Budding young writers encouraged to follow in footsteps of Nan Shepherd

Budding young writers encouraged to follow in footsteps of Nan Shepherd

A writing competition marking the life of one of Scotland's most celebrated writers of prose and poetry has been launched by the University of Aberdeen.

The Nan Shepherd Prize has been organised by the WORD Centre for Creative Writing in the hope that her legacy will inspire young writers on their creative journey.

The theme of the competition is ’Life and Landscape’ and it is open to 16 to 18-year-olds in Aberdeen city and Shire, as well as Moray. Stories can be written in English or Scots, or a combination of both.

Dr Helen Lynch, Senior Lecturer in Early Modern Literature and Creative Writing at the University, said that the competition was aimed at S5 and S6 pupils, who are invited to submit writing in any genre on the prize themes. These may also provide ideal folio pieces for those studying National 5 or Higher English. University of Aberdeen Professor of Scottish Literature, Alison Lumsden, has created online Nan Shepherd resource material to assist teachers.

Born in Peterculter, Nan Shepherd was one of the first women to graduate from the University in 1915, and her experience there inspired her to devote the rest of her life to education and literature. She kept a close relationship with the University, editing Alma Mater magazine throughout the Great War, later editing the Aberdeen University Review and delivering literary lectures well into her 80s.

Her first novel, The Quarry Wood, was published in 1928, with two more following in the 1930s. All three were set in the North East, with country communities and the harsh landscape as background. Hill walking was her great love and her book, The Living Mountain - a work of poetic prose exploring her close relationship with the hills - was written in the 1940s, though not published until 1977.

Due to the remarkable recent success of this book, her image now appears on the Scottish five-pound note.

Dr Helen Lynch said that although Nan Shepherd is best known as a much-praised nature writer of The Living Mountain, she accomplished much more in a lifetime of achievement.

“She was a celebrated writer, an editor, lecturer, traveller and tireless enthusiast who loved literature and landscape,” she added.

Most importantly though, she encouraged and supported young writers in their work and inspired generations of teachers with her passion, particularly for North-east writing. The University competition also ties in very nicely with another – the Nan Shepherd Prize for Nature Writing – which has been organised by her publisher, Canongate, and aims to attract writers from under-represented groups.