The Pocket Anthology

The Write Here at Dundonald Castle Writing Group have published their very first book; ‘The Pocket Anthology’, led by our Writer in Residence Lorraine Johnston.

The book is a collection of 7 short stories based on the theme of ‘The Pocket’. All very different and thought-provoking. This group started as a few writing workshops back in Summer 2021 and quickly developed into a regular writing group. We are immensely proud of them and are excited to see what else is to come. The book is available to purchase now on Amazon and the money from the book goes towards supporting our small charity (Friends of Dundonald Castle SCIO, SC031541).

Copies are also available to purchase in the Visitor Centre.

The Story behind the Stories – Lorraine Johnston

In June of 2021, I was asked to become the Writer in Residence, after I’d offered to run some writing workshops, at Dundonald Castle Visitor Centre. To the best of my knowledge, there wasn’t an existing writing group in the village or nearby, and we were curious if there would be any local interest.

Dates and times were set up and advertised, and to my delight, soon the places were booked, and folks kept coming back. We quickly and organically formed a dedicated and committed group of people who had never tried their hand at creative writing before. Although the members of the group all had different backgrounds and experiences, they all shared two things in common. They wanted to try their hand at writing, for the first time, and they all, when asked, had an aspiration of getting something published at some point in the future.

For the first workshop, I paced the activities and discussions at a typical week one beginner’s level, and by the end of the first session, I explained to the Events’ Coordinator, that the level of their writing and imagination, was higher than I’d anticipated. I was going to have to bring some more taxing exercises to the table for the following workshops.

Each member of the group was great. They rose to each challenge, grew in confidence, and took constructive criticism in their stride. Some announced on day one, that they were shy and not sure if they would be happy to read their work out in class, as this was all very new to them. That didn’t last long and before the first hour had gone by, they had all read out their first piece of writing and were delighted how their stories were well received by all.

So, I had an idea…

When I started writing in 2011, my first writing to be published was a poem, which was accepted by the Federation of Writers (Scotland) and was included in their anthology called ‘Shorelines’ published in 2012. I remember how much confidence that gave me as a new writer. It made me feel that perhaps I was good enough to publish further work. So, I spoke to the team at Dundonald Castle first, and after getting a hearty ‘what a great idea!’ reply, I asked the group how they felt about submitting a story each and publishing an anthology.

They were shocked, delighted, excited, and all in agreeance, that they thought it was a dream come true.

We all wanted to gift our stories for this anthology and the copyright would belong to Friends of Dundonald Castle SCIO (SC031541). The purpose of this first publication would be to raise funds for the charity through sales. This was a lovely testament to the local engagement and projects that can happen and their support of their beloved Dundonald Castle.

I came up with a theme of ‘pocket’ and explained that they could write in any genre they wished, but that a pocket had to be an integral part, or at least relevant to the story. I gave them a word count and a deadline and they all worked their socks off. I decided that I would like to write one too, as it had been a long time since I’d written anything for adults.

I took the lead in the idea for the design of the book. It was important to me that Dundonald Castle featured on the front cover, along with the well-known rocks at the foot of its path. But that didn’t show relevance to my chosen theme of a ‘pocket.’ I then came up with the idea of a jacket draped over the big rock, but what kind of jacket?

I didn’t want something modern or patterned etc, and I didn’t want anything ancient like an old cloak, because that would imply the stories were set way back in time.

Unfortunately, as the work began for the anthology, my lovely dad had become very unwell, and he was delighted when I had told him about being the Resident Writer at Dundonald Castle and even happier at the forthcoming first publication – ‘The Pocket Anthology.’

His whole adult life, my dad always wore various tweed sports jackets, all very similar in style with the only differences being, that some were of a brown and cream colour tweed, and others were blue and grey. Even in the middle of summer, he would wear a shirt and a sports jacket.

He sadly passed away before the anthology was complete and being called Mr Alan Stewart Dickie, it seemed fitting to use his style of jacket to drape over the large rock at the foot of the castle that belonged to the Stewarts.

So that is the story behind the cover of The Pocket Anthology and the story of how the book idea was formed.

I am so thrilled and proud of these new writers, Paul J Brunton, Bea C Clark, Louise Crosbie, Jean Dickson, Steven Easton, Pam J Kavanagh, and I’m honoured to be included in this anthology.

My first published work in the ‘Shorelines’ anthology, was the beginning of my writing journey. These writer’s first published stories are the beginning of theirs. I look forward to watching them on their travels.

Lorraine Johnston
Writer in Residence