Sarah Cairney

During late 2015 Sarah was notified of her success as one of ten young people in the whole of Scotland picked to participate in ‘What’s Your Story?’. This project, ran by the Scottish Books Trust, has the ambition to increase and enhance creative writing and illustration opportunities for teenagers in Scotland. Sarah tells us more about how it’s going…

I first got involved in writing when someone suggested to me that I should keep a journal/diary and that I should write down every thought, emotion and experience. This then led to a massive amount of stories – mostly non-fiction – so I started editing them all, rewriting them over and over until I was satisfied with the finished result. I morphed all my stories together and I am now writing a book about my personal experiences that I hope to publish at some point in the future. I find that writing is the way I can express myself, for some people its music or art, or even dance but for me its writing, 100%.

My writing has come a very long way over the past few years; it has gradually gotten better and better…although it has been a very long and sometimes frustrating experience. Writers block, editing, losing motivation, editing again, not having enough time, these things are always going to be the negatives. But the positives make those bad things livable, producing work that moves people’s emotions, the initial feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment, they make it worth it.

Some guidance staff from my school that I spoke to regularly suggested I applied for ‘What’s Your Story?’ a course that the Scottish Book Trust were running on behalf of young people. I was very keen to apply as I wanted to expand and develop my writing skills. I filled out the application thinking that I had a very small chance I would get accepted…a few weeks later I got a call. Nicole Brandon, the Young Writers Co-ordinator for the Scottish Book Trust, announced that I had won a place out of all 50 applicants across Scotland. Eight other young writers were accepted – and an illustrator too – for a weekend away to Moniack Mhor’s creative writing centre in Beauly.

I of course grabbed this opportunity with both hands, amazed that my application had been good enough. The weekend was fun filled with laughter, workshops and wonderful writing. I met a bunch of inspirational and kind people who were just as passionate at what they did as I was. It was both nerve wracking and exciting, it was such a new experience for me. Being around people just like me made me feel very welcome and involved. The goal of the weekend was to talk about creating more awareness for young writers and thinking about making an online resource that could support Scotland’s young writers develop their creative skills. All ten of us are now working with mentors that have experience with writing and have even published their own work. We will all get up to four mentoring sessions which last an hour each time; we are working towards a final piece that will be showcased at a two-day conference in 2016 – watch this space.

I see my writing as more than a hobby. I hope to do something with it one day, whether that will be publishing my book and making it a full time job, or doing a few courses at college/university. And if that doesn’t work out I know it will always be a part of me.

If you write or think that’s something you would be interested in, then give it a try and stick at it. Always keep a notepad on you and even of it’s a random person on the bus that you write about or your best friend, everything counts! Don’t throw anything away that you write because it might be an idea for a new story one day.

I also think that of your stuck for what to write about or you need a bit of inspiration then read, read, READ! I find it always helps, especially if you read the same sort of genre that you like to write…of course you can’t copy someone’s work but if you can find inspiration from any source of literature then develop it in your own way and really apply yourself to it!

Check out the Scottish Books Trust and more about What’s Your Story? at