HighlandLIT normally meets in Inverness at the Glen Mhor Hotel (Hanover Room): however, meetings are currently being held on-line by means of Zoom as a result of the Coronavirus. HighlandLIT is managed by a voluntary committee, elected by the membership at the annual general meeting
The AGM for 2020 was held on Zoom, 16th March 2021 at 6.00pm. The meeting heard the annual report, delivered by Chair Paul Shanks. It then accepted the Financial Statement for 2020, and elected the following committee members: Mark Williams (Chair); Cathy Carr (Secretary); Trish Salt (Treasurer); Mo McQuarrie (Fundraising Co-ordinator.) Four people will share the roles of Programme Co-ordinator and Publicity Co-ordinator – Scott Fraser, Sharon Gunason, Penelope Hamilton and Liz Macrae Shaw. John Dempster is Website and Newsletter Co-ordinator.
Bringing together those with an interest in all things to do with the written word and the wider world of publishing, HighlandLIT provides a valuable opportunity to discuss projects, books, ideas and attend workshops
It also encourages members and guests to meet and ask questions of published writers and poets,
Chair: Mark Williams
My formative years were spent in the midlands of England where, I am reliably informed, I learned to read before the age of four and had a very healthy interest in books. We moved to Aberdeenshire when I was eight years old where we lived on a small croft and the library van appeared once a week at the small primary school I attended. Each week my mother and I would collect armfuls of books and read these each evening since we did not have a television in those days.
At secondary school, my favourite aspect of the English lesson homework was to write a short story or essay, I was less interested in, and therefore struggled with interpretation, something I now wish I had paid more attention to. At lunchtime I would retreat to the school library to avoid having to play football in all weathers. I quickly worked my way through endless Biggles and similar boys’ adventures, and sci-fi books; Bradbury, Wells, Verne, Clarke, Asimov to mention but a few. The librarian once told me that I had read every sci-fi book on the school shelves and that she had therefore ordered more from the central library for me. I think we were both quite impressed by that.
My student days turned my attention mainly to architecture related topics but for relaxation my indulgent interests still drifted to sci-fi and a good murder/mystery novel as well as comedy, history and natural history. Consequently, my bookshelves teem with a wide range of subject matter, both factual and fictional, gathered over many years. Somehow, I find the presence of these books, bending my shelves, both comforting and inspiring.
In addition to design, much of my working life involves writing very dry subject matter, rooted in technicality, but in recent years I have picked up the pen once more and started to assemble words for pleasure. I am also a keen and hopefully capable photographer and have started putting photo-books together that bring together photographic subject matter and associated narrative. These are a kind of travel book that are becoming more complex and descriptive with each one I compose.
I have also started writing some short stories, one of which, I was amazed to find, was published in an anthology created as part of a short story competition run by HighlandLIT before I became a member. Since then, I continue to read and occasionally scribble down various musings as my time allows. I have started reading some of the works of our published members and am amazed at the talent we have here in our midst. I hope that I can bring my wider skillset to the committee and be supportive and encouraging to this wonderful group of creative writers and authors.
Treasurer: Trish Salt
After three decades of living in London, working as a manager within the health and voluntary sector, my partner and I decided to move to Inverness. We spent many a happy holiday in the Highlands, falling in love with its varied landscape and people. A fancy for a change of lifestyle came one sunny day whilst attending a friend’s wedding in Nairn. First off we rented a flat, found work, and then purchased an empty property that required much care and attention. Work on an old property is never really finished and this one will keep us occupied for some years to come, none-the-less it is our lovely home.
It took a while to slow down from my hectic London life, and the feeling that I should always be doing something. Now, I’m happy to spend time standing still, staring at the view and feel healthier for it. I work as Receptionist for Inverness Therapy Clinic and frequently spend my leisure time walking, swimming or gardening. That said, my love of gardening is being challenged severely, previously never having had a garden overrun with ground elder. I am learning to work with nature, planting shrubs in the back garden whilst creating a rockery effect on the stony soil at the front.
In November 2016, I was elected Treasurer for HighlandLIT, bringing to the committee some of the skills acquired from working with charities, where managers are often jack-of-all trades. Committee work occupies a few hours each week, though the time invested is rewarded, such as, when a funding application is granted and an event successfully hosted. In a short time, I have gained much pleasure from the HighlandLIT author events, writing workshops, book reviews and conversations with members. I’m trying my hand at creative writing, having been inspired to believe that I too can write.
Programme Co-ordinator (Joint) Penelope Hamilton
My seventh decade was nearing its end when a voice in my head started saying things like, “Why don’t you stop making excuses? Why don’t you get on with it and WRITE? Like everyone else, you’re MORTAL! Why don’t you FINISH something before you die?”
Eventually I listened to the voice and stepped back from my work as a celebrant. Now, mostly to keep myself at it, I upload poems to my website ‘Human Nature Notes’, and for the same reason I make a monthly 5-10 minute podcast. I’m also working on the umpteenth draft of a novel, and a memoir about being a celebrant.
I swithered about joining HighlandLIT for a few years, but when I did, early last year, I wished I’d joined before! Such a friendly, supportive group of people, and such interesting events. I swithered about putting myself forward for election to the Committee, too, unsure how I could contribute, but after the AGM I felt excited about the future of HighlandLIT. I’m glad to be working and learning with Committee colleagues, and to enjoying even more of the varied and wonderful writing that’s crafted here in the Highlands.
