Sunday, 28 March 2010

Marching through 2010

Is it March which comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb?  I'm thinking of reworking this epithet and likening March to a cheetah - the fastest animal over a short distance. It's time for me to glimpse over the cheetah's sleek shoulder.

News: I've joined the committee of the Scottish Writers' Centre. It's interesting stuff. We've been meeting in Glasgow, for steering committee meetings and for the monthly events programme that's off and running this spring, featuring writers like Donal McLaughlin, Gerrie Fellows and a tribute to the late American poet William Stafford.  Forthcoming events include a celebration of Mexican poets and a look at the International Literary Quarterly's special Glasgow supplement. Looking forward to both of these. Hey, but that's me glancing forward rather than back! What we seek, as the Scottish Writers' Centre, is a focal point for Scottish writers and writing, the first dedicated literature venue of its kind in Scotland. Our aim is to provide a social arena where writers can meet and share ideas and experiences as well as a facility which can provide basic services for writers - performance and workshop space, writing pods, a cafe, a writer's flat and bookshop and to be at one and the same time national and international in outlook.

News: the Scottish Government's Literature Working Group produced its report on future literature policy in Scotland. In an act of admirable transparency, the entire report is available to all on-line. Published to great dismay, perplexity and provoking fiery debate among writers and publishers, the Goring Report (committee led by Rosemary Goring) calls for a network of dedicated writers' centres throughout Scotland. Wearing my former hat underneath my present one, I'm delighted to see their suggestion that public libraries be designated writers' centres - or at least a writers' centre should be designated within libraries in seven parts of the country, thereby providing fairly local centres.  As a former librarian, I'm thrilled at the proposals to reinvigorate our libraries and, in particular, to boost their provision and promotion of Scottish literature. As a writer (and as a former librarian), I'm perplexed by the suggestion that there should be seven centres. Why seven? Why not one in each of Scotland's local authorities? Another point that struck me as very strange is the suggestion in the report that Literature Development Officers be appointed to promote literature throughout these seven areas. At no point does the Working Group suggest (or even seem to consider) that this is - should be - a core function of the public library service.  I do support other proposals, such as making the teaching of Scottish literature compulsory within schools, with a compulsory question at Higher exam level.

These are my own views; the Scottish Writers' Centre will submit its response to the Report and welcomes input from those interested.

News: With my new found freedom (from self-imposed restrictions) I've now been attending montly meetings of Weegie Wednesday and great fun has been had, as well as valuable and exciting networking opportunities.  Weegie Wednesday is Glasgow's literary salon for informal sharing of interest and information. Held in the Universal Bar - a nice, sociable place for literary chit-chat and serious literary liaisons - Weegie Wednesday features two or three ultra-brief presentations and lots of time for flesh-pressing. All fully clad, perhaps I should add.  At February's meeting, the most valuable speaker from my point of view was Bob McDevitt from Hachette Scotland; March's meeting gave me an opportunity to meet Martin Belk of the innovative One Magazine, Willy Maley, who established the Glasgow University Creative Writing MLitt (with the late Philip Hobsbaum), and Ian Hunter of Read Raw Ltd, a writers' collective whose sole aim is to promote writing and writers in Scotland. 

So, lots of good things, keeping me busy this month. Add to the mix my continuing to work with the Open University, encountering much in the way of thought-provoking and moving writing from my students in A174 and A215, my own studies in Spanish, and you have the reasons I've been absent from my blog page. Though being addicted to Facebook comes top of that list.

To end, I'll pass on my happiness at the announcement, yesterday, of the engagement between my daughter Alison and her beau, Lucas. He presented her with a white gold and emerald ring at Yasukuni Jinja shinto shrine in Tokyo, with the cherry blossom just beginning to open on the trees around them. Cherry blossom represents love in Chinese culture but in Japan it represents the importance of understanding the transience of life. Like the blossom, life buds, blooms and fades. Like the blossom, it's finite: precious; to be lived and cherished. Emeralds represent luck and enduring love. Amen to that.