The Edinburgh 7 Awarded Degrees After 150 Years

My article on the Edinburgh 7 was published recently in the Highlander magazine as The Edinburgh 7 and Their Fight to Become Doctors. It told how, in 1869, seven women applied to study medicine at Edinburgh University. They were accepted but with various restrictions and were the first women to register for a degree at any university in the UK.

cover highlander

After many difficulties, including a riot when they tried to sit an anatomy exam and male students pelted them with mud and shouted obscenities,  they completed four years study but were prevented from taking their exams. This meant that they could not graduate and they were forced to complete their degrees abroad. However, their leader, Sophia Jex-Blake, qualified in Dublin and returned to Edinburgh in 1878 where she was the first female doctor in the city.

article edinburgh 7

Now Edinburgh University has decided to right a wrong and on Saturday July 6th 2019, 150 years after they matriculated, it will award them posthumous MBChB degrees.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-47814747

plaque

The Plaque at Surgeon’s Hall

Scottish Association of Writers 2019

The Scottish Association of Writers were celebrating their 50th conference this year and they did it in some style with cake and balloons and a Bookiversity quiz and a play written and performed by a bunch of crime writers and yes, it was criminal!

And of course, there were competitions, speakers and workshops galore!

Here are some of my photos from the event;

dinner 2

The Gala Dinner

trophy winners

The Trophy Winners from Ayr Writers’ Club

play

‘Carry on Sleuthing’ with Caro Ramsay, Pat Young, Michael J. Malone and Douglas Skelton hamming it up.

sheila and me

Me and ma pal catching up on a year’s gossip.

Expect the Unexpected

2000px-Curveball

Credit: silver spoon

We were dealt a curve ball recently. Out of the blue it came, shocking us out of our complacency. We were halted in our tracks as we tried to make sense of what it meant, how our lives had to change and what exactly we could do about it.

To thoroughly tangle up the metaphors, the ripples spread outward to involve family members, friends and acquaintances and those we had yet to meet. And there were going to be quite a lot of them.

But the writer in me realised the potential of such an unexpected event. Looking at my WIP (work in progress) I realised that a curve ball, a googly, was exactly what my characters needed. Something to shake them up, stir them into action and have them deal with it.

The romance is going too well, the crime is almost solved, the goody is about to defeat the baddy, so throw your characters a curve ball and muddy the waters. (It’s a day for mixing metaphors, I see). How do they react? Are they stunned into immobility? Do they dissolve into hysterics? Do they explode with an uncontrollable rage? Are they numb? Pragmatic? Depressed? Do they rise above themselves, find hidden talents and strengths? Act in ways they thought were beyond them?

What emotions are they experiencing? Fear? Grief? Resentment? Jealousy? Anxiety? Shock? Hurt? How can you show this for after all, every good writer knows that you show and don’t tell?

Whatever you do, don’t have the cavalry appearing over the brow of the hill. This is your character’s problem. Force them to deal with it. They’ll have difficulties and setbacks along the way but in the end, they’ll cope and feel all the more capable and confident for doing so. And you’ll have the opportunity of bringing out facets of your character’s character that even you didn’t know they possessed.

And us? We’ll pick ourselves up and carry on. Like we all do when the curve ball comes our way.

 

Miss-prints and Tie-pos

I’ve been preparing my entries for March’s Scottish Association of Writers’ conference. There is a huge selection of competitions to try and as I’m not adjudicating this year, I have no excuse for not having a go. I enjoy adjudicating and receiving the bundle of entries for my category, though it’s quite a lot of work to go through each entry picking out its strengths and weaknesses. And then trying to choose the first three for prizes. So often it’s a close run thing though sometimes there is one outstanding attempt that just has to take the first prize.

club winners

Ayr Writers’ Club winners 2018

I supply a critique for all the entries which hopefully the writers will benefit from, as it’s important to try to be positive and give constructive criticism. But this year it’s my turn to be on the receiving end and I’m hoping for some useful advice from the very experienced adjudicators in the categories I’ve entered.

