CoastWord Festival began as an idea at the school gates. As the festival has grown over the years, the innovative mothers who thought it would be grand to have a ‘Wee Festival of Words’ in Dunbar have developed their own writing in a group, called ‘Writing Mums’.
As one of the Writers in Residence at CoastWord Festival 2017, Hannah asked me to organise writing activities for a Writing Mum’s residential weekend.
So it was that in March I headed up to a beautiful Airbnb house overlooking Loch Earn with a suitcase full of writing exercises & prompts, notebooks, questions, inspirational quotes & poems and a little nervousness about being the new kid on the block.
The setting was perfect with views over the garden to the mountains and the loch beyond. There was an enormous table tailor-made for nine women to gather around and write, read, laugh, tell stories, cry, eat pasta and tagine, home-made cake and venison sausages, drink coffee and prosecco and fancy gin and be amazed by the insight, honesty and poetry in each other’s words.
I was a hard task-master. The Writing Mums started work before dinner on Friday night and barely stopped until Sunday afternoon. The first thing I did was hand them all new notebooks, giving them permission to fill it with anything and everything – good, bad and indifferent.
In fact, the stuff they produced was phenomenal. The writing was shared after each exercise and was greeted by a chorus of oohs, and aahs, Yesses! Brilliants! Or occasionally a stunned silence before someone whispered ‘Wow’.
We wandered around the grounds as our shoes sank into the sodden earth and the trees dripped and we brought our senses to bear on everything around to inspire us to see things afresh.
Longer pieces were begun, shorter pieces were finished, some people began to realise for the first time the importance of the stories they had to tell.
On Saturday evening, we had an ‘Open Mic’ and we performed pieces of work – not for the feedback, just for the fun of it. I read out a couple of pieces I’ve written for the CoastWord residency. The evening ended with impromptu storytelling – tales of stampeding rhino, endangered crabs, hitch-hiking, motor-biking, running away, coming home.
When someone read out a poem called ‘Nourish Me, Sister,’ Hannah said: ‘That’s got to be the name of our next anthology.’
And if Hannah says so then it will come to pass!
‘Nourish Me, Sister,’ will be published by CoastWord Press in May 2017. It will contain work by members of Writing Mums and will be launched at this year’s festival. My pamphlet ‘Mrs Carlyle had many Lovers’ which contains the work inspired by my residency will be launched at the same event.
It will be an honour to share the stage with the ‘Writing Mums’ - an amazing group of women.