We speak to Amy Liptrot

Amy Liptrot’s debut ‘The Outrun’was published in January 2016, and in the month since its release has received widespread critical and public acclaim, including being named Radio 4’s Book of the Week.

Amy was the recipient of a Creative Scotland bursary that enabled her to spend a winter writing in the remote island of Papay Westray, Orkney’s most north-westerly island. We were lucky enough to be able to chat to Amy about her writing process for The Outrun, the unique inspiration of Orkney and future writing plans.

Amy Liptrot

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process for The Outrun?

I had some material already, and I’d sort of been thinking about writing a book for years but I realised in order to progress I really needed the time and space to be able to concentrate on it full time. And that was what being on Papay thanks to the funding from Creative Scotland allowed me to do.

In terms of my process, I was quite disciplined with my time. I’d set myself daily word counts or targets for what I wanted to get done and stick to those 6 days a week because I felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to be there and to have that time so I wanted to make the most of it. 

What was the creative impact of spending a winter on Papa Westray?

As I was living alone in quite a remote place it meant I was automatically free from a lot of distractions and was able to put all of my focus in to my work. But more than that, the island itself provided a great deal of inspiration and a lot of The Outrun is about my time and experiences there, whether reflections on the small tightknit community or my natural surroundings.

And it was quite important for both my writing and for my mental health and ability to write that I was able to get outside everyday. So usually I’d go for a long walk in the morning, jotting down any occurring thoughts in my phone or notepad and working through anything from the day before. That it was possible to walk along the coast, swim in the sea and go out in the evening and look at the night sky, all of these things shaped my writing.

Papay Westray. Photo provided by Amy Liptrot 

How does being an artist on a small island differ from being based in an urban setting?

Well in many ways it’s the same, wherever you are you have to face yourself and you have to do your work whatever the location. But I think for me in this case there was something about me being from Orkney and reconnecting with home, realising that this was the place that had formed me. Something about that was incredibly fertile, and I needed to do it.

But small islands are fascinating places and the community on Papay, made up of 70 people, was very supportive as well as being a great source of inspiration.

What was your route to publication?

Whilst I was writing I just kept thinking it was my job to keep focused and get the book finished to the highest quality I could, without really thinking too much about getting published.

But through getting involved with Twitter, where I’d discovered and befriended other writers and readers and became immersed in online communities of people doing similar things, I started to find people were asking me about publication. So once I had completed a good final draft of The Outrun I got a literary agent who sent it out to a number of different publishers. Having interest from a few of these it was Canongate I decided to go with, which has definitely been a good decision.  

The Outrun 

What are you working on at the moment?

Last year I was living in Berlin and during that time I was working on new material but also working other jobs. I’ve been fortunate enough to get funding again from Creative Scotland which means I now have the time and space to be able to focus more on writing, and work towards what I hope will become book two. At the moment this is looking to be a collection of essays bringing together the natural world and digital experience. There are quite a few different subjects I’ve been writing about such as birds of prey in cities, traffic islands and the digital aftermath of relationships. So I’m just seeing how that’s going to progress, how the different subjects can be pulled together.

It’s been a month since The Outrun has been published and it’s been the craziest month of my life. It has been really amazing to have such lovely responses and comments about the book, and I’m still absorbing many of these.  And I know that there are people reading it now, all having different experiences of it and that’s just really fascinating and wonderful. I’m really grateful to Creative Scotland for the support they’ve given me as it’s allowed me to get my work to the place I wanted it to be.

Win a copy of The Outrun

*Please note this competition is now closed*

We have two copies of Amy Liptrot’s ‘The Outrun’ to give away. To be in with a chance to win answer the following question:

Which publishing company published ‘The Outrun’?

You can either enter by responding to this tweet, this Facebook post, by emailing the answer to webmaster@creativescotland.com or by posting the answer (along with return address details) to Web Team, Creative Scotland, Waverley Gate, 2-4 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3EG.

All entries must be received by 5pm Monday 29 February. The winners only will be notified.

Terms and Conditions

  1. The promoter is: Creative Scotland whose registered office is at Creative Scotland, Waverley Gate, 2-4 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3EG.
  2. The competition is open to residents of the United Kingdom except employees of Creative Scotland and Canongate.
  3. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
  4. Only one entry will be accepted per person. Multiple entries from the same person will be disqualified.
  5. Closing date for entry will be 5pm Monday 29 February. After this date the no further entries to the competition will be permitted.
  6. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.
  7. The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition.
  8. The prize is as follows: Two copies of ‘The Outrun’ by Amy Liptrot to be won by two separate entrants.
  9. The prize is as stated and no cash or other alternatives will be offered. The prizes are not transferable.
  10. Winners will be chosen at random from all correct entries received
  11. The winner will be notified by the means they entered the competition within 28 days of the closing date. If the winner cannot be contacted or does not claim the prize within 14 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.
  12. The prize will be sent out by post once postal details of the winners have been confirmed.
  13. The promoter’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  14. The winner agrees to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material, as well as their entry. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current UK data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party.
  15. The winners’ names will be available 28 days after closing date by emailing the following address: webmaster@creativescotland.com
  16. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Twitter or any other Social Network. You are providing your information to Creative Scotland and not to any other party.
This article was published on 22 Feb 2016