BOOK FESTIVAL – Susan Calman’s life is on the sunny side

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Lee Randall, writer, interviewer and programmer introduces the Scottish comedian and writer, Susan Calman; “one of the hardest working women in show business” Randall remarks.

The former lawyer from Glasgow, left the legal profession to follow a career in comedy. She is a panelist on BBC Radio 4’s The News Quiz and I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. Calman also appeared on Strictly Come Dancing, making it to the semi-finals with her dance partner Kevin Clifton.

Today she is here to promote her new, soon to be published, book, Sunny Side Up. “It’s going to be published on 6th September but we managed to get some rushed copies here. This is the only place you can get it” Calman plugs, as she wags her finger at the audience.

Calman’s last book is intrinsically linked to her latest one. During the writing of Cheer Up Love she confesses to having had a turning point, what she refers to as a “mental upgrade”; “It wasn’t until I wrote that book that I realised how depressed I actually was” Calman explains quite frankly.

“I’m still depressed” she is quick to point out, “but I try and find joy in things more than I used to”.

Her latest book is about how her appreciation for life changed after writing her first book, how she has learned to recognise joy in the small everyday things and how her journey on Strictly literally changed her love for herself, her wardrobe, and also led to a tattoo on her foot saying ‘I Love Grimsby’.

The 43-year-old asked herself if she wanted to live another 43-years being angry. Explaining that when she wrote her first book she was angry at the world and herself.

Since then she has removed some triggers from her life that in the past would fuel that anger.

“I don’t watch the news or read newspapers; I’ve also removed people from my twitter feed and substituted depressing feeds for good news stories. Oh, and pictures of kittens.”

As well as paying more attention to joy, a big part of Calmans new routine involves acts of kindness, kindness to herself and to others. Randall asks Calman about her definition of kindness and she uses an example from her legal past to explain, likening it to committing a crime.

“In order to commit a crime you have to have the mens rae and actus reus;” Calman explains. “You have to do the thing, and have the thought of doing the thing, for me, this is what kindness is”.

“Kindness is doing something and meaning to do it. I’m trying to encourage people to be kind, and want to be kind to each other and themselves.”

She recounts some of the kindness stories that she has collected and as she does, she begins to cry. This is not the only time she cries during todays interview. Calman describes how life changing her participation on Strictly has been, the way it has changed how she thinks of herself, how she looks at herself and even how she dresses.

“I used to hide behind waste-coats and jackets” she states. “But now I wear dresses too”. This perhaps doesn’t sound like a big thing, but you can see that it is all linked to the anger and self-loathing she once had.

Calman also describes her love and respect for her dance partner, Kevin Clifton, and how he was instrumental in helping her perform and played a big part in her being kinder to herself. Again, she is in tears.

It was an hour of hilarity and joy.

Sunny Side Up, published by Two Roads, and is available from 6th December, or there might be the odd one left and the Edinburgh Book Festival bookshop if you are quick.