At My Writing Desk – Babs Stevenson (21/10/2015)

A. C. Clarke writes: We are delighted to welcome to this slot Babs Stevenson, who lives in the Orkneys. Babs writes:

‘Hi, I’m Babs and I’m a writer living in Orkney. There is something inspirational about the islands, never far from the sea, clear skies and surrounded by thousands of years of history. I feel I’m on a permanent writing retreat. At the moment, I’m working on a piece about ancient Orkney and the research is on my doorstep. From my writing room window I can see the remains of a broch and a short stroll takes me to the Neolithic village of Skara Brae. The long winter nights are perfect for snuggling up with chocolate, my lap top and a black and white cat, and getting down to the writing I meant to do when the sun was shining and the garden calling.

Writing in Orkney is not a solitary pursuit. There is an abundance of talented writers on the islands. The Stromness writing group meets every second Tuesday in a local church. Writers there don’t talk about writing, they get stuck in. Ever eager to try new ideas, we recently delved into the use of ‘kennings’ in modern poetry. I had to be told that ‘kennings’ are short phrases to describe words, usually involving metaphors, popular in old Norse poetry (e.g. Beowulf = bee wolf = bear). The group also meets for social events, including a book launch or two.

Writers in the Highlands are encouraged by Emergents, an organisation set up to help creative industries. As well as giving one-to-one advice, they arrange workshops and seminars in Orkney. I attended a workshop on self-publishing in May and in November will be going to one on screenwriting.

The library hosts readers’ days with high profile authors as guest speakers. There is also an extensive archive attached to Kirkwall library. The George Mackay Brown Fellowship society runs events to coincide with the St. Magnus arts festival in June and also runs writing competitions.

The internet and social media are invaluable although we don’t, as yet, have 4G. Being 300 miles from Glasgow or Edinburgh has disadvantages when it comes to attending larger conferences and there will be some travelling involved when my debut novel The Organist published by Yolk Publishing is launched early next year.

I guess island life is not for everyone, but for me, not having the hassle of city life allows my creative juices to overflow.

© Babs Stevenson 2015

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