Since 1997 I have led and conducted hundreds of writing workshops all over Scotland, from Shetland in the north to Kirkcudbright in the south, and even on the deck of a reconditioned trawler sailing the inner Hebrides as part of the SpeyGrian project in summer 2003.
I have worked with all ages between 8 and 85. The content of my workshops is open to discussion with the organisers beforehand, though I like varying the approach, often using my own photography, whether as A3 images or as projected slides, and playing harmonica to demonstrate aspects of rhythm. Sometimes, in particular with primary schools, I do a series of anecdotal tailored workshops combining my knowledge of natural history with creative writing. The Lawthorn pamphlet (see Publications page) was the result of such a series. More recently, with Neil Thomson, I have extended this idea to song-writing, with poems written by children put to music in the classroom, sung by Neil, and performed by us both on bouzouki and harmonica.
In May 2003 and 2004 with the novelist for young people Catherine MacPhail I tutored winners of the Pushkin Prizes in Scotland, a creative writing award for teenagers, organised by Lindsey Fraser and Kathryn Ross. As part of their prize the winners have a week's creative writing at Moniack Mhor writing centre in Inverness-shire. In May 2005 and 2006 my co-tutor for the Pushkin week was Diana Hendry.
Recent projects have included a series of poetry workshops for the Scottish Poetry Library in two primary schools in Pollokshields, in association with the Tramway's Hidden Gardens. Most of the pupils were of Asian or African backgrounds. We walked the Gardens and wrote poems out of the experiences. The willow warblers had just arrived, having flown some 8000 kilometres in about three weeks from Africa, and their frail lilting song was everywhere around the Gardens. When I pointed this out to the children, one of the boys asked, "So are they African, or Scottish?" "Both," I said.
Because I have a wide range of writing experience, not just as a poet but as a professional freelance — I produced over a dozen articles for Reader's Digest in my mid-twenties — and as an editor, I'm also in a position to talk about the more practical aspects of life as a writer.
I am available to read my own work, or as a workshop leader, through the Live Literature Scotland scheme. I can also negotiate other arrangements.
Click on the thumbnail images below to see the photos at full size.