Vernal Equinox Competition Judges

FWS members – remember the competition closes at midnight on 30 April 2021!

To help you get going, here are the judges and what they are looking for.

Poetry Judge Jim Mackintosh FWS Makar for 2021

Jim is the socially distanced author of six poetry collections, masked editor of two anthologies, locked down poetry editor for Nutmeg football magazine, isolated poet in chief of the Hampden Collection, multi -tiered approach Poet in Residence of the Cateran EcoMuseum, tested and protected programme manager for the HamishMatters Festival, actively two metres apart from roles on the Friends committee’s of William Soutar and Hugh Miller.

What Jim is looking for in the Poetry entries

All poems are good in the sense that anyone who has engaged in the struggle between their inner thoughts and the blank page in front of them deserves my respect. To release your thoughts into that white void, to bridge the gap between pen and page with words in a semblance of order deserves an award but, and there’s always that but.

I could mention someone’s meat and someone else’s poison and waffle on about rhyme and meter, imagery, word choice, economy of language and ask you to sit up straight, don’t pass notes under the desk and eat your greens but the most important Buts are: be true to yourself, draw from your own life experience and be proud of your craft for that is what good poetry will always look and feel like to me – the words of a person who has committed to the white void with honesty, care, pride and respect for the craft. And if you can slap me on my forehead with a beezer of a poem that knocks me off my feet then take the rest of the day off.

© Jim Mackintosh February 2021

 Short Story Judge Leela Soma FWS Scriever for 2021

Leela was born in Madras, India and now lives in Glasgow, Scotland. Her poems and short stories have been published in a number of anthologies. She has published two novels and two collections of poetry. Her third and latest novel is a crime thriller ‘Murder at the Mela’ published by Ringwood Publishing. Some of her work reflects her dual heritage of India and Scotland.

What Leela is looking for in the Short Story entries.

What makes a good short story? To quote Edgar Allan Poe ” A short story must have a single mood and every sentence should build towards it.”
For me it would be a great opening sentence or paragraph. A good short story that draws the reader in with a narrative flow that is engaging. Original, new, strong ideas that make the reader think after finishing  the story.

© Leela Soma February 2021

Flash Fiction Judge Mairibeth MacMillan

Mairibeth was the first winner of the Vernal Equinox short story competition. Since then she has had a number of short stories published in various magazines and has won the Writer’s Forum flash fiction competition twice, written many more and had some published. She has also published her first novel and had a poem shortlisted for the Bridport Prize last year. She regularly teaches an introduction to Flash Fiction course to Advanced Higher pupils at her local secondary school and has taught it to some writing groups, too.

What Mairibeth is looking for in the Flash Fiction entries

What I will be looking for is flash fiction that takes advantage of the form and utilises the shorter word count as a positive feature. I’ll also be looking for something which tells a story, whether this is explicit or implicit, and which has emotional impact.

© Mairibeth MacMillan February 2021

 Scots Category Judge Stuart A Paterson

Stuart was voted Scots Writer of the Year at the national 2020 Scots Language Awards. Author of several collections in Scots & English since 1991, his latest book ‘A Squatter o Bairnrhymes’ (Tippermuir Books) is the first major volume of new Scots poems for children in decades & is fast gaining national & international acclaim. Stuart was BBC Scotland Poet in Residence 2017-18 & works for the SQA as an External Verifier to schools delivering the Scots Language Award. Originally from Ayrshire, he now lives in Galloway by the Solway Coast.

What Stuart is looking for in the Scots category entries

Scots hisnae yit an offeecial staunnert sae dinnae fash owre yer spellin an siclike. An mind, Scots IS a language, ane o wir ain thrie auld hame languages!  An lik ony language it haes a fair wheen o dialecks fae Sheltie doon tae Gallowa an maist airts in atween. Aw poems an wee tales in the Scots dialeck o whaur ye bide or are fae will be fair appreciatit. Scots, like Gaelic, should be of & from the many, not the few. Scots is yours & oors – I look forward to reading it!

