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Aberdeen Alumnus awarded Scottish Book Trust New Writer of 2021

In conversation with winner Hannah Nicholson

Storyteller and book-lover, Hannah Nicholson, is one of the most talented voices in the Aberdeen creative scene and an alumnus of the University of Aberdeen. Since she moved to the granite city from Brae (Shetland) in 2016, she has shared her fiction, poetry and spoken word on the stages of Speakin’ Weird, English Literature Society and Hysteria, to name a few. Hannah is this year’s winner of the Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award for the fiction and narrative non-fiction category, and Gaudie Arts had the pleasure to interview her and find out what her future projects ahead are.

Rory: You have recently shared the announcement of your victory as New Writer of the Scottish Book Trust 2021. First of all, congratulations on this achievement. How does it feel to start the new year with this news?

Hannah: It’s been a major boost for me for sure! I found out in December and have been grinning ever since I got the phone call. It was so hard to keep it a secret, but now that I can tell folk I’m excited all over again and I can’t wait to see what it brings me.

R: You are now an adopted Aberdonian, but your creative journey began when you were in Brae. What is the creative scene like back in Shetland?

H: Shetland has a pretty healthy creative scene. I was involved in a couple of local drama societies while I lived in the isles, which definitely helped to improve my performance skills. In terms of writing, the Shetland Library runs the Young Writer of the Year Award for school pupils in the isles, which was where I first cut my teeth after being one of its winners back in 2005. The New Shetlander is the magazine for publishing local writers, and some of the more famous writers to come from Shetland in recent years have been Robert Alan Jamieson, Rhoda Bulter, Malachy Tallack and Christine Laurenson to name a few. In terms of looking at creatives I can recommend, a great site for learning more about the Shetland dialect – or Shetlandic as it’s known to those outside the isles – and also about others who write in it!

"It was so hard to keep it a secret, but now that I can tell folk I’m excited all over again and I can’t wait to see what it brings me. "

R: I couldn’t imagine your portfolio without the richness of folklore, colour and language you have brought from your native home. How was the process of realising this is your chosen creative language?

H: It took me until I was in 3rd year of my undergrad at Strathclyde to realise that my strength lies in writing in Shetland dialect. More recently I’ve been influenced by local folklore and history, although that’s not to say that I don’t also enjoy writing more modern work! The piece that got me selected for this award is a modern one, incorporating folklore that I’ve read at a few different spoken word nights.

R: As a New Writer of 2021, we wish you a clear path ahead for inspiration of creativity. Speaking of which, let us go back to the year just past. How has this last year affected your creative routine? What did you find nourishing, and what instead tiring while dealing with this ‘new normal’?

H: Thank you very much! Have to say my mental health took a huge knock last year – while I’m quite an introverted person who can usually cope fine on my own, I really didn’t manage last year at all. I hardly read any books, which is really not like me at all, and my prose writing also took something of a back seat. However I did manage to do three different 30-day poetry challenges, the first of these in April with a group of friends where we all updated a shared Google document with our day’s offering. With this lockdown I am temporarily a key worker, so that’s getting me out of the flat at least, and giving me some form of routine – oh, and I’m reading again too!

R: Now you have achieved this amazing goal, what’s the next step/what are future creative projects ahead?

H: As part of the award we are mentored by published writers in our category, and through this I am hoping to get more work done on my novel in progress. I also hope to take part in NaPoWriMo again this April.

R: Lastly, what advice would you give to young writers in Scotland?

H: Perseverance is key. Don’t feel bad if you don’t write every day. Read plenty. Also allow yourself to write material that won’t necessarily be seen by other people.

The Scottish Book Trust competition runs annually, with entries opening in May and closing beginning of July.

It’s open to writers living and working in Scotland who are over the age of 18 years, have not had a full length novel, non-fiction book or short story / poetry collection published, and are not in full or part time education. The prize consists of £2000, a writing retreat at Moniack Mhor, a year’s free membership to the Society of Authors, workshops on pitching to publishers and agents and social media training, and the chance to have tailored mentoring sessions with published writers. For more info, please head to the Scottish Book Trust’s website:


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