Thursday, 6 November 2014



It’s going to be a busy few months!’  The Reader In Residence post might have completed at the end of September but crossing over with it was my starting as Creative Writing Fellow to Tyne & Esk writers across Midlothian and East Lothian for the next seven months.

You can find out more about them here:

I’ve had the great please of working with the eight writers groups that make up Tyne & Esk more or less for the last three years.  Some absolutely fantastic writing produced and friendly welcoming groups whether you’ve been writing for years or have only just started.

One of the new things I’ll be involved this time is in the organizing of the second annual Write On Writing Festival.  This will be over three days at the John Gray Centre in Haddington in early June 2015 alongside the Haddington Festival. 

This is a partnership project between Tyne & Esk Writers,  Haddington Library and the John Gray centre.  It is to promote writing and writers in Haddington and across East Lothian. 

I’ll be working with the committee to develop a whole series of events activities including workshops; author visits; open mics and family events. 

We’ve already started to put thoughts together and very much looking forward to working with everyone involved.


I’ve been working over the last few months on the board of the YES Festival charged with putting together a programme for next year’s festival in September 2015.

At the heart of it we aim to have drama which I have been and plan to be heavily involved in. 

There’s also plans for so much more: music, song, film, feasting and…well lots!!

Exciting times to living and working in the Scottish Borders with the region buzzing with creative energy.


I’ve just finished a play and about to start another.



I dreamed I wrote a poem
on dreams
But it seems
I was only dreaming.


I dreamed I told them I loved them one more time.
That we laughed till
memories burst our sides.
I dreamed the sun rose
with them for one more day.
I dreamed they never went away.

I dreamed I told them I loved them one more time.


I dream of silly things.
Of holding a tune.
Dancing with two left feet.
Rolling my tongue. Spelling

I dream of silly things.
A Government healthy
eating scheme of five chocolate bars a day
The only way to a healthy lifestyle.

I dream of silly things.
Of eating ice cream in the snow.
Of wearing shorts and tee shirt in the rain.

I dream of silly things.
Saying to my sons, exams don't matter,
yes, get a tattoo, or two,
dream your world, stand still, listen.

I dream of silly things.
Not world peace
Or a cure for the common cold.
What can I say?
But I like to keep it real.


A short time ago, just before the referendum, even though it does seem an age ago,  I was involved in the National Theatre of Scotland's  Five Minute Theatre project.

You had to write a drama piece around the decision to vote Yes, No or Maybe.  You had to film it and not edit afterwards.  There were contributions from all over the world and not just Scotland.

I loved the whole process.

I wrote a monologue entitled  'By Its Nature Uncertain.'  Its sad!

You can watch it wonderfully performed by Janet Coulson of Firebrand Theatre co here:

You can watch other contributions here:


(The text is slightly different from the final performance.)

Mhairi has lost her husband a few months earlier. She sits alone in her house on referendum night. She and her husband always discussed matters both personal and political and decided things together. Now she is alone with the decision and she wonders if it matters at all now that she is on her own. She has to decide not only yes or no on the referendum, but either yes into an unknown personal future and the chance that she might emerge emotionally alive or no and stay wrapped in the emotional numbness of the present.

Performed by Janet Coulson

Written by Tom Murray

CHARACTER:  Mhairi: Early thirties

 Mhairi sits coat by her side.  

MHAIRI-- And she says Yes.  Tell me why mum.
‘Well Mhairi my darling it’s like this.  When I left your father it wasn’t because I didn’t love him. Or I had found someone else with a better sense of humor. Or I had a yearn for when I was young free and single.  Now have you seen me partying since?’
No mum.
‘  Or doing that speed dating thing? Well okay there was that once. But that was your Aunt Mary thinking I needed a life.  She didn’t understand that I had one. At last.  I told her. ‘ Mary.  I’ve made my choice.  And there’s good and bad things about it but…’ I was me Mhairi. She never understood.’
And who are you mum?
‘ Not the wife.’ 

And he says No.  Tell me why dad.
‘ You know why Mhairi.  I have no intention of jumping off a cliff at my age.  Maybe if I was a bit younger.  If fact not even then.’
But dad you’re surviving aren’t you?
‘ Maybe.’
And you and mum are okay?
‘ Maybe.’
Who was she dad?
‘ Who?’
‘ Don’t be daft.  Who was she?  She was…is your mother.  She was my wife. I gave her the best years of my life.  And she ups and leaves.  I worked all the hours God sent me to make things comfortable for her.  For you. Your brother.’
Maybe she didn’t want that dad.
‘ All she had to do was say.’
 Maybe she did dad.
 ‘I wanted her to stay you know.  I said to her we’re a team.  A partnership. We work well together.  I told her.  I’ll change I said.  If you’re bored there’s clubs.  Things to do.  Night classes! I said.   She didn’t want to listen.  We had a nice house didn’t we?  She had the garden. I was happy.  And now you want me to think about the future! I’ll tell you what the future is. No.’

