone and fiction rang against each other in the air.

Read more...

Beyond the Border and beyond...

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Btb first light

Greetings, friends! I thought you might like a little update on the continuing journey of First Light. Just this past weekend I was at the wondrous Beyond the Border International Storytelling festival in Wales, one of my very favourite places to be in all the wide world. If you've never been, you should go -- in 2018, when the next festival will run. In the meantime, of course, you can follow @BTBStorytelling…

Still shining...

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

What an exciting time we're having! I'm so thrilled by the reception of First Light -- here's a wonderful blog by Benjamin Myers, and another by Kate Macdonald. Kate's conclusion is one I'm awfully pleased to hear: "Despite all the necessary publicity and puffery needed to get this book off the ground, it’s a great addition to biography. I’m glad I subscribed." See? Sometimes puffery and publicity…

Queen of the Compost

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Alan launch

... and so it was that First Light was launched at the Oxford Literary Festival on Monday. As the storytellers say, I wish you all had been there: and yet, of course, you were, because without your support this extraordinary book would never have come into being. And it is an extraordinary book: yes, I'm the editor, but looking down the list of contributors, and seeing so many of them in the Weston…

A special event on March 12...

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Team First Light! I’ve got some news for you -- something to while away the time while you wait for our publication in May. 

If you’re going to be in or even near Cheshire next month, there’s a real treat available on March 12th. Professor Ronald Hutton, one of our contributors --  and who is an authority on British folklore, pre-Christian religion and contemporary Paganism -- will be giving a…

Down to the wire!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

First Light is fully funded and ready to go -- we've known that for a while. Now we have an official publication date -- May -- and I've seen what the (beautiful!) cover will look like. Nope, I'm not going to spoil the surprise -- but I will say I am delighted, as I've been delighted with putting this book together every step of the way. It's remarkable to have been in close touch not only with my…

A visit to Cheshire...

Monday, 23 November 2015

Lovell telesccope

And so to see the Garners on a frosty weekend. It had been too long since I was by Alan and Griselda's  fire -- and now we had plenty to talk about, with the launch of First Light coming next year. I can't say too much about our conversation because I don't wish to spoil the surprise. But photographs which have never been seen were part of our conversation -- our book is going to be rich visually…

When First Light will see the light: an update!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Greetings, fellow Unbounders! Sorry for the long silence, but I have been so preoccupied with reading all the marvelous, marvelous pieces which have been pouring in from our contributors that I have been stunned into radio silence. But here I am with a bit of an update.

    So -- as I say, nearly all the pieces are in, but I am going to be mean and not tell you anything about them because I don…

We did it!

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Well -- I just wanted to send an enormous thank you to everyone for supporting First Light so generously. You know the deal with Unbound already: there's a big U at the beginning of their name for a reason! And it's wonderful for me to know that even before the book is finished (and the brilliant contributions are now coming in thick and fast) there is a great gathering of eager readers out there…

Neil Gaiman and David Mitchell -- a bromance...

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Just the other night I was lucky enough to chair a wonderful 5x15 event with one of our stellar contributors, the great Neil Gaiman, in conversation with David Mitchell -- who may not be a contributor to First Light but who is a hero all the same! The author of the Sandman comics (and so much more) and the author of Cloud Atlas (and so much more) had never met before; it was a privilege to watch them…

Storytelling in the Medicine House chimney

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

 dsc3652 2 c

It's a rare thing to sit in a chimney, these days; but I'm lucky to have had many evenings in the chimney of the Medicine House. "In the chimney" - what does that mean? you might wonder. Even if you are an admirer - of course you are! - of Alan Garner's work, you may not know that the Medicine House is part of his home, and now part of the Blackden Trust. Here is a photograph (by David Heke - thanks…

We're in the news!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Alison Flood's wonderful piece about First Light in the Guardian has helped take the project up to 60% funding -- thanks so much, Alison! Dr Rowan Williams -- former Archbishop of Canterbury -- appeared in the piece, and what he said about Alan's work was wonderful. “I’ve been reading Alan Garner since I was 13,” he told the paper. “The word ‘haunting’ is cheap and overused, but I might say that I…

A walk to Ludchurch, with Alan, Griselda and Sir Gawain

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Green chapel

Thirty-six per cent! It's hard to get much work done when you're watching the Unbound wheel roll steadily forward. Thank you all for your support: it means a lot to me, and to the Author we're banding together to celebrate, I know. Of course working on this book has made me reflect upon all the years I've known Alan and Griselda, and some of the adventures I've been lucky enough to share with them…

And we're off!

