Catching up with the Citizen Adult Writing Group

Since 2019, we’ve been working with community partners and local people on our long-term creative project, Citizen. In this month’s On the Road blog, we thought we’d check in with the Citizen Adult Writers Group: an enthusiastic, prolific group of local writers from across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

They meet regularly online with novelist Eleanor Thom – our writer-in-residence – to write, chat and explore what it means to be a ‘citizen of the world’, prompted by Ellie’s insightful exercises. We asked each of them what it is that they enjoy about the group, and what it is that keeps them coming back. Here’s what they said…

“I still love hearing the stories my friends come up with every session,” Dave tells us via email. “And I always look forward to the next one: it’s a bit like the anticipation of turning a page or starting a new chapter: I keep coming back to find out what happens next!”

“I enjoy the diverse company,” writes Evelyn, a former journalist. “The different experiences of life the people bring to the group…”. She adds that she’s gained a real focus for writing through the group and has found herself exploring new forms. “I have started to write poems!”

“Not coming from a writing background,” Jane says, “this has been challenging for me and has allowed me to access a part of my brain that I enjoy. I challenge myself and feel am growing with the group.”

This sense of achievement and camaraderie through challenge and sharing comes up again and again in the answers the writers send us.

“What I enjoy is what I initially disliked,” Liz tells us, “Ellie’s prompts! I found them challenging and thought, ‘I can’t write anything about that.’ Somehow, I managed. Sometimes I am quite proud of the results.”

“Everyone is so supportive and encouraging,” Olivia says. “Ellie is excellent at providing ideas and just seems to be able to gauge what level to pitch things at to keep challenging us. The others in the group are all so friendly and helpful.”

“I have gained an identity which gives me confidence,” says Nandini.

Citizen is a project that, at heart, is all about connection. What connects us to the places we come from and to the places we live? What connects us to each other, both within our local communities and to the rest of the world? It is so wonderful to see how – in the process of answering these questions through their writing – the group has also forged new connections: connection to each other and to themselves as writers.

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As it’s been a while since we shared some of the group’s writing, we thought we’d show a little of what they’ve been working on recently. The following short pieces all grew out of an exercise Ellie set the group around the idea of favourite trees. Enjoy.

The Garden Diva – Olivia Begbie

A blanket of pink snowflakes fluttered over us, clinging to our hair and clothes. At our feet, a wondrous deep pastel carpet radiated ever wider across the grass, glowing in the soft early evening sunlight. An annual event, anticipated with joy, remembered with happiness and lovingly captured each springtime by a varied assortment of family cameras. A time for Glen, our crazy black bearded collie, to race at top speed around the stout gnarled trunk, flinging up petals like confetti. Our huge, amazing, ornamental, wild cherry tree always put on a star studded show as blossoms faded. A pink diva being undressed by the wind like a burlesque dancer’s final encore.

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Autumn Tree: 4 ways – Patricia Clifford

1. Haiku
November’s calling
Cosy autumnal jacket
Frosty bare branches

2. If I was a tree
I would offer a welcoming shelter to shivering dog walkers,
Then plop pearls of juicy raindrops onto their heads
And shake my leaves with laughter.

3. Arms outstretched
Reaching towards Winter.
A muddy leaf trodden path lies beneath
And Autumn gold dust begins to tarnish.

4. If I was a tree
I would open my arms and comfort the grieving
And offer shelter as they cried.
I would wrap them in my cosy coat of yellow and orange
And watch them heal.

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Rowan Tree – Maureen Baker

Leaves in Spring, flowers in summer, autumn berries crimson and bright
All year round you are a wonderous sight
A provider: pollen for the insects and the bees
Later berries in abundance for birds searching among the trees
Planted by me in my garden about thirty-five years ago
I have watched you steadily grow and grow

Rowan and Scots Pine give a sense of belonging
Many years, deeper roots with each new day dawning
Rousing feelings so deep and strong
You inspired the words of a well-known song
Artists are prompted to draw and paint
Observing you closely and creating without constraint
Giving courage and wisdom is a strength of yours
As well being able to provide many cures
You offer safety and protection, keeping evil spirits away
Your changing beauty gives such joy each day

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Waiting for Godot – Jane Murray

On entering this community garden I was immediately reminded of the play.
An empty stage set, with a story waiting to be told. I smiled as I recalled the play and wondered,
Did they wait long, possibly an hour or so? Looking around for him. Were they bored,
or did they go into a conversation about this that and the other? Did they talk about the other?
Laugh and make jokes about his lateness as usual.
I surmise there were two at least, chomping on their KFC and chatting away, not aware of the torn wrappings
that lay at their feet. Amazing how in conversation you can get so engrossed and not notice!
“He’s no comin, let’s go.” They leave the stage, the only applause is from the gentle swaying of the branches.

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The Citizen Writing Group is part of Citizen, our flagship communities project which is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and through the PLACE Programme (funded by the Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council, and the Edinburgh Festivals, and supported and administered by Creative Scotland).

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