Monday, March 02, 2020

How International is the English Language?

I'm used to rejection. It's part of life being a writer and in fact I can see a lot of value in the 'aim for 100 rejections in a year' idea. However, the best rejections offer constructive criticism or are neutral in tone. Today I received a really rude rejection from an American editor who suggested that though 'people in Scotland may speak like that' people in America would not want to read it.

Now I accept that there may be good reasons that my story didn't get included in the anthology in question but this is not a good reason. 

The characters are Scottish, the setting is Scotland, sometime in the medium future. There are three styles of speaking in the story, there are those who speak an urban Scots-influenced English, those who speak a Western Isles style of English influenced by the rhythms of Gaelic (the first language of many people in those islands) and there is a character who speaks a very careful English because it's his second language and he doesn't want to make errors. All the ways of speaking are slightly different than they are now, because, well it's the future and language changes.

I haven't included swear words or particularly obscure Scots words and I've kept all elements of Scots in the dialogue, rather than in the narrative. To my eye, all the characters speak a readable form of English, with some influences from Scots and the rhythms of Gaelic. This makes the characters more individual and adds authenticity to the story. After all, people in Scotland don't actually speak like Americans and I certainly don't want to think that in the medium future, we'll all have, like, American accents.

Why shouldn't Americans want to read this? After all, Scottish cinemas show loads of American films and we have to listen to accents and dialects from across the States. I can't imagine a British editor would tell an American writer that they couldn't accept a story set in America because the characters sound too American!

People have different ways of speaking and reflecting that in fiction is surely a positive not a negative.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Ghosts of the Christmas Market

For many years the citizens of Edinburgh had enjoyed a Christmas Market on the plaza outside the art galleries. People gathered in the winter dusk to browse the stalls, drink mulled wine and enjoy the Christmas lights.

However, trouble has been brewing.

The evil moneymakers from XS Xmas want to expand the market. Without seeking planning permission, they have erected scaffolding across the whole of East Princes Street Gardens, covering the lawns and removing the memorial benches. Many citizens of Edinburgh are shocked, but the evil moneymakers rub their grubby hands with glee as the cash strapped city council cave in to their demands and give them retrospective planning permission.

'Of course you can bury our beautiful gardens in cheap market stalls all selling identical products and overpriced food and drink' say the council officials.

But underneath the gardens, something stirs.

Many years ago, where these gardens now stand, there was a stretch of water known as the Nor-Loch. Criminals lurked on its shores, broken-hearted damsels threw themselves into its dark waters and innocent women were branded witches and drowned in its stinking depths.

Their ghosts have long haunted the gardens biding their time.

As XS Xmas and local dignitaries take to the podium to officially open XS Xmas Edinburgh, the scaffolding begins to shake. At first people applaud, thinking this is a special effect of the type XS Xmas are known for. But the shaking continues, a thunderstorm unleashes a deluge, unearthly screams are heard from the ground and the crowds flee.

As the scaffolding gives way and the Christmas market disappears in smoke, the broken hearted damsels, the wrongly accused herbalists and those who had been pushed into crime by poverty mass onto the podium. Before the dignitaries realise what's going on, they have been driven into the rising waters of the stinking Nor Loch.

On Christmas Day, people are once again enjoying mulled wine in the traditional Christmas market area, looking across the gardens, now restored to their rightful glory. At night, eerie wails are heard, that sound strangely like 'we only wanted to make lots of money!'

Inspired by true events

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Last chance to vote for your favourite Scots word!

The Scottish Book Trust are asking people to vote for their favourite Scots word!

You can see the shortlist and vote here!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Through the shadowy gate

late summer shadows on the entrance to Saughton Park, in Edinburgh, which recently reopened after a period of refurbishment. You can read my blog post about the recent opening event held in the park here on Crafty Green Poet and also see more recent photos of the park on my Crafty Green Poet blog here and here.

