The Damascus Drum café in Hawick has chosen a writer-in-residence: town poet and novelist Sara Clark.
Sara, the co-editor of the Borders’ quarterly arts magazine The Eildon Tree, takes up a six month residency this October with a view to writing a sequence of short stories based around the café itself.
“Ever since a single mother by the name of J.K. Rowling penned her first novel in a coffee shop overlooking Edinburgh Castle, the local café has established itself as the venue of choice for the aspiring writer,” explains Sara, the regional parliamentary office assistant to SNP MSP Paul Wheelhouse.
“Authors ranging from Ian Rankin to Alexander McCall Smith have found inspiration for their recent books whilst sitting on the plush seats of a coffee bar with a cappuccino at hand. But one Hawick café has taken the phenomenon another step further with their recent appointment of a writer-in-residence.”
As part of her residency, Sara will be based in the café once per week, working on a collection of stories inspired by the Drum. “I’ve often wished I had time just to sit in a café every now and then and do some writing, and now, thanks to this residency, I will,” she said.
In return for a free coffee or two, the stories will be made available in the café for customers to read, and a collection of all the work resulting from the residency will be published in April. Sara was keen to stress, however, that the residency is as much about inspiring others as about her own writing.
“Cafés are fantastic places to work for new writers, particularly those with lots going on at home,” she said. “The next J.K. Rowling is out there somewhere – maybe she just needs a nudge, or some time and space. Well, hopefully she can find it at her local café.”
Sara, who publishes her new novel Summer’s Lease soon, is married to Hawick High School librarian Thomas Clark, who in August became Selkirk Football Club’s poet-in-residence – the first for a football club in Scotland.
Last week Sara won a £500 award in the YES (Selkirk, Ettrick and Yarrow) arts festival’s poetry challenge. Poets were asked to bring the traditional Border ballad into the 21st century, by writing one set within 50 years of 2015.
Sara told us she was “surprised and delighted” to win the Judges’ Prize, selected by writers Rab Wilson, Gerda Stevenson and Luke Wright, with her ballad The Colloquy of the Train and the Waverley Wind about the closing and reopening of the Waverley railway line.
Peter Russell from Glasgow won the £100 Best Poem From An Unpublished Poet for Forty Hours In Hell, a ballad about the workplace, and Eileen Cummings won the £500 People’s Prize, and the £100 Best Poem in the Festival Area, for Fields o’ Fire.