I was born in Dundee in 1968, the son of an Irish jute spinner. My mum worked as a journalist and I used to help my gran make jam. I read mainly Doctor Who books when I was a bairn, collecting 68 of them in all and reading over and over the Doctor's adventures in time and space.
I've lived near Biggar in Clydesdale for about 12 years in the shadow of Culter Fell and beside the Coulter Water which is a tributary of the Clyde. A heron and a hoolet live in the trees outside our house and keep us company in the long Lanarkshire winters.
I always go for my holidays to the Czech Republic, a country in the middle of Europe full of old castles and beautiful towns and people with extraordinary tales to tell. Dundee and Prague are my two home towns where I get most of the ideas and inspiration I need to keep writing.
About writer's work
I like to write about a wide range of subjects and to switch between poetry and prose. I suppose the strongest theme in my writing is to make language exciting and fresh. I've written so far about floods, hurricanes, virtual polis, wee pigs, coos on loos, muckle monsters, Italian cafes, medieval merchants, pawkie provosts, upside doon puggies, crabbit grannies and a bing of the other stuff. Histories, translations, anthologies, education packs, radio scripts, short stories and poetry films are all things I've tried my hand at and have enjoyed doing.
Along with James Robertson and Karen Sutherland, our book Katie's Moose was voted by readers Best Book in the Early Years category of the Royal Mail Awards 2007. Again with James, our books King o the Midden and The Hoose o Haivers were short listed for Scottish Arts Council Awards. I am also a recipient of the McCash, Sloane and Lewis Edwards poetry prizes and was writer-in-residence at Brounsbank Cottage in Clydesdale and Greater Pollock in Glasgow.
I am the co-founder of Itchy Coo books and the Outreach Officer for this award-winning Scots Language project, run in partnership with B&W Publishing with SAC funding.
Current events and projects
Since becoming a full-time writer, I have visited over 500 schools and libraries. In Live Literature sessions, I aim to encourage young people and adults to explore the languages around about us. We discuss challenging and complicated ideas like Language, Accent and Dialect but always in a fun dynamic way. My hope is that all children in Scotland will learn about Scotland’s languages and be confident and literate in the rich expressive Scots Language.
In 2007, I had the chance to work with two very talented school groups who really impressed me with their language skills. The first was Miss Rose’s P7s at Stanley Primary in Ardrossan, North Ayrshire; the second was Mrs Winning’s P6 at Nethermains Primary in Denny, Falkirk. Both groups showed great ability in reading and writing in Scots. Their Scots Language work led to a marked improvement in the pupils’ confidence. Together we did lots of fun Scots activities, creating poems and songs which gave the classes the skills to read anything written in Scots, even difficult poems by Robert Burns and other writers. I am very proud of the achievements of those two classes.