HighlandLIT normally meets in Inverness at the Glen Mhor Hotel: most meetings are also livestreamed on Zoom.
HighlandLIT is managed by a voluntary committee, elected by the membership at the annual general meeting
The AGM for 2021 was held on Zoom on 18th January 2022 at 6.00pm. The meeting heard the Annual Report for 2021, delivered by Chair Mark Williams. It then accepted the Financial Statement for 2021, and elected the following Committee members: Mark Williams was appointed Chair and Mo McQuarrie Events Liaison Coordinator. Three people will share the roles of Programme Co-ordinator – Scott Fraser, Sharon Gunason and Penelope Hamilton. John Dempster is Website and Newsletter Co-ordinator, assisted with the Newsletter by a welcome newcomer to the Committee, Angi Plant. No one person was appointed to the role of Secretary - duties will be shared, and Liz Macrae Shaw will take minutes of Committee meetings. The role of Treasurer was left unfilled at the AGM, as there were no volunteers.
In subsequent discussion at a Committee Meeting on January 25th, it was agreed that Mark Williams would take on the role of Treasurer, with the role of Chair, like the role of Secretary being shared among Committee Members. Giving the close working relationship the Committee members have, this seemed to be the best way of carrying things forward given the circumstances. For legal purposes, we require to have a named Chair, and so John Dempster was appointed in that role by the Committee, though the duties of Chair will continue to be shared among Committee Members.
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,
Treasurer: 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.
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.
Event Liaison 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.
Chair and 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.
Choosing Joy, a memoir charting my Christian faith journey from a fairly fundamentalist background to the broader, and more inclusive, place where I now find myself will be published by Matador in 2022.
A second retirement project which I hope to move on to, 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.
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.
Newsletter Co-ordinator (Joint): Angi Plant
We moved from Birmingham to the Isle of Skye almost 6 years ago. I had written short stories and poetry for a long time, and I completed my first draft of a book last year.
I live in Skye with my husband and daughter.
Since living here I have worked in various jobs and now work part time in a bank. I love meeting and chatting with the customers and getting know them. The sense of community is fantastic.
I live at the North end, close to where Mo lived as it’s wildness is inspirational and I loved it before we lived here and I was looking at ancestry that showed links to the island.
I review books for various publishers and blogging groups. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to feel you’re helping an author with a simple, honest review.
I have been on the Reading Room Skye committee in past years.
I’m really looking forward to this new challenge as I was thinking about what I might do next when I was asked if I’d like to join.
I hope I can get to some real life events very soon!