Saturday 30 September 2023

Moniack Mhor: Sue Purkiss

 Earlier this month, I went on a course on Historical Fiction at Moniack Mhor, near Inverness. Many of you will have heard of Moniack; for those who haven't, it's a creative writing centre in the Highlands - sort of a Scottish version of the Arvon places in England, and Ty Newydd in North Wales. 

I went partly because I'm interested in switching focus from writing for children, to writing for adults; and partly just because I find these kinds of courses stimulating and fun: you meet people who are also interested in writing, but who you probably wouldn't otherwise meet; you hear lots of different stories, you learn new things - it sort of wakes you up.

Our tutors were Andrew Miller, who wrote Pure, and more recently, Now We Shall Be Entirely Free, and Shona MacLean, whose most recent book is The Bookseller of Inverness. I read several of their books before going on the course, and was struck by how varied in subject matter and setting Andrew's are: Shona's are engrossing historical thrillers, often set in Scotland. They were both incredibly generous with their time and advice, and very encouraging.

Moniack Mhor itself is a rambling white house set in the countryside, a few miles from Loch Ness. The setting is beautiful, with mountains in the distance and huge skies. The staff are incredibly friendly and welcoming; you feel at home within minutes. There are copious supplies of cake, and you each help to cook and serve one meal during the five days. Each morning there are workshops, the afternoons are your own, apart from a one to one with each of the tutors, and the evenings are generally given over to readings.

These readings take place in what is generally known as the Hobbit House, an eco building made of straw bales with a roof planted with heather - which is absolutely charming.

But above and beyond these separate components, there's some magical alchemy that takes place, and makes the whole experience really special. I think it's much to do with the place itself, and much also to do with the sense that you're with your tribe - and that you're treading in the footsteps of all those others who have gone before you. Whatever it is, it's wonderful. here are a few pictures.

The Hobbit House

Shona and Andrew in the Hobbit House.

The view from my window.

Of course, there had to be Highland cattle...

...and harebells, the bluebells of Scotland.


Penny Dolan said...

Such a magical, freeing place, especially with your "tribe" around when needed.
Glad you had a good time there, Sue.

Linda Strachan said...

Always love being at Moniack. As you say, something magical happens there, every time!