January 25th is the perfect excuse to ditch Dry January and raise a toast to Robert Burns, Scotland’s most celebrated poet. Born in 1759, the poet’s short life, till his death at 37, is immortalised in his verse: the robust, heartfelt rhythms in his local language and dialect that inspired the great Romantic poets Shelley, Coleridge and Wordsworth. Not just a poet, he was a covert radical and thought to be a supporter of the French Revolution. He clearly advocated freedom of the press when, in 1792, he challenged a royal proclamation banning seditious literature:
‘Here’s freedom to him that wad read
Here’s freedom to him that wad write!
There’s nane ever feared that the Truth should be heard
But they who the Truth wad indite.’ (From ‘Here’s a Health to Them That’s Awa”)
So, on Burns’ Night, do indulge in a dram or two of usquebae, tuck into a steaming haggis or the vegan alternative, but also read or, better still, listen to a recording of his mesmerising verse and be inspired to write.
We asked some of our favourite authors to tweet either a writing tip or a starting point for a story on a Burns’ Night theme and received responses from the celebrated Scottish writers Val McDermid
and, from this side of Hadrian’s wall, Sarah Hilary
Dark skulduggery, demonic ritual, mystery, pure romance or political intrigue? Lots of ideas to get you going, so a huge thank you to our inspirational authors, some of whom have new books out (please check out their websites). We’re looking for stories on any theme or genre, up to 2,200 words, by April 23rd. Just brilliant writing please. By the way, we’d be interested to know if you use our starters – though, please make sure you don’t identify the title of your story with your name.