Hi, here you'll find information about myself, my novels, my approach to writing and details about my teaching and mentoring roles.
Time to start packing to leave Orkney. Swallows are gathering and flocks of geese flapping south and though there are no trees to turn here the light is autumnal, bright, gentle, rather lovely. Going about with paint pot and brush covering smudges, sorting out even numbers of crockery and cooking stuff and sheets and linen to leave for the two French students who will soon be moving in. My agent will be sending my novel out soon, and I am trying to let it go. In fact I think I have right now. My mind felt dead for a while, or my imagination rather, or perhaps more precisely the creative aspect of my imagination, the part is compelled to keep making things. I was hoping for some poems, but nothing more than a wisp of words has come to me. The story I had in mind shrivelled up and disappeared as soon as I shone a light on it. I couldn't bring myself to face the half-written novel I abandoned a couple of years ago. And I felt quite bereft, without a purpose. So I began an exercise that I've done many times in the past, and often give to students. I think it came originally from Dorothea Brande's amazing book 'Becoming a Writer' published in 1934, which was my touchstone and bible for many years, and I feel like going back to now. It's not about the craft of writing, but the inspiration behind it, something hard to write about without becoming twee and mystical. So, an exercise she recommends is to write non stop, no lifting the hand from the page, for twenty minutes a day and to make this a priority, make an unbreakable appointment with yourself to do just this. In fact this is a way of making an appointment with your unconscious (or subconscious, not sure of the difference). I started this and wrote drivel for a couple of days but gradually a story started to emerge,but then I made a mistake and leapt on the story, became self-conscious drew it from the stream of thoughts out into the light before it was ready, and it too shrivelled up. So I went back to the 20 mins for a few days and even when another story started I carried on in the same way, only writing for 20 mins - the discipline to stop is as important as the discipline to start - and I really do think I have something to work with now. And I feel refreshed too. And now it's time to clean the windows, get rid of the dead flies on the windowsills and the woodlice that have somehow got into the light fittings. The poem below, the title poem of my Mariscat pamphlet, has been selected, to my enormous honour and delight, as one of the Scottish Poetry Library's 20 Best Scottish poems of 2015. www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk
Visiting the Animal
I press my face against the glass and there he is: the recognition is complete my way at least. The padded luxury of his palms and soles, the sooty static of his fur, the lowering brow, that flat brown stare.
He's in my dreams but doesn't always wait for dreams: black speck in my periphery, hiss of fists through grass makes me wish for graze of leather lips.
He's shocking - the heft and burl of him. Captive, still he's wild. My heart beats in time with his. That wild would crush me. When I leave I carry him a tiny lope of black at each cell's rim.