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Recent and Upcoming Events

Speaking live on BBC Radio Scotland to Fiona Stalker about Mary Queen of Scots and my historical novel FOR MY SINS.

I’m currently delivering a series of 10 creative writing workshops to Braidhurst High School as part of their Drive to Literacy. I work them hard, but they are enjoying themselves, honestly. Here they are writing their first ever prose poem, and unearthing gleaming results. They’re a quiet bunch, but as you can see, they are allowed to stand up sometimes.

I’m also working as a Creative Writing Mentor as part of the Scottish Book Trust’s What’s Your Story programme, mentoring two exceptionally gifted young people, during which I’ve had to learn sign language. Our surroundings at Moniack Mhor were very conducive to creative writing. We had the cottage to ourselves, complete with roaring stove and the entire collection of the Scottish Poetry Library on the shelves.

For World Book Week, I’m in Sandaig Primary for two Art of the Ghost Story workshops on 6th March, and on 7th March (World Book Day itself,) I’ll be appearing in the Mitchell Library, the Burns Room at 10.30 am and 1.30 pm as part of the Aye Write/Wee Write’s schools programme. Last week I was in Wishaw Library for two sessions with local school children, who prepared for the visit by reading Chill, designing covers and drawing pics of what they thought I should look like.

Then on Tuesday 12th March I’ll be in the auditorium at the wonderful YayYA Festival, which draws in schools from all over Glasgow and beyond, curated by… who else? Grand Master of Design, Kirkland Ciccone.

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A 1970’s Magic Portal

It might be just a house, but this is where I entered the worlds of C.S.Lewis, Enid Blyton, Tolkein, Joan Aiken, Mary Norton, Frances Burnett, Tove Jansson… et al… A house which my parents bought for £9,000 in 1970 and sold five years later for £16,000. From the ages of 7 to 12, I lived here, the most significant reading years in in my life, when books and stories lay the foundation work for my future. Every beautiful story you can imagine – the sparkle and sinister-edged shadows of Peter Pan, for example – was opened for me in this plain 1970’s semi.

When I went out to play under the streetlights, I thought of the children in Ballet Shoes for Anna, digging with their bare hands in the earth to find their parents and grandparents lost in an earthquake in Turkey – and I learned that such things could happen, that the earth could swallow people in some faraway country if it decided to heave up out of its volatile rest.

And I learned that small children worked and died in the factories and mills of Lancashire (Midnight is a Place by Joan Aiken) and their lives counted for nothing, and I wondered at the brutality and injustice of it all, while at the same time learning how a narrative could be structured and many-layered like an onion (which led me on, eventually, by degrees, to Wuthering Heights).

All of these worlds and more were discovered behind the facade of this plain 70s semi.

The door to the Secret Garden opened for me and I stepped through, and I read that same passage 30 years later at my Mum’s funeral, because… well, just because…

And what thrills me even more is that the copy of Peter Pan I read when I was a child is the same copy my Mum read when she was a little girl, and which my children later read – a beautiful old book with original illustrations, thick as a Church Bible, published before the invention of the mass-produced paperback and the Penguin revolution. That single volume has touched lives in the 1930s and 40s, as bombs fell out the sky over Leicester, and Norfolk in the seventies, and Scotland in the 90’s and Naughties.





Never under-estimate the doors and windows and opportunities that open when you read a book as a child. The texture of the pages, the smell, the words and the worlds it creates, weave a magic spell… and I can still step inside those worlds with ease, even now, and see them all clearly in the light of day, as fresh as they were when I was 8 years old. I wonder if playstation games can do that?