Saturday, June 29, 2013

I've spent quite a lot of time this year and last thinking of ways to bring more arts events into the east of the region, which seems to be poorly served in the general run of things. On the understanding that I probably had to do it myself,I started with a World Book Night in 2012 at the local hotel - hugely successful - I'd paired up with Carolyn Yates so we had two books to give away.
I had 'Rebecca' (Daphne du Maurier) and she had ' I Capture the Castle' 
(Dodie Smith) We had a 'meet the author' event in the Wild Science Festival with Sara Maitland, very well attended and a stimulating evening.

I'm an editor of 'Southlight' magazine and we were invited to take part in the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival, which included Big Lit day in Gatehouse of Fleet, an opportunity to launch number 13 at three 'Southlight Stage' events. So I persuaded my fellow editors and the organiser (Chrys Salt) that one of the events could happen here, again at the hotel. Result was very gratifying, the event ran overtime because there were thirteen volunteer readers from the floor (inexperience on my part - take note, 'two pieces' doesn't mean two short stories) but it was great to introduce visitors to the village and its shoreline.

So, feeling very expansive, I've applied successfully to create a writing project for the Environmental Festival here in September, which will produce a public reading and a small publication from two workshops in the month before, from observing the shore here, recording impressions, gathering small objects and then developing work through peer support. It seems to me that very many more people would write than do, if only there was an outlet and support for their work. It's very often the first pieces that hurt to get out the most - the Powfoot Writing Group that started here in 2010 is well past the stage of being tentative - they are about to publish a second book - Skylines - after the first one - Shorelines - sold its first 150 copies within a week. 

I'm hoping that a mixture of new writers and more experienced writers, some with specialist knowledge of the flora and fauna and geology of the area, will produce some new, informed, creative work for a small book. If you are interested in taking part get in touch with me, though there will be a brochure and website for the whole festival soon. My project is called 'Tidemark'.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Back again...

In my last post on this blog I said I was busy adapting one of the stories in my collection - White Poppies  -  for possible performance in the theatre after a series of development workshops with professional voice coach and director, Jacquie Crago. On Friday and Saturday just passed, four plays by D&G writers were performed to sell-out audiences at the Swallow Theatre, Whithorn, among them my piece - A Matter of Principle. Audience response was unanimously favourable  - Jacquie had drawn the very best out of writers and actors alike in a series of hard-working and challenging workshops to arrive at performances that were way beyond expectation. I learnt so much from sitting in on these workshops - Jacquie starts with complete respect for the text, suggesting shifts of emphasis, or the weighting of words, cuts even but only to arrive at a clearer text. With the actors she plied them with questions - who is this person, why is she saying that, how might she convey that feeling with a gesture. With such evident commitment she drew everyone into her search for the best expression
of these texts. It was a privilege to take part.

I learn that three scenes from the very first play I wrote - Lemon Drops - are included in a drama teaching resource just published by the International Centre for Women Playwrights in USA. It's called Scenes from a Diverse World and is available from Amazon (if you still shop there) This is good because play scripts are redundant unless they're in performance so I'm pleased that some drama students may be able to use my work.

This has been a year of drama work in one way or another - another of the stories in White Poppies has been the core of the dramatised readings of Red Rose - White Rose which have now had five performances, and another five in the planning, including Abbotsford House near Melrose on September 7th. This piece has a musical thread through it, of course - a reflection on the loss of James IV at Flodden by his wife and his mistress - the women's tale illustrated with music from the 16th century, played by Richard and me.

Red Rose -White Rose at Wigtown Spring Book Festival

Music has been hardly less exciting - at the end of May we were in York for three days with The Rose Consort of Viols, who were making a CD on Richard's viols - the experience of observing world class musicians and a world class sound engineer at work educational and instructive. Earlier we had collaborated with Alison Crum and Roy Marks (two Roses) on creating a slide presentation and paper to be given at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel,Switzerland on the making of early viols, at which A & R played some music to demonstrate the sound. Both projects required the borrowing of viols from their new owners, but they were most generous and pleased to help. The 'Scottish' Viol course at Netherurd House, near Peebles, was very pleasant too - this year R & I were invited to be part of a five part group for the evening concert - a prospect exciting and terrifying in equal proportions. But it went well enough for a couple of requests for the titles music we had played - a piece by Cipriano de Rore. 

The Rose Consort plus sound engineer, Adrian Hunter, at the Early Music Centre in York
getting the sound just perfect.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Supposed to be the quiet days...

This is usually the quiet time in our year but I'm up to my ears in preparations for the next performance of 'Red Rose - White Rose' during the Big Burns Supper weekend in Dumfries - 4.oo pm in the Hopkin Room, Theatre Royal on 26th January. Do come if you can - its first two performances were very well received, particularly in the atmospheric surroundings of Elshieshields Tower, Lochmaben. Also planning a summer tour with it of various Border locations ( 2013 is Flodden 500) to big historic houses and community halls. These are some of the instruments used in the performance :

Bass & tenor viols and bow, string drum, renaissance guiitar,
tenor, alto and soprano recorders,
bass, tenor and alto crumhorns.
Just finished a second re-draft of another story from 'White Poppies' - this time a three-character theatre piece for which I'm fortunate enough to have the attentions of Jacquie Crago. professional dramatist. This may make it to a performance at The Swallow Theatre this year - as with everything, it all depends on scarce funding. But, on February 16th I'll be part of a round-table discussion on this story - 'Three Minds' - at the Nottingham Festival of 
Words, which the publisher, Pewter Rose Press, will make available as a free download to interested parties. Other literary bits and pieces :  I have a two hour master-class with Louise Welsh soon as a reward for making the short list of a competition to write a prequel for 'Hansel & Gretel' for the National Library of Scotland - the poem I wrote for Laurence Jay (who played lute with us for over 20 years) is to be published in the 'Heart Shoots' anthology (Indigo Dreams Press : all profits to MacMillan Cancer) at Easter 2013. It's 15 months since he died and we miss him still every time we pick up an instrument. A childhood poem in the February issue of 'Riptide' - a poem or two amongst the Burns Windows display and in a pamphlet of last year's efforts in Dumfries. I won't go on - suffice to say these happenings are encouraging in the often isolated life of a writer....