So I’m carefully re-reading my pieces to tidy them up and correct any typos that I have missed before. I dislike reading pieces where the writer hasn’t bothered to edit their work and correct any misprints and I just hate it myself when I realise I’ve missed something on my pieces.

There is a very interesting article in the recent Author magazine on misprints and typos in poetry that have made it into publication, sometimes to the improvement of that particular line of verse. But the one  everyone quotes is the Barker and Lucas Bible of 1631 which proclaimed in the Ten Commandments that ‘thou shalt commit adultery’. And the recent hoo-ha over the Cathay-Pacific plane with Pacific spelt without an ‘F’ shows that no-one is immune from it.

Including myself. Confession time! Every year I make a calendar, using photos taken throughout the year, for close members of my family to use. It’s a fun thing as well as a reminder of what went on in our lives in the previous year. I use Vistaprint for templates and from my previous orders for a variety of things like flyers, business cards, posters and of course calendars, I can see that I’ve been using them since 2002.

So you’d think I knew my way around by now. There was a slight problem with the 2019 calendar template but I had the bright idea of using an older version and changing the photos. This I did and put in my order. I was delighted when they came but it was only when my husband tried to write in a dental appointment to remind himself, that he noticed something was very amiss. It was a calendar with the dates for 2012! I had forgotten that I had to change the dates as well.

calendar

Ooops!

Fortunately I hadn’t sent them round the family. I got back on to Vistaprint but was still unable to access the 2019 template. I messaged them and a few hours later, they messaged back to say they had changed the date on my calendar for me and were sending out new copies post-haste and free gratis. Now that’s what I call excellent service!

So in a couple of days I will have the new calendars and be able to fill in the important dates in my life – the dentist, optician, nurse, etc etc. And of course, the dates for the Scottish Association of Writers’ conference!

Articles Galore!

Recently I’ve been writing articles for an American magazine, The Highlander. The magazine focusses on Scotland before the 20th century and takes all sorts of interesting stories about people and places and events.

So far this year, they have published two of mine, both on the town of Haddington; one about Bruce’s Charter which he gave to the town in 1318 and which is kept in the John Gray Centre in the town, and another on the street where we lived temporarily while waiting for our new home to be ready. There aren’t many streets that can claim  to have a Custom Stone at one end and the site of a battle at the other with John Knox’s school in the middle for good measure!

They are also publishing my article on Susan Ferrier, known as ‘Scotland’s Jane Austen’  who lived in Edinburgh, was a great friend of Sir Walter Scott and was a very successful writer in her day, with a caustic wit and wonderful characters in her books.

So now I’m researching more stories to write up. Yesterday we visited Dunbar and John Muir’s Birthplace. John Muir is revered in the United States for his work in setting up the first National Parks there, particularly Yosemite, so I want to find a different angle to write about as I’m sure the magazine will have published many articles about him.

I’m also trying to find out more about Vaclav Jicha, a much decorated World War II Czech pilot who was killed near Soutra Hill just south of here when his plane crashed in a snowstorm. He is buried in Haddington and now has a street named after him here.

And then of course, there are the competitions for the Scottish Association of Writers conference to enter…..

I think I’m going to be busy!

Editing Stuff – And I Mean STUFF!

It’s a while since I posted and that is because at last, at long, long last we moved into our new home. Our belongings, which we’d placed into store several months ago, arrived in a huge truck and were unloaded to fill every room of the house with an explosion of boxes. Including the garage. Especially the garage. Stuff everywhere! Where did it all come from? We had cleared out our old house (or so we thought)  before the rest of our possessions were packed in boxes, so what had happened? Have they been breeding while tucked away safely in a store somewhere in deepest Ayrshire?

And so began the daily task of opening a box to reveal its contents, groaning in despair at what we found (a plastic lid for some unknown plastic box? A bashed teapot? A bowl still filled with paperclips?) and consigning the lot to what is known in the West of Scotland as the Coup, and to the rest of the world as the recycling centre.

van

While dealing with this mish-mash of disorganised and unwanted belongings, which I’ll call Stuff, it struck me that dealing with my Stuff in the boxes was not dissimilar to the process of editing in creative writing. The same rules seemed to apply to both.

