The Edinburgh Robert Louis Stevenson Club and Edinburgh Napier University have for three years collaborated on running a competition which aims to inspire young writers in Scotland by asking them to produce a piece of creative writing which draws on the rich and rewarding legacy that Robert Louis Stevenson has left us in his works of fiction, poetry, travel writing and essays.
On the 5th September, a masterclass was held for the writers of the best entries, led by Louise Welsh. This was followed by the prize-giving ceremony.
Gillean Somerville-Arjat, of the Edinburgh Robert Louis Stevenson Club, provides this report:
‘Writers Shouldn’t Wear Headphones’
A big part of being a writer is being a listener, even assuming the role of a detective, observing and then processing what you hear and see. So said writer and Glasgow University creative writing professor, Louise Welsh, during her wide-ranging master class for the finalists in the 2016 Robert Louis Stevenson Club/Edinburgh Napier University Writing Competition, at the university’s Merchiston Campus on Monday 5 September. Seven finalists from all over Scotland attended and were initiated into the mysteries of where to find ideas, plotting a story, evoking a setting, theme, characterisation, using the five senses, creating conflict and how point of view affects narrative perspective, illustrated by examples from Stevenson’s own writing.
Louise, fresh from several months in the southern hemisphere, which included a trip to Samoa and Stevenson’s grave on Mount Vaea, is passionate about his work. She remembers as a small child her father reading Treasure Island to her and being terrified by the character of Blind Pew and the delivery of the black spot. She read the competition submissions while in the South Seas and was impressed by their diversity of subject matter and style, which, she felt, reflected Stevenson’s own diversity as a writer. After some group exercises she had many tips to share about the writing life, such as working your way through writer’s block, the place of play in creativity, the efficacy of topping and tailing a piece of writing and the importance of fully understanding your characters.
The overall winner was Stephanie Glendinning from Banchory Academy, the third winner from this school in as many years, with a vividly dramatic fiction set in a Japanese POW camp, inspired by her grandfather’s war memories. Runners up in the fiction category were: Phoebe MacDonald (Kirkcaldy High School), Kimberley Wong (Glasgow High School) and Nathan Copson (Gordon Schools, Huntly). Brogan Coll (Auchmuchty High School, Fife) won the reflective writing category with a heartfelt piece, appropriately entitled ‘Fierce’, about coming to terms with issues of gender orientation.