On Valentine’s Day the Scottish Writers’ Centre are hosting a Valentine’s themed speakeasy titled ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’ hosted by the brilliant Jim Ferguson! Ahead of tomorrow’s event we’ve decided to dedicate today’s blog post to some of our volunteers’ favourite literary love stories: happy, sad and everything in between.
Since Janet Paisley began on her typewriter in the 70s, she has been published as a novelist, playwright, poet and screenwriter. Blessed with that desirable ability to write in all and every form, she has delivered award winning writings across numerous mediums, earning her status not only as a hugely popular Scottish writer, but a worldwide one also. She joined us on 6th December 2016 to share her writing process, why she writes and just how she’s made herself such a success over the years.
Historical fiction is my favourite genre of literature. Although there’s a tendency to think of historical fiction as over-exaggerated, wildly inaccurate bodice-rippers – read a Philippa Gregory book and you’ll know what I mean – in reality, there’s so much more to the genre. Historical fiction comprises any book set in the past – which technically includes beloved classics like George Eliot’s Middlemarch and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, showing just how rich and diverse the historical tradition can be. We’re so excited by tomorrow’s event Writing Historical Fiction with Catherine Hokin that we’ve decided to dedicate a whole blog post to our favourite historical fiction. Catherine, who is herself a talented historical writer, will be sharing loads of informative and fascinating tips about writing historical fiction – everything from conducting research to the balance between fact and storytelling – and we hope that this post inspires you to come along and learn more about the riveting genre for yourself! So, without further ado, here are some of SWC’s top picks of historical fiction…
Posted in Feature, SWC's Favourite | Tags: Birdsong, Bring up the Bodies, Brooklyn, Colm Toibin, Costa First Novel Award, fiction, First World War, Francis Spufford, Golden Hill, Hilary Mantel, historical fiction, history, Kazuo Ishiguro, Man Booker Prize, Rachel Walker, Scottish Writers' Centre, Sebastian Faulks, The Remains of the Day, Tudor, Wolf Hall, writers, writing
With thirteen books under her belt and as a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Saint Andrews, there was no doubt that Lesley Glaister would pull in a crowd eager to hear all about her writing process at our Scottish Writers’ Centre Masterclass. Despite the chilly wind and the first snow of the season, the turnout was great as Lesley shared her experience with ‘the muddle that writing a novel can be’. Since her first publication in 1990, she has been working on mastering her craft and says that whilst there may be rules to writing, few people seem to know what they are and insists they are there to be broken anyway. As she tells how her latest novel Little Egypt came about, Lesley is open in sharing the peaks and troughs that authorship can bring, and her words come as a reassuring encouragement to persist and never give up hope on a good idea.
To wander along to the University of Glasgow’s chapel on a Monday afternoon is to be greeted with more than the usual stained glass and soaring nave: you will instead find a crowd of students, lecturers and general visitors, all gathered together to listen to a literary conversation about craft, inspiration and whatever else takes their fancy.
For our first November event, Scottish PEN in partnership with the SWC observed the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos as part of their ‘To Absent Friends’ series. Hosted by PEN’s very own Jean Rafferty, local writers including Robin Lloyd Jones, L. A. Traynor, A. C. Clarke, and the host herself came together to honour and celebrate the bravery of writers and journalists, both living and dead, who challenge the status quo of brutality and corruption in the modern Mexican political and judicial systems. During the evening, each speaker read from Sorrows of Mexico, a new collection of essays written by eminent Mexican journalists – including Diego Enrique Osorno, Juan Villoro, Anabel Hernández, and Marcela Turati – to reflect on the instability between justice and oppression that exists in the country.
… A thank you from all of the team!
From everyone at the Scottish Writers’ Centre we want to wish you a happy holiday season. It is thanks to all of you that we continue to grow and expand as an organisation, from interacting with us on Facebook, reading our blog posts here, and attending our events. In the new year we’ll be starting back up on January the 17th with out first event of the year, so we hope to see you all then!
All the best for 2017!
Scottish Writers’ Centre
…Eleven of our favourite tweets of 2016
I was delighted to join the SWC in October of this year, as the Public Relations and Media Officer. During this period we’ve all enjoyed seeing our twitter presence grow from strength to strength. As a team, we love nothing more than interacting with our online audience, letting you know who we are and what we do, as well as hearing and sharing some of the most exciting current news and events in the literary world. In this spirit, I’d like to leave you with a wee round up of my Twitter highlights as chosen from my time on board;
I’m sure we can all agree that a defining moment for Scotland’s literary scene this year was Graeme Macrae Burnet’s outstanding success in reaching the Man Booker 2016 shortlist with His Bloody Project.
We were very sad to learn of the death of the great Leonard Cohen last month. Whilst many fitting tributes were paid to his incomparable talents as a writer of poetry and lyrics, this has to be my favourite choice of words.
As a student of literature, I found Madeleine Bunting’s October article for The Guardian absolutely fascinating. It provided a wonderful insight into how the magic and mystique offered by the remote and the unknown is represented in our greatest literature, and reminds us that the influence of the islands and their people on our canon should never be overlooked or forgotten.
Glasgow holds a very special place in all of the team’s hearts. Not only are the SWC offices located on iconic Sauchiehall Street, it’s a city where most of us have either hailed from, or made ourselves a new home. We enjoyed some spectacular skies over the autumn months, this is my favourite photo taken one October afternoon; a rainbow arches over quintessentially Glaswegian tenement flats.
Amongst the retail frenzy of Black Friday, Oxfam Books Muswell Hill offered a wee reminder that bargain treasures can be found in their stores on any old day. We are big supporters of rehoming preloved books and giving a little something back in the process.
