The National Article

Ten youngsters are selected to help further Scotland’s literary tradition

TEN teens have been chosen to follow in the footsteps of world famous authors like RL Stevenson in shaping the future of writing in Scotland.

The teenagers have been chosen to help further the country’s strong tradition of literary prowess through an innovative nationwide programme.

What’s Your Story? is aimed at increasing opportunities for young people to access and contribute to literary culture across Scotland.

The group, who represent many different genres of writing, includes a screenwriter, a pair of poets, two non-fiction writers of travelogues and life stories, a novelist and two short story writers. A Gaelic poet and a graphic novelist complete the round-up.

The first nationwide project of its kind in Scotland, What’s Your Story? will produce a two-day creative writing conference in June 2016, a network of young writers/illustrators groups across Scotland and an online resource to embolden and support Scotland’s teenage writers.

Chosen from entries around the country, the group are screenwriter Leonie Findlay (16), from Gordon in the Scottish Borders; short story writer Scott Thomson (15), from Tobermory on Mull; Mikaela Carmichael (16), from Edinburgh, Gaelic poetry; Ribh O’Neill (14), from Cove Bay in Aberdeenshire, travelogues and fiction; Sarah Cairney (14), from Nairn, short stories and creative non-fiction; Katie Luxmoore (15), from Tayvallich, Argyll, novels and short stories; Finn Macdonald (15), from Nairn, novels; Anni Cameron (17), Edinburgh, poetry; Erin Morrissey Gillman (17), Newport-on-Tay, Fife, poetry; Caitlyn Bannatyne (17), Milton, West Dunbartonshire, illustration and graphic novels.

They were picked by a judging team that included two teenage members of Youth Arts Voice Scotland, representatives from Creative Scotland, The Gaelic Books Council and Scottish Book Trust and were selected on the enthusiasm and dedication they expressed for teenage participation in creative and literary culture.

Their task is to develop resources in collaboration with Scottish Book Trust and partners for their peers throughout Scotland. The teen participants are also being professionally mentored in their chosen forms and genres, and will be showcasing work completed during their mentorship at the two-day conference in mid-2016.

All ten said they were looking forward to the challenge.

“I think there need to be more ways to jump start a young person’s creative career because there are so many people who want to create but the desire gets forgotten about because there is seemingly no way to realistically do what they love full time,” said Leonie.

Added Scott: “Loads of people I know love reading. All have their favourite authors, never actually knowing how they got that published book in the first place. They think that they can never be professional writers like them, but I can guarantee that huge authors were thinking the exact same thing at my age. There just isn’t enough encouragement, it’s not taken seriously. Like most jobs that involve the arts, many people say to drop it and become, for example, an accountant.

“I think that gaining encouragement from people my age is really incredible and inspiring. People just need to be told that authors don’t find writing novels, poems, screenplays easy. Anyone and everyone can write – I might not like a certain type of writing but who am I to say they have to stop? Because there will always be someone who does enjoy that type of writing.”

The enthusiasm for creative writing and illustration already shown by the ten teens is both “extraordinary and joyous” said Nicole Brandon, young writers co-ordinator at Scottish Book Trust.

“Their faith in the ability of literature to inspire adventure, empathy and imagination has given What’s Your Story? phenomenal momentum, and we cannot wait to showcase their contributions to Scotland’s literary and creative culture.

“Their passion and conviction only reaffirms that young people have always deserved to be a part of our literary culture as creators and critics – not resigned to a default role as consumers.

“As access points to that side of our creative culture, Scotland’s literary organisations have a responsibility to help them get involved.

“It’s our privilege to follow the lead of our teenage participants and create new and fruitful opportunities for them and their peers to connect with each other, grow in confidence and ability, and collaborate to create their own new facet to Scotland’s literary culture.”

Added Colin Bradie, manager of Creative Scotland’s Time to Shine programme said: “We are delighted to be supporting this important initiative that will nurture and celebrate the talents and ambitions of young writers and illustrators across Scotland. A key element of Time to Shine, Scotland’s national youth arts strategy, this ambitious project will look to ensure young people are playing a key role in inspiring and shaping wider youth engagement.”

More information about What’s Your Story? is available at www.thestoryis.co.uk and throughout 2016 at www.scottishbooktrust.com

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