Saturday, 20 September 2014

Post-Referendum The Work Goes On

We the people of Scotland have made our decision and it is not the one so many of us creative, life-affirming people hoped for. Faced with the possibility of fundamental change and a great leap forward, 55% of us stuck with the devil we know and were swayed by fears of the future fanned by big business, the banks and almost all the media, and by the empty vow of the 3 Establishment parties. My first reaction was to be scunnered at the outcome, except in Glasgow, Dundee, North Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire and Inverclyde, but I read that a clear majority of the under 55s voted Yes so there is the possibility of independence coming back on the agenda in the future when the 'big 3' fail to deliver. The wonderful grassroots multi-faceted Yes campaign is the key to that future and there has to be a determination not to 'go back in the box' and instead to find creative ways of sustaining it.

Thinking some more about how that 55%-45% Scotland Independence Referendum result came about. Big business, newspaper & BBC media were influential but the main responsibility lies with the Labour Party leaders who won this for the Tories. In particular, Gordon Brown, who came to their rescue when Darling was a busted flush with what Michael Gove yesterday called a 'wonderful speech'. Now that the 3 Amigos' panic vow is already falling apart, he's trying to shore it up with his speech in Fife this morning which I watched. He was jokey, smug, patronising & beating the drum again for British values. His campaign to talk up being British & failure to do anything about devo max as PM can only have given succour to the likes of the ignorant British Nationalist thugs who attacked Yes supporters in George Square last night. During the campaign I don't remember any of the No leaders condemning the extreme right wing and Orange support they got, because, of course, they needed it. It seems Glasgow's Labour Council has allowed 6 Orange marches through the city today. If that isn't fanning sectarian Unionist provocation I don't know what is. Thousands of people are joining the SNP and Scottish Green Party, and, based on its track record, the Scottish Labour Party deserves to be history at the 2015 and 2016 elections. Will the new We are the 45% movement help to bring that about?  I'd welcome the thoughts of friends about how the tremendous energies and passion of so many that came to the fore in the campaign can be nourished and sustained. 

Right now though I need to carry out some research on Hugh Miller and geology (nothing like geological time for getting some perspective on things) and then cut my grass.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Seize The Day!

On the eve of the most important day in Scottish history for over 300 years it's difficult to concentrate on anything else. It's time for us all to decide - between more of the same, and worse, from the UK parties and the prospect of a better future for the people of Scotland, and, indeed, the rest of the world. In my view it’s not just about a socially and economically fairer society and ending Trident and nuclear bases here, important though these are, but having the power in our own hands, as we do tomorrow, to create better and more culturally fulfilling ways of living for everyone. Will we have the self-belief to change history for the better, or will we let ourselves down because of fears and uncertainty? 

My geopoetics American friend Laura Hope-Gill says on her Facebook timeline that ‘the spirit of independence is its own force in nature. Self-actualization is a vital need, for people and for nations. In this scenario, Scotland's Yes movement has a vision which once opened does not close for any warnings or practical considerations. This is a calling, something poetic speaking into the din of the so-called pragmatic, a term that genuinely ought to include the poetic in its "looking at it from all sides" claim. Scotland wants to be Scotland on its own. It wants to be Scotland and have its own story once again, after a very long time. That's a powerful wish, and there is nothing practical or realistic about wishes, yet they often win and amaze and show us new ways the world can be. The world is changing, moving away from outmoded ways of governance and management of resources. Scotland just might show us how it's done.’

I’m reminded also of her beautiful Fb post after the death of Robin Williams about how seeing his wonderful portrayal of the teacher John Keating in Dead Poets Society made her decide to spend the rest of her life teaching poetry and motivating young and older people to live their lives to the full. This she has done, and enriched many lives in the process, and tomorrow the people of Scotland should follow her example... and seize the day!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

London Screenwriters Festival 2013: Four Wow Factors and a Surfer

This poor old, neglected, abandoned blog has been as dead as the proverbial Monty Python parrot these past few years. So why resurrect it now? Well, I’m a writer and writers are supposed to write blogs I was told at the recent London Screenwriters Festival. But much more than that, the Festival made me want to write, and ever since I’ve been editing my feature film script, honing and burnishing it to make it the best it can be. Four wow factors and a surfer in the course of 3 inspiring days brought about this transformation.

