Jane McCarry as Isa in Still Game (Photo: BBC/Alan Peebles)
Jane McCarry as Isa in Still Game (Photo: BBC/Alan Peebles)

Campaign bids to get all of Scotland talking

Val McDermid, patron of Scottish Book Trust and award-winning crime writer, has today launched the search for real-life stories from the people of Scotland.

The Blether campaign seeks submissions from all backgrounds and experiences, whether in written, audio or video form.

Scottish Book Trust, the national charity changing lives through reading and writing, is searching for stories on the theme of Blether. Tied to A Year of Conversation 2019, Blether is a celebration of Scotland and her stories.

Whether it’s the weekly catch up with a friend at a favourite coffee spot, a tough conversation or a connection with a complete stranger, Scottish Book Trust wants to know what ‘blether’ means to you.

Val said: ‘Everybody loves a blether. It can change your life, a good blether. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. But either way, a blether is the source of all the best stories. So take this chance to share those amazing exchanges with us.’

Jane McCarry – Isa of Still Game and Scotland’s favourite gossip – has penned her own personal Blether story as part of the campaign. Nikesh Shukla, editor of The Good Immigrant and author of The One Who Wrote Destiny has also contributed a story, alongside Leila Aboulela, winner the Saltire Fiction Book of Year 2018 for Elsewhere, Home. Chris McQueer, of short story collections Hings and HWFG, has provided his own Blether interpretation in Scots.

The submitted stories will be published in a weekly digital issue, available to read online via Scottish Book Trust’s website. A selection of the stories will also be published in a physical book for Book Week Scotland– a week long, national celebration of books and reading. Over 100,000 copies were distributed last year. This year’s Book Week Scotland takes place between 18 – 24 November 2019.

For those unsure how to start their story, Scottish Book Trust will be running workshops across the country with award-winning writers Kirsty Logan and Lucy Ribchester, scriptwriter Marc Pye and poet Nadine Jassat. Workshops will take place in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee. The writers leading the workshops will also submit their own stories to the Blether campaign. For those who cannot attend, several video tutorials by Sara Sheridan will be made available via Scottish Book Trust’s website and social media channels. The tutorials will cover how to brainstorm the theme, how to start the first line of the story, writer’s voice, and more.

The Blether writing campaign is open for submissions from today until Wednesday 5 June 2019. Writers of all ages and experiences are welcome to submit their work, in any form – story, poem, comic strip, play or letter – of up to 1,000 words, in English, Gaelic or Scots.
Scottish Book Trust is working in partnership with The Gaelic Books Council, and writers Seonag Monk and Calum MacKinnon, along with poet Marion F. Morrison will be providing stories for Blether.

Jane McCarry as Isa in Still Game (Photo: BBC/Alan Peebles)

The Blether campaign will run in partnership with Open Book, Who Cares?, HIV Scotland, Support in Mind and TURN Community Justice. Workshops are being organised in association with these partners in order to reach a diverse audience and gather their stories.

Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, said: ‘We are delighted to be launching the Blether writing campaign with the support of our patron, Val McDermid. During A Year of Conversation 2019, we hope the public will share their stories with us. In difficult and uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to speak out and be heard.’

Alison Lang, director of the Gaelic Books Council, said: ‘This is the Year of Conversation and it’s also UNESCO’s International Year of Indigenous Languages, so we hope that Gaelic speakers will add their voices to the Blether and contribute to this year’s campaign. Togaibh ur guthan agus ur pinn; let’s make Gaelic stories part of the conversation.”

Irene Warner-Mackintosh, who was included in last year’s book, Rebel, said: ‘I was so very chuffed to have a poem selected for last year’s collection of writing on the theme of Rebel. I’ve loved reading all the contributions to previous campaigns – and have them all at home on my bookshelf – so to actually have my wee poem picked was dead exciting, especially with such brilliant company.’

The workshop list is:

· Saturday 13 April, 3-5pm. Nadine Jassat at Edinburgh Central Library.

· Saturday 13 April, 2-4pm, Lucy Ribchester at Perth Museum & Art Gallery.

· Saturday 20 April, 2-4pm. Marc Pye at Dundee Central Library.

· Saturday 27 April, 11am-1pm . Marc Pye at The Mitchell Library.

· Saturday 4 May, 11am-1pm. Lucy Ribchester at Edinburgh Central Library.

· Saturday 11 May, 11am-1pm. Kirsty Logan at The Mitchell Library.

· Saturday 18 May, 2-4pm. Kirsty Logan at Aberdeen Central Library

· Saturday 25 May, 11am-1pm. Nadine Jassat at Portobello Library.

Contact Gordon Connolly to book a place: Gordon.connolly@scottishbooktrust.com

Submissions can be made online via Survey Monkey or via post to: Blether, Scottish Book Trust, Sandeman House, Trunk’s Close, 55 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1SR.