Saturday, 28 March 2015

It seems rather cosmic that I should be laid low by a ghastly flu just as First Light is launched -- I'll think of it as a great shifting of energies, rather than a nasty lurgy, and that will be better medicine than any Lemsip. And I'm energized enormously by the great support we've already got for this exciting project: a real sign of the passion people feel for Alan Garner's work. 

As I've said…

Andrew Dale
Andrew Dale asked:

Dear Erica, I am not a published writer, though I try (I have a day job), I have written about my experience of how Alan Garner changed my life by a talk he gave at Oxford in 1977. It can be found at http://carusus.wordpress.com/2010/03/28/garner/ .
I spent a day with Alan at his home in 2007, and it was unforgettable. We covered so much ground. At the end, as I was leaving, he pointed out how clearly you could hear the M6 five miles away that evening, and explained in meteorological detail how it depended on the temperature, humidity, and density and height of the clouds. He had the equation somewhere...
And let us not forget that behind every great man there is a great woman. Griselda is an extraordinary person also, a former actress and published poet, born in Alexandria, her mother Russian. Am signing up for your book. Good luck. Andrew Dale ilo.dale@gmail.com

Erica Wagner
Erica Wagner replied:

Dear Andrew --
Thank you so much for this email; I'm so glad you are signing up and I'll read your blog. And absolutely -- here's to the great Griselda.
All best!
Erica

Anne Rooney
Anne Rooney asked:

Is it possible to upgrade to a more expensive pledge if I get more money later?

Unbound
Unbound replied:

Hi Anne,

Thanks for getting in touch. It is possible, but there isn't a simple upgrade button on the site (we're working on this). When you want to upgrade please email support@unbound.co.uk and we can sort this out for you.

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Unbound Community Coordinator

Adrian Harper
Adrian Harper asked:

Didn't realise it was Alan Garner's 80th birthday this year. Nice project, he's one of our greatest writers of the last 50 years.

I'm going walking around Cheshire next month, visiting some of the sites of his books - Alderley Edge, Redesmere, Cleulow Cross, Shining Tor, Thursbitch. So very timely.

Best of luck with the book.

Adrian

Erica Wagner
Erica Wagner replied:

Thanks so much for writing, Adrian. I'm grateful for your support -- and hope you enjoy your walk! All very warmest regards -- Erica

Ros Kennedy
Ros Kennedy asked:

Dear Erica, I was so excited to read about your book. I was born in Alderley Edge and was so excited as a child when Alan Garner wrote about our local Arthur legend in his first book, and I met him when the book was published. I've read all his books and think he's an extraordinary author. Thank you for producing this book, and I'm so glad I can support it. Best wishes, Ros

Erica Wagner
Erica Wagner replied:

Dear Ros,

Thanks so much for this; it's wonderful to have your support. Very best regards -- and I'm sure you'll enjoy the book when it appears!

Best,
Erica

MARGARET WINDELINCKX -BUCKLEY
MARGARET WINDELINCKX -BUCKLEY asked:

Hello Erica, as a family we all want to individually support Alan.
So far we have managed to join one member, when we tried to have the second
family member name entered your site refused us admission saying "we have
already have this e-mail address". As we only have this one e-mail could you
please tell us how we can continue with our other pledges ? One other question can
we also pledge for a further family as a gift using our card, it would be the same surname
and address.
Thank you.
Margaret

Unbound
Unbound replied:

Hi Margaret,

Thanks for getting in touch. You can only have one Unbound account per email address. If you want to order multiple books on this one account then it's not a problem. Just enter a different delivery address upon making the pledge and then you can change the names which are listed in the back To check or change the names in the back just log in and head over to the 'Your Account' page (which can be located at the top right hand corner of the site). Here you'll see the icons for all of the books you have supported. Under the icon is the green button 'update the name in the back'. Click this and away you go.

If there is anything else I can help you with please get in touch via unbound.co.uk/support.

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community Coodinator

Sakari Lindhen
Sakari Lindhen asked:

Hello

I am new to Unbound, so forgive me if this information is on the site, but I failed to find it...is there a time limit and definite date when pledges will be redeemed, ala Kickstarter, or is it open-ended until sufficient interest is achieved? (on a tight budget, so need to very carefully regulate when money leaves my account)...

thanks,

sakari

Unbound
Unbound replied:

Hi Sakari,

Thanks for getting in touch. We take payment when you make the pledge, so it's more open ended than Kickstarter. If a project is unsuccessful then these get returned to your Unbound account as credit and you can either use this to back another book or you can request a full refund.

