Vanessa Robertson grew up in Worcester and studied in Leeds, Nottingham and Edinburgh. Whilst running her own business as a bookdealer specializing in rare children's books, she set up a publishing company to reissue unjustly neglected gems of children's literature. Last November she opened a specialist children's bookshop in Edinburgh and although there is a wall of books published by her company, the shop also stocks over 2,000 of the best children's books. Vanessa blogs at The Fidra Blog.
Why do you blog? > It began because I was interested in the way that blogs link and create communities and because I wanted a more immediate way of being able to tell our readers what we were up to. Now, it's because I like the communication, like the opportunity to vent my spleen every so often or rave about a book I've read and because it's the cheapest and most effective way of promoting our business.
What has been your best blogging experience? > I've made some good friends and the business has received really useful input from people who wouldn't otherwise have heard of us.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > I got a few weird emails once from someone but I ignored them and fortunately they went away.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > If it's about your business then don't be too corporate. People aren't interested in reading a series of press releases - that's what your main website is for. A blog is more personal - I witter on about all sorts, although it's mostly book-related. And don't be too open about personal details – always remember that you never know who might be reading it.
What are you reading at the moment? > I usually have about three books on the go. Currently, Winter Wood by Steve Augarde - third in his series about The Various and absolutely brilliant. It's just been published and should be a bestseller if there's any justice in the world. I've also just finished The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iain Banks and am in the middle of Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips, both of which are very good.
Who are your cultural heroes? > John Peel, Antony Gormley and Emily Brontë.
What is your favourite poem? > Sooo many, but one that always touches a nerve is Dylan Thomas's 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night'.
What is your favourite movie? > Brief Encounter - lots of people probably choose that but there you go.
What is your favourite song? > 'Echo Beach' by Martha and the Muffins – it always makes me want to dance.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > When I was younger I used to be completely against animal experiments. I still am in terms of cosmetics, shampoo etc, but I'm more equivocal about medical experiments since I became a parent.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Work like you don't need the money, love like you've never been hurt, dance like no one is watching. I'm afraid it isn't very profound but it's a good maxim to live by.
Who are your political heroes? > I don't really have any. I think people who seek power are often the people least suitable to wield it.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.' (Margaret Mead)
What would you do with the UN? > Disband it. Iraq was invaded without waiting for a UN resolution and troops are still there years later and they don't appear to be doing anything about the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. The UN is a toothless bureaucracy. If we can't disband it, then we should put the Women's Institute in charge - they're a formidably capable band of women and they wouldn't take any nonsense,
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Religion.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > Depends on how you define radical. My husband is a supporter of independence for Scotland and I would not wish to live in an independent Scotland. If Salmond gets his way, I can see some interesting discussions ahead!
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > I am a bit of a snob. Not about class or money or education but about rudeness or a lack of consideration for others. And dropping litter or eating in the street. I just think it's important to have standards.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I'd start taking risks sooner.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > On Dartmoor in an old stone house with a big fireplace and a view of the moor and space to keep horses.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Exploring more of France with Malcolm (husband) and Magnus (son), eating good food, drinking good wine, visiting galleries and walking along beaches, sitting in the garden and reading good books and generally just being lazy.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Walking on empty beaches with Malcolm, Magnus and our dog, reading, eating and sleeping.
What is your most treasured possession? > A necklace that belonged to my grandmother and which she gave me on my wedding day.
What talent would you most like to have? > To play the piano like Jools Holland. And to be good at curling because I'm not and it's frustrating.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > I created my perfect job!
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > I'm rather spoilt living in Edinburgh and having the festival to enjoy every summer but I'd probably go with Adam Hills as he always makes me weep with laughter. Or Rich Hall when he's on form, which he wasn't when I saw him at the Fringe last summer.
Who are your sporting heroes? > Tani Grey Thompson because she seems to have given credibility to disabled atheletics rather than it being a somewhat patronizing add-on to able-bodied sports.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > I suppose like everyone I'd like to see world peace but that's a bit pageant-queen and probably completely unrealistic so I'll settle for the complete separation of religion and politics.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > Once I'd made sure that our future was secure I would set up a trust so that I could give the rest away. Not to big charities but to small ones where a few thousand pounds could make a massive difference. I'm not interested in supporting the bureaucracies that make up so many charities, although they do some marvellous work.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Only three? George Clooney so that I could see if he's as charming as he's made out to be; K.M. Peyton who's one of our authors, a long-time favourite of mine and who I've never actually met; and my grandmother - she died almost eight years ago and I still miss her.
What animal would you most like to be? > My dog (a two-year-old Leonberger called Teaga). She gets to spend her days lounging around in our office surrounded by books – the life of Riley!
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]