In this week’s An Lanntair blog, Michelle Bromley of Stornoway Writers’ Circle explains how the group – which meets at An Lanntair each Tuesday evening – gave her a new creative life on Lewis…
When I told people I was moving to the Outer Hebrides, I was asked what I was going to do there. It seems the good people of South Yorkshire imagined I would be moving to somewhere more like St Kilda than Stornoway. Once told I would be focusing on my writing, they switched to wondering if I’d be lonely, sitting at home and staring at a screen all day.
Happily, whatever isolated and isolating life they were envisioning for me, it’s been entirely unforthcoming.
Before we moved up, my husband showed me the webpage for the Stornoway Writers’ Circle. That October, I attended my first writing session with them. The ranks of writers boast a high percentage of the shy and the introverted, and many of my longstanding writing friends have some form of social anxiety, so getting a writer into a room with people they don’t know can be tricky – even when those people are also writers.
To my relief, I was made to feel welcome and took part in the session’s exercises. A good chunk of my anxiety over making the move to a very different lifestyle from full time teacher at a large Secondary school in England was assuaged. If nothing else, here were people I could speak with in person once a week, people who would remind me I was meant to be writing. And the café downstairs from the community room sold hot chocolate. It could only have been better if someone had a basket of puppies.
I’d made the move here at the very best of times: a few days before Christmas in an unusually snow-filled winter, into a rented house with a fire that didn’t work. Being able to get out and talk about writing pried me out from under my blanket once a week, which is a massive endorsement of the group given how one of my superpowers is to become one with the settee at the best of times. The writing sessions became one of the highlights of my week.
Since then, we’ve moved into a house of our own, with a working wood burner, and I’ve taken over as Chairperson of the group.
In the weekly sessions, group members can take the lead on topics that interest them, as well as taking part in free-writing, critique of members’ work and various writing-focused discussions. We have writers who are poised to launch a novel and people who write as a much-loved hobby, so we strive to have something for everyone across the sessions.
The group also makes the most of other opportunities. We produced a short anthology to tie in with last year’s Faclan, with readings at the festival itself, and took part in a workshop run by the excellent Zoe Strachan. Recently, several members of the group joined the Edinburgh String Quartet on stage (see photo), reading poetry inspired by the island as part of the performance – certainly something I didn’t get the chance to try before! We’ve been working on a script for a murder mystery event, and we have plans for more upcoming projects
I am very far from isolated and very far from having nothing to do.
Stornoway Writers’ Circle was formed in January 2006 as the result of a workshop class in An Lanntair, led by Canadian writer Heather Birrell. When Heather returned to Canada, the group decided to continue with its weekly sessions. Two full anthologies have so far been produced: Writing Our Astonishment and Beyond Words.
Meetings are held each Tuesday from 7 to 9 pm in An Lanntair’s community room. For the latest information, potential new members should visit www.stornowaywriterscircle.uk.