My Rule number 1 of editing my writing is to put it away for a while, quite a long while, not just a few days and then bring it out for a fresh look.

That is precisely what we did with our Stuff. We put it away in store for quite a few months. And now we’re looking at it with fresh eyes.

When I look at my writing after I’ve put it aside for a while, I can see plenty of bits I want to cut, bits that I want to change and bits that look jaded and cliched.

When we opened the boxes filled with our Stuff…. yup, you get it.

Rule number 2 of editing says that pruning and cutting your work enhances what’s left. Every sentence, every word should earn its place.

Our trips to the Coup with redundant Stuff are becoming an almost daily occurrence and we will shortly be on first name terms with the wee man in charge. At home, we can now almost see the carpet and can move freely around the house without it being like an assault course.boxes

Rule number 3 states that moving the position of an incident to eg the end of a chapter, adds drama and encourages the reader to continue.

I don’t know about drama, unless you count the arguments, heated discussions and explosions of sweary words as we attempt to move furniture around the house. There is too much of it and where we thought to put it doesn’t work. There is a limit to the number of chairs a room can support unless you intend holding a public meeting there.. Why have we so much furniture anyway? Give me the Japanese minimalist style any day.

Rule number 4 says to look out for clumsy phrasing, typos, tautologies and any other errors that detract from the text.

Ok, who put that glass coffee table right where I couldn’t see it? And why is there a huge roll of sticky tape sitting in the cutlery drawer? No, I don’t know where the spare toilet rolls are. Try the fridge.

Rule number 5? Have a coffee. We’ve earned it.

My Granny Went on Holiday…..

When I was a child we used to play a game, My Granny went on holiday and in her suitcase she packed... each person would add an item, the sillier the better, to the list for the next person to remember. Eventually, as the list grew longer and full of unusual things, people would get knocked out of the game as they forgot items or had them in the wrong order.

I am at present, living out of two suitcases, while we wait for our new home to be ready. Their contents closely resemble those of the game. I packed those suitcases at the end of April just after the storm nicknamed the ‘Beast from the East’ because of its Siberian origins, had covered the country in feet of crisp white snow and ice. The countryside was quite beautiful if you didn’t have to go places, had plenty of food and heat and were not in need of medical assistance.

In my mind as well, was last year’s disastrous summer with heavy rain, temperatures far below normal and little sunshine. On top of all that, we had a wedding in Iceland to pack for, with the service taking place outdoors at the foot of a glacier.

suitcase

Not required at this stage of the journey.

So, in my suitcase I packed… thermal underwear, numerous thick woolly polo neck sweaters, two heavy jackets with hoods, knitted hat, scarf and gloves, waterproof trousers, sturdy walking shoes, a rain poncho and a hot water bottle. And what happens? We have the longest, driest, hottest spell of sunny weather in decades!

I had to head for the sales and buy a couple of cheap t-shirts so that I had something to wear without dying of heat exhaustion.

My Work in Progress (WIP) is in a similar state to my suitcases – full of stuff that I don’t actually need at the moment. I have written around 10,00 words and have ground to a halt. Why? Because I have crammed in loads of situations and backstory and details I might use at a later date but which are simply tangling up the story at the moment. I don’t know what direction to take my WIP next. Should I follow A’s problem which involves B not knowing about C but has a mystery at its source? Or what about Z who hates C but is in love secretly with W although he is married to B? And what of M who has suddenly appeared on page 19 but fits in nowhere that I can envisage?

All this is going on and I have only reached chapter 4.

When I finally move into our new home, I shall unpack the contents of my suitcases and hang them in wardrobes or stash them in cupboards until such time as I need them again. I’ll know where they are and can easily bring them out to use when the weather requires them. Similarly with my WIP I shall cut away all the extraneous complications, but won’t consign them to the trash can. I’ll keep them safely in a file marked KEEP until I reach a point in the story when I know they will have the maximum impact and will earn their place in the book. Then I shall introduce them into the action and watch while my characters react to the new situation I have created to stir them up.

No doubt at that time my woolly sweaters and hats will also be called into service as the year creeps towards its end and the hot weather is far in the past.

As my granny used to say, ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.’

To everything there is a season….