Creative Peebles Festival


Saturday, September 2, 2017, at Silver Tree Studio, Pennel’s Close, off High Street, Peebles, from 2.30-4.30pm (doors open at 2pm). Entry is pay as you please.

An Open Mic event to showcase writers’ prose and poetry and to celebrate the spoken word.

Reading slots are timed to last a maximum of five minutes (around 700 words of prose).

For further information, contact Hayley Emberey on 07518 381852, 01896 850706 or by emailing

The Art of Plotting with Janet O’Kane.

On Thursday 16th March 2017, the Borders Writers’ Forum was fortunate to have a ‘masterclass’ on plotting with local crime fiction writer, Janet O’Kane. Janet discussed the importance of ‘hooking’ the reader in the first few sentences by creating questions – the who, why what when and how?  She likes to have secrets in her writing as they lead to conflict.  Plot is also vital in crime fiction as is character and Janet ensures all her characters have jobs to do, working to drive the plot forward with credibility. The motive  has to be convincing and in keeping with the situation.

Janet admitted she writes by the ‘seat of her pants’ and describes writing books like driving in the dark – only a illuminating enough road at a time.  She uses strand sheets to keep herself on track with the various sub plots and showed examples of these to the group.

At the beginning of the evening Hayley Emberey interviewed Forum member – Dr Oliver Eade, which was a fascinating insight into his motivation, achievements and his many varied published books.

Where do poems come from?

16th February 2017

Selkirk-based poet Jane Pearn gave an illuminating and entertaining talk about her work and key influences at the February meeting. She provided an insight into the poet’s craft and underlined the discipline’s many forms, from a Shakespeare sonnet to Gerard Manley Hopkins to a poem written for her family. She emphasised the need for poets to be precise with language, edit judiciously and be mindful of grammar and punctuation. Jane also called on publishers to give poems space to ‘breathe’ on the printed page.

Image may contain: 2 peopleFor her workshop session, a large range of picture postcards were laid on a desk. She asked those present to choose one that caught the eye and use the image to spark a word, idea or phrase that might lead to a poem. Working in groups of six or so, there followed an exercise in poetic consequences, with participants, in turn, looking at each postcard and contributing a line or two. Several of these ‘poems by committee’ were read out, with pleasing and surprising results.

Many thanks to Jane for shedding light on the poetry process and to members and visitors who supported the event.

Written by Campbell Hutcheson 2017

The Eildon Tree Perspective Review

19th January 2017

 The New Year weather did nothing to dampen the fantastic turn out for the first meeting of 2017. Members soaked up the advice, views and opinions of two editors from The Eildon Tree. An enthusiastic audience nearly prevented the talk from moving past the starting gate with innumerable questions on what constitutes an unacceptable word or phrase. Purposely, this piece is written without the use of Anglo Saxon English, or Scottish curses, even if one could help in the content’s better flow.

Once this hurdle had been cleared, ‘politics’ reared its head. And that’s another no, no. The publication is council financed and council produced and printed, so no political bias is acceptable. The two editors, representing their whole editorial team, stated that they constantly walk the line of good quality writing versus censorship and advised that following the pre-set guidelines and submitting original work were both keys to successful inclusion. Admittedly, certain editions received more submissions than others, which resulted in rejections, but writers were not to be dissuaded from sending in work in the first place. The production of an online version of The Eildon Tree is being explored as a vehicle to promote even more submissions that don’t necessarily reach the physical printed page.


Samples of poetry were reviewed for comment as to the audience’s perception of whether or not it achieved the required standard. Suffice to say the vote was not 100% either way with all penmanship being subjective to a certain degree. A piece of prose, quite likely to make the grade, was read out, again for opinions on originality, subject matter and general interest. The next edition could prove that work’s merit.

The Eildon Tree is thought to be the last fully financed creative publication in the UK, in terms of both production and being free at point of sale. But the threat of budget restraints and cut backs is never far away and could jeopardise its status in the not too distant future. Advertising within the publication is not seen as an option but possibly a cover charge may prove its saviour. 2016-01-08-16-26-01

Thanks to Carol and Iona for taking the time and effort in enlightening the forum as we continue on our writing journeys, but then they understand anyway with already being members.


Catherine Czerkawska Live Literature Session Thursday 17th November


Catherine’s early literary career began with poems, fiction and BBC 4 radio plays. Now with over 100 hours of aired work plus a huge volume for both major and minor theatres she presented her experiences as an accomplished playwright.

Insights provided covered all aspects of drama from one act plays to professional, amateur and community presentations with a brief mention of one of the latest innovations – ‘a play, a pie and a pint. Specific areas included an understanding of stage direction from the audience’s point of view; why setting, style and form are all key to moving the plot along; character definition as the best starting point; and the importance of monologue.

Due to time constraints she was only able to touch briefly on her latest historical novel, The Jewel – about the life and times of Jean Armour, the wife of Robert Burns but the whole evening was both interesting and instructive and enjoyed by all the members present.

