Literatures, Languages & Cultures

What it is like having a writing mentor?

We talk to Creative Writing student Tim Tim Cheng about her experience as a mentee of the Roddy Lumsden Memorial Mentorship and getting involved with the creative community in Edinburgh and beyond.

Tim Tim performing at Summerhall in Edinburgh
Tim Tim performing at Summerhall in Edinburgh. Photo credit: Kerstin Hollube

From attending poetry workshops, writing published pieces and creating artwork for the annual MSc Creative Writing anthology, From Arthur’s Seat, to networking, performing and organising events, Tim Tim has been busy during her time as a student at the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC).

She sat down to tell us about the support she has received from her peers, lecturers, mentor and family, and how it helped her navigate the thriving writing community in the city.  

As one of four mentees of the inaugural Roddy Lumsden Memorial Mentorship programme, set up by poet Niall Campbell and supported by the Scottish Poetry Library, Tim Tim first heard about the mentorship through Dr Miriam Gamble, lecturer in Creative Writing and part of the collective Shore Poets.

A group of students banded together to apply to the mentorship. “We sent a personal statement documenting our poetry journey thus far, and what we would like to learn from the mentorship, as well as an eight-page portfolio,” Tim Tim recalls.

A fulfilling mentorship experience

Being a mentee has been a nourishing experience for Tim Tim. She explains: “It is a great confidence boost because as much as I love writing poetry, I never quite thought I would be recognized.”

“I remember touching a tree to make sure it was real life when I got the acceptance email from the Scottish Poetry Library, where I first saw the poetry magazines that I knew through the internet in person. It was almost like meeting online friends.

Runner up for the Grierson Verse Prize 2022, Tim Tim’s mentorship has proved more than fruitful: “Niall Campbell, my mentor, has taught me how to have better control over my tone and scene shifts.”

She is also keen to stress that the advice extends to more than just the contents of her work: “Niall also chats to me about publishing and his journeys. It is good to know different approaches to things before I find mine.”

Part of a writing community   

Eager to develop and connect with other creatives from the get-go, Tim Tim attended poetry workshops organised by the LLC Writer-in-Residence Ryan Van Winkle and signed up to his newsletter on literary events in Edinburgh.

The workshops are a great place to connect with fellow students across years, programmes and even Schools. “I love how people from different disciplines connect through poetry workshops,” Tim Tim says.

“I had so much fun and learned from everyone’s creativity.”

Opening doors at the Hidden Door Festival

In June 2022, Tim Tim joins forces with some of the emerging poets she met at the workshops. Inspired by their work, she is organising a spoken word and poetry event at the Hidden Doors Festival 2022, taking place at the old Royal High School in Edinburgh.

The performance is a celebration of the older generation, and the student-poets will perform alongside more established voices Jennifer Wong, Jinhao Xie and L. Kiew.

Meeting the Hidden Door feature poets through the ‘Poetics of Home: A Chinese Diaspora Poetry Festival’, Tim Tim describes how they instantly connected: “Coming from polyvocal-Chinese backgrounds, we made friends with each other through our Anglophone poems, some of which explore the nuances of identities and memories.“

While the performing poets all hail from different places – UK, Malaysia, India, Mexico, China, Hong Kong, the US to name a few – Tim Tim shares what brings them together: “We all care about the elders in our homes and communities. The poems we are sharing at our Hidden Door performance look into many meanings of ‘ancestry’.“

And if you can’t make it to the show? “We are launching our photo-poem collage zine ‘GRANS!’ too,” Tim Tim adds excitedly.

Reflecting on her own journey

Through the support of everyone she’s met during her time at LLC, Tim Tim is hoping to publish two chapbooks this year. She says, “I can’t wait to see what my books will read like, and I hope it will be something I never expected.”

An awardee of the William Hunter Sharpe Memorial Scholarship, and from a teaching background, Tim Tim notes: “Sometimes I feel guilty leaving my job to focus on poetry. Coming from a working class background has added to that guilt. Getting the scholarship made my family proud. They never went to university, nor do they speak a word of English.”

“I am thankful for how knowledge and creativity have helped me go places that are beyond my family’s wildest dreams.”

Are you interested in Creative Writing at LLC?

Based in the first UNESCO World City of Literature, our one-year, full-time taught masters programme is tailored towards your practice in either fiction or poetry. Highlights include our annual industry event, The Business, and lots of opportunities to share your work, including From Arthur’s Seat and a range of writing awards.

Find out more on the University Degree Finder

Related links

Read our interview with the From Arthur's Seat 2022 Editors-in-Chief

Read Tim Tim's Grierson Verse Prize 2022 submission on our Writing blog