Muse is 'under your nose', says writer-in-residence

19th March 2010 at 00:00

The grisly fate of 17th-century "witches", Kenny Rogers growling through "The Gambler", or even arriving at breakfast to find the cereal not quite where it should be - Scottish Book Trust writer-in-residence Catherine Forde knows any of these can provide starting points for stories.

Ms Forde, who is near the end of her six-month stint in the role, has revelled in its emphasis on creative writing, rather than talking to pupils purely about her own books.

Start by looking under your nose, she advises. Maybe you've come downstairs for breakfast, and something is slightly awry - what happens next?

Or take a place you know well and see if there is another side to it. She cites Mugdock Country Park, near Milngavie in East Dunbartonshire, whose picturesque setting masks a dark history of women accused of witchcraft being drowned.

Ms Forde, who has also produced teaching notes and blog entries, had some "absolutely amazing responses", particularly from S1-3s at Bishopbriggs Academy: several pupils had read some of her stories, and asked insightful questions that led to wider discussion.

She has been working on six five-minute vodcasts (video podcasts) featuring other authors, including Julia Donaldson, Katie Grant and Laura Marney.

One is about music, which can provide "shorthand" for a character's personality. She highlights songs that tell stories, whether "cheesy country and western" - hence "The Gambler" - "Wuthering Heights" by Kate Bush or Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road".

Ms Forde took a traditional approach to creative writing as an English teacher in Gourock in the 1980s, encouraging pupils to plan a beginning, middle and end.

But her approach is more freeform now: "You don't have to write a story sitting at your desk - I think about a story, let it brew, and keep coming back to scribble down notes," she said.

www.scottishbooktrust.comchildren-and-young-peopleonline-writer-in- residence.

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