An anthology of stories and poems by members of the Federation of Writers ( Scotland ) 2020

Acknowledgements to:

Anne Connolly for anthology team leadership

Janet Crawford for coordinating the submissions process

Emma Mooney for prose selection

Neil Leadbeater and Sheila Templeton for English and Scots Poetry selection

Jenifer Harley for production and distribution

Cheryl at Drumcross Publishing for cover design

Stephen Watt for his generous comments on Surfing

Order information

All contributors will receive a free copy automatically.

Further copies can be purchased for £10.00 plus £2.00 P & P for up to 2 copies, £2.50 for 3 copies and £3 for 4-8 copies.

Payment by:

  1. BACS transfer to account number 12874968, sort code 80-22-60 Federation of Writers ( Scotland ) . Please use as identification your name followed by FWSanthol2020
  2. Cheque payable to Federation of Writers ( Scotland) and sent to 5, Ashley Court, Linlithgow, EH 49 7BD, with your name and noting it is for the anthology.

Patchwork Poem 2020

Here is the 2020 Patchwork Poem created by Andy Jackson, our 2017 Makar, from lines sent in by members.

A Federation of Writers Scotland Patchwork Poem for National Poetry Day 2020

See Andy’s reading of the poem at our Youtube Channel

Or you can download a copy here patchwork-poem-fws-2020-final-version-a3

Click to access patchwork-poem-fws-2020-final-version-a3.pdf

Arbroath anthology

I had no idea what to expect when I looked at the submissions – all with pseudonyms so identities were concealed. I was delighted by the diversity of petitioners. A great deal of wit was on display, but many heartfelt and poignant pieces too. I greatly enjoyed reading them, and I hope you do too. Thanks to all who sent submissions. Don’t forget if you are a FWS member you have a right of reply – see below.

The sixth up is Gayle Smith with a timely reminder to the people of Scotland not to remember Arbroath just for its Smokies but for its declaration of the freedom of the Scottish people, an issue as alive today as it was in 1320.

Gayle says of herself: ‘Gayle Smith is a transwoman and spoken word poet from Baillieston. She co-hosts the long running  Words And Music night with her friend Jen Hughes. She has performed her work throughout Scotland since 1993 and is particularly proud of her connection with the Other Voices spoken word collective The topic she has chosen for her poem is the Declaration Of Arbroath, and Arbroath’s place in our national story.’

You can read Gayle’s poem at

I’m delighted too to be able to bring you contributions from our current Makar Finola Scott and our current Scriever Charlie Gracie. These will remain accessible on the web-site until all the posts from contributors have been displayed and will of course appear also in the printed version of the anthology.

You can read Finola’s rousing call to all ‘Braw Lassies’, originally written for a Stellar Quines project, at

You can read Charlie’s letter to Mother Earth, a masterly deployment of Swiftian irony (think ‘A Modest Proposal’) at

Any comments on any of the pieces published should be sent direct to me at Don’t forget if you are a Federation member not already accepted for the Arbroath anthology you can write a response to the poems posted. Email me at the above address for details.

Read the work of the Vernal Equinox Competition winners!

Here are the winners of the 2020 FWS Vernal Equinox Competition. The work of those who gave approval for their work to be published here can be read by clicking on the title.


1st  Roger Elkin                                 Remembering Vukovar

2nd Stephen Keeler                         Snow Moon

3rd   Mark Vernon Thomas           With the accent on Place

Highly Commended 

Anthony Watts                                     Quantock Revisited


Jilly O’Brien                                           During the quietness

Peter Russell                                         Wheeler


 1st   Donald Adamson                       The Sun Athort the Lift

2nd Fran Baillie                                 Coast Lines

3rd    Lynn Valentine                           Munlochy

Highly Commended 

Lesley Benzie                                     Iraqi Quine wi a Big Reid Case

Don J Taylor                                         The Great Michael


Craig Aitchison                                     The A-Team

Jo Gilbert                                               Tarlair

Jilly O’Brien                                         Topplin the Mannie


1st   Seonaidh Adams                        an crogan

2nd Eòghan Stiùbhart                       Peallag

3rd   Niall O’Gallagher                     Caisearbhan

Highly Commended

Robbie MacLeòid                                  Seòlaid

Short Stories

 1st  Rachel Carmichael                     God’s Amazing Grace

2nd    Kirsten MacQuarrie                 The Wordsworth Women

3rd    Shirley Gillan                             A Loop of Faith


David McVey                                       The Invasion of the Library

Vincent Maguire                                 Mick McGrory says

Don J Taylor                                         The Gift

Flash Fiction

1st   Ruth Gilchrist                             Nereid

2nd Mary Edward                             As Good As New

3rd   Wendy Jones                             Sod Off Hilary

Highly Commended

Alan Kennedy                                       On Active Duty


Daniel Murphy                                   Skiffing Stones with Granda

E.E. Rhodes                                 Sepia Moon



20 words for 2020 – deadline July 1st!