© Stuart A Paterson February 2021 

Gaelic Category Judge Deborah Moffatt

Deborah Moffatt was born in Vermont, USA and has lived  in Scotland since 1982. She has published three collections of poetry – Dàin nan  Dùil, (Clàr, 2019), Eating Thistles (Smokestack Books, 2019) and Far From Home,  (Lapwing, 2004).  Her poems have  appeared in a number of anthologies, including Staying Human (Bloodaxe 2020),  100 Dàin às Fheàrr Leinn (Luath 2020) and Poems of the Decade (Faber/Forward  2011). She has won prizes for her poems in both English and Gaelic, including  first prizes in the Wigtown competition, the Duais Bhàrdachd MacDhòmhnaill  Shlèite and the Federation of Scottish Writers Vernal Competition.

What Deborah is looking for in the Gaelic entries

Bidh mi a’ leughadh gach dàn le inntinn fhosgailte. Tha  fiughair agam gum bi na dàin air an sgrìobhte ann an caochladh  mhòdhan-sgrìobhaidh, agus gun tèid iad thairis air sreath de chuspairean. Ma  bhios liut is sgil rim faicinn anns na dàin agaibh, bhiodh sin feumail, ach tha   e a’ cheart cho cudromach dhomh ma  bhios faireachdan làidir agus lèirsinn air leth agaibh. Anns a’ grad-ficsean,  bidh mi a’ sireadh na h-aon bhuaidhean, ach a bharrachd air sin, feumaidh beagan  sgeulachd a bhith ann cuideachd.

 I intend to bring an open mind to every poem I read.  I expect and hope to read poems written  about a wide range of topics and in any a variety of styles, traditional or  modern.  The careful use of language  and poetic techniques might make a good poem a winning poem.  Mostly, I would want to get a sense that  the author has a strong commitment to the ideas or feelings expressed in the  poem, and to the art of the poem itself.  For  Flash Fiction, I expect to find at least the slender thread of a narrative, and  writing which enhances the story: as with a poem, every word must be chosen  carefully!

© Deborah Moffatt February 2021

2019 FWS Anthology – now available!

The 2019 FWS anthology, High Tide, packed with poems and stories, will be launched on Saturday Nov 2nd at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh at 12:30pm for 1:00. The afternoon closes at 3:30pm.

Our Makar, Stephen Watt, will be at the SPL for a “Meet the Makar” session at 11:00am.
This is an informal event, finishing  at 12:00 noon, and Stephen would eb delighted to see you.


There is a special Early Bird offer for the Anthology in advance of the launch – that is before Nov 2nd. More details and an order form can be found at this address.

How to: the workshop on judging competitions

A C Clarke, who ran a ‘Be a competition judge for an afternoon’ workshop in August, explains how you too could run such a workshop.

While I cannot post the material I chose for the workshop without permission from the authors (it is permissible in a closed group for educational purposes) the format of the workshop is one that writing groups might find useful. The workshop is suitable for a group between 9-15 participants. As set out below it does involve a fair amount of photocopied material but the structure can be adapted to reduce this, eg by sharing copies. Important – as indicated above, if you want to try this as an online workshop it must either be a CLOSED workshop, accessible only to the participants or you must obtain permission to use the material in this way from the poets and judges concerned.

You will need:

  • a minimum of ten poems, which ideally should include prize-winning/placed poems in competitions where the judges’ comments are available, as well as poems from books/online magazines etc. It’s a good idea to include examples of different kinds of poetry – prose poetry, formal poetry as well as free verse. It is better not to include poems by group members or writers who have interacted with the group. There should be enough copies for each participant to have their own copy.
  • a sheet of paper, or ideally a spreadsheet listing the poems in alphabetical order with three columns headed Yes, Maybe and No.
  • A whiteboard or other means of recording results.

Structure of workshop

  • Brief introductory remarks about poetry competitions, perhaps touching on questions of subjectivity v. objectivity, the criteria used by judges etc
  • Hand out poems and spreadsheets (or equivalent) and give the group ten minutes or so to make a rapid preliminary assessment, assigning poems to the Yes, Maybe or No category.
  • Divide group into sub-groups of three to four and ask each group to agree the first, second and third ‘winners’ among the poems distributed. Joint wins are allowed but no more than three poems should be selected. Allow at least half an hour for this. Each group should also be asked to appoint a rapporteur.
  • While these discussions are going on write the headings 1, 2 and 3 on a whiteboard or equivalent.
  • Reconvene as the full group and ask the rapporteur in each group to read out their selections and explain why these voices were made. Others of the group can chip in on the latter part.
  • Open up the discussion to the full group touching on differences of opinion and agreements between the groups, whether any poems were outright ‘Noes’ from the start and why and any other points thrown up by the exercise.

