Our website uses cookies. See our cookies page for information about them and how you can remove or block them. Click here to opt in to our cookies

Kirsty Logan on her time as a Gavin Wallace Fellow at ASLS

"I basically thought, I’ll give it a chance – but there’s no way I’ll ever win," Kirsty Logan says, reflecting on her decision to apply for the Dr. Gavin Wallace Fellowship.

The yearlong fellowship is awarded to a mid-career or established writer to enable them to focus on creating work. It was established in 2013, to honour Dr. Wallace's incredible contribution to the Scottish literature sector.

Logan was the inaugural recipient of the Fellowship, and she was hosted by the Association of Scottish Literary Studies in 2013-14.

"I thought I’ve got no chance because I’ll be up against the heavy hitters. But I also thought - it’s free to apply, the application form was quite reasonable, and I’ve got nothing to lose apart from a few hours of my time."

I think it’s really amazing when people from different disciplines collaborate. You come up with something that neither could come up with alone- Kirsty Logan

Logan did apply (obviously), and thank goodness: the resulting work was A Portable Shelter - one of her much-acclaimed short story collections.

"It was a book that I really, really wanted to write and I knew that if I could get some support with it, then I would be able to take some time to really concentrate and write the book," she says.

"The frame narrative of the book was that it was about two women expecting their first child together, and they were telling their stories to their baby. It was meant to teach the baby lessons that they’d learned in their lives."

Exploring the dark side of life

That may sound sweet, but don't be fooled. "The stories are quite dark," Logan says, "because I really wanted to make the point that the world - it is a sweet place - but it’s a dark place as well. We need to be prepared for these things."

Logan says she is "very inspired" by fairy tales and folk lore. "What I love about them is that they don’t shy away from the dark side of life," she says.

"They don’t shy away from death and violence and these bad things that can happen in life. I think that to try and pretend that these things aren’t true is no help to anyone – particularly children."

A personal connection

Aside from her love of folklore and myth, Logan also had personal connections to this project. "It was very much inspired by my dad," she says. "He died not that long before Gavin Wallace died, so I felt a lot of parallels between them.

"I really wanted the book to try and do something that I hope wouldn’t tarnish their names. I wanted there to be something that both my dad and Gavin would be proud that they had a small hand in, or a small influence on. I really hope that that worked out okay."

The resulting work is something to be proud of, indeed. She credits a lot of her positive experience to the host organisation, ASLS.

"ASLS is essentially a one man show," she says. "It' essentially just Duncan Jones and he was a dream to work with. He’s so understanding, and very open to everything, so it felt very collaborative.

"I've enjoyed all my publishing experiences, but this one was very unique – it felt like a real collaboration."

Logan explains that together, she and Jones developed the idea to produce a hardback, linen-bound book, with wood block illustrations. "We both decided that together," she explains, "and he chose the illustrator Liz Myhill, who I love.

"That was wonderful. Having had more experience in the publishing industry now, that kind of collaboration is very unusual."

Collaboration is key

Many of the organisations that host the Gavin Wallace Fellow are not traditionally associated with the publishing business, though. In 2019, multi-arts venue Summerhall has been chosen as the host organisation, for example.

But Logan believes that the key to collaboration is the process itself.

"You just ever know which direction it's going to take you in," she says. "The past few years I’ve been doing loads of collaborative work.

"I’ve been collaborating with musicians and photographers, filmmakers and things like that. It’s just amazing. It takes you in directions you wouldn’t think to go yourself.

"I’m so used to thinking in text and words. Just to have your brain broken open - you don’t have to be restricted to just the pages of a book. Words and stories and language are so adaptable to so many different things.

Part of the magic of the Fellowship, then, is creating something wholly unique.

"I think it’s really amazing when people from different disciplines collaborate," she says. "You come up with something that neither could come up with alone. Something that's greater than the sum of its parts."

Edinburgh’s multi-arts complex and events venue Summerhall has been selected by Creative Scotland to host the 2019 Dr Gavin Wallace Fellowship. Mid-career or established writers based in Scotland are now invited to apply for the post of Fellow, with a deadline for applications of midday on Monday 21 January 2019. Find out how to apply at summerhall.co.uk/dr-gavin-wallace-fellowship-2019/.

This article was published on 13 Dec 2018