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Meet the new kids on the block

By Barbara Henderson

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ARTYNESS: Barbara Henderson introduces some award-winning new writers who are making a name for themselves – and the north of Scotland

Hazel Knox.
Hazel Knox.

In a moment I will press ‘send’ and the editor of your newspaper’s Seven Days insert will receive the text for this column.

I have pressed ‘send’ twice already this week, you know! I handed in the final edits for The Chessmen Thief, my next children’s book –­­­­­­­­­­­­­ and the novel is now off to the printers. I also submitted an adult non-fiction manuscript, a couple of days ahead of my contract deadline.

We live our lives by deadlines, don’t we? Deadlines, I suppose, are good for us. It made me think of my early writing days, long before publication, when deadlines referred to competitions and awards.

The latter do not come any more prestigious than the Scottish Book Trust’s New Writers Awards, given each year to the select few who have shown the most promise in their writing. I myself applied for these awards on numerous occasions and didn’t get anywhere, so I am in awe of those who have succeeded. And, encouragingly, it seems that the judges have once more looked beyond the central belt.

Take Hazel Knox, a children’s occupational therapist from Thurso who has been given the award for writing for children. Her passion is creating funny books, and she shamelessly harvests material from her offspring. I have met her briefly on a few occasions and believe me, she is a delight!

She says: "I missed the call from Scottish Book Trust and after I spoke to them, I went back and listened to their message six times to convince myself it definitely happened. I plan to drink in every moment of support and advice in the year ahead."

The other children’s awardee, Sally Costelloe, lives on the Isle of Mull in Argyll and Bute. A former journalist for tattoo art magazines, she is currently editing the manuscript of her first children’s novel. Sally is passionate about writing for the seven-to-10 age group as she feels that is when a lifelong love of reading can begin: "If my writing inspires just one child to carry on reading, that would be the ultimate achievement."

Fiction and narrative non-fiction award recipient Gillian Shearer is a writer and poet from Aberdeenshire. The former nurse is currently working a collection of fictional/semi-autobiographical stories based in and around the north-east coast of Scotland written in her native Scots, among other projects.

Hannah Nicholson originally hails from Brae in Shetland and now lives in Aberdeen. Her earliest writing achievement was winning the Shetland Library’s Young Writer of the Year Award in 2005. Some of her earlier work has appeared in Northwords Now, a common route for north-of-Scotland writers.

She incorporates Shetland dialect, local folklore, as well as themes of mental health, isolation and loneliness in her work. Hannah showed real tenacity in the process: "This was my sixth try and it was worth the wait. I’m really excited to experience the opportunities it brings, and to meet my fellow awardees."

A Gaelic New Writers Award went to Skye-based Roddy Neithercut. Roddy has worked in Gaelic medium education across the country as a secondary school teacher and, in recent years, as a primary school teacher. Writing has played an important part of Roddy’s teaching career and he hopes to complete his first novel with the tailored support of the Scottish Book Trust.

I feel such excitement on their behalf – these are writers on the cusp, quite possibly the next big thing. Look out for them in the future.

And remember: You heard it here first!

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