HISSAC Highlands and Islands Short Story Association and Writing Competition

Thank You

My name is Rob McInroy and, having just signed a contract for my first novel (Cuddies Strip, coming soon), I've been reflecting on the writing journey that's brought me here. It is undoubtedly the case that HISSAC has played a big role in my development as a writer and I'm profoundly grateful to HISSAC and to Clio Gray.

My first encounter with HISSAC was way back in 2006 when I was shortlisted in the short story competition under a pseudonym I used then. I was shortlisted again the following year. Then there was a hiatus of ten years while I went off and did a PhD and wrote a novel, before coming back to short stories reinvigorated.

This time I took first prize in the flash competition. It was only the second hit I'd had in my second attempt as a writer and HISSAC described it as "a hugely impressive piece of work". Wow! What better motivation could you ask for?

I came back in 2018 and was third in the flash competition and highly commended in the short story. Those counted as my fourteenth and fifteenth hits and, again, they provided a fillip for my confidence.

At this point I corresponded with Clio Gray a couple of times, primarily about the flash piece that had come third. I explained that it was extracted from a novel I'd written and was trying - wholly unsuccessfully - to get published. Clio mentioned her mentoring programme and I made one of the best decisions I've ever made when I decided to seek her advice on my novel, Cloudland.

In four highly detailed analyses, Clio went through my entire manuscript, pointing out problems as they arose and summarising the main structural and character weaknesses that meant that, although there were many individual scenes that were memorable or characters who were affecting, the whole didn't quite cohere. I set to work revising it, and it quickly became clear that everything Clio said was right and the novel was greatly enhanced by her advice. At the same time, I was also writing Cuddies Strip, the novel I am now going to have published (2020), and there's no doubt that the advice Clio gave me rubbed off on that novel too.