Writers and their families crammed into the Round Room in An Lanntair arts centre last night to mark the launch of a unique collection of short stories.
The literary works – poems, essays, short stories, extracts – were the outcome of a writing class taken by Canadian writer Heather Birrell as part of the Bealach Creative Place scheme.


Heather Birrell with the launch night display of books

A total of 14 works have been brought together in Writing Our Astonishment which was being sold at the event for £5 a copy. The one-off publication does not carry an ISBN number and is only available from An Lanntair's bookshop.

A succession of writers took turns to read extracts from their works or from other works which they had created.  They also praised Heather for her work with the group. 

Heather is herself the author of two story collections, Mad Hope (one of the Toronto Globe and Mail‘s top  fiction picks for 2012) and “I know you are but what am I?”. 

The Toronto Review of Books called Mad Hope “completely enthralling, and profoundly grounded in an empathy for the traumas and moments of relief of simply being human“.

Her work has been honoured with the Journey Prize for short fiction and the Edna Staebler Award for creative non-fiction and has been shortlisted for both National and Western Magazine Awards.

Birrell’s stories have appeared in many North American journals and anthologies, including The New Quarterly, Descant, Hobart, and Toronto Noir.   As a book reviewer, Heather has contributed to the Globe and Mail, as well as The Toronto Star, Quill and Quire, Books in Canada and The Believer.  She is also a fellow of several writers’ residencies: Spain’s Fundacion Valparaiso, the MacDowell Colony in the US, and Scotland’s Hawthornden Castle

She also works as a high school teacher and a creative writing instructor but is currently on leave, and living on the Isle of Lewis with her husband, Charles Checketts, who designed the book’s cover and illustrated it, and their two daughters.