Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship winner David Kennan
Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship winner David Kennan

New Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowships

Four authors have been honoured by the Scottish Book Trust.

The Trust, the national charity changing lives through reading and writing, has revealed that the four Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowships for 2018 have been awarded to Jenni Fagan, David Keenan, Theresa Muñoz and Shane Strachan.

The Fellows were selected by a panel, which changes every year.

The Fellowship was initiated in 1994 by Franki Fewkes, a Scottish Robert Louis Stevenson enthusiast, and is supported by Creative Scotland. Intended to give writers a chance to escape the routine and distractions of their everyday lives to devote time to their writing, it provides residencies for four writers at the Hôtel Chevillon International Arts Centre at Grez-sur-Loing, France. Travel and accommodation costs are covered, plus a grant of £300 per week for living expenses.

Grez-sur-Loing is at the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau and was chosen because of its connections with Robert Louis Stevenson who first visited in 1875. It was there, at the Hôtel Chevillon, that he met his future wife Fanny Osbourne.

Previous Fellows include Liz Lochhead, Janice Galloway, Jo Clifford, James Robertson and Louise Welsh.

As well as the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship, Scottish Book Trust supports writers through initiatives such as the New Writers Awards, Next Chapter Award, the What’s Your Story? programme for young writers and the Live Literature Fund, which makes funding available to enable authors to visit schools and communities.

Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship winner David Kennan

This year’s four fellowships have been awarded to:

Jenni Fagan is a novelist, poet and screenwriter based in Edinburgh. Her debut novel The Panopticon was published in 2012 and received worldwide critical acclaim. Jenni was the only Scottish writer on the Granta Best of Young British Novelists 2013 and has also been on lists for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, Sunday Times Short Story Prize, BBC Short Story Award, Desmond Elliott Prize, Pushcart Prize and James Tait Black Prize.

After many years of deliberation, Jenni has decided to write her memoir, stating that the retreat provided by the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship will give her the ideal space and time to take on such a personally challenging book.

Jenni said: ‘I am hugely grateful for the opportunity to take a Robert Louis Stevenson fellowship. It is one I have dreamt of for years and I feel lucky to have this chance at a time where I really will benefit from the support put in place by Scottish Book Trust. I look forward to immersing myself in daily life at Hotel Chevillon and exploring the area so dear to Robert Louis Stevenson, all those years ago.’

David Keenan grew up in Airdrie and is now based in Glasgow. A senior critic for The Wire, he is also the author of two books: England’s Hidden Reverse and This is Memorial Device, his debut novel, which was a Telegraph and Rough Trade Book of the Year and shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize 2017.

David will be working on his new novel, Monument Maker, a love story and a meditation on art and spirituality set in Central France amongst the great cathedrals, monasteries and chateaus.

David said: ‘I’m completely blown away to receive the Fellowship; Robert Louis Stevenson was my first literary crush as a young man, and I’m so excited to be able to travel to an area I have spent so much time imagining.’

Theresa Muñoz is based in Edinburgh

Theresa Muñoz was born in Vancouver, Canada and now lives in Edinburgh. She is currently Research Associate at the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts at Newcastle University, where she helps coordinate the Newcastle Poetry Festival. Her debut book of poems Settle (Vagabond Voices, 2016) was shortlisted for the Melita Hume Poetry Prize.

Theresa plans to work on a sequence of villanelles which span the themes of race, gender, relationships and loss, most set against a Scottish backdrop.

She said: ‘I was so excited and filled with gratitude when I got the call about the fellowship, which was completely unexpected. This is a fantastic opportunity to work on a sequence of villanelles that will have a significant place in my next poetry collection. This is my first writing residency and I can’t wait to get going. Thank you to Scottish Book Trust and the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship for making a major difference to my writing life!’

Shane Strachan has lived in Aberdeen for more than a decade. Much of his work is inspired by the Northeast of Scotland and its relationship with the wider world; it often features an accessible use of Northeast Scots (Doric). In 2018, he was chosen as a mentor for Queer Words Project Scotland and he has also received a Muriel Spark 100 funding award to create new short stories inspired by Spark’s time in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Aberdeen’s Shane Strachan

Shane’s Fellowship project is a novelisation of the life of Bill Gibb, a farm boy from Aberdeenshire who went on to take the fashion world by storm in the 1970s, designing dresses worn by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Bianca Jagger and Twiggy.

Shane added: ‘It’s something of a dream come true to have been offered a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship, especially at this pivotal time in my career when I needed this support (and confidence boost!) to transition from writing short to long-form fiction.

‘To have been granted devoted time to work on a project that I am highly passionate about really is a gift and I can’t wait to head to Grez-sur-Loing and get writing.’

Marc Lambert, CEO at Scottish Book Trust, said: ‘The Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship is an excellent opportunity for writers to work in seclusion on a specific project, in such beautiful and historic surroundings.

‘Congratulations to our new Fellows, all of us at Scottish Book Trust look forward to supporting them on the next stage of their creative journey.’

Alan Bett, literature officer at Creative Scotland, agreed: ‘Drawing on Scottish literary heritage, The Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship this year awards four of our freshest contemporary voices in Jenni Fagan, David Keenan, Theresa Muñoz and Shane Strachan.

‘Through travel to the significant setting of the Hôtel Chevillon International Arts Centre at Grez-sur-Loing and a distancing from the distractions of everyday life, they will be provided the space they need to fully devote themselves to new works. Creative Scotland are delighted to support these residencies, which allow our writers to immerse themselves fully in the artistic process, to the benefit of their work and eventually all of us readers.’