Lastly if you have them read out the judges’ reports on the poems selected from competition winners.  If possible also have these printed out.

Workshop: Be a competition judge for an afternoon!

Saturday September 14 2.30-4.30pm Multicultural Centre Rose Street Glasgow G3 6RE

Be a competition judge for an afternoon! Experienced poetry competition judge A C Clarke (has judged Grey Hen, Segora, SAW, Autumn Voices, Ver poemcard, Tyne and Esk Writers, Perth Writers competitions) will give some pointers on what judges are looking for and give participants the opportunity to rank poems in a ‘mini-competition’. Contact

Maximum numbers 15. Priority booking for FWS members until the end of August: non-members will be put on a reserve list until after 31 August.  Still plenty of places! FREE but donation of £2 suggested.

Last chance! The FWS 2019 Patchwork poem – submit by Aug 31st

After the success of our past Patchwork Poems and also to mark National Poetry Day 2019 (celebrated on Thursday 3rd October), the Federation of Writers Scotland would like to invite members to contribute to a Patchwork Poem on this year’s NPD theme of ‘Truth’. You must be a FWS member to contribute – not just a Facebook friend.

A Patchwork Poem is assembled from fragments of poetry from many contributors, and we’re asking Federation members to supply the fragments for our former Federation Makar Andy Jackson to edit into a poem. Members can supply single lines, short poems or extracts from whole poems on the theme of TRUTH, and Andy will select pertinent lines from submitted work and arrange them into a coherent new poem. The resulting poem will be published on the Federation website on National Poetry Day.

  • The project welcomes contributions from FWS members. If you aren’t yet a member you are welcome to join!
  • Single lines, poetry fragments or whole poems should be sent to Andy at no later than August 31st.
  • Submissions can be new work or previously published.
  • While we would endeavour to use work from as many writers as possible it may not be possible to include submissions from everybody. All members whose lines are selected will be credited on the site.
  • The Patchwork poem will be published on the Federation website on NPD 3rd October..

To give you some idea what the results might look like, see here for the 2017 FWS Patchwork poem.

Accepted authors for the FWS 2019 Anthology

Below is the list of authors notified that they will be appearing in the FWS 2019 Anthology, which will be launched on November 2nd. There will be 31 authors, with 51 pieces in this exciting new work. Congratulations to all!

Accepted Authors

Derek Brown 
Fran Baillie   
David McVey
Neil Beaton 
David Betteridge 
Andy Allan 
Jane Lamb
Leela Soma 
A.C. Clarke 
Lynn Valentine
Ann MacKinnon 
Sue Proudlove 
Greg Michaelson
Jean Taylor
Aileen Paterson 
M-T Taylor
Jo Gilbert 
Seth Crook 
Meg Gannon 
Derek Crook 
Morag Anderson
Emma Baker 
Hamish Scott
Alun Robert 
Mary Nixon
Paula Nicolson
Sheila Millar
Tom Gillespie
Swara Shukla 
Sharon Boyle
Alan Gillespie

Edinburgh Fringe: FWS @ Courtyard Readings Aug 14th

Calling FWS members!

Every August, the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh runs Poetry Courtyard events at which anyone can tuen up and read. This year Poetry Courtyard readings are on every day from 13-17 August 2-3pm, but we encourage all members who can make it to turn up on:

Wednesday 14 August 2-3 – hosted by FWS member Angus Ogilvie



Vernal Equinox Competition Results

Results of FWS Vernal Equinox Competition 2019

Flash fiction


Short Story


Flash Fiction Category

Overview by Flash Fiction Judge Gordon Lawrie

As the editor of a flash fiction website, I see many different submissions from around the world – many thousands over the last five or six years – and their quality varies quite a bit. By no means do we accept them all.

So it was great to see so very many high-standard entries for the FWS Vernal Equinox Flash Fiction and indeed I can honestly that every single entry – all of them – would have graced the pages of the website I edit. So well done to all of you, you can write flash fiction for sure, and your stories were a pleasure to read.

