I am delighted to be hosting this leg of Victoria’s blog tour for The Boy with the Butterfly Mind – a wonderful and eye-opening story which encourages us all to treat each other with a little bit more understanding. Below, Victoria talks about the brilliant work done by the Scottish Book Trust. Thanks Victoria!
Happy 21st Birthday to the Scottish Book Trust!
The Scottish Book Trust turned 21 this August, and as a little ‘Happy Birthday’ message, I’m dedicating this stop of my blog tour to the brilliant work they do in supporting writers across Scotland.
I’d heard of them before when I worked as a teacher, but it wasn’t until I signed a two-book deal with Scottish publisher Floris Books in 2017, that I realised how much help they had on offer for writers at every stage of their career. Although I was comfortable working in a school environment as a teacher, I wasn’t quite sure how that would translate to me visiting schools as a writer. What should I talk about? How should I approach schools? What should I charge? All of these questions and more, were answered when I attended a SBT Working in Schools Industry Lab that September.
As the SBT website states, their Industry Labs are ‘twice yearly workshops to hone skills and gain new insights into the nuts, bolts and business of writing.’ One of the things that makes these Labs special, quite apart from the enthusiasm of the SBT organising team and the skills the speakers they select bring, is the fact that they’re fully funded, which means participants don’t need to cover the cost of the 2-3 full-day sessions. These valuable opportunities are therefore much more accessible to writers, many of whom are already struggling to balance their budgets. They’re also a great chance to meet other writers and learn from their experiences – writing can be a lonely business, and sharing tales of rejection or celebrating small successes over a glass of wine can make all the difference!
At the Working in Schools Lab I also found out about the SBT Live Literature database, a searchable online directory holding information on hundreds of writers, playwrights, poets, storytellers and illustrators. Those on the register are eligible to receive the full fees – currently £175 per hour plus travel expenses and accommodation – for any Live Literature-funded event they are asked to attend.
Needless to say I signed up for the Live Literature register as soon as my debut novel was published! The Live Literature programme brings reading and writing to the heart of Scotland’s communities by part-funding author events (the organiser pays the rest). Each year Live Literature supports around 1,200 author visits, reaching approximately 50,000 people across all 32 local authorities in Scotland.
As part of the wider Live Literature programme, the SBT also fully-funds a number of school residencies. I was very fortunate to be asked to work as Author in Residence at Forrester High School in Edinburgh during the 2018/2019 academic year. This residency involved working with the English department and school librarian to devise and deliver a series of workshops designed to improve the writing confidence of the participating students, and ultimately enhance their portfolio pieces for their Higher English exams. A full description of the TV pilot show pitch project we worked on can be found on my website here. It was a valuable and rewarding opportunity to work collaboratively with a school to develop their students’ creative writing, and one that would not have been available if it had not been for SBT funding.
This year I also gained a funded place on the SBT’s Marketing Industry Lab, where participants got the chance to look in-depth at topics such as websites and copywriting, blogging and vlogging, pitching, and PR. These workshops are brilliant for building confidence, and for giving writers access to the knowledge of industry experts – I’m sure I’m not the only one who went straight home to tweak my website, update my SEOs and change my approach to pitching for events!
As well as benefitting from workshops and residencies, I’ve also spoken at a number of Live Literature events over the past eighteen months, including the West End, Wigtown and Birnam Book Festivals, the Glasgow Big Book Show, and at a number of schools who received SBT funding. With Live Literature funding, Brechin High in Angus was able to ask me to be their Patron of Reading this year, and I’ve immensely enjoyed the opportunity to run creative writing workshops at Brechin High and other schools with the SBT’s support. Without the SBT providing direct support for events such as these, schools and event organisers would struggle to cover speakers’ fees. Not only would this directly impact authors themselves, but also result in thousands of children and many community groups missing out on important opportunities to connect directly with writers, and be to inspired to read, and perhaps even write themselves.
Over the last couple of years I’ve met many writers in Scotland who have benefitted from the Scottish Book Trust’s support, from New Writers’ Award winners who have gone on to have books published, workshop attendees who have gained valuable knowledge to further their writing careers, to Next Chapter Award winners and a whole host of Live Literature-listed story-tellers! Despite our different experiences of the writing world, the one thing that unites us is the encouragement and assistance we’ve received from the Scottish Book Trust, and I’m sure they will all join me in wishing this fantastic charity a very Happy 21st Birthday, and many more successful years to come.