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!

Pink-Footed Geese & Fungi

An atmospheric day for the third Wildlife Writing Workshop at RSPB Loch Leven with mist and bursts of sunshine in abundance. There were nine of us in total, each trying to capture the sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and feel of Loch Leven. Some sighted, for the very first time, the white-tailed eagle – even if the bird only hunkered in the top of a tree on St. Serf’s Island for much of the afternoon – just the dark brown wedge of a shape, but an enormous shape at that!

We were treated to Pintail ducks dipping for food – their tails poking high out of the water; to heron flying close past the hide; to goldfinch alighting on the feeders in a glory of colour. But the biggest treat of all was the skein of pink-footed geese which came in. We heard them first – both their honking call and the beating of their wings before the sky burst open with light and they descended to the shimmering water.

As Thoreau says in his book “Walden,” (see here) “We need the tonic of wildness, – to wade sometimes in the marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. … We can never have enough of Nature.”

We certainly followed Thoreau’s example, searching out sensory experiences of nature, including smells! Which led me to these beautiful mushrooms:

Funghi at Loch LevenFunghi at Loch Leven

If anyone knows their names please let me know. I wonder if the first is a variant of the Golden Oyster mushroom?

The next Wildlife Writing Workshop is scheduled for March 2017. Drop me a line if you would like to come along!

RSPB Wildlife Writing Workshop

Looking forward to running my third Wildlife Writing Workshop for the RSPB on 20th November 2016 at Vane Farm, RSPB Reserve, Loch Leven

Participants are invited to come with paper and pen and a readiness to be inspired by the birdlife, wildlife and landscape of the Loch Leven reserve.

The plan is to spend the first part of the morning writing in response to a range of creative exercises, then take a tour of the reserve to finally return indoors to capture our images in words.

Last year’s sightings included red squirrels, gold-crest, kingfishers, mallard, golden-eye, swans and geese, to name but a few!

It should be fun. Why not come along!

Details are: November 20th, 10am – 2pm, Cost £10.00 members/£15.00 non members. Booking essential. Open to all levels of experience. Tea/coffee provided.

For further information Go Here

Scottish PENnings

I’m delighted to have been published in the last three issues of Scottish PENnings, the biannual online magazine produced by Scottish PEN. Themes for the last three issues have included Peril, Celebration, and Power and you can read each issue here:

Scottish PEN is an organisation well worth supporting as it defends the freedom of writers and readers across the world. You can visit their web-site here.

2015 Review

2015 was an enjoyable year with publication in two new online magazines (Zoomorphic Magazine and Scottish PENnings) and two new anthologies. Other things I got up to included readings at the Borders Book Festival, the Stowe Music Festival and Abbotsford House; new workshops for the RSPB Loch Leven; setting up a Twitter account and completing one third of my novel idea for young adults. I now just have to write the rest!

Here are the links to my poems published in the following magazines and to my Twitter account:

Zoomorphic Magazine Issue 2 (about a short-eared owl): Go here

Scottish PENnings Celebration (Oct 2015) & Scottish PENnings Power (April 2015) issues: Go here

Twitter account: Go here

Hope you enjoy reading my work!