1. First up was Pilar Alessandra and her 2 screenwriting sessions I attended. Fluent, confident, polished, every inch the LA screenwriting professional teacher in her nifty designer dresses and giant heels, she really knew her stuff. I’d come to LSF to immerse myself in the craft of screenwriting and she proved to be the ultimate Hollywood swimming pool. Her sessions on maximising impact and dynamic dialogue examined film clips and handouts which were almost tailor-made to my needs, full of insights on types of scene, pay-offs, character flaws, tells, sub-text etc. You can catch up with her here:

But she also pulled off the well nigh impossible trick of enabling her classes of hundreds to participate in each session. In her Dynamic Dialogue session she asked us to write a monologue in 1 minute and find the perfect line within it. Here’s what I wrote:

I wish you’d stop sniffling. I know you’ve got a bad cold but it’s distracting, it’s annoying. Don’t you have any hankies? I know this is important, that you don’t want to miss anything, but we’re missing stuff because of your constant sniffling. It’s making my blood boil. Gie us a break for Christ’s sake!

For the first hour or so of her talk this guy next to me was sniffling all the time and disturbing my concentration, so eventually I couldn’t take it anymore and gave him it with both barrels into the roving mike. My key line was the first sentence, but Pilar liked ‘Don’t you have any hankies?’ And you know what? It worked. He didn’t sniffle again for the rest of the session!

2. Next up was Chris Jones, the powerhouse and driving force behind the Festival, who demonstrated real passion and commitment to teaching the craft of screenwriting and encouraging us to believe in ourselves in all his sessions. In his Live Script Edit he gave out the first draft of his Gone Fishing short and then a later draft and discussed the differences with us. He also issued the opening pages of various scripts that had been sent in, elicited our comments and then suggested how they could be edited. By the time we had done this a few times we were able to spot the weaknesses for ourselves in the ones that followed and apply this to our own scripts.

I thought I knew quite a lot about using social media but decided to go along to his Sunday morning graveyard slot just in case I could pick up a few more tips. Well, there were tips aplenty and I came away with pages of notes and a host of things to follow up like branding, e-mail aggregators, text baiting and plug-in widgets to sharpen up my practice. But it was his Manifesting Success session with Jonny Newman and his closing round-up that infected me and many others with his boundless enthusiasm and ‘can do’ mindset. By the end of the Success session one woman had decided to have a baby, a new writers’ circle was going to be set up in London, and lots of us had made personal commitments to think big and write big! I don’t know what you’re on but keep taking it, Chris.

3. There’s no question that screenwriting legend Joe Eszterhas’s presence at the Festival was another massive wow factor. To see him up on the stage with Basic Instinct playing on the big screen behind him and hear him spill the beans on how the script got written and the picture got made was a definite highlight. There was something magical about the way the light caught him, Chris Jones and Lucy V Hay on stage with their backs to the screen whilst they watched and commented on the film on a laptop in front of them. Joe knew some of the characters and their dark side from his years as a reporter covering police stories and wrote the first draft in 13 days. A bidding war followed in Cannes from which he emerged $4m better off, the highest fee ever paid to a screenwriter at the time. He later turned down $8m to write Basic Instinct 2.

 But I’d heard beforehand from some of the guys who had a Script Lab session with him that he tore up the script, spent the time asking them all about themselves and their writing, and finished by offering to read the whole of their scripts not just the extracts they’d sent in. So when he said he’d always been known as a troublemaker, I knew where he was coming from. He advised us not to be put off by rejections and his one piece of sound advice to screenwriters was ‘don’t let the bastards grind you down!’