For Shadow Shot Sunday.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Marching for the EU and drinking Turkish Apple Tea

Drinking Turkish Apple Tea on the shady verandah of Cafe Truva in Edinburgh's Royal Mile after the anti-Brexit, pro-EU march.

  (We also had slices of the delicious Cafe Truva orange chocolate cake).

You can read more about the pro-EU march on my Crafty Green Poet blog here

for Shadow Shot Sunday.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Architecture in Shadow

It's a beautiful sunny day today, offering some great shadows on the buildings in the centre of Edinburgh

For Shadow Shot Sunday.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Treacle - film review

Treacle is a new short bisexual drama from award winning director and actor April Kelley

Friends Belle (April Kelley) and Jess (Ariana Anderson) go on a trip together to help Jess get over a difficult break up. The two get drunk together and end up sleeping together. The next day they struggle to recapture their easy friendship. 

Bisexual Belle feels that Jess (who is straight) only got together with her as an experiment, thinking that as a bixesual woman she (Belle) would be up for experimentation. Would Jess have behaved the same way with a lesbian or with a man? Or would getting drunk so soon after a break up have meant she would have had sex with anyone who happened to be nearby? Jess can't or won't answer any of these questions.

Beautifully shot and acted, the film leaves the viewer wondering whether the two women can repair their friendship and supports the 'notion that bisexuality isn’t just a phase or an experiment nor is the ‘B’ there to just help the acronym roll off the tongue'.

This film premiered at BFI Flare: London LGBTQI+ Film Festival and had its US premiere at Frameline43: The San Francisco International LGBTQI Film Festival. The film will screen at the Underwire Film Festival (the UK's only film festival celebrating female film making) on Thursday 19 September as part of the Best Friends shorts screening.

Disclaimer: I saw a free online preview of this film in return for a review.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


I sit locked out,
my nose pressed against glass
only I know about.

You sense my distance
but cannot understand
the why of it.

The space I cannot cross.

I watch you dance
with strange disjointed steps
to music I cannot hear.

A ritual to which I can never belong.

You laugh to see me sit alone
as it I made a foolish choice
I am too proud to own.

But I cannot join
this thing that makes no sense
this thing that for me is so unreal.

I must dance to a lonelier beat.

Originally published in Spume magazine.and first published on this blog in January 2007.

I'm delighted that I have a 50 word story up now on the 50 word story website. You can read it here (and if you like it, click on the like button too!).

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Tell it to the Bees - film review

Set in a small Scottish town in the nineteen fifties, Tell It To The Bees is the story of Charlie (Gregor Selkirk) whose father, returned from the war a changed man, walks out on his marriage. Charlie's mother Lydia (Holliday Grainger) works all the hours she can in a mill to try to keep a roof over their heads.

Jean (Anna Paquin) has returned to the village to take over her dead father's medical practice. She treats Charlie after he is hurt by bullies at his school and introduces him to her bees. She encourages him to tell his secrets to the bees and he starts keeping a nature diary based on his observations of the hives. 

Charlie's friendship with the doctor leads to his mother becoming friends with Jean too. When Lydia is threatened with eviction, Jean offers her a job as her live in housekeeper. The two women find themselves drawn into an intense friendship which develops into a sexual relationship. But gossip travels quickly in a small town and lesbian relationships weren't considered normal in the 1950s so the new household that the three are creating together is threatened right from the beginning. 

The bees are present throughout, as confidants to Charlie and playing an important role in the plot at one point too. 

It's in many ways an excellent film, the main characters and their relationships are believable (though Paquin's Scottish accent slightly less so) and the story sheds a light on the repressive attitudes of a 1950s small town community.

This is based on the novel by Fiona Shaw, though the ending has been changed (If you've seen the film, you may like this excellent article by Shaw about what she thinks of the ending).

Tell it to the Bees is screening at the Filmhouse until Thursday 25 July. 

Cross posted to my Crafty Green Poet blog here.