What about you Johnny?
‘Doesn’t matter Mhairi. I don’t get a vote.  I’m dead.’
What do I do Johnny? I need to know.  You remember this? (Her coat.) Christmas present last year.  Your usual Christmas Eve thing.  But I loved it.  Love it.  Do I lock it away in the cupboard?  Or do I walk down that road to the polling station?  Johnny?
‘ Can’t help you Mhairi.’
But we always talked Johnny.  Lying in bed till we fell asleep with the words floating around the room.  Plans for this and that.  For us.  Tell me it still matters Johnny.  Tell me all those words haven’t crumbled into dust.
‘Like me Mhairi.’
Yes.   Do I walk down that hill Johnny?  Alone. Johnny?!
‘You’ve got to talk to the living and then decide Mhairi.’
Talk to the living Johnny.  You make more sense inside my head dead than…
‘Talk to the living Mhairi.’

And he said….
‘ Not interested.’
Come on wee brother.  This is your future.
‘ I’m not voting.  What does it matter? Nothing’ll change. Can you guarantee me things will be tickety boo big sister.’
By its nature uncertain Robbie.
‘That’s Johnny talking.’ 

And Rose at the bus stop says…Yes or is it No or Maybe a maybe.
‘ Thing is Mhairi.  When I get on this bus I know more or less where its going.  You know what I mean?!’

And the man on the TV says…
And the charity woman at the door says…
And the woman at the garage says…
And the man on the moon says…

 ‘And what does Mhairi say?’
Why did you leave me Johnny?

And Mhairi says she wants to lie in bed a future only words inside my head. 
And Mhairi says she scared of putting on her coat and walking down that hill alone.
And Mhairi says she loves you Johnny.
‘Lie together Mhairi you and me and let the words float.  What do they make?’
I can’t see Johnny. 
‘Yes you can.’
I don’t want to see without you.
‘I’m gone Mhairi. What do you see?’
(She puts on her coat and exits.)




Some of the most enjoyable events over the last year or so have been the storytelling events.  I've absolutely loved them and I think the families that have come along have to.  

They made me think even more about the difference between performing your work and reading it!  It also made me think of the structure of stories that are made to be read and performed.  

I wrote a number of performance stories over the last year  the below is one of them.  I hope you enjoy.


His mum got as far as starting the ignition, and putting the car in gear, when she remembered.
‘ The letter!’ She said.   ‘ Where did I put the..?’
She was half way out the door ready to run back in the house when Mark said.
‘You put it in your bag.’

 His mother scrambled to get her bag from the back seat.  She searched through it.  Mark stared straight ahead.  There they were.  Waiting for him like they knew his mother would forget.  As usual it would be up to him to save the day. Of course he could have ‘forgotten’ that he had seen his mum put the letter in her bag half way through scooping up her porridge.
But maybe he didn’t really mind what he knew was coming next.
And here it came.
His mother had found the letter and looking at him with that look on her face.
‘Be a wee pet.’ She said.
If only she wouldn’t call him pet. And he wasn’t wee.  He was ten and a half, and two weeks, and three days, and seven hours, and forty two minutes.

A growl shivered up the street towards them, shaking the car from side to side. As usual his mum never noticed.
They were waiting for him right enough.  It wasn’t going to be easy this morning.  Maybe he should have just forgotten about the letter after all.
‘  We’ll be late mum.’ He pleaded.
‘We’ve got plenty of time.’ She said.
‘ But you always moan about the traffic first thing in the morning.’
‘ I think you’re getting me mixed up with your dad.’ She said.  ‘Come on Mark you could have done it by now.’

Mark took the letter and pushed open the car door.  He stared at the post box at the end of their street.  It was one of those that were fixed into a wall.
 He started to walk, slowly, the letter gripped tight, his eyes scanning the gardens on either side of the road.  He could hear them slithering through along the well cut lawns, he caught glimpses of them disappearing around corners. 
He walked on.
He knew they would wait till it was too late to go back. 

He past number 42, Mrs Bridges house, the point of no return and up it reared from behind the neatly trimmed hedges---a huge yellow eyed three headed  GORGON snake  hissed and twisted towards him.  He mustn’t look into his eyes he knew that or he would turn to stone.  It darted its head in his direction, but he rolled on the ground and it missed him by inches.

