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The Highlands have long been a source of creativity for writers from all backgrounds with the latest being the publication by the Lochaber Writers group of its first anthology, reflecting the richness and variety of contemporary writing from the local area.
The launch of Anthology: trees and death and walks and snowdrops was held last Friday evening at The Highland Bookshop in Fort William, and saw one of the bookshop’s largest ever audiences come together to celebrate Lochaber Writers’ first publication.
The title of the book reflects the breadth and variety of the work, both in form and subject matter. The anthology, designed by Fort William designer and writer Freja MacDougall, includes writing from the central members of the group who all read excerpts from their work at the launch.
Earlier in the year the group also sent out an open call for submissions and were delighted with the response.
The self-published book, created from a love of writing, includes poetry, life-writing and short fiction from a wide variety of contributors, including recent graduates from Lochaber High School.
After a jazz introduction from Banavie artist and musician Jamie Hagemen, more than 40 people settled down with a glass of wine to listen to a selection of readings.
Kelsey Ward began by hurling the audience into her Three Moments piece, that tells one gripping story from three very different perspectives.
Jo Fairclough then drew chuckles from the crowd with her short story, Robin, and was followed by Iain Jenner who left the audience on the edge of their seats as he stopped short of revealing the ending of his short story, Bait.
The first half was concluded by founding member Stephen Carruthers, whose two fragmented Walks are part of a larger work which explores new ways of portraying mental health.
The second half of the evening saw Andy Thornton read The Visit, which reflects on the experience and realities of dementia.
Ian Houston then read the opening section of his short story, A Cold Collation, in which he draws on his own experience of IT security to create a thrilling security nightmare.
Kirsteen Bell concluded the readings with an excerpt of nature writing from a work-in-progress that considers the relationship that we have with the landscape of the Highlands.
Mr Carruthers, who also teaches English at Lochaber High School, said: ‘We are incredibly proud of this book and the work that’s included in it.
‘Coming together as a group of writers has helped all of us to reflect on our writing, to take it in new directions, and to provide the motivation to keep going.
‘We hope that this is just the first of an annual publication, and we’d like to continue increasing the range of Lochaber voices in the group.’
Anyone interested in buying the book can do so from The Highland Bookshop (£6.99). Lochaber Writers meet on the first Tuesday of each month at 7pm in the bookshop, and would welcome new members.