That brought its own problems, however. With so many excellent stories, especially when they vary in style as much as yours did, identifying the best ones becomes difficult. Your stories were funny, sad, poignant, uplifting, frightening, romantic, erotic, and in any number of genres. I tried to go back to the criteria that I set out beforehand, but my choices are inevitably subjective ones.

At least my choices are quite different. I liked them, and I hope you like them, too. I’ve included a short ‘Commended’ list as well, but in truth you were all winners.


Craig Aitchison    Marigolds
Peter Armstrong Richard’s T-Shirt
Debbie Bayne      Portrait of a Younger Man
Stephen Barnaby            Compact
Carol McKay      There’s Always Another Train
Paula Nicolson   Niver Titch a Woman’s Bahooky Less She Asks Ye

3rd  prize

Steve May What Good’s A Cowboy?

 Why I liked it.

 Although the Vernal Equinox Flash Fiction Competition has a maximum word limit of 500 words, much shorter stories have their merits, too. For me, this just touched a nerve: on this occasion the bully a hat, but it might just as well have been a bicycle, a schoolbag or a football.

This is the story of an end of a childhood innocence that each of us has experienced. The child discovers that people can be mindlessly horrible, and at the same time that his mother can’t protect him as much as he’d previously assumed.

2nd  prize

Bert Thomson Daft and Dafter

 Why I liked it.

 What appealed here was that I could so picture this entire scene, and each of the characters. Every Scot encounters countless such ‘numpties’ from time to time – guys who simply seem parachuted in from the planet Mars. They mean well, they think they’re harming no one, when actually they just don’t think at all.

 I love the way that the story unfolds as Ryan ‘Daft’ Wilson babbles on to DI Charlie Scrimgeour about what they were up to – that he and his mate Jason were off to Largs to collect some drugs when this ridiculous misunderstanding regarding ‘the wean’ took place. And I love the way that, even once it’s pointed out to him what he’s done, Ryan first response is ‘nae harm done. The wean had a great time.’ A cone from Nardini, after all, is the antidote to anything.

 The detective would be shaking his head in despair. I shook mine, too – laughing.


Colin Kerr Charlotte

Why I liked it.

 The quality of submissions was consistently high, which made judging both enjoyable and difficult at the same time. But the story of the narrator’s relationship with Charlotte, told through a piano and shared accommodation, somehow sparked my imagination. Charlotte seeks causes, love, people’s accents, soft furnishings, books, and of course the piano, in no special order: as one hope fades, she trades it for another.

 I placed a value on some exceptional writing: ‘I moved here from a village you wouldn’t know’; the placard with ‘Gods in the sky’ – is it missing an apostrophe? (we never find out); Charlotte’s endless faith in hope and new solutions; the sense that Charlotte is damaged; and the final theme that all is temporary. I found myself wondering how Charlotte would react to the disappearance of the piano. Would it push her over the edge, or would she simply create a fresh placard about something else?

 This story fulfilled all of my major requirements, particularly that it said so much yet left so much unsaid. The narrator seems unlikely to be part of Charlotte’s story, for sure.

Gaelic Category

 Overview by Gaelic Judge Marcas mac an Tuairneir

 Bha e na thlachd uiread de shàr-sgrìobhadh sa Ghàidhlig fhaighinn a-steach don cho-fharpais, le taic bho Chomhairle nan Leabhraichean is buidhnean eile. B’ e fianais a bha seo de rud air an robh mi an dùil o chionn fhada: gu bheil sgrìobhadairean Gàidhealach am measg seòid a’ Cho-nasgaidh, ach gun robhas feumach air beagan misneachd a chumail riutha is cothrom ceart a chur rompha. Nach sibh a tha math, uileadh!

