Nick Thorpe is an award-winning Edinburgh-based writer and journalist. His first book, Eight Men and a Duck recounted his 2500-mile raft voyage to Easter Island, while Adrift in Caledonia (2006), his best-selling boat-hitching travelogue, was serialised on Radio 4. Most recently, in Urban Worrier (2011), he tackles the growing phenomenon of stress in the modern world, and experiments with some unorthodox ways of letting go and slowing down. A book festival regular, he’s an engaging and humorous speaker.
About writer's work
I have wanted to be a writer ever since I was a child, reading adventures by Arthur Ransome, Robert Westall and Enid Blyton at primary school. I particularly love the theme of voyages, both inner and outer - the way that people and places change and enlarge us, the way that we stretch ourselves when we look at the world from another’s point of view. My first book, Eight Men and a Duck, recounts my 2500-mile Pacific voyage to Easter Island aboard a slowly-sinking boat made from bundled reeds – a copy of a pre-Inca craft. Then in 2003, having lived in Scotland for exactly ten years, I set myself a new challenge: to circumnavigate this sea-fringed nation using canals and coastal routes and the generosity of my fellow humans. I started by hitching a ride outside my Edinburgh home, on the Union Canal in a little white boat with a man and a dog called Kaos. 2500 miles later, the result was Adrift in Caledonia: Boat-Hitching for the Unenlightened, which became a Scottish bestseller. I’m inspired by the constant movement of water, whether river or sea or inland loch – the way it reminds us that we are still at the mercy of nature. But I’m also fascinated by humanity’s quest for inner meaning - from the Celtic monks who set off in skin boats with no idea where they would end up, to the pared-down ideas of Buddhism. Most recently I've taken a more direct approach to the search for inner contentment with Urban Worrier: Adventures in the Lost Art of Letting Go (2011), which takes a humorous but heartfelt approach to rising stress-levels in the modern world. I have worked for many years with young people, through youth clubs I’ve helped run and schools I have visited. In 2010 I worked for 8 weeks as artist in residence with three Wester Hailes primary schools to deliver a project called All About Boats, which covered creative writing, local history, drama (with Michael Richardson) and art/technology. I'm delighted to speak to either adult or school groups, but particularly love the way that young minds are still open and hungry to hear new perspectives. I’ve won the following awards: LATA Travel Writer of the Year 2002 (special commendation); Travel Story of the Year, Foreign Press Association Media Awards 2001; Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism 2001 (shortlisted); Travelex Travel Writing Awards 2000.
Current events and projects
Using slides, video and keepsakes from my travels, I tailor my sessions to the needs of the group involved, with the possibility of talks/readings about my voyages for up to 200 pupils (aged 9 upwards), or more intensive creative writing workshops for smaller groups. In keeping with the interdisciplinary ethos of the new Curriculum for Excellence, I can pull out various subject strands including literacy and English, expressive arts, social studies and even technology (how to build a reed boat!) as I did in the All About Boats project in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh (see above). A typical workshop might encourage students/pupils to recall their own travels while also learning to see familiar pathways – even the walk to school – as fertile material for creative writing. Meanwhile the story of the reed boat trip across the Pacific also shows how diverse cultures come together to form societies – just as Scotland grew from a rainbow mix of peoples. As a former staff writer and freelance journalist as well as a published author, I’m also more than happy to talk about the realities of writing as a career. A typical session lasts for about an hour (or up to two in the case of creative writing workshops). I’m flexible according to the individual needs of the audience – both in schools and beyond, having addressed everything from youth and community groups to sell-out theatre events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. The best sessions are always the ones with the most interaction, which I actively encourage. I am able to visit anywhere accessible from Edinburgh within a day, but would seek more than one event if possible or larger fee when distance requires a longer journey. In the Central Belt I am delighted to consider longer residencies or projects, by negotiation.
Associated media and resources