Finalist, Scottish Arts Club Short Story Competition 2018
Excerpt from A story the span of your brow
A hat shop might not have seemed the most obvious place for a writer’s residency yet after a trying time for Gail, it proved the perfect fit. A terrible newspaper review of her last novel caused her not only to sink into the writing doldrums but also to start avoiding one of her favourite shops. She’d often paused outside the windows of ‘The Milliner’s Tale’, struck by the beauty and craftsmanship of the crowning glories on display although, curiously, had never stepped inside. She felt her head too small to deserve such attention, the childhood taunts of ‘Pea-head!’ whenever she dared to wear a bobble-hat leading her to feel she’d be a fraud if she went in to browse with no intention of buying. That self-consciousness coupled with the by-line photo of Jack McCain, the extravagantly moustachioed reviewer who’d blasted her ‘lazy characterisation’ and ‘reliance on coincidence’, showing him slyly tipping the brim of his fedora, caused her to walk briskly past one of her formerly favourite pauses in her strolls about the city....
After completing a Ph.D in Scottish Literature at the University of St Andrews, I moved to Edinburgh close to twenty years ago to work as an admin officer for the Scottish Government. I write in the evenings and very occasionally at the weekends, mostly novels, with the first chapter of my novel, The Pocketbook Guide to Scottish Superheroes, appearing in Issue 2 of The Evergreen. Winning the Lothian Life Happy Ever After? competition earlier this year led to me rediscovering an enthusiasm for short stories, with one recently published in the Ink! edition of 404 Ink magazine. Being a finalist in the Scottish Arts Club competition will undoubtedly help keep that enthusiasm going.
Back in 2013 I was fortunate enough to gain a Hawthornden Fellowship and had a month writing in a pink castle along with a group of fantastic other Fellows. This year I spent a week in Glasgow courtesy of the 3/2 Residency run by the artists Jamie Green and Isobel Lutz-Smith which proved an excellent opportunity to get to know that inspiring city better. I’m a regular contributor to The One O’Clock Gun, a freesheet that can be found in the darker corners of the pubs of Edinburgh, and was very pleased to have a story playing in the John Muir Grove at the Botanics, part of the Echoes of the City project. Edinburgh and its coffee shops are a rich source of material with ‘A Story the Span of Your Brow’ inspired by the fabulous displays of Fabhatrix in the Grassmarket.