Book marks a new chapter for Midlothian writers

Claire Askew with (left) Sheila Thacker (seated) and Stella Hervey Birrell. Right Luke Townsley (seated) and Keith Saunders.
Claire Askew with (left) Sheila Thacker (seated) and Stella Hervey Birrell. Right Luke Townsley (seated) and Keith Saunders.

A group of part-time writers from Mid and East Lothian - the youngest just 16 - have had their work published in a new anthology.

The contributors are all member of Tyne and Esk Writers, which boasts eight groups across the two counties.

Sheila Thacker, who until recently was the Penicuik group representative, has contributed with a tale concerning the death of the story’s narrator in Greece, her burial and exhumation for a second burial and the farcical events which took place between the two.

Mrs Thacker explained: “The inspiration was my sister’s funeral. It is based on true events. It happened in 2000. Everything in it has happened but like most stories you leave a lot out to protect members of the family.”

On retiring from Midlothian Council in 2007, the former Lib Dem councillor started writing her own stories based around family life over the years.

“I joined the Penicuik group and it gave me the confidence to begin to write short stories, some based on life experience and some fictional,” she added. Some of her work was produced in a 2010 anthology.

“I have been a story teller all my days. When I was at school I used to make up stories and told my friends at dinner time about the adventures I had as a child. I was making up stories from what I had read and making myself the key personality. I was always a bit of a show-off.

“In those days it was called telling tales and I was always getting caught out. My mother always said to write it all down. Why is it that writing it down isn’t lies but makes it a story?

“I have a very, very good memory and events that happened a long time ago I can recall in detail. I have no ambitions to be the next JK Rowling but I get personal satisfaction and achievement from it,” added Mrs Thacker (69).

Stella Hervey Birrell, a Dalkeith group member, wrote one of several poems in the anthology and has recently published her debut novel.

The anthology was edited by poet and writer Claire Askew who has just completed her year-long contract as Tyne and Esk Creative Writing Fellow. She said: “This book showcases some of the very best poetry and fiction from all of the eight Tyne and Esk groups and illustrates the rich variety of voices working within our organisation.”

The Tyne and Esk Writing organisation welcomes anyone over 16 who is interested in working with words. Groups usually meet every two weeks and the main objective is review each other’s work and to stimulate ideas and encourage new writers. One group specialises in poetry. No experience is required.

The anthology is on sale from Tyne and Esk members.