Mar sgrìobhadair aithnichte sa chiad dol-a-mach airson mo chuid bàrdachd fhèin, bhiodhar an dùil, is dòcha gum measainn a’ bhàrdachd as fheàrr. Thachair sin, ach chan eil sin ri ràdh nach robh sgrìobhadh an grad-fhicsein aig àrd-ìre, cuideachd. Bha, gun teagamh, ach an fhìrinn innse, leis is gur e gnè-sgrìobhaidh gu math ùr, fhathast, air saoghal litreachas na Gàidhlig, chan robh mi cinnteach an do ghabh gin de na sgrìobhadairean ruisg ris a’ chruth-sgrìobhaidh gu buileach – fhathast! – ged cho mòr a chòrd rium an ìomhaigheachd annta. Ann an grad-fhicsean bidh mi an dùil ri sgeulachd slàn ann an gainnead fhaclan. Tachartas a bhuaileas mi le sainnseal tron dhuilleig, no deagh chleas a chuireas car air an aithris. Bho na leugh mi am measg nan iarrtasan seo, bha deagh thoiseach thòiseachaidh den ath mòr-nobhail Ghàidhlig, no sàr-sgeulachd ghoirid a ghabhadh leasachadh le cunntas fhaclan nas motha. Mar sin, na biodh seo na dì-mhisneachadh dhuibh. Chan eil mi ach airson tuilleadh a leughadh, nach d’ fhuair mi san dòigh seo.

A thaobh na bàrdachd, bha fhìor-fharsaingeachd ann, ged a chuir a h-uile duine verse libre thugainn. Ann am pìos na dhà, bha blasad de mheatarachd is seann-chruthan ri leughadh ann am feadhainn de na loidhnichean is chunnaic mi dìleab nan sàr-bhàrd Gàidhealach san sgrìobhadh ùr a chaidh a chur romham. A thaobh chuspairean is ìomhaigheachd, bha na tròpaichean Gàidhealach ann: maighdeannan-mhara is maighdeannan-ròin, gaol ga riochdhachadh tron aimsir is ràithean na bliadhna, coimhearsnachdan dùthchasach nan eilean le sùil gheur air beatha is na rudan beaga a bheir buaidh oirre.

I was chuffed to see we had attracted such super writing in Gaelic to the competition, with support from the Gaelic Books Council and friends elsewhere. This was the evidence we needed of something known for a long time: that we have Gaelic-speaking writers amongst the illustrious ranks of the Federation, but that a little confidence needed instilling whilst presenting them with the right opportunity. You’re all stars!

As a writer primarily known for my own poetry, you would likely expect that I would judge poetry to be most worthy. Yes, that what’s happened, but that is not to say that the flash-fiction wasn’t without merit, either. I really enjoyed it, but if I’m honest, with this being a relatively new genre for Gaelic literature, I wasn’t left feeling certain that any of our prose writers had got a proper handle on the genre – yet! – despite how much the imagery was a thrill to read. In flash-fiction, I expect to read a complete story in a paucity of words. An event that smacks me round the chops, through the page, or a clever twist that flips the narrative. From what I read amongst these entries, there was a promising start to the next great Gaelic novel, or a superb short story waiting to be developed with a larger word-count. To that end, this should in no way serve to break your confidence. I came away solely wanting to read more than I could in that put before me.

As for the poetry, there was a great deal of variety, though you all sent in vers libre. In a couple of pieces, there was a taste of that metre and traditional form that came through in the reading of certain lines and I could really see the legacy of the greatest of the Gaelic poets in this snapshot contemporary writing. In terms of theme and imagery, the stuff of Gaeldom was there: mermaids and selkies, love represented through the weather and the seasons, traditional island communities with a keen eye on life and the small things that shape it.


Eòghan Stiùbhart         Siantan

Highly Commended

Peter Clive                Figheachan


Sgàire Uallas                       Marbhrann MhicCodruim Dheireannaich

 Judge’s Comment

San dàrna àite, ath-sgrìobhadh sean sgeulachd MhicCriomain a thug orm dàrna shealladh a thoirt air cultar nan Gàidheal. Seann ìomhaigheachd ga ath-dhealbhachadh san linn sa bheil sinn beò is a sheall dhuinn, mar a chanas sinn sa chànan eile, gu bheil sinn relevant fhathast. Bha deagh bhriathrachas air an deagh cleachdadh san dàn seo, cuideachd. Bhiodh Dwelly na ghlòraidh.

In second place, a rewriting of an old tale, MacCrimmon, that gave me a second perspective on Gaelic culture. Ancient imagery redrawn for our times, which demonstrates to us all, as the cool kids are saying, that we’re still relevant. There was some terrific vocabulary in this one, too. Dwelly would be cock-a-hoop.

