What does a Reader in Residence actually do?

Examples from the Halloween themed writing and illustration competition
Category: Reading

I can't believe it has been six months since I took up the Reader in Residence post here in Lochaber. Where has the time gone?

Actually, that's a question I find myself asking pretty much every week. When I first applied for the post alongside my local library we had grand ambitions to revolutionise reading in the area and usher in a glorious new dawn of literacy.

Turns out that's more difficult than we thought. Or more time-consuming, anyway.

 

Best Laid Plans...

One of our first projects was a Halloween themed writing and illustration competition for local school children, which we thought would be a nice and easy way of breaking into the residency. Until, that is, almost 200 stories arrived at the library front desk, with almost as many illustrations (check out the examples pictured above!).

Suddenly the whole week was swallowed up reading and assessing and comparing notes on all the entries in an attempt to find a winner, so when Book Week Scotland came along just a week or so later, we were already chasing our tails. We were still able to dish out hundreds of free books to celebrate the week, though, and to hold a combined Big Book Bash and launch party for ReadLochaber.com, our online hub for the whole residency.

In the months since then I've been trying to strike a balance between lots of smaller projects and one big project which I'll tell you more about in a minute.

 

What does a Reader in Residence actually do?

On the smaller project front, I've been working my way through every primary school in the area, dropping into run workshops, hold author talks and get them talking about books and stories they love. Some of their work has been on display in Fort William Library, and the kids have enjoyed bringing their parents in to see it all.

I've been working my way through every primary school in the area, dropping into run workshops, hold author talks and get them talking about books and stories they love

I've been lucky enough to secure a regular slot in a local magazine that is distributed free every month to the entire area, and we've given that over to schools to let them share and review the books they've been reading, both in class and at home.

Back in early February I decided to run a "Writer's Clinic" for local writers who are either having difficulties with their current work in progress, or are looking to take their writing to the next level, whether that be on an amateur or professional basis. I had no idea who – if anyone – might turn up, so was delighted when the first two sessions were completely booked up by enthusiastic local scribes.

Following conversations with some of the visitors to the clinic, I put together a self-publishing workshop showing people how to get their work out into the world without having to spend a single penny. Once again I was over the moon with the turnout, and the workshop has now spun off into a series of workshops which I'm frantically researching and putting together.

 

The Big One

As for that larger project, we're only going and setting up our own book festival! The ReadLochaber festival will be taking place on 27 and 28 June, and the programme will be announced shortly. It's all a bit frantic, really, but then that's the word I'd use to describe the whole residency to date.

We're only going and setting up our own book festival!

There's never enough time to get everything done, and I always feel there are a hundred and one other things I could be doing – but those things I do manage to get done are rewarding enough to make up for the things I can't.

Looking ahead we've got a lot to squeeze into the final few months. Along with the festival we're looking to restart the local high school debating scene, launch a short film competition in the primary schools and nurture a self-sustaining writing group that can continue long after the residency ends.

No pressure, then.

Read more Readers in Residence blogs

Check out Barry's Book List: 7 Books to Put You Off Animals for Life

Barry Hutchison

Barry is one of Scottish Book Trust's Readers in Residence, based in Lochaber in the Highlands. He is an award-winning Scottish author, and won the 2013 Scottish Children's Book Award for Older Readers for his book The 13th Horseman.

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