***An opportunity for FWS members only***

Join for free on this website..

The FWS Scriever, Charlie Gracie, invites Federation members to submit a 20-word story entitled “20 Words for 2020.” You may submit one story ONLY containing 20 words on any subject via email to Entries will be given a number and forwarded on anonymously for consideration.

Charlie will select the 6 stories he feels create the most unique and slick tale within the word count. If excessive entries are received, members of the Federation Board will sift entries before referral to Charlie. The 6 successful authors will be individually interviewed by Charlie on an online platform, like zoom, skype, teams etc, and these chats will be recorded.

Each discussion will last approximately 15 minutes and touch briefly on the authors and how they started writing stories, or why they chose their particular angle. Charlie will discuss what attracted him to their story. To be inclusive, provision will be made to conduct an interview via email if the successful author is not an online platform participant. All GDPR processes will be followed throughout.

Timeline: Entries invited throughout June, deadline midnight on 1 July, successful applicants will be advised by email in late July, interviews held by 10 August. Recordings will be posted in August 2020.

By interviewing 6 different authors our members will gain an insight into various styles, interpretations and ideas. These recorded chats will be played on our social media sites and our web page.

Featured Writer: Pippa Little

We are delighted to welcome Pippa Little as this month’s Featured Writer. Pippa is a poet of distinction who a few years ago, as many of us will remember, read at the Centre Stage event, the highlight of each day of poetry readings at the StAnza poetry festival. She says that her poem, Gathering, which you can read below, and which expresses in lovingly observed detail the sense of calm reflection and companionship with the dead that old churchyards induce, is ‘about (partly) the Howff in Dundee, which I loved when living nearby there, also the beautiful Victorian churchyard across the road from my house now which I visit every day.’.

 Pippa Little is a Scots poet living in Northumberland where she is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Newcastle University. Her two full collections, Overwintering (Carcanet) and Twist (Arc) were both shortlisted for major prizes. A third, Time Begins To Hurt, is forthcoming. She runs writing workshops, mentors and belongs to two women’s poetry groups. She has been published in many magazines/online including Glasgow Review of Books, Gutter, Dreich (see below under Members’ News), Chapman, Poetry Review, The Rialto. Two proud moments: a haiku beamed on to the wall of the National Gallery in Edinburgh and organising a Poem-A-Thon for refugees. 

Surrounded by slanting walls rose-red
and tappy-lappy tenements
this churchyard sits in its own secrets
known only to locals and lone cats.

Slip through its fronded gate
and city roar turns to murmuration,
known names sea-weathered in stone
warm to my hands’ touch.

Grace who died at five days old
Laura Marley, delivered
into the Lord’s care 1869,
Until The Shadows Flee Away. 

When time and the heart make heavy
I go with nothing more than need
to be among them, in their fern, bramble, dog rose
where they listen to my thoughts

the old sun shawls our shoulders
and we are companionable with one another.

© Pippa Little 2020

The FWS collective online story..

Our Scriever Charlie Gracie challenged our Facebook members to write a story in blocks of nine words on Saturday 16th May 2020.

You had to be think on your feet to take part! If the segment didn’t follow on from the previous one, if it was just posted to the page, if comments were just made in threads or weren’t nine words, your contribution would be deleted. Caroline Johnstone our social media manager managed this over the six hours of the challenge.

At 10 a.m. Charlie started us off with the words, “Polly opened her front door. First time in weeks,” thinking that might start things off an escape from Coronavirus story. We had an immediate plot twist from one of the contributors – and over the next six hours, 24 contributors provided 44 different elements, with Charlie keeping the story moving and providing the unexpected ending we’ve come to know him for at 4 p.m.