4. The last wow factor was the openness, enthusiasm and dedication of the delegates themselves. At the opening reception everyone I met was up for it, willing to talk, to share where they’d reached in their screenwriting path, to exchange cards and to encourage each other. There was a strong feeling of ‘we’re all in this together, let’s go for it’. Funnily enough, I didn’t see many of them again - maybe not surprising amongst 800 delegates and 150 speakers - but those I did, our conversations went deeper and it felt like we could become real friends. There was a buzz about the whole place and a determination to apply what we’d learned and keep our writing going after it was over. The whole event was truly inspiring (life changing lots of folk called it) and I’ve already signed up for next year.

And the surfer? Well, I found him after slipping away early from David Leland’s session on screenwriting and procrastination. My notes of his talk are few and far between (always a bad sign) and on this limited evidence he is a great screenwriter but not a great teacher of screenwriting. All was not entirely lost, however, for I managed to catch the tail end of Tony Jordan’s interview with Lucy V in which he described his procrastination drug of choice, namely spending about 3 days playing solitaire and other computer games before he could write. When the urge finally comes upon him he rides the writing wave and doesn’t get off it until he’s forced to. I’ve been riding that wave ever since.

Thursday, 31 December 2009

A Time For Reflection

A time for reflection on the old year and where it’s taken me. Well, to Kerrera, Lismore, Gigha, Coll, Tiree and Easdale for a start, to learn from their Community Trust activities, all different but earnestly tackling similar problems and taking their islands forward. This is what we hope to achieve with our Trust Atlantic Islands Centre here on Luing which would provide a cafĂ© restaurant gathering place for the community and an exhibition and interpretation centre where islanders and visitors can learn more about the human and natural history of Luing and the other Argyll islands.

My writing also took me to Rothesay and Helensburgh Libraries and the Kilmarnock Burns Club in March to give readings from Slate, Sea and Sky, and to offer poetry workshops at Easdale and Luing Primary Schools which produced lots of good poems by pupils. A very fruitful collaboration with composer, musician and writer Mark Sheridan led to the Atlantic Islands Suite which premiered at the Atlantic Islands Festival here in July and went on to the Belladrum Festival in August, with perhaps more performances next year.

Then there was my ongoing creative partnership with Steve Pardue of Differentia Design which produced seven interpretation panels for the Oban Community Council, which were installed along the sea front in Oban and Ganavan in October, and the poetry rocks further north at Kentallen on the Caledonia Way cycle route. In the course of this I researched and learnt a lot about the history and wildlife of the area and the content of the panels can be seen at Steve’s a great guy to work with, he always seems to get my creative juices going, and having a focus and deadline to meet always helps. I’m looking forward to more of the same next year.

Of course, the high point of the year was the Atlantic Islands Festival which by all accounts was a resounding success and brought outstanding musicians, writers and visual artists to Luing for a full week long programme of events, workshops, walks and talks. The lure of Luing has already brought some of them back and many have kept in touch through Facebook and e-mail and the experience has inspired them in their work and in their lives.

The Scottish Centre for Geopoetics has emerged stronger from this with new members on Luing and an extended and extending core of folk who are taken by the concept and its practice and understand its relevance to their ongoing work. Continuing creative connections with Mark and Marion Sheridan and Richard and Bridie Ashrowan, for example, should bring rich benefits to the development of geopoetics in Scotland and we are already planning weekend events on Islay at the end of February and at Ruskin’s house at Brantwood in Cumbria at the end of May. This last should bring together our members in the North of England and the Borders and hopefully kick-start a group in England.

This new phase in the growth of interest in geopoetics is epitomised for me in my friendship through Facebook with Nat Hall in Shetland, our new furthest north member, whose enthusiasm has already brought a whiff of energising ocean air to our ongoing work. Our continuing discussions with the International Futures Forum based at Aberdour also bode well for the future. This kind of networking and exchange of creative ideas and practice offers encouraging prospects for the development of geopoetics as a global movement.

