Wigtown Poetry Prize 2023

I was delighted that my poem “April Lambing” was shortlisted for the main Wigtown Poetry Prize this year, a prize worth £1,500. Sadly, the poem did not win but it was great to be chosen by this year’s judge Donald Murray Donald said the poem took him straight back to an event he had experienced as a young child alongside his uncle. It was great to get such feedback. You can read the prize-winning poems here.

Other recent poetry news. My poem “Dissecting the Past” was published in York Literary Review 2023. This year’s theme was Voices.

Poetry News

Delighted that my poem Sixteen was Highly Commended as part of the Mist and Mountain Gerard Rochford Poetry Prize. The theme was family and the highly commended poems, including mine, can be read here: https://mistandmountain.co.uk/commendations-poems/

Also delighted that my poem Tino Dog – a poem about my black Labrador dog Tino – was highly commended in the Lord Whisky Animal Sanctuary Poetry Competition. Fifty per cent of all entry fees are used for the care of animals at the sanctuary and you can read the results and judges’ comments here: https://irp.cdn-website.com/2fbdca3a/files/uploaded/RESULTS%20FOR%20WEBSITE.pdf

Me with my latest black Labrador – Elsie.

And finally, my poem about my love for Scotland called Nobody Told Me, was shortlisted for the Deidre Roberts poetry competition as part of A Write Highland Hoolie. It’s a poem I enjoy reading as part of the show Contrappuntistica, which is next coming to DunsPlayFest on Monday, 1st May, 2023 for which tickets are available here: https://www.tickettailor.com/events/dunsplayfest/881310

Iced Gems

Delighted to have a number of stories and flash fictions included in this anthology of stories, poems and reflections which includes writing from respected authors Margaret Skea, Oliver Eade and Kathleen Mansfield with beautiful illustrations from Lisa Ainslie. It’s a perfect read at any time!

Currently available on Amazon in Kindle format at a cost of just £1.99, it will shortly be published in paperback and hardback.

Hogg in the Limelight


My latest 10-minute script Knocking on Heaven’s Door was screened as part of this year’s DunsPlayFest, which ran online from 22nd to 29th May 2021. https://www.dunsplayfest.org.uk

My script was part of four bite-size film plays from Borders Pub Theatre, inspired by the work of James Hogg, the famous Borders poet and essayist, in celebration of his 250th anniversary in 2020. My play imagined a sequel to James Hogg’s book The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner with the main characters Gilmartin (Gilly) and Robert Wringhim arriving at heaven’s door only to be stopped in their tracks by St. Peter. Other plays included:

In the Fold by Campbell Hutcheson; 

I Hear His Voice by Robert Sproul-Cran;

Knocking on Heaven’s Door by Anita John;

James Hogg and the Corbie Craw by Roger Simian

Directed by Vivien Reid and performed, script-in-hand by Emily Larner, Matthew Burgess and David Bon. https://www.facebook.com/BordersPubTheatre/

Nature as Solace

Lockdown put an end to many of the plans I had lined up for 2020. Like everyone else I had to endure the cancellation of numerous projects: workshops, theatre events, tutoring … the list goes on and on and I won’t bore you with it here!

On the plus side, nature has became my daily solace. Human life has slowed down and wildlife has definitely taken advantage of that fact. There are more birds in our garden than ever before including greater spotted woodpeckers, reed buntings, red polls, wood pigeons and collar doves, all alongside our regular garden visitors. Simply looking out of our kitchen window helps take my mind off things and brings me temporary joy.

I’ve also been taking regular walks out onto our local moor and been lucky enough to catch frequent sightings of wild hare and deer, hear the skyarks, meadow pipits and curlew. And in the woods, at dusk, there are the cuckoos and tawny owls to be heard.

With the terrible storms in February and early March, then the awful coronavirus pandemic, and now the very real and rightful anger of Black Lives Matter, nature has helped me keep my sense of perspective. As I walk out into the landscape each day, the words of Van Morrison often come to mind and can, I think, be applied to the effect the natural world is having on me during these stressful times: “Come take away my sadness, come fill my heart with gladness.” Even if this is only for a short while.

I hope you too can find a green space in which nature will bring you some solace to help you through these difficult times.

Busy, Busy, Busy!

2019 proved to be one of those extremely busy years with so much going on that I didn’t even have time to update my blog!

Playscripts seemed to dominate the agenda & I had a fun time working with community actors and Odd Productions Theatre Company to produce my short play, “First Steps,” as part of “Unveiled Secrets.” Together with Oliver Eade’s plays, the theme of four plays, four women, four secrets proved a great success, touring to sell-out audiences at the Eastgate Theatre, Peebles; MacArts, Galashiels; Carlops Village Hall and the County Hotel, Selkirk.

For me, it was a great privilege to sit behind the scenes and see how a play comes together in terms of rehearsals, props, costumes, re-writes, lighting and sound. It was a great experience, including the time I was roped in to be responsible for the lighting, which I thoroughly enjoyed! Thanks to all those who made the project possible and a great success.

As a founding member of Borders Pub Theatre I also found myself writing 10 minute playscripts for events in the County Hotel, Selkirk and Cornucopia, Hawick on the themes of “In the Beginning,” and “Take Two.” Watch out for a James Hogg themed Borders Pub Theatre coming to Duns PlayFest during the week of 2nd to 9th May 2020! Two of my scripts were performed, script-in-hand at the inaugural Duns PlayFest in 2019 – a week-long event of plays and everything to do with theatre!

All in all 2019 was a fun year of writing scripts and working with actors and directors. It was, for me, also a steep learning curve about theatre and the way it works!

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.