Vernal Equinox Competition Judges

FWS members – remember the competition closes at midnight on 31 March 2020!

To help you get going, here are the judges and what they are looking for.

Poetry Judge Finola Scott FWS Makar for 2020

Finola Scott poems are widely published including in Gutter, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Ofi Press, New Writing Scotland and the Fenland Reed. Recently she was a winner of the Blue Nib’s Chapbook competitions and a runner up in Coast to Coast’s pamphlet competition. Her pamphlet Much Left Unsaid was published by Red Squirrel last year and she will be published by Tapsalteerie alongside Ann MacKinnon and Irene Howat in a full collection later this year. Her poetry can be found on Facebook  at Finola Scott Poems.

What Finola is looking for in the Poetry entries

I’ll be looking for work that surprises either in its language choices or its take on a well-known situation/ event. The best poems will be confident and perhaps even bold, but not for the sake of it. These poems will be happy to trust the reader to make connections as well as be willing to take risks.  Craft, subject matter and honesty are all important. It’d be good to see poems that will stay with me, inviting re- reading.

© Finola Scott January 2020

 Short Story Judge Charlie Gracie FWS Scriever for 2020

Charlie Gracie grew up in Baillieston on the edge of Glasgow. His work has appeared in anthologies and journals over many years, with some listed for literary prizes, including the Bath Novel Award, the Cambridge Short Story Prize and the Bridport Poetry Prize. His first novel, To Live With What You Are, was published in 2019 by Postbox Press. His first poetry collection, Good Morning, was published in 2010 by diehard Press, who published his second poetry collection, Tales from the Dartry Mountains, in 2020. He is working on a second novel and a collection of short stories. He is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Scottish Writers’ Centre. He now lives on the edge of the Trossachs with his family.

What Charlie is looking for in the Short Story entries.

There is no set theme for this competition, so whatever has been sparking your creativity, feel free to send it our way. I am looking forward to reading the best stories that people have. If you have a pile, choose the strongest for the competition – maybe the others still need a bit of work.

A short story needs to be consistently tight: no point in an engaging introduction to a character’s world if it all falls away; or a blistering ending if the start is languid. That requires editing, and it will often help to read what you’ve written out loud to yourself – this gives you a sense of how others might experience it and can be invaluable for picking up rhythmic problems, repetition and where you need the voice tightened up. Please make sure that the spelling and grammar are right (whatever works for the piece of course); if I’m reading dozens of entries, poor editing can make it difficult to love a story.

Please send complete stories, rather than a section of a larger piece. I really want the satisfaction of reading how you take your ideas and weave them into a complete story. That doesn’t mean you can’t leave me guessing at the end, as long as I’m guessing happily.

I’m excited at the prospect of seeing all the work. I’m sure there will be a variety of styles and approaches and that the entries will reflect the range of writers we are lucky to have in Scotland.

© Charlie Gracie January 2020

Flash Fiction Judge Stephen Barnaby

Stephen Barnaby has been writing and performing stories of 50 words – and sometimes even longer – for about twenty years now.

He has had two pamphlets of 50 worders published – one by Calder Wood Press, one by his very own self – and one of longer short stories (if you see what I mean) by Red Squirrel/Postbox Press.

He has been part of 26, the international writing collective, for five years and has taken part in a number of their projects.

What Stephen is looking for in the Flash Fiction entries

I’m looking for a scenario and character or characters I can believe in and care about. This doesn’t necessarily mean the scenario has to be realistic as such – it could be real or surreal, earthly or unearthly – nor do(es) the character(s) necessarily have to be likeable. But I’d like them to be engaging and convincing within their worlds.

I do like humour, a quirky unexpected angle and a satisfyingly surprising twist to the tale, but these aren’t absolutely essential: it’s possible to write without humour, quirk or surprise twist and still engage and convince if the characters, scenario and writing are strong enough.

So, essentially, convince and engage me, grab and keep my attention and explore the possibilities of saying a lot in relatively few words!

© Stephen Barnaby January 2020

 Scots Category Judge Sheila Templeton

Sheila Templeton writes in Scots and English. A triple winner of the McCash Scots Language Poetry Competition, she has also won the Arran Robert McLellan Poetry Competition and the Neil Gunn Poetry Competition, as well as other prizes. She was Makar for the Federation of Writers Scotland 2008/2009. Her poetry has been published in many magazines and anthologies. From 2007 to 2010 she was Writer in Residence at the Harbour Arts Centre Irvine. She’s judged several poetry competitions, including the Wigtown Scots Poetry Competition and the SAW Poetry Competitions. Her latest publications are Owersettin, (Tapsalteerie Press 2016), Gaitherin, (Red Squirrel Press 2016) and Drochaid (Tapsalteerie Press 2019).

What Sheila is looking for in the Scots category entries

I’m looking for interesting work in Scots, whether it be a poem or a piece of flash fiction. The same rules for what makes a good piece of writing apply whether it’s in Scots or any other language. So I’m looking for work which has an effect on me…moves me in some way…to laughter, tears, admiration, surprise, shock…any feeling, doesn’t matter what. I want to feel changed in some way by reading your work! And I’d like to see work which is crafted, has been edited, shows a technical competence.