The Festival was a massive voluntary undertaking and too much to take on every year so we have decided to plan for 2011 instead. I’m hoping that this will enable me to concentrate more on creating new work in poetry and non-fiction over the coming year and I aim to make this a priority in 2010. Healthwise it’s been a pretty good year too - helped by stress relieving holidays in Rhodes, Crete and Germany - and let’s hope that continues. The last night of the year beckons - more thoughts to follow in the New Year.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

A Meeting of Minds: Geopoetics and the International Futures Forum

Ian and Marj Prior and I caught the first ferry from the Isle of Luing at 7.30 am and got to Aberdour by 11 after a fine journey between the hills that was splashed with damp autumn colours. We were warmly welcomed at The Boathouse by Andrew Lyon and Tina Sorenson on behalf of the International Futures Forum, and once everyone had assembled we were soon out on the coastal walk over the cliffs and through a wood to the neat little harbour of Aberdour.

A cawing of jackdaws took off from the beach leaving it to an oystercatcher, a redshank and some carrion crows. We walked round the harbour to the Blacksands amid speculation that the lack of signposts pointing there from the village signified the wish of local people to keep this beach to themselves. It was a beautiful little cove with stepping stones carved into the rock at the far end, so who could blame them, were it true?

On the point, a solitary curlew stood unconcerned amongst glistening rack but flew off as more of us approached. As usual we engaged in random snatches of conversations as we walked. Short and longer, familiar and new, sharing news and thoughts, always interesting, leaving you wanting more, but always with a weather eye open for everything around us.

A few of us called in at a small round gallery above the shore which had some good quality paintings and blue metal fish dangling from a frame on the wall. Back around the harbour we climbed up steep, winding steps to the top of the cliffs and found out later that these had been built by the father of a man who had come along that day to find out what geopoetics was about.

Invigorated by the walk, we were ready for a delicious soup and sandwich lunch back at The Boathouse thanks to the generosity of the IFF. In the course of conversation with Andrew and Graham Leicester, IFF Director, I learned that this magnificent new building with its open views over the Forth had once been a boat builder’s which its new owner Pat Henaghan had redesigned as a flexible, contemporary meeting place for hire.

The man himself sat down beside me and told me more about this and another attempted rebuilding project which led (don’t ask me how) into a description, based on a brain surgeon’s knowledge, of how the brain works and how PowerPoint was totally unsuitable for presentations if you wanted to engage with people and stimulate new thinking. Afterwards he gave me a copy of The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within by Edward R. Tufte, complete with a hilarious front cover showing a military parade in Budapest in 1956 and the caption “There’s no bullet list like Stalin’s bullet list!” which totally demolishes its flawed approach. PowerPoint no More!

It turned out that Pat was on his way to Santiago in Chile so I asked him to look up El Observatorio, the fledgling geopoetics centre there who recently got in touch with me, whilst Andrew joked that I might want to let them know that we were sending out our man to check them out.

Andrew, Graham, Jennifer Williams and Tony Hodgson from the IFF steering group sat in on our AGM held in the round in the stunning conference room upstairs as we discussed how our Summer School and Atlantic Islands Festival had led to new creative partnerships and strengthened existing ones, and discussed exciting plans for an Islay weekend in February and a North of England Going Outward event in May 2010. We also discussed our potential participation in a European-wide ASTRAL project which would bring together scientists and artists in creative educational ways.

When an IFF team came to Luing in August on a learning journey to explore the influence of culture on health, they asked us lots of questions about geopoetics and what we did. This time we asked the IFF members how they started off and what they did, and they told us that it began with two meetings in 2001 which led to a realisation that so much current thinking was based on an inadequate conceptual framework and from then on an involvement in a process of going out into the world in search of a wider and deeper approach.

