Tag Archives: Rebecca Smith

The Scottish novelists

Lists will rarely be complete. But some are more complete than others.

On Monday Herald Scotland published a list of Scottish children’s authors.* What prompted this seems to have been Julia Donaldson’s decision to leave Scotland and move back to England. It felt like an ‘oh god who do we have left in Scotland if Julia Donaldson moves away?’ kind of list.

Don’t worry, J K Rowling is one of their ten ‘best.’ So are others that I know and admire, along with a few names I have never heard of. Which is fine, because I don’t know everything, and I’m sure they are great writers. I don’t even know who counts as Scottish for this purpose.

Although, with J K topping the list, I’m guessing they allow English writers living in Scotland. That makes my own list rather longer. Harry Potter isn’t particularly Scottish as a book, even if Hogwarts is in Scotland. Do Scottish authors living in England, or god forbid, even further afield qualify? (I’m not so good at keeping track of such people, so I’ll leave them out for the time being.)

As I said, I have no problem with who is on the Herald’s list. But along with quite a few Scottish authors, I gasped when I realised who weren’t on it. Catherine MacPhail and Gillian Philip, to mention two very Scottish ladies. Linda Strachan, Julie Bertagna and Theresa Breslin, who are also pretty well known and very Scottish indeed.

Keith Charters and Keith Gray. Damien M Love and Kirkland Ciccone. John Fardell. Lari Don, Lyn McNicol, Joan Lingard and Elizabeth Laird. Cathy Forde. Dare I mention the Barrowman siblings, Carole and John? Alexander McCall Smith writes for children, too. Roy Gill, Jackie Kay. Cat Clarke. And how could I forget Joan Lennon?

I’m guessing former Kelpies Prize shortlistees Tracy Traynor, Rebecca Smith and Debbie Richardson belong. (There is one lady whose name is eluding me completely right now, but who appears at the book festival every year and seems very popular…) Have also been reminded of Margaret Ryan and Pamela Butchart. (Keep them coming!)

Most of the above have lovely Scottish accents and reasonably impeccable Scottish credentials. But what about the foreigners? We have the very English, but still Scottish residents, Vivian French, Helen Grant and Nicola Morgan. Americans Jane Yolen and Elizabeth Wein. Ex-Aussie Helen FitzGerald.

And I really don’t know about English Cathy Cassidy, who used to live in Scotland but has more recently returned to England. I think she counts, too, along with all those writers whose names simply escape me right now, but who will wake me up in the night reminding me of their existence.

I’m hoping to get to know all of you much better once this wretched move is over and done with. Unless you see me coming and make a swift exit, following Julia Donaldson south. Or anywhere else. I think Scotland has a great bunch of writers for children. (And also those lovely people who write adult crime, and who are not allowed on this list, even by me.)

Sorry for just listing names, but there are so many authors! One day I will do much more. Cinnamon buns, for starters. With tea. Or coffee. Irn Bru if absolutely necessary.

Theresa Breslin's boot

*For anyone who can’t access the Herald’s list, here are the other nine names: Mairi Hedderwick, Barry Hutchison, Chae Strathie, Claire McFall, Daniela Sacerdoti, Debi Gliori, Caroline Clough, Janis MacKay and Diana Hendry.

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The Kelpies Prize

Not all Scottish books for children feature a kilted man rowing across a loch. But it’s what it felt like to Theresa Breslin, many years ago as she contemplated what there was for Scottish children to read. She wanted something that was them, something which spoke their language.

Writer's Retreat

Theresa was at the Writer’s Retreat in Charlotte Square last night to present the Kelpies Prize to the 2012 winner. Floris Books support the prize, which is for unpublished manuscripts, aimed at boys and girls aged eight to twelve, and set in Scotland. The winner receives a cheque for £2000 and the promise to be published by Floris Books.

Winner's cheque

It was my first party at the book festival, so I was excited, but relieved it wasn’t me who was wondering if they’d win. I had a drink, looked at the nibbles, spoke to Vanessa Robertson of the Edinburgh Bookshop, and to Theresa, who later introduced me to Lari Don, a former winner of the prize.

Janis MacKay

Someone from Floris spoke about the history behind the award, and then Janis MacKay who won in 2009 read excerpts from all three shortlisted books, by Tracy Traynor, Rebecca Smith and Debbie Richardson.

Top Secret envelope

Then it was Theresa’s turn to speak (and she really didn’t need to say anything about me), which is when the kilted danger to literature was mentioned. As she spoke, I noticed a man creeping up towards the open door, and I wondered about gatecrashers, until I realised it was simply Mr B, wanting to enjoy his wife’s speech and to take photos of her. (I had been told he was engaged in something football related!)

Tracy Traynor

It’s always hard when you don’t win, but I am really pleased for Tracy Traynor who did, and I think she’s got a promising sounding book in Nicking Time. (I had been admiring her purple dress beforehand, so perhaps I sensed she was the one.)

Debbie Richardson and Lari Don

My photo-grapher was indisposed, and as you can see, so were my own photographic skills. But it was dark. And very red.

It was good to meet Benedicte and Chani from Floris, and they very kindly gave me a copy of Theresa’s new book called Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales, which has been gorgeously illustrated by Kate Leiper.

(The runners-up were Debbie Richardson with Pick ‘n’ Mix Mums, and Rebecca Smith with Shadow Eyes.)