October 2011: No More Mulberries is now available as an e-Book
Finally, I have dipped a tentative toe into the world of blogging and am one of five women writers who have created a new blog. Called Novel Points of View we will be sharing on it our thoughts on writing, reading, publishing and the world of books. Take a look and if you like what you read sign up to follow us.
Exciting news: Dumfries & Galloway-based sculptor Matt Baker, who has been awarded the bi-annual Saltire Society Award for Art in Architecture Scotland. This was for his Castle Square project in Stranraer, south west Scotland. Matt worked on the project with fellow Galloway-based artist David Ralston and architects Smith Scott Mullan Associates (project architect – Rachel Simmonds). The reason I’m so excited, is because Matt has engraved one of my poems on a wall at the Castle Square project site. The background to the project is here.
Thanks to Andrew Brannan who got in touch through the website and solved a mystery. In an article I wrote I asked if anyone could identify the initials R P F carved on a gatepost at the Glenkiln Estate. At last Andrew has provided the answer. R P F was Robert Peter Fleming who was an explorer and travel writer, and brother of Ian.
August 2011: It has been quite an exciting summer – apart from the dreadful Scottish weather.
Poetry: I had a poem chosen by Scottish PEN and published in their on-line new writing section. Scottish PEN is part of International PEN, a dynamic worldwide association of writers pledged to protect freedom of expression and promote literature across frontiers throughout the world. The theme was courage and my poem, in Scots, is called Smeddum. I had a lovely evening at the reading held in Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts.
While I don’t yet have a publication date my poetry collection to be published in 2012 by Indigo Dreams now has a title – Thousands Pass Here Every Day. Armed with a few suggested titles I carried out several straw polls and this was the title most people liked best, including Indigo Dreams publishers Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling. Now I have a title it all seems much more real. I am now starting to plan ahead, thinking of potential sales outlets, launches and publicity.
Writers have to learn marketing skills, too, nowadays, which leads me to the news of a new role. I have been appointed Creative Business Advocate for Literature and Publishing in Dumfries & Galloway. My role is to help develop creative business networks for writers in the region, putting in place effective communication links and look at the training needs – such as marketing – writers may have.
The secretaries of book groups and other groups are clearly organising their autumn schedules as my diary is filling fast with speaking engagements. As my novel No More Mulberries is set in Afghanistan where I lived for a number of years I find I am asked as many questions about the country and its culture as I am about writing the book. I take along a ‘show and tell’ collection of artefacts from Afghanistan, including a couple of burqas for people to try.
I’m getting better at this – only a month since my last update! And it has been an exciting month. My first full poetry collection has been accepted for publication by Indigo Dream. The contracts have been signed and the collection will come out in 2012 – as soon as I have a date I will be posting it here. To say I’m excited about this is probably the understatement of the year.
Daily Record journalist Samantha Booth interviewed me for a double page spread in the Record about my experiences in Afghanistan and my novel No More Mulberries. You can read the article here.
The article was picked up by Fiona Ferns who works on STV’s live magazine programme, The Hour and I was invited to make a guest appearance on June 7 to talk about Afghanistan and No More Mulberries. The link to the programme is here for now.
A couple of articles which appeared in Dumfries & Galloway Life have also been added. One on writer Margaret Elphinstone, who lives in south west Scotland, talking about the amazing amount of in depth research she carried out before writing her novel The Gathering Night and one on another writer who is also based in Dumfries & Galloway, Robin Yassin-Kassab.
May 2011: I’ve written before about This Galloway, a project I and photographer Phil McMenemy have been working on. This will result in an exhibition showing some of our favourite places in Galloway, south west Scotland incorporating Phil’s stunning images and my words. I am delighted to report we have been awarded first prize in a competition organised by Leaf Books. The competition was for a writer who is collaborating with an artist working in a different art form.
Along with a cash prize one of my poems and one of Phil’s images has been published in an issue Leaf Writers’ Magazine. You can read the poem and see Phil’s image here.
Artist and printmaker Silvana McLean and I were also commended in the same competition for an extract from Voices from Glentrool and Merrick, our pamphlet of poems and prints.
I am adding a few more features which appeared in Dumfries and Galloway Life magazine. These include an interview with singer Barbara Dickson before she appeared in concert in Dumfries; a feature on sculptor Matt Baker who lives and works in Dumfries and Galloway and a feature on poet and writer Tom Pow who has been exploring and writing about Europe’s disappearing villages. I will add more features in the coming months which demonstrate what an amazing region Dumfries and Galloway in south west Scotland is in terms of the wealth of talented folk who live here.
I’ve had fun visiting book groups who have read, or are about to read, No More Mulberries. As well as talking about the novel I bring along artefacts from Afghanistan for people to see. Lots of photos of readers, quite unidentifiable as they pose in a burqa, have been taken. I already have a number of dates in my diary for talks in 2012 – which really makes this year seem to flash past even more quickly.
December 2010: This will be the last update in 2010 and I’ve made my New Year resolution to update news and add features and new writing much more frequently in 2011.
This time I am adding two new features from Dumfries & Galloway Life magazine. One is an interview with gamekeeper, John Cowan. John works on an estate here in south west Scotland and has published a book, Advice From a Gamekeeper – a must read for anyone interested in country life.
One of the best things about being a journalist is having the opportunity to meet interesting people and asking them the kind of questions readers want to know. The second feature is an interview with a wonderful author, Gwen Kirkwood who writes family sagas set right here in Dumfries & Galloway.