They talked about the holistic science advocated by Brian Goodwin of Schumacher College, about the vision of the prophetic imagination proposed by Walter Brueggemann, and the World Model they had developed of how we conceive the world in which we’re living and the need to put the cosmos back into our thinking. As they spoke it became clearer that essentially we were talking about the same things: where they speak about a conceptual emergency we talk about the dead end of the motorway of western civilisation, where they talk about the need for cultural leadership and creative transgression we speak about a movement for radical cultural renewal.

As we talked Graham was scanning the booklet Geopoetics; place, culture, world by Kenneth White which we’d brought along, was seeing the inter-connections and said so. When one of our group suggested that Kenneth White and geopoetics didn’t engage with social and political issues and another that the IFF’s work was geopoetics with a purpose, I pointed out that some of us had spent many years of our lives doing just that and had come to the conclusion that how we lived our lives creatively could touch just as many, if not more, people than political activity. I also suggested that whatever economic or social situation an individual was in there remained the possibility of opening a world, developing one’s-self and responding creatively in a wide range of forms to it, thereby leading a fuller and fulfilled life.

Geopoetics has always had a purpose, a very ambitious purpose, its purpose is nothing less than a re-founding and re-grounding of contemporary culture on the basis of a new or renewed sense of world. The geopoetics movement begins with individuals who grasp that such an approach is desperately needed and are prepared to work with others to bring about a fundamental shift in thinking, living and expression.

Finding common cause and purpose with the work being done by the International Futures Forum was the revelation of the day and its potential is immeasurable. As we wound up our discussion I spotted a cormorant taking off into the fading light of the Forth estuary. I took that as an auspicious sign.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Literature in Scotland: A New Approach continued

Here's the rest of what I proposed at the end of last month to the Literature Working Group set up by the Scottish Government . Your thoughts on this and the last post would be most welcome.

Literature in Scotland: A New Approach continued

Ideas, Essays and Intelligent Debate

One area in which Scotland is weak is in the writing and publication of well argued analytical books and collections of essays on a range of issues which encourage intelligent debate. Most academic books are over specialised and too expensive to serve this function. There should be increased financial incentives to publishers specifically earmarked for the publication and marketing of more of these books to raise the level of awareness amongst a wide readership of important issues of a cultural, environmental, political, economic and social nature.

Literary Magazines, Newspapers and Digital Publications

Literary magazines, newspapers and digital publications are important as outlets for publication by new and established writers and as indicators of a stimulating and healthy literary culture. They are also important as places where debate and discussion of all things literary can and should take place. However, current funding is insufficient to sustain and develop these media and tends to favour well established journals at the expense of new ones.

The current level of funding of literary magazines and digital publications should be at least doubled and be allocated to both existing well established magazines and new ones with well thought out proposals for publication and development. New magazines should not have to publish four issues before being considered for funding. The admirable efforts of journals such as Northwords Now and Textualties in print and digital form should be recognised and encouraged by significantly improved levels of funding. There should be greater funding generally for digital publications which publish high quality work of all kinds including essays and articles and which encourage intelligent debate on all things literary.

Newspapers are suffering from declining sales and are cutting costs and, in some cases, the space given to book reviews. Generally speaking, they have failed over many years to offer sufficient outlets for creative writing of all kinds and, in view of these long-term trends, it is unlikely that these editorial decisions will change. However, they could be given some financial incentives to publish online more poems, short stories, essays and non-fiction articles. Online local newspapers like For Argyll and The Arran Voice which do an excellent job with very limited resources should be properly funded to do this too and develop their valuable work.

Northings, the HI~Arts Journal, is a major source of cultural news and views in the Highlands and Islands and should receive increased funding to expand its work. Its parent body HI~Arts should receive greater funding, in particular to facilitate its writing development coordination which is doing great work through its mentoring scheme and undertaking other initiatives to develop new writers in the area and throughout Scotland generally.