Everyone who took part enjoyed it and those who were late to the party still enjoyed reading the end result:

Polly opened her front door. First time in weeks. She sniffed the air; the stench of blood unmistakable. Well, lambing season was here. Polly pulled on wellies. She looked down, too scared to look up again.

Picking up the delivery from the butcher’s, she noticed it. “Here this isnae funny, I’m no easy scared”. The pack of sausages had a finger in them. Polly eased the bloody note away from the digit; that ring looked oddly familiar, the small ruby glistening.

‘Come in quick,’ shouted an angry voice from inside. She slid the ring into her pocket, and turned in time to see the maid glaring from the window above, had she seen her take the ring?

Stifling a sense of guilt, she turned to see the four digit hand of god ; pointing at her. She shivered in blind terror as salt tears stung. ‘Damn, Evan. I’ll never lose another night drinking absinthe.

Polly remembered the bloody note, crumpled in her hand. After carefully sanitising the bag and note she returned…her thoughts toward her secret. She must hide the evidence of her foul misdeed but where was safe?

She remembered the place where she’d hidden other treasures; it was lambing season and the sheep wouldn’t mind.

Her secret buried in earthy pastures. But why now? The reverend was on her case; he also knew! She had to end this. Once and for all… She grabbed her shotgun, loaded it and strode outside. The shriek rang out before she fired her gun. Who was screaming?

Then she realised it was her. The scarecrow wearing the Reverend’s hat rotated anti- clockwise. Reality was disintegrating in front of her eyes, what had that note said? I HAVE FOUND YOU. RUN.

A kaleidoscope of jewels flashed from knarled taunting hands… Polly woke in a sweat. Never. Taking. LSD. Again. Somebody chapped the door loudly. It was the Reverend, his black crow clothes torn. Eyes full of fury, the shotgun in his hand betraying his priestly calling.

She placed the ruby finger on the trigger and turned the gun’s barrels towards his drawn pale face. “Forgive me father, for I know what I do…Would you care to join me for some sausages?”

No more. Tell everyone the truth or I’ll shoot. “No chance – it’s sausages and beans or nothing pal.”

And Charlie’s verdict:

“That was a great day today. Big thanks to Caroline for putting it all together and keeping things going.

I’d really no idea at all what Polly was going to get up to when she opened that door at 10 o’clock in the morning. It was some day, all those writers taking her in and out of crazy danger. Inevitable, I suppose, that she ended up frying sausages for a man of the cloth who bore her little but Ill. It was a pleasure to be part of the joint imagination of the Federation of Writers. What a wonderful collection of skill and creativity. I hope we can do it again sometime. “

Featured Writing Group: Lockerbie Writers

Lockerbie Writers ( meet fortnightly from 1000 to 1200 in the Townhead Hotel, Lockerbie, and are a like-minded group of local writers that share their work and provide supportive critique and motivation. Two of their members, Paula Gilfillan and Kath Rennie, are FWS members. Paula (pen name Paula Nicolson) achieved a Commended prize for her flash fiction in the 2019 FWS Vernal Equinox writing competition and another piece was published in the FWS anthology: High Tide.

They’ve just published their second anthology of short stories: Behind Closed Doors – Stories of Sanity, Suffering and Secrets, after the warm reception they received to their first anthology in 2016 (Stories and Poems from Annandale and Eskdale).

After a chance visit by Vivien Jones (Wigtown Festival Literature Ambassador for Annandale and Eskdale), they set off on the path of self publication, despite having never considered it as a group before. It has been a steep learning curve, but a journey they’ve enjoyed making. If your group is interested in self-publishing, but are not sure where to start, they would be happy to share tips (and receive them too!).

Behind Closed Doors is a smorgasbord of short stories that discuss, ruminate and extrapolate on many social issues; from the murderous to the ridiculous. It can be purchased from Amazon. Lockerbie Writers hope you enjoy reading their stories and if you do, please leave them a review.

© Paula Gilfillan 2020

Deadline change for FWS Vernal Equinox competition

Owing to the unprecedented situation created by Covid-19 the deadline for the competition has now been extended until 30 April. Successful entrants will now be notified by 3 July and the award ceremony on 20 June has been cancelled, though not of course the awards themselves.

Please do think about putting in an entry if you haven’t already. We’re particularly low on Gaelic entries but need more entries in all categories. Updated rules can be found here