Nairn writing workshops

The Pen & I weekly writing workshops will start again on Friday 16th January 09 at St Columba’s Church Hall, Nairn.

Morning sessions: 10.00 – 12.00

Afternoon: 12.45 – 2.45

Cost £45 for 8 sessions.

Monthly full day workshops start on Saturday 31st January.

There are limited places still available on both the weekly and monthly workshops. For further information please contact Karen Messruther by clicking here. (This will open a contact form in a new window.)

Come along and join other like-minded writers. Forget the winter blues, be inspired and have fun while developing your writing.


Nanowrimo 08

nanonovember120x90penIn the first of a series of occasional guest interviews, Anastasia Drummond has all the facts on this year’s National Novel Writing Month and how the Highlands fared in the annual wordfest. Anastasia, from Skye, has participated in Nanowrimo seven times and is a Municipal Liaison volunteer.

Tell us about Nanowrimo and how you got involved.

Nanowrimo is an annual writing event as well as a web contest. It’s about getting folks who say they want to write a novel to actually take a shot at doing it. It’s an amazing challenge. I’m not a writer. I got into it the first year because my daughter challenged me to. I beat her that first year, but only just.

The challenge is to write 50,000 words of a novel from scratch in a month. Are there many mad scribblers in the Highlands and Islands who had a go this year?

There are a lot of folks in the ‘Scotland – Elswhere’ region. It’s hard to isolate them as a group, but there are more every year. We have folk scattered all over. On Skye this year we had 8 people sign up and 6 finish.

119,390 people worldwide signed up for the challenge this year. How did we do in Scotland?

Scotland as a whole was amazing this year. We had a 31% finish rate. Comparing that to the world average of 18.2, I’m really pleased. On average word count, Skye was fourth in the world.

Must be something in the water in Portree, or maybe all the encouragement that’s on hand. What’s your job as an ML?

I organize meet-ups, write pep-talks, monitor the forums so that people play nice, give encouragement and ‘repeated encouragement’ to anyone who needs it. I answer questions and e-mails. I send out press-releases. This year I went on local radio to help promote the event. I hung up posters. Did my best to help folks reach their dream.

Would you recommend Nano to anyone thinking of signing up next November?

By and large I think Nanowrimo is something most folk should give a go. But especially anyone with a story to tell. I think it’s good to challenge yourself, even if it isn’t your idea of fun. It isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible either.

It’s not a casual challenge; it’s hard work for most people. But there’s a lot to be gained from the experience.

Thanks to Anastasia for taking the time to tell us about Nanowrimo 08. If you’re looking for any further encouragement to sign up next year, I can reveal that her ‘encouragement’ involves plenty of chocolates and coffee. It worked for me.

Christmas literary evening

The Pen and I writing workshops in Nairn are holding an evening of Christmas literary entertainment at the Little Theatre on Thursday 18th December. Guests are promised a rich mix of seasonal stories and poetry, all written especially for the night. Look out for news on next year’s workshops and a residential creative writing holiday on the Pen & I website at

Neil Gunn Writing Competition 2009

The tenth Neil Gunn writing competition is being run by the Highland Council and the Neil Gunn Trust.

Categories: Adult prose, adult poetry, secondary school and primary school.

Theme: Living with one another

Closing dates: Secondary school – 19 December 08

Adults and Primary School – 14 March 2009

Prizes: cash prizes for each category plus an overall award of a week at Moniack Mhor writing centre. (Try not to win the same week if you entered the comp in the previous post…)

Info and entry forms from:

Wild Writing Competition

The John Muir Trust’s annual short story competition is being run as part of the Fort William Mountain Festival (6-14 March 09). Dry off your boots and get out your pen…

Words: up to 12oo in English or Gaelic

Theme: Experiences in wild places

Closing date: 26 January 2009

Prize: (good one this): a place on a residential course at the Arvon Foundation’s Moniack Mhor centre.

Full info and entry form at:

Wigtown Poetry Competition 2008/09

Scotland’s biggest poetry competition from our very own Book Town.

The prizes are eye-popping and include one of £1000 for Gaelic entries.

Closing date: 30th January 2009

Entry fees: £6 for the first poem and £15 for three. Subsequent entries £6 each or £10 for three.

For full details and to download an entry form visit the Wigtown Book Festival site at

Reflections: Women in the Highlands

If you’re in Inverness during the month of November, drop into the Museum and Art Gallery and see the ‘Reflections: Women in the Highlands’ exhibition. In fact, even if you’re not in Inverness, get yourself down there. It’s well worth a look.

The nine portraits of Highland women in the exhibition are each accompanied by a piece of original new writing, specially commissioned in collaberation with Random Acts of Writing Magazine. I’d tell you they’re wonderful, but as I was one of the writers, you might not want to take my word for it. So head to Inverness and read them for yourself. They’re wonderful.

Writing events at Culloden

Here’s an update on the writing activities from the National Trust for Scotland at Culloden. Note that the dates on my earlier post had the wrong weekdays in the dates. Thanks to Lilian for keeping me right.

Venue: Culloden Moor Visitor Centre

Sun 16th November 08, and Sun 14 Dec 08, both 2-4pm – “Hidden Stories” – workshops for adults with Lilian Ross, aimed at novice writers.

Sat 7th February 08, 2-4pm – Creative writing workshop for children with Greg Dawson of the Scottish Storytelling Centre

nb Standard admission charges to the visitor centre apply to all of the above.

Further information at

NaNoWriMo 2008

Is anyone else in the Highlands taking part in this year’s National Novel Writing Month in November? I’m having a go for the first time and I’ve seen at least a couple of other locals on the NaNoWriMo regional board, so I’m not the only delusional optimist/masochist in the region.

If you’ve never come across NaNoWriMo, take a look at the website. The challenge is to write 50,000 words of a novel, from scratch, in a month. No editing, no twiddling, just getting your story down. I’m hoping it will help cure me of my chronic twiddling tendencies.

If you’re signed up, give me a wave on the forums. I’m signed in as Highland Midge.

“The Pen and I” workshops

The next block of weekly half day writing workshops in Nairn starts on Friday 31st October 08. There are a few places still available, with sessions on Friday mornings and afternoons, covering a range of writing genres and techniques from poetry and fiction to articles.

Monthly full-day workshops start again on Saturday 27th October. Places are limited on these days which cater for those wanting to take their writing further.

Both workshops are held in St Columba’s Church hall, Nairn. For further information contact Norma Penfold on 01667 493664.

(Look out for a new annual open competition being launched by The Pen and I in January 09. Categories will include monologues, short fiction and poetry. )