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New writer 2024: Sarah Whiteside

Fiction and Narrative Non-Fiction

Sarah Whiteside is a writer currently living in Edinburgh. Her work has appeared in Ambit, The Letters Page, Brittle Star, New Writing Scotland and Gutter Magazine. She holds an MLitt in Creative Writing from the University of St Andrews, as well as an MSc in Music Therapy from QMU.

In 2022 she was awarded an Open Fund grant from Creative Scotland that supported her to write a novel called Auditorium. This laid the foundation for an ongoing interest in writing on motherhood, music and neurodiversity, subjects she is currently exploring again through a series of personal essays.

Writing sample

Emma had woken that morning a blank, face crumpled in the hotel mirror, emerging from the chrysalis of sleep. It was summer, the middle of a heatwave. Even in Edinburgh people had their shirts off, drank lager and rosé at pavement tables, pale skin burning cancer red. The exhausted city hummed all night. Sleep was elusive. Her schedule had been crazy: too much travel, too many performances. Now she barely knew where she was. Or who. Her room looked unreal, like all the others. Some ancient part of her had refused to fly, got left behind. Emma Jack, the posters said: Conductor. At times like this it sounded so unlikely.

She showered, packed the scores and a box of sharpened pencils, water and snacks, and went out through the quiet lobby. Walking, coming back to herself, she remembered the day ahead. It was Monday again, first rehearsal with a new orchestra, except this one was not new. This was where she had started out and now they might want her back for good. It was what she had worked for, but she felt nothing. 

Despite the brightness of the morning, the café on the corner had its lights on. She went in, ordered, and took a seat by the window. On the far side of the road there was a cement lorry, its barrel turning. Men in work boots and hi-vis jackets filled their wheelbarrows and pushed them off somewhere stage right. A man stood, legs akimbo, pressing a button to turn the flow of cement on and off. Each time someone came with a wheelbarrow there was a comment, a joke. It was real work; that was how Emma saw it even now – useful, tangible, male – the kind of work her dad might have done, if he’d stayed around.

Sarah says:

'I was delighted and surprised to hear my work has been selected for a New Writers Award. I’m looking forward to meeting the other writers, as well as having time and space to develop my writing. I can’t wait to get started!'