 As he jumped to his feet a huge TROLL stamped and squashed the bushes at number 44 and thundered towards him.
He waited till it was almost on him its huge raised to squash him before leaping onto Mrs Jones wall.  The street shook and shivered as the huge foot hit the pavement but Mark had already jumped off the wall and dodged  past the massive MINOTAUR that roared his way.

The post box was metres away but he knew the worse was yet to come.  It rose high above the post box spreading his wings wide.  Mark looked up into the huge black eyes of a DRAGON that stared down at him.  He could smell the fire in the dragon’s breath.  He knew what was coming next.
He looked at the post box. 

‘NOW.’ He shouted and swooping down out of the sky came the winged horse PEGASUS and just in time he leap on board as the hot fire burned the pavement.
The dragon wasn’t pleased and up it flew flapping its huge wings chasing them up and down the street and in between the houses.

They flew over his mother sitting in the car adjusting the radio to radio two.  They swept down between the gap between number 46 and 48 and twisted towards the post box the dragon shooting fire at them all the way. 

‘NOW.’ He shouted again and Pegasus pulled in its wings and dropped quickly towards the ground.  The dragon too big to stop and turn roared its fire in anger as Pegasus extended its wings as far as they would go so that glided to the pavement.

‘ Thank you. ‘ Said Mark. ‘Same time tomorrow no doubt.’
Pegasus nodded and flew off into the day.

The three headed gorgon snake, the troll, the minotaur lumbered towards him but things were going to be fine. The dragon swooped down but they all stopped and retreated as he posted the letter.

Mark jumped in the car and slammed the car door shut.
‘School mum. Quick we’re going to be late.’  He said.
She took an age to put the car in first gear.  She shook her head at him.
‘ Can’t you just walk anywhere Mark?’ She said.

He heard the creatures but couldn’t see them now.
 The car moved off.  ‘ Glad to see you’re so keen on school.’

As the car moved slowly, too slowly along the street, the dragon rose up and blew flame at them as they passed.  Mark felt the heat come through the door but he knew it could never follow him.  Its job was to guard the post box.
Mark smiled.   Another day another victory.  School would be a doddle after this.



My Scottish Book Trust Reader In Residence post came to a conclusion at the end of September.  A fantastic year working with Scottish Borders Libraries promoting the library service and reading across the Scottish Borders.

Thanks to all the staff and all who participated in the many and varied events held during the last year.

I've mentioned the Treasure Train before but below is a guide to how it worked.  If you wish to use it or adapt it for your own library event please do.

I've also uploaded an example of a  'carriage' on the Treasure Train.




--Through a love of books read as children various generations of a family brought together to share memories of their favourite childhood reading through discussion, writing and drawing.

--For the children to witness their mother/father/grandparents enthusiasm for reading and to see them not just as adults but as fellow readers.

--To encourage adults to re visit childhood books to re kindle a love of reading if needed by connecting with their individual reader’s memories.

--For adults to see reading not as an obligation or something from their distant past but as an activity that creates family memories.  For both adults and children to see the library as a place where those family memories are created.

--Building partnerships across agencies.

--Inclusive and encourages discussion of all types of reading ie: novels; comics.


Duration:   60 minutes


--Intro:  All families together in one group.

             : Publicity for event to encourage both adults and children to bring their
               favourite childhood book.

      :Reader In Residence to explain format including show example of   
       a Treasure Train.  

      :to share his/her own childhood reading. 

      :to read from his/her favourite book. 

      :to encourage families to do the same to the wider group.


Discussing/drawing/writing:  families find their own space.

Each family work together to write down and/or draw their own individual and family
experiences/memories of reading.

Some questions to ask themselves to get started.

--favourite character(s) and why.
--what age when first read.
--how did they get the book—library/present.
--what was the cover like.

Idea:   See example.

Each A4 sheet of paper represents a carriage on a family Treasure Train.

One carriage for each memory of a childhood book.

Each member of the family works on their own carriage. 

Each member of the family can have as many carriages as they wish.

At the conclusion they join all the carriages together for one whole family
Treasure Train with a front page of the family name.

Optional they can draw as a family a train engine on a separate A4 sheet to lead the

The length of the train is endless.  It can be added to later at home or other
members of the family not at event can add their memories.


Bring families together again in one space.

Encourage to discuss and share with wider group.

Families take Treasure Train home with them encourage to continue and add to.

Encourage to take books out of the library. Adults could borrow other books from same author of favourite book or other books remembered during event.       


Reader In Residence favourite book.
Libraries display of childhood books from stock.
A4 paper.
Coloured pens/pencils/erasers/staplers.

Example of a 'carriage.'