AN AUTHOR will celebrate the paperback publication of her hit book about the sea with an event at a bookshop by the beach which inspired it.

Charlotte Runcie will discuss Salt On Your Tongue: Women And The Sea, a lyrical journey through myth, poetry, folktales and song about what the sea has meant to us throughout history.

Out at the end of the month in paperback, the acclaimed book explores how the sea can help us understand what it means to be human and how Runcie found consolation near the briny waves as she expected the birth of her first child.

Runcie, an award-winning poet and journalist, will talk about her book in a conversation led by poet Marjorie Lotfi Gill at the Portobello Bookshop, which is situated just a few minutes’ walk from the beach she often visited while living in Edinburgh.

The event also features a live performance from Castle Chorus, a folk and roots community choir who are currently focusing on sea shanties and traditional songs about selkies, mermaids and water folk – elements shared with Runcie’s enchanting book.

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“When I was in my mid-20s I found I was having a lot of that angst, that feeling of ‘what am I doing with my life?’” Runcie recalls.

“I found myself spending a lot of my time walking along the beach at Portobello, just enjoying being by the water, where I felt a lot better. I started keeping a diary about walks I’d been on by the sea and began wondering if I could turn this into a bigger piece of writing.”

When she discovered she was pregnant at the age of 28, everything changed, she says.

“I realised that I was reading much more about women and the sea in particular and how there’s all these amazing myths about mermaids and sirens and sea witches,” she says. “Throughout history there seems to be this connection between women and the sea particularly, which was mystical, strange and interesting.”

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Runcie traces ideas associating the sea with femaleness from Scylla in The Odyssey and the Virgin Mary as Stella Maris – Our Lady, Star Of The Sea – to the lives of fisherwomen, the salt panners of Prestonpans, the work of artists such as Joan Eardley and the psychological and physical changes she experienced through pregnancy and childbirth.

Though she found such personal passages the most challenging to write, these are among Salt On Your Tongue’s most powerful, with one reviewer describing a profoundly affecting chapter on the birth of Runcie’s daughter as “visceral and as heroic as any Homeric epic”.

The writer, who is currently based in the Borders, says she felt an obligation to other mothers to be honest.

“I wrote that passage quickly after the birth as you quickly forget how bad it really was,” she says. “After the baby, I felt this was huge; that literally, everyone walking the earth had been born and yet it’s not something we talk about or else we shroud in sanitised language.

“I felt like I had a duty to talk about it because a lot of people are very traumatised by it, and I think one of the reasons I wasn’t was because I wrote about it.”

January 30, The Portobello Bookshop, Edinburgh, 6.30pm, £3.83 to £11.36. Tickets from