1st prize                   

Deborah Moffatt       Beatha Ùr

 Judge’s Comment

Gu dearbh, bha an rud mu dheireadh sin anns an dàn a shoirbhich as motha is sin ‘Beatha Ùr’, far an do pheantadh ìomhaigh soilleir den bhàrd a’ coimhead a-mach às an uinneig is a’ dlùth-sgrùdadh nan nàbaidhean a’ tighinn is a’ falbh, a’ lorg cèill anns na mion-chleachdaidhean aca. ’S e an t-sùil gheur sin a thug a’ bhuaidh as motha orm is an dàn a dh’fhàg mi le ceistean nam inntinn fhìn fhathast. Sin cumachd sàr-bhàrdachd.

Without doubt, it was the latter that secured a victory for the winning poem, ‘Beatha Ùr’ where a crystalline image of the poet was painted as he or she stared out of the window, scrutinising the comings and goings of the neighbours and their idiosyncracies. It was this keen eye that affected me most, personally, and this the poem which left me with questions in my mind, after reading. That’s the power of excellent poetry.

Short Story Category

 Overview by Short Story Judge Olga Wojtas

It’s been a privilege to judge this year’s short story competition. The standard of entries was so high that my “short” list was 18 out of the 50 submissions. I did assess entries by particular criteria, including the impact of the opening, the appropriateness of the language to the story, and whether it was engaging throughout. But judging something creative is never an exact science, so to those who didn’t make the finalists this time round, please don’t be too despondent, and send your work out there – there are lots of opportunities.

One word of warning: I didn’t take this into account in the judging, but I came across quite a few mis-spellings and grammatical mistakes. You want to maximise your chances when you submit to magazines and competitions, so please check and check again beforehand!

Olga Wojtas


Daniel Murphy  Getting Upset Over Nothing

Judge’s comment

Using “you” as the point of view is an underused form which can be very effective. In this story, “you” is an adult son who suddenly finds himself responsible for his mother who has dementia. The story is predominantly light and humorous, focusing on the son trying to deal with the situation. It leads an unexpectedly moving ending, which is achieved so well that the change in mood doesn’t remotely jar.

Highly Commended

Gaynor Jones  What 20p Will Get You in the Year of Our Lord,1996

Judge’s comment

This story, set in a convent school tuck shop, gets straight into the action with a good strong narrative voice. It’s very immediate, with great use of dialogue between the teenagers. And it’s perfectly paced: midway through, we think we’re very clever because we’ve worked something out, when it’s the author’s clever writing that leads us to the discovery. It’s open-ended but optimistic.


William Sutton  Guilt Written

 Judge’s comment

The protagonist is a writer, pen name Dougie O’Dowd, and he’s not an attractive character. His wife turns out to be cast in the Lady Macbeth mould. There’s no reason why the main character has to be likeable, and this keeps up the interest from beginning to end with a judicious use of quotes and Dougie’s own writing. A nice touch is several changes of font. Midway through, we can see where it’s going, but it continues to intrigue because of the quirky writing and because we don’t know how it’s going to end.


Steve May The Man In The Corner

 Judge’s comment

This is a good example of less being more. There was a 2000 word limit and the vast majority of submission were around 1900 words. But this story packed a real punch at under 900 words and wouldn’t have worked so well if it had been expanded. It’s got an omniscient narrator, so the point of view shifts several times.This works well since the key character is only ever observed rather than us knowing anything about him.

1st Prize

Montague Chambers Going Home

 Judge’s comment

This is a very touching story, most of it told from the point of view of a small boy who has serious health problems. It’s a great voice, very well handled, revealing a child who is bright and completely lacking in self-pity. The first-person voice is also very effective in getting information across: as adults, we understand more about the child’s condition than he does himself, and we also discover that he has drastically misconstrued information about himself. There is a sad ending, but we empathise so much with the protagonist that it’s not as sad as it appears.

Poetry Category

Judge Stephen Watt

 Highly Commended

Donald Adamson  Tenterhuiks

Judge’s comment

Without disclosing which sport – although I strongly believe  it to be football – this was a wonderfully written poem in Scots slang, grasping the nervous energy one feels awaiting a score-line. The nostalgic delivery still manages to remain contemporary in its description, and ambiguous enough for the reader to draw their own conclusions.

