Liz Lochhead Interviewed for Project MacCaig

Dear readers,

The last time we spoke, we rolled out some pretty big news. And to be completely honest, we may have been withholding some of the more glamorous details of our exciting collaboration with Polygon; for dramatic effect, of course. But now that we’ve all calmed down and regained our characteristically cool sense of composure, there are a few more things we’d like to let you in on.

DSC_0160Last weekend, two of our team members ventured beyond local boundaries to Glasgow’s West End, to meet and talk to Makar Liz Lochhead. Lochhead is the latest Scottish cultural luminary to provide an exclusive interview for our forthcoming interactive Norman MacCaig eBook. Our team was thrilled by this opportunity to meet the National Poet and hear her take on MacCaig’s life and work. She described him as “a man who turned people on to poetry,” effectively echoing a sentiment expressed by our team on countless occasions as we have become intimately familiar with MacCaig’s literary legacy.

The Liz Lochhead interview is the most recent of six that will add to the “mini-documentary” quality of this innovative digital product. In our quest to build a comprehensive and profound extra-textual experience we have also turned the camera on Ron Butlin, Tom Pow, Andrew Greig, Roderick Watson, and Ewen McCaig. Needless to say, these prolific personalities expounded unique perspectives that bring new life to MacCaig’s already-vibrant verses.

We are, of course, disappointed that the interviewing phase of the project has come to a close, but that’s not to say that we don’t have our work cut out for us moving forward. Over the next few weeks, it will be all hands on deck as we work to bring together the diverse components of this title into one streamlined entity. DSC_0148

Until next time,

Team MacCaig

Top secret tell-all


For nearly two months now, speculative whispers and hushed conversations have punctuated day-to-day life here at Merchiston Publishing. Rumours and questions regarding a top-secret project have hung in the air, unanswered. Well, it is time to let the proverbial cat out of the bag, because frankly it is just exhausting to keep up such a glamorous air of mystery.

We are so thrilled to announce that we are working with Birlinn Ltd, Scotland’s largest independent publisher, on a cutting-edge title for their Polygon imprint. We are collaborating to bring the seminal works of the beloved Edinburgh-born poet Norman MacCaig to life on a digital platform. To achieve this, we are integrating additional content such as original manuscripts, interviews, personal correspondence and more, in the form of an interactive eBook.

Many exciting things have happened this week alone, across all of our departments. Firstly, we in marketing are so excited to have been given the okay to share just what we have been up to! Perhaps most excitingly, the hard-working folks on our production team have unveiled a fully functional prototype of the eBook. Finally, some of our editorial squad have been making regular visits to the Birlinn offices to film exclusive video content.

It has taken a great deal of discipline to keep such exciting news under wraps for so long, so naturally we will be compensating for our impressive record of self-restraint with a general policy of oversharing from this point forward. Be sure to check back soon for regular updates and sneak-peeks of the eventual finished product!

The MacCaig Project team

Leith Academy receives Merchiston Publishing titles as part of the Books for Schools Initiative

As the first formal assignment of Edinburgh Napier’s MSc Publishing curriculum, the Books for Schools Initiative challenged groups of new students to connect with the wider community of Edinburgh through a book-driven outreach project. Acting as representatives of Merchiston Publishing, students were assigned a local area and asked to deliver a box of books to a school within that zone.

We had an extremely positive experience cooperating with Leith Academy in our allocated region of Leith, Edinburgh. Initially, we had considered multiple schools in the area in order to determine which would benefit greater from participating in the initiative. While researching potential recipients, we were very impressed by a series of student-written book reviews on Leith Academy’s website. We decided that this school’s emphasis on student engagement in literacy seemed particularly in line with the Books for Schools Initiative’s objectives.

A look at the books Leith Academy received from Merchiston Publishing via the Books for Schools Initiative
A look at the books Leith Academy received from Merchiston Publishing via the Books for Schools Initiative

Our point of contact at Leith Academy was Christine Boal, the school librarian. She was happy to receive the books for the school library, and even told us that some of the titles in Merchiston Publishing’s catalogue, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, are part of the English department curriculum. Unfortunately, we were not in a position to offer any copies of this particular book, but Christine was enthusiastic about the possibility of obtaining a class set of curriculum books from Merchiston Publishing should this become viable in the future.

The titles that we hand-selected for Leith Academy’s library were The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg, Detective McLevy’s Casebook by James McLevy, Imagined Corners by Willa Muir, and Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon (Christine has plans to campaign for this particular book to be integrated into the school’s English curriculum in future terms). We were excited by the idea of bringing modern editions of classic Scottish literature into the school and offered two copies of each.

On Tuesday, we journeyed to Leith (although this was not so much of an expedition for two of our members, who are originally from Leith and made the trip from campus by bicycle) to deliver the books. We finally met face-to-face with Christine, who was very admiring of the books’ updated, original cover art. We were very interested in the possibility of having students review the books for the Leith Academy website, and she planned to encourage students to do this. Christine also mentioned another student-focused project in which she hopes to incorporate the donated books, and we truly look forward to seeing how this pans out. We agreed to keep in contact regarding future developments and possibilities of further collaboration.

Rebecca, Donna, Danielle, and Paula with Leith Academy school librarian Christine Boal, who is featuring some of the donated books
Rebecca, Donna, Danielle, and Paula with Leith Academy school librarian Christine Boal, who is featuring some of the donated books

We took a lot away from this assignment in terms of becoming somewhat familiar with the various roles that people fill in the publishing industry, as well as the importance of deadline-oriented planning. Additionally, we gained an appreciation of the demanding nature of group work, something that will certainly be relevant throughout the course of our degrees and careers.

Thanks again Christine and Leith Academy for your cooperation and enthusiasm! We look forward to hearing how your students benefited from the Books for Schools Initiative.

– Rebecca Riordon, Paula Russell, Danielle Watt, and Donna Kean, MSc Publishing 2014/2015