I’m very excited to have been asked to run weekend residential creative writing courses/workshops in one of the prettiest villages in south west Scotland. The courses are designed to meet the needs of people new to writing as well as those who have already started out on the path to publication. Whether you want to write a novel, short stories, memoir, or poetry, you will find the workshops stimulating, inspiring and fun.
The venue is the Cross Keys Hotel, a 300-year-old coaching inn, in New Galloway, Dumfries & Galloway. Spending a weekend surrounded by glorious countryside with lochs, forests and the Dark Sky Park is sure to be inspirational. For more information go to www.writingbreaks.co.uk
I’ve been kept busy with invitations to book groups around the region and further afield. It is lovely to meet up with readers, hear their thoughts on No More Mulberries and answer the many questions they have for me, both about the book itself and Afghanistan.
Thanks to everyone who has been in touch through the website – it’s always lovely to hear from people wherever in the world you are.
May 2010: I am adding two of my features (one on Penninghame House near Newton Stewart and one on The Crichton Royal Hospital in Dumfries) which appeared in recent issues of Dumfries & Galloway Life magazine. Both received a great deal of feedback so I thought website visitors might appreciate reading them.
The Dumfries Writers' Group now has its own website, thanks to member Sally Hinchliffe, which is being used to promote Fankle, a new publication containing writing by group members. It is hoped to produce several issues a year and these will be available at various outlets around Dumfries & Galloway and also through the website.
Markings Magazine is celebrating its 30th edition with a magazine which features writers from over 30 countries. I'm delighted my poem Word Connections is being included. This poem was awarded second place in the Scottish Association of Writers (SAW) competition earlier this year.
As always, many thanks to people who have contacted me through my website - from Afghanistan, America and Australia as well as all parts of the Britain. I appreciate and enjoy your comments and queries.
I finally gritted my teeth and took the plunge so you can also find me on Facebook, too, now.
February 2010: Apologies to regular visitors for not updating my website for so long - put it down to so much happening.
The big news to pass on is that Dumfries & Galloway Life magazine won the Consumer Magazine of the Year category AND the overall Scottish Magazine of the Year award at the annual PPA Scottish Magazine Awards. What is really lovely to know is the judges decided unanimously.
Over the coming months I have a diary of events including talks to University of the Third Age (U3A), book groups and school visits who want to hear about No More Mulberries and/or my life and work in Afghanistan. Do get in touch (if you are within reasonable travelling distance) if your book group or writers’ group would like to book me.
The collaborative project with photographer Phil McMenemy – his pictures/my words – is beginning to make progress with our collaborative project. We’ve had a couple of outings to Hestan Island led by wildlife photographer and ranger Keith Kirk (see Phil’s blog at www.pmcphotography.blogspot.com for details of our first trip). We have now decided on the other areas of Galloway on which we are going to focus and are planning future outings. Now Christmas, New Year and the worst of the winter weather are gone we are enjoying trips to some of Galloway’s special places. Watch this space…
Mary was interviewed by acclaimed journalist Jackie McGlone for a feature about Afghanistan and No More Mulberries which appeared in The Scotsman on Saturday, May 2. You can read the article here.
I was recently interviewed by feature writer Janice Hally on the topic of writers' rituals for online magazine Suite101 You can read the article here.
I have for some time been researching into the life of a woman whose biography I am now writing. She was a remarkable woman – a car manufacturer in the 1920s, a gold and silver medal trials driver and one of the first two women invited to join the Institute of Automobile Engineers. Her achievements were tremendous and her story is a fascinating one.
On Saturday September 12, 2009 at 3pm I will be appearing at CatStrand, an arts venue in New Galloway, south west Scotland to discuss and read from my novel No More Mulberries.
I will be ‘In Conversation with’ Godfrey Smith, who runs Galloway Footwear, the last company in Scotland to still create handmade, made-to-measure clogs, of traditional and contemporary designs. Godfrey is based in Balmaclellan, Castle Douglas in south west Scotland.
However, we won’t be talking about clogs as Godfrey is also, along with Robin Ade, part of the Afghan Schools Trust which raises funds to support schools in Nuristan in north east Afghanistan. He has personal experience of Afghanistan, having visited in recent years to check on the progress of the schools and to deliver funds. For more information on the Afghan Schools Trust visit their website on www.afghanschools.org
There will be an opportunity to ask questions, see some Afghan artefacts including embroidery – maybe even try on a burqa – and I will be happy to sign copies of my book, which will be available to buy at the event.
Information about the event can be found at www.catstrand.com
Later in September 2009 I will be taking part in a Hidden City event at Glasgow’s Merchant City Festival, joining 27 of Scotland’s leading poets who have created a Poetry Heritage walk that will explore four found sites in and around the Merchant City in Glasgow. Following on from the success of Hidden City 1 - 4, in recognition of National Poetry Day and to celebrate the final Hidden City event in Glasgow City Centre, the arts organisation, conFAB has teamed up with the Merchant City Festival to bring Hidden City 5.
The poets have written poems inspired by locations deep in the heart of Glasgow's city centre that are usually passed by unnoticed. Our familiar habitats are so often taken for granted that we miss what is there. These sites are filled with sights, smells, atmosphere, heritage, memories, histories, traces of past events and forgotten people…
I can’t identify the site which inspired my poem – the sites are a closely guarded secret until the performances!
The event is on Sunday September 27 at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm beginning at the Ramshorn Theatre on Ingram Street, Glasgow. And it’s FREE, though capacity is limited.
The Merchant City Festival programme can be found at www.merchantcityfestival.com