A former lecturer in English and Scottish Literature at Edinburgh University, I have specialised in arts education for adults since 2003. I offer workshops, classes and courses for the public and private sectors, training for organisations and tutoring and mentoring for individual clients. I practice in a wide range of cultural, community, healthcare and environmental settings. I am on the Scottish Book Trust author database, eligible for funding under their Live Literature Scheme, and a professional member of the National Association of Writers in Education. My particular interests are:
writing and the visual arts
Since 2006 I have been part of the freelance education team at National Galleries Scotland, leading short courses and day workshops that use the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions as inspiration for creative writing. I am proud to have been associated with the Gallery’s Words on Canvas writing group since its inception in 2008, and have run workshops for other visual arts institutions, including The Fruitmarket Gallery and Talbot Rice Gallery. I lead Third Thursday Writers, which meets in a different Edinburgh gallery or exhibition each month. Classes are often themed around a particular artistic genre, style or period, with writing exercises specially devised to complement the artworks. Text / image collaborations with visual artists have included events on Haiku & Calligraphy, Comic Books, and Photojournalism.
Helen has run many very successful classes and courses at the National Galleries of Scotland. She has a very encouraging approach, and her courses are well structured and innovative and very well attended. Linda McClelland, Playfair Education Co-ordinator, National Galleries Scotland.
Helen will support any writer ( or would-be writer) with her wide experience and vast knowledge. Her succinct assessments and helpful suggestions always seem to be spot on and often make immediate improvements to a piece of writing. All that and her encouraging attitude make sessions with her very worthwhile. Susan Grant, Words on Canvas.
Helen has run very enjoyable creative writing groups at the National Portrait Gallery and in the Hermitage of Braid garden. She inspired our writing skills and encouraged us to keep pushing out frontiers. Rosemary Bassett, Former Head of History of Art Glenalmond College.
Thank you for today Helen. I enjoyed it very much and you always get us to think out of the box. We all think you’re wonderful! Gill Green
writing outdoors / placeful writing
Much of my work is place-specific. A committed walker and cyclist, and sometime student of nineteenth-century ‘nature’ poetry, I have long been interested in the historical connections between literature and the environment. Considering how to interpret these links in the twenty-first century, and how to combine writing with active transport, I work in collaboration with countryside rangers and other experts to deliver writing activities for beginners and experienced writers alike in inspiring surroundings. Projects have included: FootNotes, a seasonal exploration of the Pentland Hills, culminating in an exhibition at the Writers’ Museum, Edinburgh; a series of workshops to capture and plan the restoration of the walled garden in the Hermitage of Braid, and ‘Read, Write and Ride’ tours for Edinburgh Festival of Cycling. My work on ‘Poetry and the Outdoors’ has been featured on BBC Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors. In 2017 I co-facilitatied walks and creative writing sessions for the Wilfred Owen in Edinburgh centenary commemorations.
Having worked with Helen on ‘Footnotes’ , a creative writing project based in the Pentlands, I was delighted to learn that she was involved in the Hermitage Walled Garden project. Helen’s workshop and continuing input into the shaping of this is great news and I am very much looking forward to this in the coming months. Susan Falconer, Senior Ranger, Natural Heritage Service
Helen is a truly inspirational teacher. A talented writer herself, she can help anyone interested in writing, from those who are just starting out to those with more experience. She has hundreds of stimulating ideas to get you writing in the first place, and is always supportive and encouraging. Olga Wojtas
Helen’s methods have helped me hear, find and see words in the outdoors. LesleyMay Miller
Thank you for a FANTASTICALLY inspiring and hugely enjoyable day yesterday. A truly brilliant day – REALLY memorable. Wherever else we take our Canadian visitor Michelle in Scotland on this trip, nothing will match that – no way! Aileen Ballantyne
writing for wellbeing & inclusion
Building on a firm commitment to the therapeutic benefits of creativity, I facilitate sessions on writing for personal development. These use a range of innovative writing exercises and tasks, either addressing issues that clients face, or focusing on writing craft and technique as appropriate. I am a long-term member, and former committee member, of Lapidus Scotland, ‘the words for wellbeing organisation’. I work in a wide variety of healthcare settings, with service users and providers, survivors and carers, to enable and support the creativity of marginalised groups and vulnerable individuals. I also co-facilitate retreats on writing, health and mindfulness – please enquire if you are interested in attending or commissioning one of these. I hold certificates in Counselling Skills and in Mindfulness, am a member of Scottish PEN and regularly undertake relevant training and CPD. The ethos of compassion, confidentiality and constructive criticism, essential in this field, extends to all aspects of my client work.
Helen’s approach to the literary arts is full of surprises and cross-overs, indoors and outdoors she inspires confidence in making words work for health & well being. A sensitive facilitator of all sorts of groups and situations, she brings out the best in each person. Larry Butler, Convenor, Lapidus Scotland
I enjoy working with individuals on writing tuition, editing, manuscript appraisal, proof-reading and mentoring. We develop a bespoke programme – from a couple of meetings or conversations to a much longer-term commitment involving regular submission of work – that reflects the client’s needs and is appropriate to the nature of their project. Feedback can be given in person, by telephone or online. Please see my page on Editorial, Reading & Mentoring Services
I worked one-to-one with Helen on some of my short stories, and it was extremely helpful. She has a great deal of knowledge and experience, which she wears very lightly. Her input was open, warm and respectful (as is her facilitation of writing groups I have attended), and definitely made a difference to my writing. R A Martens
reading as a writer
I facilitate bespoke workshops for book groups and other societies who wish to work with a professional writer to learn about, and try out, aspects of writing technique and craft.
I wanted to thank you once again for such a lovely day – it was very well structured and facilitated, and your feedback to, and management of, the group was perfectly pitched. Everyone who attended has already posted about how much they enjoyed it on our private Facebook group – commenting on how happy they were with you! Rosie Ilett, The Bungo Clew, Glasgow
south side writers
Last but by no means least, I tutor a weekly creative writing group at the Southside Centre, Nicolson St, Edinburgh. We meet on Friday mornings to write on themes that change on a termly basis. Periodically we have critique sessions on works in progress, go on outings in pursuit of inspiration, and give public readings. The atmosphere is lighthearted but we are serious about writing. While many members have had work published and won competitions, we retain a commitment to welcoming and supporting beginners.
Helen’s class drew out the best in my writing with her unique writing exercises, visualisations and feedback. She created a safe, friendly and fun atmosphere. If you have any talent at all, Helen will find it and draw it out. Without her, I would never have had the courage to apply for an MSc in Creative Writing at Edinburgh University. I have just signed a contract with a publisher for my first novel. Vicki White
You are one of the most innovative, interesting and enthusiastic workshop leaders ever and inspire me to write even when I don’t feel I’ll be able to. Liz Thomson
Helen is able to listen closely to a wide variety of writing styles in one group; she responds to each with precise and helpful comments, not trying to make anyone write according to a preset formula. Iain Matheson