 Highly Commended

Philip Burton  Garlands, Nut, Figures and Grace

 Judge’s comment

Formidable story-telling, bringing both context and a dark fairy-tale to the origins of the Britannia Coconut Dancers of Lancashire. Enchanting language, layout, rhythm and rhyme contribute towards a fascinating poem which welcomingly left field in its subject matter.

 Highly Commended

Ann MacLaren   title withheld because entrant does not wish poem to be published online

Judge’s comment

Split into three sub-poems, this was a real favourite of mine – and similar to my selected first prize poem in its eavesdropping delivery. This type of poetry has a brilliantly Scottish, tongue-in-cheek quality, laughing inwardly at itself but also capturing some of the daft patter one hears when commuting. Right up my street.

3d Prize

Jilly O’Brien  Now That I’m No Longer Dying

Judge’s comment

The brutal honesty of this poem is both effective and affective. The reinstated, habitual lifestyle one returns to following a spell of serious illness is something which I am positive many families have had to handle; the hegemony shifting and leaving both parties feeling isolated and alien to one another in the illness’s aftermath. The tempo of this piece hurtles towards the closing lines – “Four weeks of limbo in a floral gown, sore machines out of date magazines needles biopsies careful sympathy and staring at the ceiling”, before its use of normality as a crashing conclusion. A well-crafted and heartfelt poem deserving of its third place.


Elaine Webster  Living The Language

Judge’s comment

There were several poems which embraced the Scots language, but none which quite intensified the way this poem does. It is a timeline which scrutinises the way language impacts upon lives through learning, challenges, dead-ends, music, experimenting and delivering. The gradual drip-feed of Scots words throughout the poem which lead to that thunderous final stanza works incredibly well; almost like one is trying to establish their purpose or talent, and how best to express this. Here, we have “new-borns in water” / “grannies” “cradle the rare phrase” / and “teens” “switching to Scots”, all “seeking sinewy sounds” until the tongue has grafted, loosened, and is finally free to be natural. A very clever piece.


Mary Wight  Fish

 Judge’s comment

I found this vibrant, eavesdropping poem incredibly endearing as it rotated like a slideshow with images of friendship, romance, humour, labour and dreams. These subjects are quite ordinary in any existence, but the use of language complimented the unity and affection between the three main characters: “handbags and haunches settled” / “laughter rose in gusts” / “this team”. The envious conclusion appears to embrace a two-fold jealousy, delighting in lines such as “ash and blackened weeds fell”, capturing not only the green-eyed yearning for love but also a simmering craving to be part of this group of friends’ pack. The pendulum delivery of this poem swings between the past and the contemporary, revelling in its secrets of who the women are and why the narrator remains at a distance. I returned to this poem time and time again, quite enchanted and in love with it.

FWS AGM: Tuesday 18 June 6.30pm

FWS AGM Tuesday 18 June 6.30pm Multicultural Centre Rose Street Glasgow G3 6RE
Annual FWS AGM.
This is your chance to make your voice heard and influence the future direction of the Federation by coming along to vote. Do think seriously about joining the committee or standing for a post. We are always in need of new members with fresh energies and ideas and this year we are particularly in need of an Events Co-ordinator – someone to co-ordinate arrangements for events (see list of current members of the Committee). The co-ordinator is not expected to attend every event but simply to ensure that all arrangements are in place. If you have a flair for organising this could be you!
The AGM will be followed at 7.30pm by the Competition Awards Ceremony.

FWS Short Story Workshop


Our Federation Scriever, Olga Wojtas, visited Dundee Central Library on 3 May. Her short story workshop was attended by folk from Aberdeen,Tayport, Newburgh, Arbroath, Forfar, Edinburgh, Livingston and Dundee.
She started off with relaxation exercises, then got everyone to do a freewrite, writing whatever came into their heads for three minutes without lifting their pens from the paper! They then chose a few words from that to share with the group, and then everyone chose three or four words from other people, and haf9 to write something incorporating all the words. The most popular being ‘skedaddle’!
The group then shared some memories and were challenged to write them from a different perspective.
All in all an inspiring day.