Gaelic author Catriona Lexy holds writing workshops in island schools

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Writer Catriona Lexy Campbell is holding a series of workshops in schools across the Uists and Barra this week as part of a project aimed at boosting young people’s writing skills by bringing arts practitioners into the classroom.

Catriona (pictured) who is also an actress, poet, dramatist and Associate Artist at Theatre gu Leor, is taking part in the islands-wide Gaelic education project Cèaird an Sgrìobhaiche (The Writer’s Craft).

The project, which aims to bring writers and other artists into a close working partnership with teachers and school communities, is led by Gaelic educational resources organisation Stòrlann and also involves publisher Acair, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s multi-media unit and Gaelic arts agency Proiseact nan Ealan.

As part of Cèard an Sgrìobhaiche, writers like Catriona Lexy have been going into schools throughout the Western Isles and holding sessions with pupils — usually the upper primary classes in Gaelic Medium Education (GME) — and focusing on writing skills.

Uniquely, they have been using their own novels to do this. These books have all been published as part of the Sgrìob series, a sister project to Cèard an Sgrìobhaiche, run by Stòrlann and Acair in close collaboration.

Twelve new Gaelic novels for young people have been published under the Sgrìob banner. Two of these — Am Fuachd Gorm and Campa na Cloinne — are by Catriona Lexy.

Hailing from Ness on the Isle of Lewis, Catriona Lexy already had a fair number of Gaelic novels and children’s books under her belt before Sgrìob, as well as a spell as writer-in-residence at Gaelic college Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye in 2013.

What is new, though, is the way that she and other experienced writers are being brought into the classroom — their novels with them — in such a structured way in order to teach writing techniques and skills, as well as to inspire.

The project also aims to boost reading for enjoyment and training has been given to ensure that everything the Sgrìob writers teach in the classroom is in line with the curriculum.

The focus is on a number of areas, including creative writing, illustrated writing, writing for performance and writing for the curriculum.

All the topics for the workshops have been chosen by the host schools and are linked to pupils’ previous learning.

Catriona Lexy is holding workshops in Paible, North Uist; Daliburgh, South Uist; and Castlebay in Barra on Tuesday (today), Wednesday and Thursday respectively.

Her workshops are on creative writing and link to the chosen topics of history of the local area, crofting and natural disasters.

There has been no single theme for Sgrìob books, the only stipulation being the books must be interesting to young people.

Stòrlann chief executive Donald Morrison said of Catriona Lexy’s involvement: “We’re extremely pleased to be working with someone who has a very high profile among young people and there is also the added aspect of having someone who has actually written the book to be in schools.

“I think pupils always respond well to authors talking about their own writings. It’s a source of inspiration to see a young author like that come in and say ‘hey, you could also work towards writing your own book or your own stories’. It’s a springboard to writing and it should be an exciting and fun experience.”

Acair manager Agnes Rennie said the aims of the Sgrìob series were two-fold: “Firstly, to publish a series of novels for young readers based on contemporary themes and, secondly, to encourage new and established Gaelic writers.

“The books that emerged, including Catriona Lexy’s gritty novels, are as good as similar books available in any language.”

The project is supported by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.