Stonehaven Creative Writing Workshop

It was a warm summer evening and Stonehaven Scrievars, a local writing group of some five years standing was assembling for its Thursday meeting. “Why don’t we try to get a writer to come to speak to our group?” asked one of the group as she arrived. Why not? I thought, and then spent several weeks putting off what I expected would be arduous and time consuming.

My fears proved groundless. Once I had overcome my initial inertia and contacted Clare Rodgers at Live Literature Funding, everything became easy. She explained the process of bidding with a clarity that annulled my habitual fear of online form-filling. I found the Author Search wonderfully helpful in allowing us to tailor a full day’s writing workshop with input by two writers. One, Wayne Price the poet and short story writer, was asked to deliver a morning workshop on poetry writing and the other, Fiona Thackeray the short story writer/novelist, to do the same in the afternoon on prose fiction.

The audience for this consisted of two writing groups which I run: one, based in Stonehaven, which arose out of Adult Literacies and the second, based in Inverbervie, which grew out of an association with Pillar Kincardine (a charity dealing with issues of mental health). Both groups are open to any would-be writer. Each includes either non-native speakers of English or those with various forms of physical disability and mental health issues as well as other members of the community who are simply interested in exploring their creativity. The mixture is important: the groups are not ghettos for those with issues. Our primary concern is the development of our writing skills; inclusion is an intentional by-product. The age range is from 15 to early 80s. Three of our writers have published material themselves, the remainder are en route. In addition to this, we decided to invite Advanced Higher English students from Maclie Academy to participate in order that this might inform their creative writing folio work for examination.

It was a cold dreich Sunday early in March when I looked out my bedroom window to find to my horror that it was snowing heavily. Would the day have to be cancelled? One writer was travelling from Perthshire and many others lived up windy country roads. Thankfully, the resilience and commitment of all involved meant that only one person was unable to attend because of the weather. Both writers gave more than could reasonably have been expected of them and there was a fine balance to the day between Wayne Price delivering a session designed to encourage serious thinking about the process of writing poetry and Fiona Thackeray providing a stimulating series of prose writing exercises. We provided our own food and as Chaucer said, “It snowed meat and drink.”

Everyone filled in an evaluation form at the end and I’ll let these speak for themselves.

“Inspirational and invaluable.”

“Fun and informative.”

“Helpful and enlightening.”

“Great format and organization, really glad I got to come.”

“Going home with lots of ideas.”

“Excellent atmosphere.”

“Both presenters were engaging and willing to share their knowledge in a clear and concise way.”

“Lots of helpful tips about how to get ideas flowing which was very useful. Will definitely help with my Advanced Higher folio.” (S6 Mackie pupil.)

Of the 31 who attended all were positive in their comments and the most common was “When are we doing it again?”

I’ll leave the last word to writer Fiona Thackeray:

“What an incredible focus and energy this group has. And how wonderful to see such varied writers coming together in such a vibrant atmosphere where clearly everyone felt comfortable, inspired and able to contribute. Everyone was generous in their contributions and noone seemed to dominate. A pleasure to be a part of it.”

Finally, would I do it again? Just try and stop me.

Alistair Lawrie

Alistair Lawrie is the Adult Education Coordinator at Stonehaven Community Centre and teaches two Creative Writing classes.