Borders Pub Theatre

Delighted to be part of this exciting new venture to promote and encourage new writing in the Scottish Borders. The first event ‘In the Beginning’ will feature my ten-minute script, “Stop Procrastinating,” where Carol is sorting socks the Marie Kondo way but who or what is she trying to avoid? All welcome!

Where? The County Hotel, Selkirk on Saturday 23 March at 7.30pm. Eight scripts in a night of fast action and drama, performed by local professional actors & featuring playwrights from Galashiels, Greenlaw, Hawick, Kelso, Carlops and Melrose. Not to be missed!

The plays are:

Mozart & Salieri by Thomas Clark
A second-rate composer plots a terrible revenge against his god-gifted rival.

Secretly Edgy by award-winning playwright Jules Horne
A cooncillor’s last-ditch mission to market the Borders

It’s Pronounced Stow by Campbell Hutcheson
A Borders Railway passenger reacts to a train cancellation

Stop Procrastinating by Anita John
Carol is sorting socks the Marie Kondo way but who or what is she trying to avoid

Form 4a Section Nothing by Emily Larner
Today is Gracey’s Armageddon. She must defend her territory, claim victory and ride out in a blaze of glory (kind of).

The beginning of the end of the First World War by John McEwen
A married couple confront a time-warp

Say Aye Tae a Pie by Laura McIntyre
A 30 year friendship turns sour when the duo collude to hide a dark secret

Worth a Second Look by Robert Sproul-Cran
Ula doesn’t recognise the husband she despised after his appearance is changed by Witness Protection – and this time her reaction may be unexpected…

The plays will be semi-staged and directed by Caitlin Skinner, founder of The Village Pub Theatre, and local director Clare Prenton.

On top of all this – there will also be a raffle with lots of prizes, including cakes and plays!

Borders Pub Theatre has been founded by playwrights who were originally part of the Scottish Borders Playwriting Programme run by Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland.

Spine Poetry

Inspired by #BookWeekScotlandSpinePoem here’s my haiku-type interpetation!

Our thoughts are bees
running with a snow leopard
from the heart of the crow country






Thanks to the poets/authors whose titles I’ve borrowed! For more Spine Poetry as part of Book Week Scotland see here!

Juffits & Bullies

Writing about two of my favourite woodland birds in this month’s blog for RSPB Scotland Loch Leven – juffits & bullies – otherwise known as long-tailed tits and bullfinches. And I love both of them. The way long-tailed tits arrive suddenly, momentarily brightening up bare trees like Christmas decorations; the way bullfinches’ feathers flash bright white and deep red when they fly. To read more about them and other wildlife sightings at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven see here.

Playwrights’ Studio Scotland

Delighted to be selected for the Scottish Borders Playwriting Scheme for a second year running. Earlier this year ten of us presented our scripts at the first TalkFest in the Borders and hope to do so again in the spring of 2019. For information on Playwrights’ Studio Scotland and the scheme see here.

Playwrights’ Studio Scotland has lots going on at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival. Why not take a mosey along to some of their events? See here!


Newcastleton Music Festival

Delighted to be this year’s Poetry Judge at the 49th Newcastleton Traditional Music Festival. It was a great weekend with much poetry, music and singing. One of the highlights had to be Aly Macrae’s rendition of the traditional song “John Barleycorn.” Right from the start he managed to get the audience singing along to the chorus and by the end of the song we were belting it out!

Some great original poetry to be heard too, mostly ballads, one of the most memorable of which included a summary of the 1525 Curse of the Borders Reivers by the Bishop of Glasgow. The story of this curse can be read here: The winner of the competition had written a beautiful lyrical poetry about the power of love over greed.

The sun shone on the Music Festival this year, which was a good thing because we were camping all weekend. Each morning we woke to the cries of the rooks and jackdaws, replaced later in the morning by the sounds of fiddles, accordians, tin whistles and the song of human voices. Next year will be the 50th year of the Festival. Not to be missed! For more information, see here:


Nov 19th Wildlife Writing Workshop

Looking forward to running my fifth Wildlife Writing Workshop for the RSPB Scotland Loch Leven on 19th November 2017. Last week the pink-footed geese started to return in their hundreds and it’s sure to say that most of the swallows have now left to make their journey to Africa. In November we have the return of the White-Tailed Eagle to look forward to.

This workshop is open to all level of writers. Usually we begin the day with writing exercises and then take a tour of the reserve for inspiration. There’s a chance to write up your ideas before and after lunch, again with the help of writing exercises, and we usually finish with a sharing session – although this is not compulsory!

Previous sightings in November have included red squirrels, gold-crest, kingfishers, mallard, golden-eye, swans and geese, and, of course the elusive white-tailed eagle!

It should be fun! All you need is paper and pen and a willingness to be inspired by the wildlife and landscape of Loch Leven.

Brief details are: November 19th, 10am – 2pm, Cost £10.00 members/£15.00 non members.  Tea/coffee provided. For more details see here: Writing Workshop Poster Nov

How to write a 45-minute play!

I was delighted to be selected to the Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland Borders Mentoring Scheme in July 2017 (see here). Ten of us are now working with Associate Playwright Jules Horne to develop our first 45-minute theatre piece for two to three actors. It’s proving an inspiring but challenging task!!

So far we’ve explored issues such as the journey and transformation, characters and conflict and the big question, which seems to drive all narratives: what does your character want? Easier asked than answered!!

We were privileged in August to meet Frances Poet, the author of Adam which won a Fringe First during the Edinburgh Festival this year and which you can see a trailer of here. Frances gave us a run-down on how her journey into theatre began and how she came to write Adam. It made the play all the more poignant when we saw it.

Looking forward to September’s workshop which will be all about dialogue and voice. “I cannae wait!”

Scotsman Poem of the Week

Delighted to discover my poem “The Toadstone Amulet,” was chosen as Poem of the Week in the Scotsman on 20th May. I wrote this poem in response to the Scott’s Treasures Project when I researched the fascinating artefacts on view at Abbotsford House, the former home of Sir Walter Scott. The toadstone amulet immediately caught my attention – the stone was thought to grow inside a toad and was believed to protect infants from evil spirits and from being kidnapped by fairies.

The poem is also included in “I’m Coming with You,” the new anthology from Scottish PEN in celebration of their ninetieth year of supporting and defending the rights of writers world-wide. Copies of the anthology can be seen and purchased here.

Writer in Residence Post

Since January 2017 I have been working as Writer in Residence for RSPB Scotland Loch Leven to help celebrate the reserve’s 50th anniversary. I’m watching the seasons change at the reserve and writing a weekly blog of my sightings and experiences which you can read under Recent Sightings here.

I’m also running a number of workshops, the next one of which will be on Sunday, 19th November 2017 from 10 am to 2pm. Come and celebrate the wonders of wildlife in words at one of Scotland’s most beautiful nature reserves. We will take a tour of RSPB Loch Leven, then return indoors to capture our images in words. Open to all levels of experience. For further information and to book phone 01577 862355 or visit the reserve’s web-page here.

Hope to see you there!