Glasgow Journal: An audience with author Louise Welsh

Enthusiasts of Scottish literature recently attended an informal talk with acclaimed author Louise Welsh, one year prior to the independence referendum.

The intimate discussion was held in the antiquated Bridie Library at Glasgow University Union for a small selection of students and fans. Welsh, herself a former Glasgow University history student, was joined by Professor Alan Riach from the department of Scottish literature.

The Professor began with a brief chronology of Scottish history, leading to a recital of Hugh MacDiarmid’s poem ‘Scotland,’ challenging the audience to assess the ‘ungraspable’ – in this case, our country and its art.

This precise and provoking preface permitted the former writer-in-residence Louise Welsh to discuss her relationship with Scottish literature and its effect on her writing.

Louise, whose upcoming novel is entitled ‘A Lovely Way to Burn,’ spoke passionately about her status as a “living writer” which she dryly labelled as “a contradiction – we can answer back.” Welsh, who has studied and worked in Glasgow for decades, also divulged the thematic links and difficulties she encounters when writing about the city.

She said, “Scotland is often my theme, although there are many different Scotlands. I find it challenging to write books set south of the border. We’re different countries, aren’t we?” Welsh explained that her forthcoming work will be set in London and then progress north, concluding in the “beautiful landscape of Orkney.”

Louise also spoke about her first novel, highly-acclaimed ‘The Cutting Room,’ which centres around an auctioneer who discovers a series of graphic, bloody photographs. Welsh’s own experience of auction houses provided authentic background and her continual discovery of “hidden things… even finding pornography in a convent” pushed Welsh to “portray the city in a real way.”

Glasgow, the home of the world’s only Scottish literature department, offers many opportunities for aspiring artists and writers to network and develop their craft. Welsh and Professor Riach both encouraged their listeners to “go beyond campus” to broaden their perspectives. The University of Strathclyde, the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) on Sauchiehall Street and Glasgow School of Art were all recommendations for those wishing to focus their talents.

Louise Welsh’s upcoming novel ‘A Lovely Way to Burn’ will be published in March 2014. Alan Riach is a Professor of Scottish Literature at Glasgow University.

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