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Kirsteen Bell, from Duisky, is a regular freelance reporter and contributor on The Lochaber Times. This week she tells of her delight at winning her first literary award.
Like most new writers, I have a busy life, fitting writing in around my family, work, studies, as well as trying to work on the croft.
As a result, most of the writing I’ve done in the past few years has been quite short and fragmented; it’s difficult to get the space to step back and see if there might be a bigger picture.
When I applied for the Katharine Stewart Award, I was hoping for the time to plan out a longer piece of work under the guidance of a more experienced writer.
To be given Mark Cocker as a mentor has just been unbelievable; I’ve read a great deal of his work and I follow his writing in The Guardian Country Diary so I was a little awe-struck!
However, his input and advice have been exactly what I was hoping for and I’m going into the retreat next week with a much clearer idea of where I’m going with my writing.
Having a whole week to research and write in an environment like Moniack Mhor is an absolute gift.
Following the first tutorial with Mark, I’m hoping to focus more on the life and landscape of the croft – which fits well with the award as Katharine Stewart was, of course, both a crofter and a writer, writing regularly about her life on the croft for The Scotsman and eventually turning that into her book, A Croft on the Hills.
The life of the croft and its history often appear tangentially in my work, in the writing exercises I do as part of the Lochaber Writers’ Group, in blog posts, and in the short pieces of prose I’ve had published to date, so it will be really interesting to see what happens when I turn my focus directly onto it.
The other really important part of the award for me is the motivation to keep writing. It can be easy to let daily life take over, to wonder if what you’re writing is good enough to persevere, if you should keep trying to write something publishable.
I write because I enjoy it, because I enjoy the process and craft of it, but it also helps me to have something to write towards, such as publishing a book.
The Katharine Stewart Award feels like an endorsement that I’m on the right track, and it is a massive push in the right direction.’
- Moniack Mhor Writers’ Centre is based near Beauly. The annual Katharine Stewart Award, who lived just a few miles from the Moniack Mhor in Abriachan, helps support an unpublished writer of non-fiction.
The award seeks to find and support new voices from the Highlands and Islands. This year, it particularly wanted to encourage applications from writers who take inspiration from, or feature the theme of, working in sympathy with the land, environment and culture.
The Katharine Stewart Award consists of retreat time at Moniack Mhor and two sessions with a writing mentor, one before and one after the retreat.