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Wishing you all a creative 2013

Two happy souls - Louis and Axa

Axa came to us in 2008 - a scavenger cat, found heavily pregnant in a barn, taken into care by the Cats Protection folk, from where we took her once her 4 kittens (silver striped) were re-homed. Looking at the video of her arrival here when she got out of her carrier, took a look around and fled behind the filing cabinet for the first couple of hours, her current serenity makes a huge change in her demeanor.  If you picked her up in those early days she would brace her front legs against you to get as far away as possible though she never bit or scratched either of us. She was terrified of the rubbish lorry for a while but nowadays stays in the workshop when R is using noisy machinery without turning a hair. And she is a great companion, quite gregarious and interested in what we're doing - current favourite bedding place is on top of whatever I'm knitting.  
Now for 2013 --- at the moment I have a lovely blank sheet on my creative desk - one project, dramatising one of my 'White Poppies' stories for theatre performance in the making, but after that, whichever way I go will be up to me. We have several performances of 'Red Rose - White Rose' to do but the preparation for those is done and there's only the fine tweaking to do. for details of all performances. I hope all my creative friends are similarly excited by a new year starting....

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

.....back again

A thousand apologies - I last posted here in March 2012, with a vow to do so regularly from then on - well, I've not died, been ill, moved house or suffered any personal or professional disaster - in fact, I've had a very creative year which looks like carrying on into 2013 -full details on my website - - rather than here. Knowing I've had another book of short stories published, several writing friends send this questionnaire/profile to me, so I'm making that reason for posting today.

* What is the title of your new book?

'White Poppies - women amongst warriors.'
* Where did the idea for the book come from?

A congregation of family anecdote, personal interest in history, and personal involvement in the peace movement and left wing thinking - the common thread being the lack of women's voices in the telling of history, particularly around the subject of war. I chose to write short fiction pieces because of the disparity of subject matter and because it seemed most appropriate to the points I wanted to make.

* What genre does your book fall under?

Short fiction - women's fiction (though not of the dungarees and crew-cut variety- some of my best friends are men.....)  Two of the texts have been adapted for drama purposes - one, illustrated with 16th century music, a renaissance tale of the wife and mistress of James IV of Scotland just before the battle of Flodden in 1513. We have two successful performances under our belt - the next is part of the Big Burns Supper weekend in Dumfries on Saturday 26th January 2013 at 4.00 pm in the Hopkin Room, Theatre Royal.

and the other, three generations of one family with very different views on morality and duty meet head on, A theatre performance is planned in 2013. 
* What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Any of the unshowy excellent actors currently working in UK - I think of women like Olivia Colman and Kate Winslett

* Will your book be self published or published by an agency?

Publisher is Pewter Rose Press -
It was written with financial support from Creative Scotland
* How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

18 months but,of course, it's been in my head for about 40 years. The actual writing bit never takes me that long.

I will try from now on.....

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Getting started...

I love this time of year when it's all planning and beginning the year's projects - pepped up by bits of publication - new work in 'Abridged' from Ireland, work to come in 'The Eildon Tree' and 'Pushing Out the Boat' and 'The Waterhouse Review'. Drama and early music projects, readings and workshops all in the planning stage, including an invitation to read at this year's Edinburgh Fringe. Two manuscripts with publishers - fingers crossed - sometimes I feel that I'm not getting enough new work done but when I look back at the year, it's not so bad.  I'm a Giver  for World Book Night again - Monday 23rd April venue tbc - this year I've chosen 'Rebecca'  (Daphne du Maurier) to touch my Cornish roots.

World Book Night 2011

Some great music-making with visiting musicians in the last couple of months but how I long for some local musicians to discover early music and love it enough to want to meet regularly to play. R and I play every day that we're here but it would be great to extend that to include another early wind or string player, or two or three. Perhaps our needs are too specific to meet - players have to be able to read music, hold a part and love the repertoire - but on the other hand we could provide instruments and music and performing opportunties. Meanwhile we'll continue to invite musicians from Edinburgh, Durham, Glasgow, Sussex....

Friday, February 17, 2012

maybe not such a bad time after all...

I'm currently putting together Southlight 11 which has survived the collapse of dgArts, its funding organisation along with its excellent Literature Devlopment Officer,Carolyn Yates, who has helped us find a new funder, a Glasgow based arts charity with a particular interest in Dumfries and Galloway. We've had to search for a new printer too - fortunately we've been directed towards an excellent one based in Newton Stewart.  Although this is a very bad time for the arts financially there are good things happening - for example - the sheer number (136) of writers who sent work for the recent Windows for Burns project in Dumfries town centre and the celebrations surrounding it, Creative Places awards for Wigtown and Creetown. There are lots of festivals and arts venues planning their 2012 programmes and more and more writing groups forming. In Powfoot the writing group has formalised its operations and is working hard on a second publication, on life writing this time.
Crichton Writers have taken SPACE for their 2012 theme and this is producing all manner of creations. Fankle ( Dumfries Writers bi -monthly origami publication) flourishes too. Coming up, I have work in Split Screen, poems in response to adverts, a short story in Pushing Out the Boat, a poem in  A Thousand Cranes - Scottish Writers for Japan and a poem on Silence in Abridged (Eire).

Powfoot : silvery shore in low winter light