Being taken on as part of the team at the Scottish Writers’ Centre has been one of my personal highlights of 2016, so I love this picture of us working together to pull off yet another fabulous event.
The prospect of funding cuts and library closures have brought sorrow to the creative industries this year. Penguin shared Ray Bradbury’s thought provoking words, which so accurately convey the massive cultural loss we all face.
We want to order one of these for our next staff meeting!!! I think we could probably get used to English lessons at Peebles High School, we were blown away by this photo of a cake inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
In what has been a turbulent year to say the least, Salman Rushdie’s words have served as a poignant reminder of the power that literature can wield.
2016 has been an amazing programme of events for us. Linda Jackson’s Speakeasy at the end of last month hit capacity almost immediately. We feel so lucky to be able to welcome so many brilliant speakers and performers; here is self-proclaimed ‘Slam Winning Granny’ Finola Scott sharing some of her work (and wisdom) with us.
It was our honour to be involved in the judging process for Poppy Scotland’s ‘Letters Home’ national writing competition. All the entries from children up and down the country displayed tremendous energy and talent, and we were very proud of them all.
Words by Lucy Houghton.
… Our ten favourite comics of 2016
The Wicked + The Divine, Keiron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
The Wicked + The Divine is a great comic for people just getting into the genre, who aren’t looking for the full superheroic experience. The comic, set in a world where the Gods return to earth every 90 years as some form of celebrity, mixes classical mythology with the modern day, and explores the relationship between the Gods (as world famous musicians) and their fans. Even if you aren’t ready to invest in the comics completely, the special issue entitled The Wicked + The Divine 1831, takes the premise and shows us a previous pantheon, who are all eerily similar to some of the most well known writers of the time.
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Shawna Benson, Julie Benson, and Claire Roe
I could try and convince you to read this comic because of the fantastic art and writing. I could try and tell you how amazing Batgirl, Black Canary, and the Huntress are. Instead I will tell you one thing and hope you realise how quickly you should run out and buy this. They make a Golden Girls joke. If that doesn’t convince you to throw your money at these creators, nothing will.
Lucifer, Holly Black and Lee Garbett
Black and Garbett’s Lucifer may be a continuation of the character’s story from where the last volume, but they manage to make the character completely their own. While there is some background reading required to understand some of the situations that appear in the comic, it is very accessible for new readers. Even if you think you know the devil, this will teach you something new about everyone’s favourite fallen angel.
All-New Wolverine, Tom Taylor and David Lopez
Everyone and their mother knows Marvel Comics Wolverine, even if they haven’t read a comic before, but this isn’t the Hugh Jackman Wolverine of the movie franchise. The old Wolverine is dead and buried (well, encased in Adamantium), and his replacement is Laura Kinney, his female clone, and frankly she makes a much better superhero than her predecessor. New readers will be able to get into the story easily, while those with some background knowledge will appreciate the fresh take on the character. Plus, there is an actual wolverine sidekick called Jonathan, obviously.
Faith, Jody Houser and Pere Perez
Faith made a big splash when the comic first came around; the first plus sized female superhero in… well ever. But the character is so much more than that, and the series explores what it’s like to not only be a woman, not only be plus sized, but what it’s like when a comic book geek gets the chance to actually become one of the people she has always read about and admired. And with the special appearance of Hilary Clinton in issue #05, she reminds all of us that we can achieve whatever we want, as long as we remember to fight for it.
X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever, Max Bemis and Michael Walsh
Taking part in the larger X-Men universe, but disconnected from it, Worst X-Man Ever tells the story of the newest team member Bailey. Everyone has had that daydream about what superpower they would love to have, but this addresses the question “what happens when your power sucks?”. You don’t need to know anything about the vast history of X-Men to understand this comic, so anyone could enjoy it. Give it a chance and think to yourself, at least you’re not Bailey. Although I’m sure you’ll find a couple of times that you wish you were.
Clean Room, Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt
Clean Room explores the world of cult religion, and it will give you nightmares. Simone, most known for her time writing Batgirl and Wonder Woman, has one of the most twisted imaginations in comics. The series will terrify you, make you question your sanity, and have you checking under your bed every night, but trust me, you’ll keep reading.
Plagued, Gary Chudleigh and Tanya Roberts
Written by Glaswegian writer Gary Chudleigh, Plagued is set in a post-apocalyptic Glasgow and full of witches and witch-hunters. The comic itself is great for all ages, so can be enjoyed by kids and parents a like, and once you start reading you’ll appreciate all the little nuances it offers. You’ll get glimpses of a Glasgow you might know, and meet characters you can’t wait to read about again and again.
Red Thorn, David Baillie and Meghan Hetrick
Another comic set in Glasgow, although this time in the modern day, Red Thorn takes a contemporary setting and fills it will old and new mythology to explore Scotland’s past. There is nothing better than being able to see a city you love through someone else’s eyes, and the Glasgow shown here is one of wonder and as well as a dark path. Red Thorn is well worth the read, even if it is just to admire the scenery.
Inhumans vs. X-Men, Charles Soule, Jeff Lemire, and Leinil Francis Yu
Okay, hear me out. In all of the previous comics mentioned here I’ve tried to find ones that are accessible to everyone, maybe with a little background reading required. Inhumans vs. X-Men is not like that at all. You’ll need to take a deep dive into Marvel Comics from the last few years to really appreciate the beauty of this book, but once you do… you’ll never want it to end. I may be biased, one of my favourite characters is front and centre in this event, but it is amazing. Read it, even just to give me someone to talk to about it. Alternatively, just come to one of our events in 2017 and ask me about it, and I will never shut up.
Words by Andrew Smith.