Pushkin Prize winner Andrew shares creative writing retreat diary

Posted: 17/05/2016 | Education,

Budding author and Royal Blind School student, Andrew Pettigrew, has shared the diary he kept during a week-long creative writing retreat in the Highlands. 

The 14-year-old was one of just ten students in Scotland to be awarded the Puskin Prize, which saw Ian Rankin visit the Royal Blind School to present Andrew with his certificate. 

The prize winners were invited to attend a week-long creative writing retreat in Moniack Mhor at the end of April.

Now Andrew has shared his diary of the week with the Royal Blind blog.


Pushkin Prize Diary

by Andrew Pettigrew



My writing holiday in Moniack Mhor, near Inverness, was honestly the best week of my life (not counting being born, naturally).

On Monday 25 April I attended the Pushkin Prize Winners' Ceremony. After speeches about the Pushkin Prize Winners', works and why the judges liked them, we were awarded with certificates and books (Northern Lights by Philip Pullman) and did a photo shoot.

Anyway, then we had lunch before boarding the bus for a five hour long journey (insert scary music here).

When we arrived it was snowing and I was the only one delighted by that. We explored the house—very large, very old and very creepy—and my room was pretty comfortable.

After unpacking we had dinner. It was so spicy it made my tongue bleed!

That night we did 'Who are you?"' where we had to impersonate the person we had talked to on the bus. I think Esme, the girl I was imitating, was less than amused when I did the high-pitched voice...



On Tuesday, we did workshops with Gerry Cambridge and Cathy McPhail, the tutors.  Then in the afternoon we had tutorials which were fantastic. We wrote so much—poems, stories, blurbs…

That night we shared our favourite books.  I told everyone about the Book Thief by Marcus Zusack, and there were so many other great books I can't wait to read!



On Wednesday we visited Urquhart castle. I was sitting next to another winner, Liam McLaughlin, from Gillespie’s High School and we tried to figure out the Loch Ness Monster Poem by Norman McCaig. "Snobbish waffles," we decided it said, but sadly we were wrong!

That night we had chilli con carne made by Chef Andrew and his mercilessly unpaid assistants. "Compliments to the chef!" "My eyes are flooding."

Later on, it was the Ghost Story night and we had so much scary fun! I told of Lady Butter's butterly murders (shhhh!) and Mrs Laughlin freaked everyone out with her stoning story.

I'm now worried.



Thursday very like Tuesday—tutorials, workshops and all. Brilliant fun!

Later on, we had the ceilidh. Usually that involves lots of dancing—but thankfully not this one! We all did a little story, poem, song, musical instrument or, in my case, bongos and comedy.

"Mr Trump and Queen Betty are getting married...'"

After that, we had group photos—FREEZING!—and it felt like we'd all known each for years. "I can remember meeting you as if it was only yesterday!" I told someone emotionally.

Which, strictly speaking, it was.



Then on Friday morning we read out some of our work and chatted and swapped giant initial letters for our friends to sign (mine, astonishingly, was A for Amazing, Attractive and Austerely Awesome!).

After lunch we boarded the bus but, during a break, Callum, Liam and I wandered off to explore Pitlochry. 

Back in Edinburgh there were even more emotional farewells, hugs and high-fives.

That week was honestly the best week of my life.  If they had given us lie-ins and the occasional Happy Meal, it would have been called Writer's Paradise!