Zoe books in at museum to tell her story from history

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NOVELIST Zoe Strachan is used to taking her inspiration from the streets of Glasgow.

But the acclaimed writer is swapping west for east, and moving to the more refined surroundings of the National Museum of Scotland.

The 31-year-old has been named as the first writer-in-residence at the NMS.

She is set to be based at the Museum of Scotland, in Chamber Street, until the end of November, where she will write a specially-commissioned piece of fiction inspired by its exhibits.

Ms Strachan will also lead creative writing courses for adults set up at the museum through Community Literacy And Numeracy (Clan) Edinburgh.

People who attend her classes will also be encouraged to use its art and exhibits as inspiration to develop their own writing skills.

The author admitted she will be eavesdropping on staff and visitors to find inspiration for her own piece of writing, which she hopes to publish on the National Museum's website by the start of next year.

Ms Strachan, who was short-listed for the Saltire First Book Award and won the Betty Trask Award for her debut novel Negative Space, said: "I'm really excited about this. It's the sort of job that I've dreamed about having, so I'm looking forward to it immensely.

"There is so much history surrounding the exhibits in the museum and it really feels like you're stepping into a kind of Scottish Tardis when you're here.

"You've got the opportunity the travel to any point in Scottish history you want, which is fantastic for any writer to be able to draw on for inspiration.

"I've been spending a lot of time looking at things such as the Pictish stones, the industrial exhibits on mining and even Edinburgh's old beheading machine, The Maiden, for ideas.

"But I've also spent time eavesdropping on staff and visitors talking as well.

"You can find inspiration in the most unlikely of places, so I'm just as happy sitting on a bench for a few hours watching people go by, or catching bits of their conversations when they look at the exhibits.

"It's not quite stalking people yet and I'm trying to be very subtle about it, but I may get a bit bolder as time goes on."

Ms Strachan has not decided yet which piece will be the inspiration for her work, but has taken a keen interest in the museum's Pictish exhibition.

"There's so much that isn't known about that culture, so it gives you a completely open canvas as a writer. There's a lot of scope for a Pictish piece, but there's a lot of time still to go," she said.

"I usually try to come in every day to have a look around for at least a couple of hours. I'm still searching for other exhibits that catch my eye."

Amanda-Lee Murray, from the NMS Learning and Programmes team, said: "We are thrilled to be working with Zoe Strachan. Zoe will help us to interpret objects from the collections in new and interesting ways which will benefit both our staff and the adult learners from Clan."

Angus Whyte, Clan's co-ordinator added: "We are delighted to be working in partnership with the National Museums of Scotland and United Nations City of Literature.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for our learners to develop their creative writing talents with a professional author."

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