Programme Co-ordinator (Joint) Sharon Gunason
Nearly twenty years ago I first set foot in Caithness. The wide open skies, even for someone like me from the broad prairies of Midwestern America, spoke to something deep inside. And two years later I became a farm wife—not a farmer’s wife as I was told in no uncertain terms. My husband wanted me to be able to something I’d never been able to do before—besides feeding calves and retrieving sheep on their backs; so after nearly 30 years of technical writing and teaching others how to
write, I took up journalism and then fiction. We’ve moved from the farm now and I get to write what I see between the Pentland Firth and the Greenland Moss. My first novel was indie published. I’ve had poetry published in Northwords Now and New Writing Scotland. I have just drafted another novel, Wire, and hope to find a Scottish publisher to give it a home.
Fundraising Co-ordinator: Mo MacQuarrie
When I retired from my job as a fraud investigator I decided to live in a place I had always loved which had connections to my ancestors, who came from the Isle of Barra, so I went to live in a remote part of the Isle of Skye. However, after ten years I started to realise - mostly due to the friends who nagged me - that my house near Duntulm was perhaps a little too out of the way. Hence my move to a village near the Skye Bridge where I live now with my German Shepherd dog - Lyra.
I had always loved writing but the event that really got me started was when I began to research my Mother's family tree. She was a Foundling brought up by The Thomas Coram Association in London and given a name out of the phonebook. Eventually she was allowed to know her real name but, sadly before she died there wasn't the information on the net as there is now and I only managed to find she had two uncles. When I really got into genealogy some years later I found out a lot more and her tree included a few interesting characters that I wanted to write about. I am still working on this as well as a crime novel but I have found that my real forte is short story writing along with the occasional poem.
I attend as many literary events as I can when we're allowed to! The highlight for me was being able to see The fun Lovin' Crime Writers at Aye Write in Glasgow a couple of years ago. I love a writer's workshop and have been to ones with Shona Maclean, niece of the great Alistair, Janice Galloway and a few others. I am lucky in that The Reading Room Skye run these fairly often as well as talks by well known authors. I also went to Ian Rankin's Thriller weekend in Cromarty, just for a couple of events, and ended up having lunch with the man himself!
I like crafting and make bookmarks for friends and also run a small line dance class for my local community trust but that's another story!
I used to run a small writing group with a few of my friends where we met at each others houses about once a month. Whoever hosts the meeting decides on a theme for a short story to be written by all the attendees which has to be read out to everyone there. I'm hoping to start this up again when restrictions allow. The stories I write are put on my blog along with some of my poems and book reviews.
Website and Newsletter Co-ordinator: John Dempster
I was brought up in Lanarkshire, and moved to Inverness in 1992 when my Invernessian wife Lorna and I were married. I worked in public and educational libraries. From 1992 until 1998 I was Educational Services Librarian with The Highland Council. I then became system manager for automated library systems, and ultimately, until my retirement in May 2017, was a member the High Life Highland ICT Team.
I’ve always been interested in books and in writing, from the days when Enid Blyton, Anthony Buckeridge, Stephen Mogridge and Malcolm Saville conjured an engulfing world. For a time, I managed a Christian bookshop in Glasgow, and completed two research degrees in the 1980s exploring the profitability and motivation of 19th century Scottish religious and theological book publishers. I published The T. & T. Clark Story: a Victorian Publisher and the New Theology in 1992.
Currently, I am the main writer on the Hilton Parish Church web site, and contribute the weekly Christian Viewpoint column to the Highland News. A selection of these columns, Singing God’s Song was published by For the Right Reasons in 2011.
One of my retirement projects is to finish a book, a memoir charting my Christian faith journey from a fairly fundamentalist background to the broader, and more inclusive, place where I now find myself. The early chapters, driven by powerful memories, were easy to write, but I’m struggling with the more recent period, and I’m not sure if it’s ‘working’ probably because the story keeps changing shape in my mind.
A second retirement project which I hope to move on to when the book is finished or abandoned, is to research and write a ‘spiritual history’ of Inverness - not the same as a church history – if a suitable range of sources exist. I guess both projects are rather self-indulgent, and what really matters is living each day to the full, and seeking to be an encourager, a ‘blessing’ to those I meet.
I also volunteer at Highland Foodbank - Lorna is the local co-ordinator.
We were on holiday in Orkney in 2016, and I was exploring the life and writings of Orkney poets including George MacKay Brown. I realised the extent to which writers benefit from support, understanding, and encouragement, and noticed that this is not always forthcoming. I wondered what I could do to help. In September that year, I was asked if I would join the HighlandLIT committee, and this seemed to be the answer to my question.
I love working with the committee, and sharing in HighlandLIT events – meeting people, and encountering different ideas and perspectives help to shape my journey.
As a Reuters-trained journalist with over twenty-five years experience working in London across the press, broadcast and publishing sectors, Drew has variously launched, published and edited numerous magazines, periodicals and journals. He has also written extensively for BBC Light Entertainment.
As well as the written word, Drew is renowned as a front cover illustrator, with a tally in excess of 400 individual pieces.
These days, having relocated to Inverness in the heart of beautiful Scottish Highlands, Drew is enjoying the fresh air and slower pace whilst continuing to tap his diverse range of interests, though with politics and current affairs never out of arm’s reach, his extensive cartoon and caricature portfolio covers a plethora of national publications, including Private Eye, the Sunday Times, The Oldie, The European, Viz, and Punch, plus several regional press titles and a variety of sporting publications.
Over the years, Drew has also enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Faber Music, for whom he has developed over a dozen books. This, principally, involved illustrating a large selection of best-selling music instrument tutor and repertoire works for young people.