When I applied to be the Writer in Residence for Paisley Book Festival I asked myself one question, what would I have wanted from a visiting author when I was a young, creative woman growing up in Scottish council estates. Then I thought about all the people I grew up with, my classmates, my grandma, the people in my communities.
And this is how I came to think of this role not so much as a Writer in Residence but as a Writer in Service. I have something to offer but the emerging writers I work with will have a very clear idea of what they might enjoy and find valuable. I wanted to ensure that whether they had been writing for years or had never dreamed of putting pen to paper there was something for them. With this in mind, I reached out to community groups and asked them what sort of workshop they wanted, what genre they would like to write and what themes they were interested in exploring.
The outcome of those conversations are the workshops on the themes of Identity, Home, Rebel, and Remake.
Rebel and Remake are, of course, themes of this year’s festival and it felt important to include this and to acknowledge Paisley’s dissident, rebellious spirit. With Identity and Home I also wanted to have the people attending our workshops be able to explore who they were and what home meant to them.
Throughout January and February, I’ll be delivering fifteen workshops to ten community groups of all ages and writing abilities. I’ll also be inviting two fantastic local authors to appear at the festival and I hope that some of my workshop participants might choose to read alongside them.
Beside this, I’ll be writing a narrative nonfiction essay based on the theme of Identity, Home, Rebel and Remake, weaving through Paisley locals’ own words as the creative heart of the piece.
I very much want this to be a residency for the people by the people. As it happens, I never had a writer come to my council estate or school. Indeed, I didn’t even know it was possible to do creative writing as anything other than a hobby until I was in my early 20s. I’m lucky that I eventually found writing and it enabled me to explore where I came from and the wider world around me. It took me to places I never imagined. I hope that this is what will happen for some of the participants attending my workshops and curated events over the course of the Paisley Book Festival. I hope that this residency might plant a few seeds, lay some foundations and, one day in the future, perhaps one of the participants of these workshops will be your next writer in residence.
About Kerry Hudson
Kerry’s first novel, Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma, was published in 2012 by Chatto & Windus (Penguin Random House) and was shortlisted for the Southbank Sky Arts Literature Award, Guardian First Book Award, Green Carnation Prize, Author’s Club First Novel Prize and the Polari First Book Award. Kerry’s second novel, Thirst, was published in 2014 by Chatto & Windus and won France’s most prestigious award for foreign fiction, the Prix Femina Étranger. It was also shortlisted for the European Premio Strega in Italy.
Her latest book and memoir, Lowborn, takes her back to the towns of her childhood as she investigates her own past and what it means to be poor in Britain today. It was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, a Guardian and Independent Book of the Year. It was longlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize and Portico Prize and shortlisted in the National Book Token, Books Are My Bag Reader’s Awards and the Saltire Scottish Non-Fiction Book of the Year.
Kerry was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2020. She founded The WoMentoring Project and Breakthrough Festival. She has written for Grazia, Guardian, Observer New Review, Big Issue and the Metro newspaper. She was a writer in residence for the British Council in South Korea and Latvia, mentored with IdeasTap Inspires, TLC and Curtis Brown Academy, teaches for the Arvon Foundation.