Kaite Welsh, Literature Officer, Creative Scotland
|Shane Strachan - creator of the Writers' Room|
For eight weeks over the summer, I enjoyed the privilege of being part of the inaugural Aberdeen Writers’ Room, a creative project both produced and delivered by talented northeast writer, Shane Strachan.
But this was no ordinary writers’ group - if such a thing exists - Shane’s vision was bold and different. He dreamt of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) for writers, where the Writers’ Room Project was only the start.
But what would we learn?
Having recently completed a PHD in Creative Writing, Shane attended a series of modules entitled Sustaining Life as a Creative, where he discovered himself to be the lone writer in the group.
So why weren’t other writers coming forward? Did they not consider themselves part of the creative industry? Did they even know such support exists?
Shane suspected not. But he also knew the skills and knowledge he’d gained from the Sustaining Life as a Creative sessions would be useful for other writers. He’d identified the need for structured support for emerging writers in and around the Aberdeen area.
So, with the backing of Aberdeen City Council, in his role as Creative Project Practitioner, he
Lofty ambitions but what did this mean in practice?
Well, as I’m normally alone with only my laptop for company, it felt a fairly intense experience, as we met weekly on Thursdays. Not in a bar or café, ahem - as writers are want to do - but in a large, quiet, bright, airy space that is part of Rosemount Community Centre – The Writers’ Room. Freshly brewed coffee was always ready on arrival and a stock of biscuits at hand - all conducive to creativity. Then it was down to business.
Here’s a taster of the topics covered:
- · Applying for funding as a writer – informative walk through of the application process by Kaite Welsh, Literature Officer, Creative Scotland
- · Giving and Receiving Critical Feedback – masterclass by poet and novelist, Dr Wayne Price, Senior Lecturer at Aberdeen university
- · Planning and Delivering Writing Workshops – attended by Amanda Matheson Aberdeen City Libraries
- · Creative Projects and Collaboration – where we met with artists from Gray’s School of Art
- · Performing your Work – training by professional actors, focusing on voice
In addition to weekly meet ups, we were also assigned a variety of useful tasks to complete, such as preparing our writers’ statements, trying out creative experiences around the city, actively looking for opportunities to use our practice.
In addition, Shane kept a strong focus on increasing our web presence - our website (mine’s still a WIP!), social media, blogging.
· Being professional (the do’s and don’ts - considering the dangers of over sharing…)
· Being consistent in both design and message across all platforms
· Keeping abreast of which platforms best reach our intended audience (eg YA fiction writers engaging on Instagram)
What else made The Writers’ Room different?
For me, as well as the content of the workshops, I gained so much from learning alongside other practitioners, who write in a variety of forms.
|Laura Lam, author of False Hearts|
Gavin Gilmour - has a background in filmmaking and works in the forms of screenwriting, playwriting and prose fiction.
Megan Primrose - has a MLitt in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow and a
postgraduate in General Journalism and enjoys writing middle school children’s
|Artist Dalia, discussing ideas with writers |
Megan Primrose & Emily Utter
Emily Utter –is a Canadian prose writer based in Scotland. She recently completed a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen, and is an Honorary Fellow of the WORD Centre for Creative Writing.
John Bolland - is a graduate of Glasgow University's M.Litt. programme, who writes novels, short fiction and poetry.
Rachelle McKimmon - is a recipient of a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award and has completed a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Aberdeen.
Avril Heffernan – has a background in Literature development; having worked as a Literature Officer for the North West of England at Arts Council England. She has an MA in Creative Writing and an MLitt in Irish and Scottish Studies, preferring to write short form fiction.
|Having fun at the Booked! Festival|
Part of the Edinburgh Festival
Outreach Programme of Events
We sound a rum lot but our knowledge of writing in various genres and forms only added interest to our learning.
Now our planned Writers’ Room sessions are almost over, where do we go from here?
With one final workshop to look forward to in November, we're busy working towards goals set in our Creative Action Plans. Whilst also preparing for a performance evening – further details coming soon… With a number of various projects in the pipeline.
Remember that dream of Kaite Welsh’s ‘to see the Writers’ Room model rolled out country-wide’?
Well I love to dream BIG and hope that one day CPD will be available to all writers who require a helping hand to further their practice. So if you’re invited to join a Writers’ Room, or set up one of your own, I’d love to know…