Writers are being encouraged to apply for the Scottish Book Trust’s Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship.
Scotland-based professional writers, who would benefit from time away from their usual environment to develop their work, are encouraged to apply.
The Fellowship was initiated in 1994 by Franki Fewkes, a Scottish Robert Louis Stevenson enthusiast then living in France, and is supported by Creative Scotland. It provides residencies for four ‘Fellows’, for one month each, in a self-catering studio apartment at the Hôtel Chevillon International Arts Centre at Grez-sur-Loing in France. Travel and accommodation are paid for, and there is a grant of £300 per week to cover living expenses.
Grez-sur-Loing is situated 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.
Stevenson found both the place, and its well-established community of writers and artists, highly attractive and he returned to Grez-sur-Loing for three successive summers.
The Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship has helped sixty writers since its creation, and Scottish Book Trust has supported sixteen writers since taking over the fellowship in 2014. Works produced during the retreat include Janice Galloway’s award winning memoir, All About Me, and some of Michael Pedersen’s collection, Oyster.
Former Makar and poet Liz Lochhead, a 2017 Robert Louis Stevenson Fellow, said: ‘I spent the first part of last summer at Grez-sur-Loing, in the fine, very foreign to me, French sunshine, living at the little apartment dedicated to RLS in the Hotel Chevillon. This was the site of a fairly new artists’ commune back then in 1876 when Robert Louis Stevenson met his future wife, the older, married-and-not-yet divorced, American, Fanny Osbourne.
‘Day in, day out, I drew and painted among the merry ghosts, or read about them in the many conflicting accounts of various biographers and tried to listen in and summon up in my imagination and put down on paper the voices of that time.’
Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, said: ‘This is a wonderful opportunity for established writers to gain some time away in a beautiful location to focus on their writing. The roll call of Fellows is a prestigious list and shows the variety of work we have supported.’
David Bishop, from Biggar in South Lanarkshire, was a recipient of a Fellowship in 2016.
He said: ‘I didn’t think writers like me were awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship. I’m not a poet and my project – a historical mystery set in late-Renaissance Florence – is not exactly literary fiction.
‘Indeed, I was so convinced applying was a fool’s errand that I didn’t bother until the last possible day. Just as well I had some sample prose available; otherwise I would abandoned the attempt before I started. Better to focus on writing your next story than waste time waiting for news about your submission.
‘As programme leader for the genre-loving Creative Writing MA at Edinburgh Napier University, I advise my students to employ a ‘set it and forget it’ approach to submitting work for publication opportunities and competitions. Better to focus on writing your next story than waste time waiting for news about your submission. I certainly managed that with my RLS application, completely forgetting I’d even applied.
‘When I got the phone call offering me four weeks in France and a stipend of £1200 to work on my novel, I thought it must be a prank. I almost swore at the kind person on the other end of the line, having had a day full of annoying calls from robots and random call centres. But it was real: a golden opportunity to devote a month to thinking, reading and writing, away from the distractions of everyday life and my normal routine.
‘I promised myself I would write 20,000 words for my novel and I did, despite six days spent supervising my MA students as they wrote 20,000 words for their major projects. My progress slowed after returning home, but I’ve vowed to have a complete first draft by the first anniversary of my time as a RLS Fellow. That would not be possible without the precious month I spent in Grez-sur-Loing, writing and reading and thinking.
‘So if you think writers like you aren’t ever selected for a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship, think again. Prepare the best application you can, submit it and move on to something else. You never know, you might get an unexpected phone call that could change your writing life. Bonne chance!’
For details of how to apply for the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship, and for full eligibility criteria, visit http://www.scottishbooktrust.com. The closing date for Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship 2018 applications is Wednesday 31 January 2018.