Susan Mansfield on the Inspired? Get Writing! competition

COULD you tell a story based on a piece of art? Here’s your chance to try in the Inspired? Get Writing! competition. Susan Mansfield reports

WHERE do you get your ideas from? Writers quickly tire of the question. But looking for ways to spark creativity is a challenge for everyone who wants to write. So why not look to some of the most outstanding creative minds of the last millennium?

You can find them in the National Galleries of Scotland, where the permament collection ranges from Renaissance masterpieces to cutting-edge works of contemporary art. The Inspired? Get Writing! competition invites everyone to visit the galleries (or the extensive Online Collection) armed with their imaginations, and write a poem or story inspired by a work in the collection.

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Edinburgh makar Ron Butlin was one of the judges last year. He says: “I was struck by the sheer inventiveness of people’s responses to the art works. We’re all seeing the same paint on canvas, but we’re seeing utterly different paintings because we’re all bringing our own imagination and experience to it. It’s so exciting as a judge to see what other people have come up with, which would never have entered my mind in a million years.”

Writers young and old found inspiration in unexpected places, from abstract sculptures to some of the faces and stories in the recently reopened Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and here we publish three examples of work from the 2011 competition.

Another judge from last year, Hannah Brocklehurst, a curator in Department of Prints & Drawings, was struck by the talent and diversity of the entries. She says: “There were many pieces that left me reeling because they were so powerful and evocative. The way in which every entrant had interpreted their chosen subjects was creative and unique. For someone familiar with most of the art works, they present an entirely new way of seeing them.”

Butlin, pictured, advised anyone thinking of entering this year not to think too hard – just write. “Respond to something in a personal way, an imaginative way. Thinking can be overrated. Don’t just detail what’s in the picture and say what it reminds you of, move on to another level imaginatively. The imagination and creativity in the paintings can allow us access to our own imaginative levels.”

• Inspired? Get Writing! is organised by the National Galleries of Scotland, the English-Speaking Union and the Scottish Poetry Library and supported bythe Gordon Fraser Charitable Trust and The Scotsman. For more information on how to enter go to


Inspired? Get Writing! entrants are invited to write a poem or piece of prose inspired by one of the works in the collections of the National Galleries of Scotland. Pieces should not significantly exceed 1,000 words. The work may be in any of the NGS galleries (The Scottish National Gallery, The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Duff House and Paxton House), or from the Online Collection. Please note that not all works in special exhibitions at NGS are part of the NGS permanent collection. Entries may be in English, Scots or Gaelic, but Gaelic pieces should be accompanied with a translation to English.

There are five categories:


12 - 14 YEARS

15-18 YEARS



A winner, two runners-up and seven highly commended entries will be selected in each category. All will be read at a public event at the Scottish National Gallery on 18 April. Winners and runners-up will receive free entry to NGS exhibitions for a year, and the work of the five winners will be published in The Scotsman. Winners in the adult categories will receive a free place on a creative writing masterclass, and school-age winners will be invited, with their class, to a creative writing workshop at NGS.

CLOSING DATE: Friday, 18 January, 2013

Send your entry by e-mail to: [email protected]. If you don’t have e-mail, post your entry to: Inspired? Get Writing!, English-Speaking Union Scotland, 23 Atholl Crescent, Edinburgh, EH3 8HQ. An entry form must be completed and attached as the last page of each entry. For school entries, a separate entry form must be completed for each pupil. A maximum of five entries can be submitted by any one person.