Learning at Luath – Day One.

I’m not long back from a saunter down the very busy Royal Mile following my first day at Luath Press. What a change from grassy hills, sheep and cows; and the wonderful aromas I had to walk through–coffee, food, waffles! But I managed to resist.

My first day was busy in a way I’m not used to being busy. After a friendly welcome from Laura and a steep climb up the many stairs, I was introduced to Gavin and encouraged to read the Luath website to familiarise myself with the current projects first. I had already had a good scan, but it was good to have a re-cap. I was informed they were waiting for Ella, another intern who would also be learning at Luath this week. The views from the small, stappet fu office are immense

When Laura arrived, Gavin gave us an overview of all things publishing. We were handed a list of all the learning opportunities available and asked to highlight what interested us the most. I sat with my yellow pen highlighting various tasks such as “book blurb” and “assess manuscript” and “interview author”. It was a bit nerve wracking, but I didn’t get the opportunity to worry.

Next it was over to Laura to allocate us work for the day. I spent the day proofreading my first manuscript. Later in the day, Gavin called us over and gave us a run-down of other projects and suggested work that might be beneficial to us in terms of the courses we are doing, as well as personal/writing interests.

I have to say, I was slow to get going and a bit frightened to put red pen marks on the white paper but by 5pm I had tackled my fear. I was also worried that I was reading too slow but a quick chat with Gavin soon fixed that. He explained that there are many aspects that effect how fast a manuscript is read; people read at different speeds, the type of reading that is required i.e. proofreading, editing, as well as the type of manuscript–factual or fiction-are but a few that he mentioned.

So, what have I learned?

Publishing is a multifaceted process that requires patience, skill, a keen eye as well as bucket loads of creativity. The manuscript I was reading was dense with factual information and not the type of thing I would normally read. I was aware that I was trying to rush and had to actively slow myself down. I had to check names, dates, and place names to ensure they were correct which slows the process.

Before I knew it, it was 5pm and time to come back to the hotel. I packed up and descended to street level and into the throng that is Edinburgh. I can tell that this week will fly past!

Sleeping with the Imposter

So, here I am, cosied up in my aparthotel room in Edinburgh listening tae storm Dennis blawin a hoolie at the windae. I was pleasantly surprised with the budget room, it has all the mod-cons that I need, even a dishwasher! I decided to stay for the week rather than commute because I live semi-rural and thought a week in the big smoke would be a novelty–the long lie was also a no brainer.

I’m prepared to start my  internship at Luath, but I have to admit, the imposter syndrome is clagging in. It fills me with doubt about my abilities and, if not managed, impedes creative flow.

I first learned about imposter syndrome during staff training when I was a community psychiatric nurse. The facilitator discussed the syndrome, “we all experience it” he said, “it’s that feeling when you’re saying your piece at the team meeting, at the same time thinking that you’re talking rubbish, you don’t have a clue and your colleagues know that you’re at it.” I was stunned. I knew exactly what he was talking about and thought it was just me being me. Well, it was me being me, but I was comforted to know that I was not alone.

And… there are five different types of imposter syndrome–who knew?

This is something I have chatted about with my lovely classmates, writing buddies, even published authors. It doesn’t seem to matter how much positive feedback, constructive criticism, success or general comments of loveliness we receive about our writing, Imposter Syndrome sucks the self-belief right out of us and makes us terrified, makes us run away from our exhibited pieces–I cringed as my esteemed fellow student and Imposter Syndrome compadre shrunk into the shadows as my mother-in-law ordered me to stand by my piece at the River Deep Mountain High exhibition, so she could take a photograph to show her friends–just as Victoria Lothian writes.

I don’t think the issue will magically disappear as our confidence grows, but I do think the voice might fade or, we might feel strong enough to tell it to hud it’s weesht!

I wonder if I’ll be exposed tomorrow… I’ll sleep on it.

Pipe Dream

Organisation is key to managing a busy workload and all things stationary are required to facilitate organisation–as all stationary fetishists will understand. Yesterday, after accepting delivery of the eight hexagonal cork boards I ordered a few days ago, I ran upstairs to my writing snug like a kid with a new toy at Christmas, peeled off the sticky backs and stuck them to the wall beside my desk.

I sat for around thirty minutes thinking about how to organise the information that I need to organise my busy writing and studying schedule. As I deliberated it dawned on me that I was procrastinating and I don’t have time for that!

Semester two of the course is proving to be exhilarating. I was fortunate to be involved with the University Archive’s River Deep Mountain High exhibition, and I am currently collaborating with my wonderfully talented and creative peers–both writers and artists– on a project with the V&A Museum in Dundee.

On Sunday I’ll be packing my suitcase and heading down to Edinburgh for a week-long internship at one of Scotland’s leading independent publishers: Luath Press. My nerves are jingling in response to this but I’m excited by the prospect of learning a few things about the publishing process.

Funnily enough, on this day 17 years ago I was already a few weeks into my first placement as a student mental health nurse. I simply put my dream of writing down to being nothing more than a whim, a fantasy…

Wanda McGregor

It was around this time last year that I took the plunge, tendered my resignation as a mental health nurse and began preparing myself psychologically for the MLitt Writing Practice and Study.

I entered my first creating writing class last September with trepidation and my imposter syndrome, but I managed to maintain a poker face as I poised my pen above paper. And off I went.

The first semester has flown past and I have produced writing that I didn’t know I was capable of. The experience of creating new works stirs feelings of sheer delight that take me back to the first time I hooked a duck at the “switchies” and won a goldfish: don’t worry, I haven’t jumped up in class cheering and shouting “I won! I won!”

So far, my mind has been stretched in many directions and I am having fun trying everything; I have moved from my comfort zone of writing in the vernacular to poetic prose, experimenting with form and voice across all genres.  I don’t have a background in literature but I am learning the lingo and getting to know the literary giants, past and present– as are my husband, my daughter and my three dogs.

I’m not sure where this is going… but it’s exciting unraveling my new writing life.