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Scottish Book Trust project Debut Lab has two North writers among the 18 across Scotland

By Margaret Chrystall

A Highland writer has been selected for the Scottish Book trust's Debut Lab project.

Aoife Lyall. Picture: Scott Winchester
Aoife Lyall. Picture: Scott Winchester

Scottish Book Trust today (Monday, April 25) unveils a new initiative to support 18 writers based in Scotland whose debut, full-length work in poetry, fiction or creative non-fiction was published after December 2019 and impacted by the pandemic.

Debut Lab is funded by and a collaboration with Creative Scotland.

Aoife Lyall, whose first poetry collection, Mother, Nature (Bloodaxe Book) was published in 2021.

Another North writer, from Lewis, R M Murray, has also been chosen. His debut novel Bleak: The Mundane Comedy (Saraband) was published in November 2020.

Aoife Lyall (née Griffin), has had her poems shortlisted in the Wells Festival of Literature Open Poetry Competition and the Jane Martin Poetry Prize.

Her first collection, Mother, Nature, focuses on the tender and tragic experience of pregnancy, pregnancy loss and early motherhood.

Mother, Nature was shortlisted for the Scottish First Book Award, one of Scotland's National Book Awards 2021.

Her second poetry collection has received generous support from the National Lottery through Creative Scotland.

Aoife has worked as a guest curator for the Scottish Poetry Library, as a guest editor for Butcher’s Dog poetry magazine, and as a committee member for Ness Book Fest.

Her reviews have appeared in PN Review, Poetry London, and Poetry Ireland Review. Aoife is currently writing her first novel.

Aoife said: “The best part of Debut Lab is getting the chance to meet the other authors and to celebrate all we have achieved against the odds over the last two years, and to go forward together under the expert guidance of its industry professionals.”

R M Murray is from the Isle of Lewis. A Gaelic speaker and Fine Art graduate of Glasgow School of Art he is the long-standing head of visual arts & literature at An Lanntair, Stornoway, where he has overseen the production of numerous exhibitions and arts projects.

He is also the director of Faclan, the (annual) Hebridean Book Festival.

Delivered remotely through a series of seven live-on-Zoom workshops and a range of additional online resources, Debut Lab will support writers affected by the pandemic during this transitional stage in their careers.

Workshops will include networking, marketing, author events and funding opportunities, and will be led by industry professionals including Mairi Oliver, owner of Lighthouse Bookshop, and writers Maisie Chan and Helen Sedgwick, as well as Creative Scotland's literature team and Scottish Book Trust staff.

Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust said: “Scottish Book Trust is pleased to support eighteen authors through our new initiative, Debut Lab.

"Being a debut author is daunting enough, but the pandemic and following lockdown made it incredibly difficult for authors to promote their work.

"We hope to shine a light on this fantastic range of books, from children’s novels to collections of poetry.

"Our thanks to Creative Scotland for making this possible and allowing us to give essential support to this cohort.”

Katalina Watt, literature officer at Creative Scotland said: “Creative Scotland is so pleased to be working with Scottish Book Trust on this vital initiative for debut authors impacted by the pandemic.

"Through a series of live online workshops and additional resources led and facilitated by industry professionals, Debut Lab will highlight the wonderful variety of works and support these authors in the next exciting steps of their author journeys.”

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