Round Robin – May 2021

For our May discussion, Rhobin Courtright has asked: does writing change the author? Do you think your writing has changed you in any significant way?

Yes, I think writing has changed me and I think writing does change me.

Growing up in 1950s Scotland meant a girl was expected to CONFORM. Whether that was to a working class, lower-middle-class, middle-class, upper middle-class or upper class ethic, was irrelevant.

It became clear as time passed that I was a source of great pride and huge embarrassment. Not everyone was able to share my burning desire to know. Many, many women, and most men, thought any man knew better. Facts often went unacknowledged.

And, because children do want to be loved and accepted, I spent years trying to mould myself into this cultural ideal. The rot, however, set in early. I was incapable of not arguing a point and was one half of a very successful debating team through senior school. I knew I would make a hopeless class teacher which was the acme of accepted ambition for me. I nonetheless applied for teacher training when I finished at Uni but fortunately a job elsewhere came up. I hung into a relationship for months after it was truly over because the bloke was the best husband material my mum had seen and she didn’t speak to me for days after it ended. My dad had more of a sense of a larger world out there.

It was when I was writing Mariah’s Marriage that I became stuck. I’d written a chapter in which Mariah took one path when I knew she should really have taken the other. I’d had to alter some parts of the narrative to accommodate this decision and it was keeping me awake.

Scottish magazine writer and writing tutor, Sheila Lewis, spoke to EWC on one occasion and said how often she saw MSS in which the central character was being frogmarched through a story, hand pinned up their back because of the plot. This statement hit me hard when I was struggling with Mariah’s behaviour. Of course she wouldn’t do X because it went against everything in her character I’d been building up. Mariah would do Y.

Light-bulb moment. How many things had I re-written the narrative for in order to accommodate what society expected? So writing has helped me to find more interesting paths without guilt.

What writing doesn’t do, in my opinion, is turn you into your central character. I know so many crime writers who are simply the loveliest folk.

On another level writing changes me because when I’ve got a plot running and am getting the words down, I am energised, and the rest of life falls into place. I do clean the bathroom and cook a pudding.

Once a story-teller, always a story-teller. The Mulgray twins now in their eighties prove this with the publication of their new novel: Suspicious Activities in Plain View Helen and Morna write their books together.

Below is this month’s list of other authors posting on our Round Robin topic. I hope you’ll join them. Also, if you are writing – has it changed you?


Skye Taylor

Marci Baun

Diane Bator

Connie Vines

Dr. Bob Rich

Fiona McGier

Judith Copek

Helena Fairfax

Beverley Bateman

Rhobin L Courtright


Coping Mechanisms – 6 – Out for a meal

Going out for a meal, sans alcohol, is a big step forward as a coping mechanism and merited shoes. Real shoes, folks, not the sturdy lace-ups that go with the well-worn jeans, that represent lockdown fashion around here…

Into the back of the wardrobe dove I.

And it was a first! The first time I’ve ever had to dust my shoes before putting them on. I think they were last seen in March 2020 at the final event we attended before the first lockdown.

Going out for a meal as a coping mechanism had a lot to recommend. There was the chance to dress up, of course, but there was also the chance to support our favourite local restaurant while it waits, like the rest of us, for some kind of normaility. (Rudely shattered this morning by the Glasgow numbers. Maybe there is enough vaccinated population out there. Fingers crossed.) And, for a writer, the chance to people watch.

We were at The Apiary in Newington Road. Excellent food as before and a great selection of non-alcoholic drinks which added to the sense of occasion. DH had an ale, I had a sparkling pink aperitif and we shared a bottle of alcohol free cider.

Walked home admiring everyone’s May gardens in the evening light. Fritillaria Imperialis in yellow and orange particularly impressed. The next week should be filled with clematis and a walk in Marchmont is highly recommended as there are some spectacular plants climbing up all three stories  of a tenement in some places.

Spent a tidy sum on my first visit to a bookshop and have read Lady In Waiting, Anne Glenconnor for the book group and Jane Aiken Hodge’s biography of Georgette Heyer. Am also reading The Corinthian by YKW. Haven’t read it before – How’s that? ed.

If you’re in Edinburgh and read crime, the Christian Aid book sale, much reduced in size and scope, is going ahead today, Monday and Tuesday. there will also be toys and games and I think the cafe. St andrews and St George’s Church, George Street.

Writing news? Sold large print rights in A Debt for Rosalie to Ulverscroft who will bring out a library edition in due course. Yay!

Typed The End on that serial. Phew!

How and where are you on the roller-coaster?


Diary of a Writer – May Prompt

Sadly, the uncertainties of the past year make this image one that recurs to me. Just as the numbers go down, just as the vaccination programme picks up pace, just as life returns to some of the local cafes and non-essential shops – something happens. Perhaps we’re all going to enter an age of irony in our writing.

Personally, I’m onto the final instalment of that serial. Yes, the end is in sight. Also, I delivered my first online talk to my writers’ group, Edinburgh Writers’ Club. It was about drama and the enthusiasm we generated for all things dramatic was uplifting. I re-read Quality Street by JM Barrie later.

I’m making progress with a Scottish set regency. Can hear the characters and am finding their stories.

Courting the Countess, set in George Square, Edinburgh, is available here.

How is your writing going? Does the world feel it’s emerging or is there still too much virus around?