Catherine Cz

by Tony Parkinson

Review of Live literature event with Jonathan Falla by Hayley Emberey


Jonathan Falla, born in 1954 in Jamaica, former nurse and charity worker and author of his first published novel, ‘Blue Poppies’, plus many more since, graced the first Borders Writers’ Forum meeting of the new 2016/2017 programme, with his distinctive and flamboyant presence on 15th September 2016.  It was also the first BWF meeting at the St. Boswells Village Hall in The Lesser Room, the new venue for monthly meetings where all members are welcome.
It was a fiction workshop considering how the senses are used in different settings to drive a story with the focus on Flaubert, Hardy and Jo’s own work.
After a brief introduction of his background, more of which was shared intermittently throughout the session, Jo invited the attendees, of which there was a high turnout with regards numbers, to read silently and then a few members were asked to read aloud, a couple of extracts from some recognised novels where the setting was of prominent focus.  The idea was to look for words, underlining them during reading, which depicted feelings and senses, atmosphere and to observe the use of adjectives to describe these.

A key point to note was that of the sheer abundance of use of words by the author to express the senses and sentiments and the atmosphere created by these from the characters.

The group looked at all the senses which can encapsulate the focus of moments in a scene within a chapter, with regards to:  sight (what is seen by the character/s);  smell (what is/are the odours within the setting and/or emanating from the character/s);  touch (what or whom the character/s may come into physical contact with);  hearing (what sounds the character/s may hear or choose to hear or not to hear);  and feelings described in detail as to what the character/s may be feeling in any moment in the scene.
The importance of the energy and power behind the words, often each word and its full meaning engaging the reader fully, was discussed and led to an informal linguistic, verging on intellectual and philosophical at times, discussion yet was not overly critical nor analytical, with much exuberance and laughter at times, and of course healthy sarcasm.
Jo Falla was a master of recital, performing extracts from a couple of his own novels with professional gusto, expression and personality.  His abundance of historical work tends to be based on experiences abroad including drama productions, script writing, short stories both published and broadcast, essays, a musical libretto, ethnography, book reviews history, poetry translation and five novels.  He has endured vast travelling to Java, Indonesia, Nicaragua, West Sudan, El Salvador, Brazil, Nepal, Chile, India, West Africa and much of Europe.  Jo now teaches Arts for the Open University and is Director of the Creative Writing Summer School at St Andrews University.  His awards have included a Fulbright Fellowship to the USC film school (Los Angeles), a Creative Scotland Award in 2007, a PEN fiction prize and the short list for the National Short Story Prize.
The session ended with a group left fulfilled, inspired, informed, excited and with plenty to think about.  Personally, I left with a signed copy of his novel ‘The White Porcupine’, set during the Indonesian War of Independence and in Holland in the 1970s, one of 150 limited edition copies numbered and signed by Jo himself.  Another member has since commented positively about how much she enjoyed reading his ‘Poor Mercy’ novel, set in Darfur, the novel is a dramatic and tragic story of an improbable love between two people caught up in an African famine. Mogga and Leila, a black and an Arab, who should supposedly not even like each other.
For the next BWF meeting in October, the content of the session with Jo Falla was then used as the foundation, where members were invited to write and present their own 3-5 minute readings with the ‘setting’ as an important feature (non compulsory).  This proved very popular and led onto further discussions on writing techniques, use of words and humour with constructive, positive feedback from other members.
For more information on Jonathan Falla, visit
Hayley M. Emberey

Member’s Spotlight


Member’s Spotlight on October 20, 2016 – Harry Scott interviewed by Campbell Hutcheson

Harry Scott, a writer of historical non-fiction, became the first person to be featured in the Member’s Spotlight.harry-scott
Raised in Lauder, where his father had a butcher’s shop, he joined the police in 1967. He transferred to the Scottish Borders in 1971 and moved to Edinburgh in 1992. After
working as emergency planning officer for NHS Borders, in 2004 he became the national emergencies planning officer for NHS Scotland at the Scottish Government. He
retired in 2010. Harry lives in Galashiels with his wife Sheila, who runs a photography business. The couple have two grown-up children.

Harry’s writing was sparked when his wife’s cousin discovered a batch of journals, letters and photographs relating to World War II. They belonged to an uncle, Ian Robert
Waddell, who had been a radio officer in the Merchant Navy during the conflict. He was killed in 1942 at the age of 20 when his ship was torpedoed off the east coast of the
USA. After reading the material, Harry felt it was a great story worth telling.

With the permission of Sheila’s cousin, he wrote “The Radio Officer’s War: Ships, Storms and Submarines” in 2013, going through the self-publishing route on Amazon. To
date, it’s sold about 1,000 copies. Harry feels the story has the key elements – adventure, danger, humour and a love interest – to make a fine film. He’s considering having
a crack at a screenplay.

Since then he has written “Berwick-upon-Tweed – for King and Country: The Story of Berwick and its People during WW1” and “Forgotten Poems and Sonnets from the
Great War”, both published on Amazon.

Harry is writing a fourth book, another historical non-fiction tale. Until it’s complete and published, he’s keeping the subject under wraps.