The Scottish Book Trust and BBC Scotland are inviting folk to write about their favourite place in Scotland. When I first read about the project, I was immediately fired up to write something. I love my country so there are tons of places I could write about, and then I stalled.
I have happy memories dotted about all over Scotland- family days out to the shows at Burntisland, working and partying in Glasgow, playing in the woods across from my gran’s house, the list is endless. But having to choose just one favourite place was much more difficult. It would be like asking me to choose which one of my sons was my favourite. So when I saw the opportunity to sign up for a free writing workshop run by top writers like Bernard MacLaverty and Alan Bissett, it was a no-brainer, I jumped at the chance.
The workshop I attended was held at the East Kilbride Arts Centre and the tutor was one of my all-time favourite Scottish writers-Janice Galloway. I’ve heard Janice talk in her inimitable larger-than-life style at book festivals before so I knew what to expect. Up close and personal, she filled the meeting room with her presence, leaving myself and the eight other participants hanging on her every word.
Janice started by asking the question, “Why do we want to write about places?” The group’s answers included history/nostalgia, to admire/celebrate a place and to record visiting a place but basically all of the answers had a common theme- places are a crucial part of your life story, whether that be a negative or positive experience.
We then looked at examples of famous pieces of writing to analyse the art of writing about a place. We looked at which ones drew us in and examined how the writer achieved this effect. Janice had brought along a range of random postcards and images of places and she used these to prompt our reactions to the different places.
The final part of the session was to make a list of three places in Scotland that we’d actually been to and love- not whole cities but specific places like a café, a park etc. We then had to pick one of the places, picture it and make quick notes on,
Who is there? One or more people? Just you?
What/who is missing?
What thing impresses you most of all and why?
One sight, one sound, one touch, one taste, one smell.
What does it make you imagine/bring back/remember?
Unfortunately, with only one hour, the workshop was over all too soon but Janice encouraged us to go home and take 20 minutes to write about our favourite place. She also reminded us of the Ernest Hemmingway quote, “The first draft of anything is shit”, to avoid us getting too hung up about our initial attempt. We then had to read it again over the next few days and MAKE IT BETTER! This would mean cutting out non-essentials, adding clarity and making it vivid to appeal to the reader’s senses. But the most important thing was to use your own ‘voice’ so that the writing was not just about the place but how YOU see it in YOUR mind and in YOUR words.
I’ve tried to follow Janice’s advice and I’ve uploaded my piece on to the Scottish Book Trust website. My wee story is about my husband proposing to me and you can read, ‘Wallace’s Monument and My Very Own Braveheart’ here along with other folk’s submissions.
What’s your favourite place in Scotland? Once you’ve decided, get writing! You can book onto a ‘My favourite place writing workshop’ here if like me, you could do with some inspirational tips.
The closing date to submit your writing is 31st August .You can submit your story, poem, song, letter, diary entry or sketch here, so go on, what are you waiting for?