Tips on Applying for the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship

Stuart Paterson
Category: Writing

In 2014 Stuart was a Robert Louis Stevenson fellow. He spent a month out in France, getting to know the area, writing and exploring. He's got a few great tips for those who are thinking of applying for the programme. 


Obviously. But in order to apply, you have to know about it. You have to know where to look. Sign up for Scottish Book Trust's newsletter, bookmark the Scottish Book Trust's Writing Opportunities page, explore the ‘Writing’ section. There, you’ll find advertised various opportunities, some of them writing retreats/fellowships. Read the guidelines to see if you qualify. You must have a firm belief in your work and the need for time and space to develop whatever projects you have on the go. I submitted a large body of poetry I’d produced stravaiging Scotland and Galloway, but you might be in the middle of a novel or a screenplay. Let your application show how much your work and this opportunity means to you and go for it.

Have a firm belief in your work and the need for time and space to develop it


You’re there to write, to develop your work. But make the most of when and where you are, because you’ll probably never be there again. I walked around the local villages and woods, lakes and parks. I popped into bars and the odd jazz gig. I sat with the other residents, drinking wine and marvelling at the brief and pleasing intersections of lives brought together by art, writing and humanity. At night I went upstairs, opened the window, listened to the night and got lost in what it meant to really be there...priceless.
(But don’t forget to check public transport, where the shops are and what you need to take! I was hanging out for a tattie masher the whole time.)


You will, whether because of your disciplined routine geared to a definitive outcome, or as a direct result of where you are, or both. I was in France, staying in the old village hotel where RLS visited and subsequently met his wife, and where Strindberg, Delius, Larsson, the Glasgow Boys lived and worked. Because of the associations with Stevenson, I found myself, unexpectedly, thinking and writing about him during much of my time there. Neither had I expected to write poems about Techni-Quarks or the island of Vatersay. But these weren’t distractions, they were added bonuses. It’s all mist for the grill.

 Consider how it feels when someone values and appreciates your work and what that means to you


If you receive an award, you shouldn’t just treat it as a one-off break or busman’s holiday. You worked hard for it, enjoy it, you and your work will benefit immensely from it. Consider how it feels when someone values and appreciates your work and what that means to you. Consider how it brings you closer to your writing, a feeling so easily lost in the everyday distractions of the meanwhile. Consider who you will meet, where you will go, what you will feel. It’s not that important that the specifics find their way into your writing itself, but it’s vital that the experience leaves you feeling closer to what you can achieve than you’d felt before. I know it will.


Read some of the work Stuart created while on retreat and learn more about the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship.

Stuart A Paterson

Stuart A Paterson was born in 1966 and brought up in Ayrshire. He received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors in 1992 and a Scottish Arts Council Writer’s Bursary in 1993. He founded and edited the international poetry and prose review, Spectrum, from 1989 to 1996. Stuart’s first collection, Saving Graces, was published by Diehard (Poetry Scotland) in 1997. His work has also appeared in many anthologies, including Dream State: The New Scottish Poets (Polygon), A Year In Poetry (Random House), Scottish Literature in the Twentieth Century (Scottish Cultural Press) and The Forward Book of Poetry (Sinclair-Stevenson). He moved back to Galloway in 2012 and spent 10 months roaming the hinterlands of Scotland, where he began writing poetry again, and re-discovering a love for it and what it inspires. "Border Lines", a collection of new poems about Galloway which Stuart finished and compiled while in Grez-sur-Loing, was published, with a foreword by Tessa Ransford, in 2015.