Submit Your Future Stories to the Scottish Book Trust

An illustration of a woman climbing a staircase made out of books, with the words Future, Write tomorrow, today, Submit your story by 5 June

‘Your Stories’ is a national campaign from the Scottish Book Trust that delights Scotland every year, gathering real life stories from members of the public. With this year’s theme of Future, we spoke to their Head of Reading Communities Programmes, Philippa Cochrane, about the journey the campaign has been on.

The campaign is now in its twelfth year, originating as an opportunity to gather stories and voices from the Scottish public, to give people an opportunity to try their hand at writing. Philippa explained:

“It was based around this idea that we all have a story to tell – we all have several stories to tell, it’s how we communicate with one another.

We wanted to give the wider Scottish public a chance to share their stories, aimed at people who weren’t necessarily interested in pursuing a professional writing career, but who wanted to try a little bit of writing, and maybe had something they wanted to tell about their own lives.”

With the development of Book Week Scotland, which began in 2012, came an opportunity to gather the stories from the project into something tangible – a printed book. This seemed a natural fit given the book end nature of both projects at either end of the year.

To encourage participation, Philippa explained the nature of theming, as well as the broad definition of writing that they accept.

“I use the word story, but we slightly abuse the word story in this campaign, because we’re not saying every piece has to be a continuous piece of prose. We accept poetry, we accept comic strips, we accept song lyrics, we’ve had diaries, we’ve had letters - all sorts of things.

Whatever anyone wants to write, and however anyone wants to tell a true story from their life, we will accept. We accept in English, Scots and Gaelic at the moment, and we accept different methods of submission - if somebody wanted to give us a digital story in video, or record the story in audio and send us that, we try to accommodate it all to make it as accessible as we possibly can, and to allow people to express themselves however they are most comfortable doing, with words.

The knack is finding a theme that is broad, that as many people as possible can connect with and has relevance and resonance, but also something specific enough that it’s clear what we’re asking for.”

With such brilliant themes emerging over the years, that knack seems as though it must be second nature to the Scottish Book Trust team. It is therefore also no surprise that Philippa can’t pick a favourite.

“Every year throws up a story or insight or a connection that I wasn’t expecting. I have particularly fond memories of Treasures, because that was asking people to write stories about objects that were important to them.

There were some lovely pieces that came out of that. It was the year that we did five different covers on the book, because we asked people who submitted stories that were in the book to come in with their treasure and get photographed with it, and that was really lovely.

I am an obsessive collector of cookbooks, so Nourish was a really interesting year for me. We always, no matter what the theme is, get stories about granny’s soup, which is lovely, and so Nourish allowed for a lot of that topic to happen, and a lot of conversations about how we gather for meals and what we mean when we talk about nourishment.

I really liked that year, and last year, Blether, was great, those ideas around how we communicate with one another and those conversations we think nothing of at the time, but then become really important to us as we look back. That was such a rich theme, and it was something that really connected with people.”

Launched on April 6 this year, the campaign is now open for submissions on the theme of Future. Submissions can be up to 1000 words long, in English, Scots or Gaelic, and in any form. On the topic of the theme, they say:

For many of us, the future represents opportunity and gives us hope that we can make positive change for our loved ones, our communities or ourselves. So whether you’re an activist desperate to transform tomorrow, an eternal optimist setting another target for the year ahead or just a dreamer wondering what the next chapter in your life will be, Scottish Book Trust wants your story.

So, what advice would Philippa give for someone considering submitting a story?

“I think the really important thing to say is that this is not a writing competition. This is about finding the stories that connect on a human level, wherever they come from. It’s about trying to get as many different people’s perspectives and thoughts and experiences together in one place as far as possible.

The thing I would say most strongly is even if you’re not confident about your writing, even if you’ve never done anything like this before, think about how you would tell a story to a friend about something that happened to you. That’s what we’re interested in, the story as communication. It’s also about the fun of it! Even if folk have never tried before, sit down and try and have some fun – don’t be too serious or hard on yourself. If there’s a story from your life that makes you laugh, tell that!”

As part of the campaign, Scottish Book Trust runs an annual series of public workshops to help inspire those considering submitting a story. With the impact of Covid-19, these workshops have had to pivot to an online offering.

“Our four workshop leader authors are going to each run an online workshop that people can have access to. The places will still be limited at those – having 100 people in one room isn’t going to work for anyone, but at least there is still an opportunity to participate in them online.

We also run some workshops with specific organisations for their audience groups or the people they support, and this year we are going to do that in partnership with Open Book.

We’re really excited that we’re partnering with Open Book, they’re such a great organisation - Marjorie Lotfi Gill from Open Book has written us some support materials and we are breaking those out to give a weekly writing prompt via our online channels.

It all means that there’s a really rich set of ways you can still get involved.”

And get involved you should!

Find out more about the campaign, the workshops, and how to submit your story on the Scottish Book Trust website.

Remember to follow along with the hashtag #YourFutureStories on Scottish Book Trust Twitter for information as well as writing prompts.

Scottish Book Trust is a Regularly Funded Organisation.

Regularly Funded Organisations make a significant contribution to the current health and future development of the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland and play a key role in helping us deliver against our overall ambitions.

Find out more about the Regular Funding Network

This article was published on 14 Apr 2020