The 25th January or Burns’ Night is a key event in Scottish calendars. Not quite a Hallmark holiday, though embraced by lovers of Scottish culture and possibly partygoers worldwide, it’s essentially a celebration of the life and works of Robert Burns. Born in 1759, around the 25th, the Scottish bard filled his short life (dying at the age of 37) with glorious explosions of verse, mainly in his own language/dialect. His poems were expressions that sprang from the heart, influencing the great Romantic poets Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley, and are still celebrated today.
I was introduced to the perils of drink through Tam O’Shanter, a poem I had to learn for O’ Level. Oh, the joy of practising it in front of the mirror until I could recite it word perfect to the class. Even though my accent could be defined as Southern English/RP the writing transports you to the highlands and I was there with Tam’s wife Kate calling him ‘a skellum, a blethering, blustering, drunken, blellum.’ And certainly, at a Burns’ Night party while munching on your haggis and knocking back the ‘usquabae’, Tam’s is a tale worth telling.
I tweeted some great Scottish writers to give their top writing tips (in 140 characters) for a short story on a Burns’ Night theme. Almost immediately a reply pinged back from award-winning Louise Welsh @louisewelsh00 Professor of Creative Writing at Glasgow @UofGWriting known mainly for her short stories and psychological thrillers (such as the Orange-nominated and CWA winner The Cutting Room; The Girl on the Stairs and Plague Times Trilogy).
She’s right. Read the poetry and find a starting point. The tale of a night when ‘The Deil had business on his hand’? Or the wife who sits at home ‘gathering her brows like a gathering storm’? Or whatever piques your fancy or fantasy? A quick google will transport you to the world of Rabbie Burns or you could start with Tam O’Shanter.
Write your story (up to 2200 words) and send it to us by May 1st. ‘Good luck to all your Means!’