Throughout the Emerging Critics programmes mentees are allocated writing assignments. These vary in length, style and scope. Below is a sample of some of the writing produced in the two rounds of Emerging Critics completed to date.


June 17, 2019
by David Lee

  It’s apt that the booklet accompanying Sean Shibe’s softLOUD takes the form of a conversation. It opens with a question, asking, ‘Have we today forgotten how to speak softly with grace; or is the real danger that we aren’t screaming loudly enough?’ softLOUD is Edinburgh-born Shibe’s...

The Great Chain of Unbeing

June 17, 2019
by Alison Bell

  Andrew Crumey’s latest publication raises eyebrows from the outset. What is it? Definitely not a novel. A collection of short stories? Hang on. There’s a direct link between the first two stories, then further in we pick up a few more throw-away names which recur and are somewhat but not...

The Evening Road

June 17, 2019
by Anna Girling

The lynching of two black men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, in Marion, Indiana on August 7, 1930 casts a long shadow. While lynchings were more common in the 1930s than we may now care to remember, an infamous photograph of the men hanging from a tree, with a crowd of high-spirited spectators beneath,...

Miss Universe

June 17, 2019
by Arusa Qureshi

  ‘Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me and I get trapped,’ Nilüfer Yanya says about her latest single ‘In Your Head’. The song, a blissful pop-rock earworm, is the opening number of her highly anticipated debut album Miss Universe. ‘What’s interesting to me, and...

Culinary Pleasures

June 17, 2019
by Victoria Mackenzie

  Culinary Pleasures is a lively and insightful history of cookbooks in Britain in six chapters, beginning with Mrs Beeton’s authoritative Book of Household Management (1861) and culminating in Nigella Lawson’s delectable How to be a Domestic Goddess (2000). Humble is careful to point out that...

(b)reaching stillness

June 17, 2019
by Róisín O'Brien

  Sometimes an artwork is so brazenly arrogant, so defiant in the face of conventionality and so utterly swept up in its own raison d’être, that the audience can appreciate the sheer force of will and the uncompromising drive behind it. Choreographers such as Roman Preljocaj come to mind. The...

From a Low and Quiet Sea

June 17, 2019
by Aran Ward Sell

  Donal Ryan likes to write, in a luminous way, of souls and eyes. From its title onwards, From A Low and Quiet Sea is gently lyrical, imbued with a soft, sometimes passive yearning. There’s something palliative about Ryan’s authorial presence: a doctor’s bedside manner, or the air of a kindly...

‘Our transforming shores’

June 17, 2019
by Mark West

  In his final presidential address in 1989, Ronald Reagan remembered a phrase he’d used “all [his] political life” to describe America. He talked about a colonialist named John Winthrop, who sermonized on the boat from England to America in 1630, calling to his congregation to build a “city...

The Panopticon (ROUND 1)

April 12, 2017
by Ian Abbott

Designed by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century The Panopticon is a brutal architectural design; it allows all inmates of an institution to be observed by a single watcher without the inmates being able to tell if they’re being watched or not. A radical surveillance that can dictate...

Where Does Pain Go? (ROUND 1)

April 12, 2017
by Freddie Alexander

One of the first details we learn about Candia McWilliam, Scottish author of ‘Debateable Land’ (1994), in her autobiography ‘What To Look For In Winter’ is that she is now functionally blind. That is, she has fully operational eyes which refuse to open, a result of the effects of blepharospasm. We...

A New and Second Sight (ROUND 1)

April 12, 2017
by Laura M. Morgan

‘I felt as if / I was nothing, no one, I was everything to her, I was hers,’ writes Sharon Olds in ‘First Birth’. For Chitra Ramaswamy this self-immolation begins much earlier in pregnancy. She becomes breathless as her organs make room for the foetus, and later suspects the two heartbeats inside...

In Search of Dùthchas (ROUND 1)

April 12, 2017
by Liam Alastair Crouse

‘Is there any culture more remote from an understanding of its own place-names meanings than Scotland’s, thanks to the loss of Gaelic?’ mused Alec Finlay in a recent blogpost of ‘cruinneachadh’, an eco-poetic exploration of the Cairngorms. Nowadays, Scotland’s official tongue often lurks...

A Suitable End (ROUND 1)

April 10, 2017
by Hilary Bell

M. Forster, in Aspects of the Novel, said that nearly every novel’s ending is “feeble”. A conclusion is often written just for the sake of it, to the detriment of the characters, with novelists completing their novel with either a marriage or a death. But with Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon, published...

Borrowing Time (ROUND 1)

April 8, 2017
by Laura Waddell

“I’m into borrowed time now, my mother said on her 70th birthday.” Among the first clutch of novelistic responses to the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014, Jenni Daiches’ third novel Borrowed Time is a gentle, memoir-like reckoning of one woman’s life as she approaches both her 70th...

In the Company of a Master (ROUND 1)

April 8, 2017
by Alasdair McKillop

There are no more than a handful of major events in A Far Cry From Kensington but it would take a long time to convey a true sense of the novel. The story is told from the perspective of Mrs Hawkins – christened Agnes and only Nancy towards the end – as she recalls the mid-1950s when she lived in...

Cosy Apocalyse (ROUND 1)

April 8, 2017
by Ceris Aston

The scene: King Lear in a pool of blue light, watches a hallucination of his three daughters, stumbles. Or: An actor has a heart attack on stage, efforts by a trainee paramedic to save him are unsuccessful, a little girl cries and is pacified by the gift of a glass paperweight. Or: This is the...

Warmed by Global Warming (ROUND 1)

April 8, 2017
by Christopher Silver

Jenni Fagan’s prose is devastating and unadorned. This is a quality that cannot be dispelled throughout this difficult second novel, which deals with that most difficult of subjects – the possibility that human life will soon become irrevocably changed due to our impact on the Earth’s climate. The...

Of the Devil’s Party (ROUND 1)

April 8, 2017
by Jacqueline Thompson

On 15 November 1959, Kansan farmer Herb Clutter’s throat was cut, his head blown open by a 12-gauge shotgun. His teenage son Kenyon’s final moments were spent bound and gagged yards from this scene, before he too was shot at point blank range. Soon after, Kenyon’s sister Nancy uttered her last...

Jimmy this, Jimmy that (ROUND 1)

April 8, 2017
by Rachel Rankin

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I had neither read nor seen Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting until early 2016 when I picked up a cheap copy in Waterstones on Princes Street.Drawn by the hype, the reputation, and the striking front cover – a human skull imposed upon a glossy white background – I...

A Memoir in Blindness (ROUND 1)

April 8, 2017
by Annie Rutherford

Candia McWilliam has an eye for the contradictions at the heart of things, from the burning heat of an ice tray to the superstitions we cherish but never keep. Her memoir, What to Look for in Winter, is in part an exploration, by turns heart-wrenching, ironic and celebratory, of these contradictions....