Writing on the wall for top talent

22nd June 2007 at 01:00
The best creative writing candidates got more than a good grade when the SQA board selected their finest work for an anthology. Elizabeth Buie reports

a selection of fiction and non-fiction writing by the "sharpest" Scottish Qualifications Authority students is to be distributed to schools, colleges and universities.

The SQA has ventured into the book publishing business with Write Times - an anthology of the finest poetry, drama, fiction and non-fiction produced last year by students taking qualifications from Standard grades to Higher National Certificates.

Tom Drake, SQA director, said the book was a reflection of the exam body's important role in encouraging talent as well as assessing candidates.

"We are not just about certificating, but also celebrating the best talents," he said at the launch of the book in Glasgow last week.

Campbell Cassidy, the SQA's principal assessor for Advanced Higher English and one of the panel who selected the articles, said the fact that 1,300 of the 1,700 Advanced Higher English candidates chose the creative writing option was evidence that many young people were aware of the importance of language in their lives. He said their love of words shone out and it was clear that they were developing their own voice as they experimented with language.

David Manderson, senior lecturer at Reid Kerr College in Paisley, who runs the HNC course in professional writing, said the standard of writing reflected the high level of classroom teaching.

Commuters who use Glasgow's underground system can read one of the selected pieces on posters at subway stations: Uist Street, Govan, a poem by Tracy Patrick, one of Mr Manderson's HNC students.

At 34, she is about to complete her diploma in professional writing and hopes to embark on a BA in literature this year. Her dream, however, is to be a full-time writer.

Peter Maiolani, who teaches English at Castlehead High in Paisley, was her inspiration. "He brought Shakespeare and Arthur Miller to life in class by the way he read them," she said.

For Rachel Burns, whose Bonnie: The Story of a Wandering Sheep on Whalsay was included in her creative writing portfolio for Standard English last year, this could be the start of a children's story series. Now the mother of six-month-old Ewan, she has left the 66-pupil school on the Shetland island of Whalsay and is keen to develop the story idea further for her young son.

Another of the writers featured is 50-year-old Harry McDonald, who followed the HNC creative writing course at Glasgow College of Nautical Studies. A former civil servant, he is going on to Glasgow University to do an MLitt.

Creative writing had always interested him, he said, but "life happens" and it was only now he was able to follow his interest.

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