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Writing Courses: Why?

Can creative writing can be taught? Are writers born or made? Does everyone have a book in them? As a tutor of a range of writing classes, most of the time I’m commenting on ideas, asking questions about a text, teasing out stories, refining style and hopefully guiding a writer through the process of getting something down on paper – until there work is the best it can be. It’s facilitating the ‘spark’ that comes from an individual’s imagination… In recent years, the number of writing courses available across the spectrum from complete beginners to the post-graduate and published, has ballooned. If you have the aspiration, time, and money (sometimes quite a lot of it) then you will find a course to suit you. The trick is to shop around – and around again, check out the testimonials and listen out for recommendations – and find one that you will learn...
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Novel Rejections

As if the world needs another analogy about writing a novel, I’ve got one anyway: it’s like driving the length of a country (continent?) in a car you love and are reasonably sure of but you’ve never taken it further than the nearest town before. You’ve got a map but it’s vague and whilst some of the people you meet en route wave you on, others turn you back suggesting a different road…

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Judge and Jury: Writing Competitions

I could develop quite a taste for touring the world and speaking at Book Festivals: books a-plenty, great company, beautiful locations… what’s not to like? Last weekend saw me heading to the west of Scotland, to Tarbert, to their 4th annual festival. It was a fabulous few days with authors like Janice Galloway and Chris Brookmyre topping the bill, ably matched by more local writers, and art and cultural enthusiasts. I won’t steal from the official website! Head over to for the lowdown.   What I’d like to spend a few minutes writing about is being in the privileged position of having judged the Tarbert Book Festival’s inaugural short story competition. I used to be slightly sceptical of judges’ feedback to writing competitions – you know, that line where they say something about ‘there being so many entries of such a high standard’? That’s well and truly changed now I’ve...
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How (Not) To Write

Leaves falling, shortening days, a nip in the air... it must be the autumn term again. When I'm not writing or editing, I'm teaching creative writing: on-line, in groups, with individuals, and whilst every group, every story is different there are always several questions about how to - or how not to - write. If only there was a clear answer!

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Fifteen Minutes of Fame

The Edinburgh International Book Festival finishes today. I left the Spiegeltent for the last time, feeling totally inspired and curiously bereft - StoryShop 2016 is over and I'm hanging up (somewhere very visible) my official author lanyard. Anyone who read last month's post will know that I was chosen by Edinburgh City of Literature as one of the 17 'emerging writers' to write and then read their short story over the duration of the festival (and if you want to read more about Story Shop in general, you can do so in a feature I wrote for Lothian Life: #storyshop - yes, I am milking it - indulge me!) Of course, it was an honour, but it's also been tremendous fun, and a fantastic way to meet other new authors - as well as mingling with famous ones in the hallowed portals of the author's yurt! Whilst I'm left with a real sense...
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