Our latest .scot story focuses on Positive Stories (positivestories.scot) from HIV Scotland. Throughout summer 2018, HIV Scotland is running the Positive Stories Project: a series of creative writing workshops for people living with HIV, a mentorship programme that pairs people living with HIV with professional writers, and a published anthology where those living with and affected by HIV can share their stories with the world. We spoke to Angie Spoto, HIV Scotland’s artist in residence, to discuss what we can expect from the project and why writing is so important.
What will we see from the project on World AIDs Day 2018?
On World AIDs Day 2018 (1 December), we’ll be launching the publication of the Positive Stories anthology during a reading party open to the public. Contributors to the anthology and participants of our workshops and mentorship programme will read their stories and poetry. We hope that by seeing people living with and affected by HIV and hearing their stories, the public will learn more about HIV and can help us challenge pervasive HIV stigma. The books will be available for purchase during the event.
What kind of barriers do people face when looking to get writing published?
Confidence. Many people with fascinating stories to tell don’t consider themselves ‘real writers’, and this means the world is missing out on hearing these voices. A myth exists, especially around poetry, that writers look a certain way, are from a certain background, and write about certain things. The reality is that the most interesting writing out there is from people who don’t always fit into the mainstream. That’s why we started this project. We want to amplify the voices of people living with and affected by HIV. There’s no one ‘type’ of person with HIV. We want to showcase the diversity of voices of HIV positive people and give them a platform to share their stories with the world.
What does writing mean to you?
Writing is a way of understanding myself. It allows me to unearth experiences or emotions that I don’t keep near the surface, that sometimes I’ve purposefully kept buried. Writing is a way of parsing my own life, and it continually shapes my identity.
If you could share only one writing tip, what would it be?
Just keep writing. Not everything you write will be perfect or even good, and that’s okay. The most successful writers are the ones who don’t give up.
Are there any pieces of writing you’d recommend to learn more about this area?
The HIV Anti-stigma Strategy: Road Map to Zero is a great place to start if you want to understand the landscape of HIV stigma in Scotland and how it impacts the lives of those with HIV. Find it here: https://www.zerohivstigma.scot/road-map-to-zero
And there’s also Waverley Care’s Always Hear project, highlighting stories (through videos) of people with HIV: http://www.hivalwayshear.org/
Why did the project go with a .scot domain?
We’re a Scottish-focused project. HIV Scotland is the national HIV policy organisation for Scotland and we wanted to focus on amplifying the voices of those living with HIV in this country. Having a .scot domain reinforces this focus.