The Scots can be any form from anywhere in Scotland…N-east Doric, Fife, Borders, S-west, Central Belt, Urban. I prefer work to be in consistent Scots ie not jumping from one form of Scots to another in the same piece, but I’m not prescriptive….sometimes a poem just needs a word from another form of Scots, or even an archaic word; similarly with a piece of flash fiction. I also like consistent spelling within a poem or prose. A Scots or Doric dictionary use is a good tool for writing authentic Scots. But again, there are some very successful poems in Scots spelled phonetically eg take a look at Tom Leonard’s work. It’s helpful to read your work aloud…always a good check for any piece of writing. If the Scots is hard to read aloud, maybe the piece of writing needs another look?

I look forward to reading what I’m sure will be splendid work in Scots.

© Sheila Templeton January 2020 

Gaelic Category Judge Mary Ann Kennedy

 Seinneadair Gàidhlig na Bliadhna 2019 agus aon de Sgrìobhaichean Ùra 2020, rugadh agus thogadh Màiri Anna NicUalraig mar Ghàidheal ann an ceann a deas Ghlaschu ioma-chulturach. Is aithnear i mar bhall de theaghlach ainmeil a-thaobh ciùil a bhuinneas dhan Eilean Sgitheanach, ach a’s a bheil cuideachd na bàird Catrìona agus Morag NicGumaraid. Bhuinneadh a h-athair do Thiriodh, eilean a tha ainmeil a-thaobh a liuthad bhàrd.

 Neach-ciùil i a choisinn iomadh duais – chaidh Seinneadair Gàidhlig na Bliadhna a bhuileachadh oirre aig Duaisean Ceòl Dualchasach na h-Alba ann an 2019. Thòisich a cuid sgrìobhaidh le òrain, agus taic a’ nochdadh bho chàirdean is luchd-brosnachaidh leithid Aonghas MacNeacail agus Dòmhnall Meek. Dh’èirich dà chlàr às a saothair fad bliadhna mar cheòladair na colaisde aig Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, is chaidh an cur ma sgaoil le ARC Music, ‘An Dàn’ mar aon dhiubh –  cruinneachadh de dh’òrain ùr, ùr-nodha, le a briathran fhèin nam measg.

Cho-dheasaich i leabhar eachdraidh is fiosrachadh an teaghlaich do dh’Acair ann an 2012: choisinn ‘Fonn – Music and a Sense of Place in a Gaelic Family Song Tradition’ duais Leabhar Gàidhlig na Bliadhna aig a’ Mhòd Rìoghail Nàiseanta, agus duais ealain nan ciad Duaisean Nàiseanta Gàidhlig. An 2018, sgrìobh i an ceòl agus na h-òrain airson dealbh chluich, ‘Deeds Not Words’, leis a’ chompanaidh Rural Nations, a’ dèanamh luaidh air eachdraidh bhòt nam ban anns na h-Eileanan an Iar. A-measg nam pròiseactan a’s a bheil i an sàs an-diugh, tha fèill air sgeulachd Ghàidhlig abhainn Chluaidh agus baile àrach Màiri Anna, Glaschu.

Gaelic Singer of the Year 2019 and a New Writer Awardee 2020, Glasgow-born Mary Ann Kennedy was born and brought up a Gaelic speaker in the heart of multi-cultural southside Glasgow. She is best-known as part of a revered family of Skye musical tradition bearers, but counts the poets Catriona and Morag Montgomery as part of that extended family, and her father was from the island of Tiree, famous for its disproportionate number of bards and writers.

An award-winning musician – she is the Scots Trad Music Awards Gaelic Singer of the Year 2019 – her writing began with song, encouraged by friends and mentors such as Aonghas MacNeacail and Donald Meek. An inspirational year as musician-in-residence at the Gaelic college, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, gave rise to two highly acclaimed albums on ARC Music, including ‘An Dàn’, a collection of original contemporary songs, her own lyrics amongst them.

She co-edited a family biography and compendium for Acair Books in 2012: ‘Fonn – Music and a Sense of Place in a Gaelic Family Song Tradition’ won the Gaelic Book of the Year at the Royal National Mòd, and the Arts & Culture prize at the inaugural National Gaelic Awards. In 2018, she wrote the score and original songs for ‘Deeds Not Words’, a Rural Nations theatre production celebrating the story of women’s suffrage in the Western Isles. Her current projects include an ongoing Gaelic-inspired exploration in words and music of the River Clyde from source to sea, and of her hometown of Glasgow.

Comhairle bho Mhàiri Anna:

An aon stiùireadh a bheirinn do dhuine sam bith a tha airson feuchainn – dall ort! Tha mi cho taingeil gun d’ thug iomadh duine taic is brosnachadh dhòmhsa air mo shlighe fhèin, agus tha mi mar sin ga ur piobrachadh gus corrag a chur ri meur-chlàr no peann gu pàipear. Agus coma co-dhiù tha sibh air a bhi fada a-sàs a’s an obair, no a’ cur bhriathran ann an riochd cruthachail airson a’ chiad turais, bidh fiughair orm gach nìth a leughadhbàrdachd no grad-fhicsean.  

What Mary Ann Kennedy is looking for in the Gaelic entries

My only advice to anyone who fancies having a go – fire on! I am so grateful that many people have helped and encouraged me on my own path, and so this is me prompting folk likewise to sit down and let the keyboard or pen take you somewhere interesting. And whether you’re an old hand at this game, or shaping words creatively for the first time, I’m looking forward to reading every word – poetry (40 lines max) or flash fiction (500 words max).

© Mary Ann Kennedy January 2020



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