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New Writer 2019: Ross McCleary


Ross McCleary lives in Edinburgh and has a degree in investigative journalism. He has had work published in a number of places in print and online including 404 Ink, Litro, and Structo. In 2016, Maudlin House Press published ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Viable Alternative to Death’, a short story about an Artist pushing himself to the brink in the name of his art. He has performed randomised extracts of this, printed live on stage, at Anatomy and Flint & Pitch. In 2013, he read as part of Storyshop at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Ross also helps run Inky Fingers, a monthly spoken word open mic night, and does Poetry Shows with Andrew Blair under the name Poetry AF. Their shows and work, including one inspired by late 90s Ferrero Rocher adverts, have been nominated for a number of Saboteur Awards. In March 2018 he spent a month in Finland at Arteles Creative Center as part of a residency programme.

Writing Sample

She didn’t know what she was looking for but she kept coming back. She didn’t expect to find a button from his coat or a bloody rag or one of his earphone buds, she wasn’t so literal in anticipating him, but she was certain the objective possibility of his presence was hidden there. She stood with her back against a wall and stared at the weeds which blossomed at the edge of the curb. She understood their struggle. The weeds toiled, but they survived. Theirs was a rebellion built on tenacity. It was something she knew well. That battle, to be cast as other, to be looked at as a danger, as a threat, something to be rooted out and disposed of, but to survive nevertheless.

The weeds couldn’t recreate what the air was like the night Diego disappeared, or the way the streetlights reflected off his skin as he transcended into non-existence, but she was sure the echo of his footsteps stilled shimmered and ached in the surrounding air, it silhouetted the weeds as it pushed its way around them. With enough patience and precision and time the echo might return, might be heard.

She lingered long after it went dark, after the streetlights came on, kept company by the thrashing wind and the timbre of dogs playing in the distance. One night, two weeks after he vanished, she stood at the end of the road and watched as the darkness made a sharp-edged parody of the daytime. At 9pm, the nearest streetlight to her went off. She turned to look at it.

It came back on for a whole second

then went off.

On for a half-second

then off.

On for a half-second

then off.

Ross says:

"I still can’t believe it. It’s an incredible honour and a real confidence boost. I’m looking forward to an amazing year and getting stuck into my novel with renewed energy.”