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community Coordinator

Sakari Lindhen
Sakari Lindhen asked:

Hej

Second question: Is postage to Europe included, or charged at the same time as the pledge is redeemed, or charged when the book is shipped (and the exact cost is known)?

cheers

sakari

Unbound
Unbound replied:

Hi Sakari,

Postage is added at the checkout once we know which country your book will be shipped to. If there is anything else we can help you with please get in touch via unbound.co.uk/support.

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community Coordinator

John Matthews
John Matthews asked:

Hi Erica. I've known Alan for over 30 years, ever since I edited a collection of essays and unpublished poems by and about him in a special edition of Labrys, a magazine I co-founded back them. I'm happy to pledge my support for this amazing man, but I'd also like to contribute something of my memories of him. If that's still possible please let me know. John Matthews.

Erica Wagner
Erica Wagner replied:

Dear Mr Matthews,
Thanks so much for this; I'm afraid we can't take any more contributors to this book, but I do hope you'll still choose to support our work for Alan. All the very best to you -- and thank you for your support of his work all these years, too -- Erica

Karen Mercer
Karen Mercer asked:

I'm sure I've read this question before, but it's easier to ask again than find where that was. Is it possible to pledge and NOT have your name in the book?

Unbound
Unbound replied:

Hi Karen,

Thanks for getting in touch. Of course it is.To be an anonymous pledger just tick the pledge anonymously button here: http://unbound.co.uk/account/contact_details. If there is anything else I can help you with please get in touch via unbound.co.uk/support.

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community Coordinator

Pete Thurlow
Pete Thurlow asked:

Erica,
I had The Wierdstone Of Brisingamen read to me by my class teacher in 1972. It was the first novel that made me shiver, and catapulted my love of reading, including more Alan Garner. I remember Red Shift having a profound effect on me as a teenager. A pilgrimage to Alderley Edge is on my bucket list! Good luck with the project.
Peter Thurlow

Erica Wagner
Erica Wagner replied:

Dear Peter Thurlow,
So many thanks for your good wishes -- we aim to celebrate those shivers! And much else, of course. I really do appreciate your support.
Best,
Erica

Claire Rowe
Claire Rowe asked:

Hi Erica

What an amazing project! The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath are two of the most-read books on my shelf, and I recently got them on audiobook too. Garner is such a deft storyteller, and you can tell he cares deeply about the sources for his stories. As above, pilgrimage to Alderley Edge is on the bucket list!

All the best with this collection - can't wait to read it!

C Rowe

Erica Wagner
Erica Wagner replied:

Thank you so much for these kind remarks, Claire. I'm so glad you are looking forward to the book. Do spread the word! Best, Erica

GERRI KIMBER
GERRI KIMBER asked:

Dear Erica

This is such a wonderful idea. Alan Garner taught me how to fantasise and escape from a childhood that was mostly dull and sometimes just plain miserable. Do you have any estimates as to when the book will be published? I only wish I could afford the more expensive pledges and get to meet the remarkable man himself. I hope the book does really well!
Gerri Kimber

Erica Wagner
Erica Wagner replied:

Thanks so much for your message, Gerri. Yes -- going into Alan's work is really entering another world; I'm glad that world was important to you and continues to be. As for when it will be published -- well, I reckon early next year, if all goes according to plan, or towards the end of this year, even. Worth waiting for, and I am really grateful for your support. All best, Erica

Ngiare Elliot
Ngiare Elliot asked:

Hi, Erica. Is there any chance that Alan Garner will sign the collectable copies please?

Ngiare Elliot, Australia

Erica Wagner
Erica Wagner replied:

I don't think there is, no. Very many thanks for your support in advance, and best wishes -- Erica

Julie Bull
Julie Bull asked:

I was captivated by The Owl Service when my English teacher, Miss Dolan, read it aloud in my English class. I was about 12 at the time and that book in particular confirmed a life-long addiction to reading. Since then, I have discovered Alan Garner's writing in other genres, including The Voice the Thundered, which contains ever more fascinating and thought-provoking writing. Now, I cannot wait for this collection, where other authors celebrate such a remarkable writer. Do you have some idea of when it will be published? Thank you for such a great opportunity!

