An unpublished author and drama teacher took both major prizes at the Scottish Arts Club Short Story Awards last Saturday.
Iain MacDonald, from Linlithgow Academy, who had never shown his work before to anyone except his partner Amanda, won the inaugural £500 Isobel Lodge Award for New Scottish Writing as well as the international £800 Scottish Arts Club Short Story competition for his story The Gannet.
The international short story competition attracted over 400 entries from 20 countries, including more than 270 entries from writers in Scotland and 230 who qualified for the Isobel Lodge Award as unpublished writers born, living or studying in Scotland.
Iain (31) said: “I said in my speech on the night that the only thing I had won before was Best Beaver when I was six years old. It was a weekly award and I won a stuffed beaver so this was a bit of a first.”
Celebrated author and chairperson of the Scottish Arts Club short story judging panel, Alexander McCall Smith chose The Gannet as his favourite among all the finalists, calling it “atmospheric” and praising the “clarity and the economy of the prose”.
Iain said: “It was a big surprise. I don’t think anyone thought they were going to win both awards. I was delighted about the praise from Alexander McCall Smith. He is a writer that I really like and to get that validation from him means a lot.
“I’ve always wanted to write since I was very young. I’d never entered anything like this before and had only shown Amanda. She had been very encouraging so I just went for it.”
Iain was born on the Isle of Lewis but considers himself to be from Thurso, Caithness where he grew up in the shadow of the Dounreay Nuclear Power Station. Faced with a career in nuclear energy, Iain says he fled to Edinburgh to study theatre but his inspiration for the story came from his hometown.
He said: “There is a great sense of place in the story. There’s a pub in Thurso and the story is set in the pre-industrial era.
“I visualised eight or nine regulars in that pub and the story is loosely based around that. When something seemingly insignificant happens it is to represent life and death.”
Iain completed a master’s degree at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and was in theatre as a director where he worked on new writing and with children. It was then he decided to go into teaching and has been working at Linlithgow Academy since the summer. He said: “I’ve really enjoyed working at the school. It has been very welcoming and it had really good staff and pupils. I enjoy teaching drama as it gives kids invisible skills such as teamwork, public speaking and helps them to develop confidence. I think it is important to have it in the curriculum as it is not a traditional subject.”
To read Iain’s award-winning piece visit http://www.sacctrust.org/story.
Hope for promising writers
The director of the Scottish Arts short story competition believes Iain MacDonald’s win is a beacon of hope for any promising writer.
The unpublished author and Linlithgow Academy drama teacher scooped up a double award last Saturday.
The international short story competition has been running since 2014 and next year entrants are being given a bigger financial incentive with the prize money increasing to £1000.
The competition is organised by the Scottish Arts Club Charitable Trust and is open to writers world wide over 18 years of age.
Internationally acclaimed author Alexander McCall Smith will once again be judging the pieces, which can be on any topic up to a maximum of 1500 words.
The short story director Sara Cameron believes this year’s winner is a shining example for any budding writers who are unsure of their talents.
She said: “Iain’s win speaks loudly to all those writers in Scotland who have been hiding their work in a secret drawer.
“It is time to take the chance and share your work because who knows what can happen.”
She added: “We always knew there was a possibility that an unpublished writer could win both prizes but we did not anticipate this happening in the first year of the Isobel Lodge Award, or that this new award would capture the imaginations of so many excellent undiscovered writers in Scotland.”
Iain, who says he is looking forward to sitting down and doing more writing, said: “The key is letting friends and family see your piece first.
“It can end up being quite damaging if you publish it and don’t get the feedback you hoped for.”
The competition opens for entries on November 1 and closes on March 31, 2018.