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A little bit of this…

This summer I have been doing quite a bit of this…

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while admiring this…

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a bit of this…

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while listening to this…

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plenty of eavesdropping in places like…

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a little of this…

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and this…

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which was all inspiration for this…

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and this…

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When it rained I was very happy to do this…

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When the sun shone I did more of this…

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Took the mickey out of…

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at…

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but underneath it all, I was ever aware of this …

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which lead me to feel…

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and continued to write 30,000 words of another

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but this time it will be about …

a different person altogether…

 

 

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Inspirational Moments: Writer in Residence 2017 #2

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Here are some photos of what we’ve been up to over the past few weeks.

And the pointers or lessons?

Writers care about the world & what is happening in it. It’s just not about escapism.

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You can imagine other people’s lives…

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Even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

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Keep a journal or diary.

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You can write about what is familiar… or unfamiliar.

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Writing can be used as a Way of Healing too.

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You all have a story to tell… either the one you are living now, one from the past, or one that you have yet to live…

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Writer in Residence 2017

I’m into my fifth week as Writer in Residence at Castlebrae Community High School in Craigmillar, Edinburgh. Here is why it’s so important that school librarians continue to exist, and that they receive funding for projects like this. I’m working very closely with the school librarian Sylvia Gorman, and English teachers at the school, in particular Fiona McCulloch, to create fun and inspiring workshops. So far the pupils are really engaged. They’re looking at books in a new way, studying their covers, working in groups and a large circle to discuss their own book proposals in a way that brings them confidence and self-esteem. It’s a brilliant little school which helps many who might be under-privileged or disadvantaged. There are some in the group from places like Romania, Syria and Poland, and I was struck by how they all help each other to cross language barriers with humour, tolerance and understanding. By the end of the workshops, all 30 pupils will have produced their own portfolio, a poly-pocket delight of ideas, letters, novel openings, blurbs, and cover ideas which will be their own book proposal to a potential editor. I get to choose the top 5 who are rewarded with a prize. If anyone needs convincing that school librarians should continue to be supported, they can look no further than a group of disadvantaged S1s who are prepared to sit and discuss books with each other.

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Breadalbane Academy, Macbeth and Weird Sisters

Had a fabulous day yesterday visiting Breadalbane Academy in Aberfeldy. The pupils were delightful, and they were very eager to buy books – unfortunately I forgot to take any photos of the pupils themselves, just an empty auditorium before the event itself… so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

The early morning drive to Aberfeldy was stunning, the sun touching the hills through the mist. There were pockets and hollows of mist exactly like Macbeth country. I kept expecting to see the Weird Sisters. The only weird thing was my PowerPoint though… Saw a loch with reeds which had a perfect mirror-like reflection. Crossed over a moor, then dipped down  into the valley which was full of mist, exactly like a bowl of cream with mountains showing through the far side. Honestly, it was breathtaking…

Treated myself to lunch in The Watermill afterwards, bought myself two books – THE WOLF WILDER by Katherine Rundell and WOLF WINTER by Cecilia Ekback – then drove to Kenmore and walked around the loch where the crannog sits out on the water. Used this for inspiration later with my creative writing pupils, then I dashed out to Drama in the evening (we’re doing Treasure Island… don’t ask!!!!!) then finally washed up by the fire, where it’s best.

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CARROTS, MEMORIES AND THE RISE OF THE SMALL SCOTTISH PRESS

It’s half past eleven, and I have already written 1,800 words today, so I’m well pleased with myself and thought I ought to add a little blog post before I take the dog out for a walk. He is looking at me expectantly, but I’m choosing to ignore him for now.

I’m very excited about this new novel. I have 53,000 words so far, but I’m keeping shtum. No title as yet. It’s set in Scotland, it’s topical but I’m not saying why. It explores a topic I feel strongly about – one of humanity and our lack of it at the moment – but again, I’m not saying anything more.

What I will say though is that I have found myself drawing on personal experiences from when I was 14 years of age, which was a surprise to me. It just happened as I wrote. I found myself writing about the carrot-topping shed I worked in one Easter Holidays in the rural Norfolk village where I grew up, and remembering how rough it seemed to me. We had to pull carrots across a blade in the work bench in front of us, and when I cut my hand there was little sympathy from the foreman, who was a scary woman with biceps, who threw a whole crate-load of carrots back at me when I hadn’t topped them properly. (They were hard with frost). We were paid by the crate, so that was a couple of hours’ work lost, which felt like a lifetime. I earned £20 in 2 weeks, and spent the money on clothes, which I remember really well. THIS IS TRUE. So I’ve used this in my novel, together with the experience of being bullied in school through a six-month period which I have NEVER forgotten, and which makes me feel very strongly about the impact of bullying on pupils. Or on anyone, for that matter…

As well as this, I have a whole load of school visits lined up – Breadalbane Academy on Tuesday, then Bellshill and Cumbernauld Academy the following week, plus three separate events in Craigmillar, and another in Cowie.

I’m also aware that the launch of my first adult novel FOR MY SINS about Mary, Queen of Scots, is looming on the horizon. That will be in January, and I’m very much looking forward to planning the event, thinking about what I might say, sound effects, images, music, lights… atmosphere… etc.

Have also been reading an amazingly good book lately, published by a relatively small Scottish press, Freight Books. It’s called THE HOUSE BETWEEN TIDES by Sarah Maine, and is so inspiring. I loved it, and I’m quite chuffed by the positive growth of small Scottish presses at the moment. Contraband/Saraband, a small Scottish press, have managed to get one of their titles shortlisted for the Booker!!! HIS BLOODY PROJECT. I haven’t read it yet, but the structure looks really interesting and original, and reminds me of THE MOONSTONE by Wilkie Collins, which I studied at school under a teacher called Mrs Fraymouth. She had a very grumpy persona which went with her name, but I liked her. She was good…

Sorry about the bizarre title, but when I’m writing all morning I zone out into Alex-land, a place of strange thought and emotion. Here I am looking thoughtful in the graveyard which I live not far from. And there’s MARY, looking mysterious and capable of great treachery and plotting. She looks as if she knows too much, and has found out that her friends can’t be trusted…. (I love it…)