Erica Wagner
Erica Wagner replied:

Thank you so much for this, Julie -- I'm so glad you love Alan's writing, and are eager for this book! As soon as we're fully funded (the funding is progressing nicely!) we'll have a better idea of the publication date... so do help spread the word! I hope that helps -- and thanks for writing -- Erica

Lydia Sage
Lydia Sage asked:

I am so happy to have the opportunity to share in this wonderful celebration of Alan Garner. If I think of all the books that I read as a child, and there were more than a few, I always remember The Weirdstone of Brisingamen more than any other. I shared Colin and Susan's adventures when I was about 9 - I still have my copy from 1960 sitting on the shelf not far from where I am writing now. I look forward to your anthology with great pleasure. Lydia

Erica Wagner
Erica Wagner replied:

So pleased you are excited as I am. So many thanks for your interest, and very glad to hear you've still got your 1960 copy of The Weirdstone! All best -- Erica

Charlotte Zeepvat
Charlotte Zeepvat asked:

I'm so pleased to have found this. The Moon of Gomrath was the first book I ever ordered from a book shop, aged ten, paid for with hoarded pocket money. I still have it, and the Weirdstone, bought later, and so many other Alan Garner books, all still read. They taught me so much, hard to put into words, about the landscape and what it knows.

Erica Wagner
Erica Wagner replied:

Dear Charlotte --
Thank you so much for these wonderful words. I'm so delighted to hear of your love of Alan's work; and I promise you won't be disappointed with First Light. Our wonderful contributors' pieces are coming in now, and they're *terrific*.
All best, Erica

Anne Lane
Anne Lane asked:

Hi Erica,

I was really pleased to hear that the book was funded, very much looking forward to reading it.

I wondered whether you had any date yet for the guided walk? I'm worried that I might miss an email and would also like to make sure I don't commit to anything that might clash.

Thanks,

Anne

Unbound
Unbound replied:

Hi Anne,

Thanks for getting in touch. At the moment we're thinking late May / early June for the guided walks as Alderly Edge is so beautiful at that time. Please do look out for an email from Unbound in the new year with more information on the walk.

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community Coordinator

Paul Pearson
Paul Pearson asked:

Hi Erica, just wondering if there is a release date ye - I'm eager to read this! :)

Unbound
Unbound replied:

Hi Paul,

Thanks for getting in touch. We're currently working to a release date of Spring 2016. Please do look out for further updates on the book's progress or contact us via unbound.co.uk/support for more information.

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community & Events Manager

Ngiare Elliot
Ngiare Elliot asked:

Hi, Erica. I would very much like to pledge to attend the Storytelling Supper, but as I live in Tasmania, the cost would be prohibitive. If I were to pledge the amount anyway, is there any chance that I could perhaps instead receive a very short hand-written note from Alan?

Ngiare, Tasmania, Australia

Erica Wagner
Erica Wagner replied:

Dear Ngiare,

Thank you for this note and your interest. I completely understand that travel to Alderley from Tasmania would be prohibitive! But I fear we can't accommodate requests outside of the parameters of the pledges like this one -- I'm sorry. I very much hope you'll still support our wonderful project, and Alan's work.

Very best,
Erica

Peter Lloyd
Peter Lloyd asked:

Dear Erica,

I have just come across this project from the Unbound newsletter, and am very interested. I read Mr Garner's novel "Red Shift" when I was a teenager, and it was one of those few books that changed forever the way I see the world.

I am interested in the storytelling evening at the Old Medicine House, and would like to ask some questions.

First, can you give any indication of the date? I would like to avoid clashes, as I travel to New York several times a year to carry out historical research for my own books, and it would be a bit disappointing to make this pledge and then find myself on the wrong side of the Atlantic on the evening in question.

Second, are there restrictions on photography inside the Medicine House? My partner is a photographer (currently studying for her MA in Photography at Westminster University), and loves capturing the character of old buildings.

Third, do you have suggestions for places to stay? As I don't drive, I am thinking to take the train to Goostrey and stay in the bed-and-breakfast there. But perhaps there are other guest houses nearby that Google doesn't know about?

Best wishes
Peter

Erica Wagner
Erica Wagner replied:

Dear Peter,

Thanks for your questions! I'm glad you are keen. We have just settled the date for the storytelling evening in The Old Medicine House -- it will be Saturday, May 21st, 2016.

As for your other questions, about photography and places to stay -- I'll come back to you on those, but I wanted you to have the date right away.

Best regards --

Erica

Norman Goodman
Norman Goodman asked:

Dear Erica. I was delighted to make a pledge very early on towards the publication of this book.
I hope that you might be able to give an update on the likely publication date. Although I am a year younger than Alan - so I am anxious that I will get to see the book.

Very best regards. Norman Goodman

Erica Wagner
Erica Wagner replied:

Publication in May! Not long to wait now. Thank you so much for your support, Mr Goodman. All best -- Erica

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