Winter Tales Book Festival


A reminder about the Winter Tales Book Festival  taking place in New College Edinburgh from Friday 3rd December until Sunday 5th December.

I will have the great privilege of chairing a session on Creative Writing with Cathy Fox and Rachel Mann on Sunday afternoon 2.45pm to 3.45pm. 

Here is the link for the programme and the link to book for the different sessions. 

 Programme – Winter Tales Book Festival (

Most of the sessions are free, except for some evening gatherings In Conversation With … Robert Harris, Val McDermid, Sally Magnusson, Francis Spufford and finally on Sunday afternoon, Miles Jupp on Comedy, Religion and Literature. 

The Science of Storytelling

I have just begun reading The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr. Already I am fascinated, although I also wonder how I ever had the audacity to think of myself as a writer. In the introduction he writes, ‘The standard five-act plot is successful not because of some secret cosmic truth, or any universal law of storytelling, but because it’s the neatest way of showing deep character change.’

I am desperately trying to figure out if my novels and stories have five acts and hoping that if I squint out of one eye and blur the edges, I might be able to argue for three or maybe four. Oh well, I think, it’s never too late to learn! 

The Winter Tales Book Festival

I have just received my on-line draft program for The Winter Tales Book Festival in Edinburgh. The Festival offers a wide and diverse programme for everyone and is being held at New College from 1 pm Friday 3rdDecember until 6.30 pm, Sunday 5th December. Some wonderful writers will be in conversation about their work, including Sally Magnusson, Cathy Fox, Ian Bradley, Val McDermid and Francis Spufford. 

I will be discussing creative writing with Cathy Fox and Rachel Mann at 2.45pm on Sunday afternoon. More details to follow. 

Beginning my third

In Orkney on holiday and beginning my third novel. Don’t have a working title yet, but reading out the opening lines to the family results in howls of laughter and ‘Mum, you can’t write that!’. To paraphrase Stephen King, If you intend to write truthfully, your days as a polite member of society are numbered. Or as someone else said, ‘If there is a writer in the family there is a traitor in the family’. 


My dear friend Dr Gillian Boughton-Willmore has recently been at a literary conference, where apparently the buzz word was prolepsis. A classic example is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier where in the opening chapter we are shown the characters at the very end of their story. Another example is The Dark of Summer by Eric Linklater (one of my favourite novels and greatly undervalued I think), where once again we are given the final scene of what turns out to be an extraordinary journey for the protagonist. Gillian explained to me that using prolepsis gives the reader the sense that they are in the hands of an author who is in control of their material from beginning to end. 

The result has been that I have decided to intersperse the chapters in the novel I am working on with short scenes that take place in the future, all from the point of view of another character. I have no idea whether this is an improvement, but it has been fun to do! 

Zoom Writing Workshop

As part of the Festival of Advent in our church I have just taught a writing workshop with a great group of people, via Zoom of course. It made me realise how much I have missed interacting with other writers. With a small prompt from me, we listened to each other’s extemporaneous scribblings, and in just ninety minutes, we were taken to make-believe worlds with fascinating characters and intriguing stories. Wonderful!