There is precious little attention paid in the England based newspapers and reviews to work published in Scotland, unlike the Scottish Review of Books. It deserves to be given improved public funding to support its work and should be encouraged to feature more essays and analysis related to books and authors in Scotland.

Festivals and Other Events

The growth in the number of Book and Arts Festivals in recent years is a most important and encouraging development for writers and publishers, and is benefits book sales and the profile of literature. However, the invited authors often seem like more of the same established names and media celebrities and Festival directors should be encouraged to feature less well known writers based in Scotland more than they currently do.

The Atlantic Islands Festival on the Isle of Luing in July 2009 (which I was involved in organising) featured musicians, visual artists, ornithologists and botanists as well as writers and was a critical as well as financial success. The crossover connections made between these artists and scientists can often be very valuable to a writer’s development. Funding should be made available for these different kinds of cross- cultural events as well as those already established and new literary festivals.

General Observations

There is a continuing need for collaborations between writers, composers, musicians, visual artists and others, and some interesting and valuable work has come out of these. This should be recognised by increased funding to enable this work to continue and expand.

Currently some writers are discouraged from applying for funding for their work by the processes they have to go through to obtain it. The process of application and the application forms themselves should be simplified as much as possible to make it easier to apply.

These proposals would go some way towards addressing the underfunding of literature in Scotland in comparison to other arts provision and other areas of UK and Scottish Government spending. Part of the justification for this change to Scottish Government spending priorities is that literature provides a strong indicator of Scotland’s state of well being and of how it is regarded internationally, and that with this kind of financial and political encouragement the quality of our literary output and our international standing can improve.

So that's what I sent in, let's see what the Working Group has to say about these and other issues. One thing is absolutely clear, leaving the future of writing to the tender mercies of the free market can only lead to even more 'fast food' books and endless cultural dumbing down. The current system of funding just won't do faced with what's happening to literature and intelligent thought - a bold new approach is badly overdue.
Where have all the months gone? The same place as all the other months I suppose, into the space that only memory can reach. I've been heavily involved in Scottish Centre for Geopoetics work particularly our Atlantic Islands Festival and Geopoetics Summer School in July which were very successful with fruitful connnections made with musicians, film-makers, writers and others. We had a reunion of sorts last night in Edinburgh at a wide-ranging as ever Kenneth White lecture at the National Library of Scotland. I woke up this morning with lots of ideas whirring around for future writing projects and after tomorrow night's performance of Magnetic North's Walden play here on the island, which I'm delighted to say is sold out, I've got clear water ahead to get down to some serious study and writing.

But before I do, I've been thinking a lot about the business of writing and how difficult it is for most writers to make any kind of living out of writing their books. Instead they do all kinds of other jobs and write in what little time that leaves them. That's why I went to the trouble of sending my views on this to the Literature Working Group set up by Scottish Government Culture Minister Mike Russell which is to make recommendations about a new approach to public funding of writers and publishers in Scotland by the end of the year. Here's the first part of my submission:

Literature in Scotland: A New Approach

Much more needs to be done to enhance the quality of literature in Scotland and its international standing. For too long literature in Scotland has been underfunded in comparison to other arts provision and other areas of UK and Scottish Government spending. Although we have some world class writers and plenty of books are being published, very few writers are able to earn a living from writing and the digital age as well as online and chain bookstores are presenting significant challenges to publishers.

The remit of the working group which has been asked ‘to recommend a new approach to public sector support of literature’ is very welcome since radical changes are required to the way that writers and publishers are funded in order to meet these challenges. The current system of supplementing market forces with publicly funded bursaries, prizes and awards will not adequately nurture and sustain the growth of the kind of high quality literature in Scotland which will enhance its international reputation and bring cultural, social and economic benefits to the nation.

