Scottish Writers’ Centre member Lynn Valentine writes…
As someone who writes (poetry mainly), I have always felt slightly envious of those who studied Literature with a capital L as part of their higher education, those blessed people who can name drop poets and lines of poetry as easily in their conversation as ‘How are you?’.
Yes, I’m afraid imposter syndrome looms large in the heart of this particular poet – I feel ill at ease even calling myself a poet or a writer. I started university in the mid 1980s, the second person in my family to ever attend university. I was aware of what a privilege that was from someone coming from a working class background and I didn’t want to mess it up.
My dream degree would have been in English Literature with a wee side helping of contemporary poetry and creative writing. Instead, mindful for the need to get a job in Thatcher’s Britain, I studied Industrial Relations, Personnel Management and Librarianship instead.
I did get that job starting off at the BBC News Library in London and then had all sorts of other jobs at the BBC in London and Glasgow which I mainly loved but I always felt the lack of doing a degree just for the sheer enjoyment and mind-expanding education of it.
It wasn’t until I took voluntary redundancy that I started writing for myself (my last job in the BBC was writing features for the BBC Scotland websites). Under the watchful eye of Cathy McSporran at the Open Programme at Glasgow University I finally started on my writing journey. The next year I did a free online course on Modern Contemporary American Poetry via Coursera and attended my first week at Moniack Mhor – ‘Starting to Write’ with the brilliant Jane McKie and Ruth Thomas. (Guest reader Don Paterson – I was such a fan girl!) Around that time Eden Court in Inverness ran some fantastic writing masterclasses with all manner of writers including one of my favourite poets, John Glenday. I hoovered up every word and bit of advice.
I am still addicted to courses, online and otherwise, as well as all those ‘how to’ books. I always feel like I have something to learn. This September I would have attended Moniack Mhor for a course with my favourite ever poet – Niall Campbell – along with Pascale Petit – now postponed until next year.
Last year I applied to the Cinnamon Press Pencil Mentoring Scheme Competition and was gobsmacked to win the poetry place on it for 2020. I feel like I’m finally catching up on all the poetry education I missed. I was very wary about which mentor I would be paired with but to my relief it was the brilliant (Saltire Prize winner, gulp) Jay Whittaker.
Her poems are amazing so I felt a wee bit daunted at first but she has been a caring mentor with a good critical eye, telling me where to cut or ditch as needed and what could be worked on. Zoom has been a godsend for meeting up as I’m based on the Black Isle and Jay is in Edinburgh.
By next year I’m hoping to have a collection ready to send out into the world. I’m not sure if I will ever shake off impostor syndrome or be the type to recite poetry at parties but I’ll keep on trying AND if there are any fairy godmothers or fathers out there that want to fund an MLitt for me then I will gladly take your money! You can find me on Twitter @dizzylynn
About Lynn Valentine
Lynn Valentine hails from sunny Arbroath but now lives on the Black Isle after having spent many years in London and Glasgow. She started writing poetry and short stories after taking voluntary redundancy from the BBC due to ill health. Writing has been a lifeline for her.
Lynn is widely published in print anthologies and online in places such as Northwords Now, The Blue Nib, Atrium and Ink, Sweat & Tears. She is working towards her first poetry collection under the mentorship of Cinnamon Press after winning a place on their Pencil Mentoring Competition. Lynn was thrilled to be third placed in the Scots language poetry category of the Federation of Writers Scotland this year with her second ever poem written in Scots.
She is a past winner of the Glasgow Women’s Library ‘Dragon’s Pen’ competition as well as being placed in the Neil Gunn competition 2017-18 and was runner up in the Dundee Law competition run by Dundee City Council. .
Lynn read at StAnza in 2018 after being chosen as one of the open call winners in the My Time project organised by the Scottish Poetry Library and Voluntary Arts Scotland. She hasn’t missed a StAnza since, though only as part of the audience! Last year she read at Ness Book Fest in Inverness as part of a local poets’ showcase and the previous year was lucky enough to win a coveted three-minute slot reading ahead of John Glenday. She was overjoyed to be picked as one of the poets to attend a week at Moniack Mhor with Carol Ann Duffy, Michael Woods and Imtiaz Dharker in 2019.
Lynn’s work is influenced by the nature around her as well as more personal topics such as childlessness and mental health. You can find her on Twitter @dizzylynn