Surely it is unacceptable that a great writer such as Hugh MacDiarmid lived in poverty throughout most of his life and that an internationally recognised living author like James Kelman tells us that he has never been able to make a living from his writing alone? Few writers derive much of an income from book royalties which are set as low in some cases as 7.5% of the net book price and they have to undertake other work of many different kinds which drains away a considerable amount of time and energy from their writing.

What writers need is a system of financial and professional support at all stages of their working lives which will enable them to concentrate on their writing and to produce the best quality work possible. Such a system should not discriminate against authors on account of their age or the kind of books they write but should be designed solely to encourage excellence in all fields.

A New System of Funding

1. There are plenty of new writers emerging all the time whether as a result of their own efforts or of their participation in the proliferation of writing groups and creative writing courses. What these writers need most is the time to work at their craft, professional mentoring, sufficient outlets for their work in literary magazines, free-sheets and online, and some financial assistance to enable them to produce their first book or two.

2. Based on an independent evaluation of the quality of their work, around 40 such writers each year should be selected to be paid an annual salary of e.g. £10,000 per year for two years in which to complete at least one book. They should also be provided with professional mentoring services of the kind currently offered by HI~Arts. If the work produced is judged to be of sufficiently high quality, publishers based in Scotland should be paid a sum of e.g. £5000 per book to publish and market their books and to pay the authors at the Minimum Terms Agreement rate of between 10 and 15% of the book published price. There should be a balance amongst those writers selected between poetry, fiction, non-fiction and children’s writing.

3. Writers who have already published one or two books often find it difficult to sustain the effort to produce further books which will enhance the quality of what they have written previously and create a substantial body of work. Often they have not earned enough from previously published books to enable them to concentrate on their writing full-time and require to work at various occupations which take away time and energy from their writing.

4. Based on an independent evaluation of the quality of their work, around 30 such writers each year should be selected to be paid an annual salary of e.g. £15,000 per year for two years in which to complete a book. They should also be provided with professional mentoring services of the kind currently offered by HI~Arts. If the work produced is of sufficiently high quality, publishers based in Scotland should be paid a sum of e.g. £5000 per book to publish and market their books and pay the authors at the Minimum Terms Agreement rate of between 10 and 15% of the book published price. There should be a balance amongst those writers selected between poetry, fiction, non-fiction and children’s writing.

5. We have a relatively small number of writers with a substantive body of work behind them whose worth is generally recognised yet who do not earn enough from their writing to enable them to concentrate solely on their work to the exclusion of other paid employment. They too require the time and energy to keep producing work of the highest quality which would enhance the international standing of literature in Scotland.

6. Based on an independent evaluation of the quality of their work, around 15 such writers should be selected to be paid an annual salary of e.g. £30,000 per year for two years in which to complete one or more books. They should also be offered professional mentoring services of the kind currently offered by HI~Arts. If the work produced is of sufficiently high quality, publishers based in Scotland should be paid a sum of e.g. £5000 per book each year to publish and market their books and pay the authors at the Minimum Terms Agreement rate of between 10 and 15% of the book published price. There should be a balance amongst those writers selected between poetry, fiction, non-fiction and children’s writing.

7. After two years, if they have fulfilled the requirements, it should be possible for such well established writers to be selected for the same financial support for a further two years. This could be continued subject to review with say a further 4 well established writers being selected at the end of the first two years.

8. Selection in all cases should be by a committee of at least 9 persons made up of at least 5 writers and two publishers based in Scotland and should be in accordance with equal opportunities.

9. The total cost of this new system of annual funding for writers would be around £1,325,000 including £25,000 mentoring costs rising in the second year to £2,700,000 including £50,000 mentoring costs and £2.825,000 in the third year including £55,000 mentoring costs; and for publishers based in Scotland £425,000 rising to £850,000 in year 2 and £870,000 in year 4. The total annual cost would be between £1.75m and £3.695m.

10. The operation of the system should be subject to review every two years to ensure that it is producing the intended outcomes in terms of the quality of work being produced and published.

If you've read this far the rest of my paper is in the next blog.

Best for now.