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The Gaithering by Hannah Lavery

To mark the Year of Stories, we commissioned Edinburgh’s Makar Hannah Lavery to write a poem for the occasion, which featured in our Spring catalogue. You can read it below.

The Gaithering

Wait, while I tell ye…

aw whits bin collecting
swirling wi the words
wi’ve saved up like stamps.

Here, I’ve things to tell ye
stories that’ve bin
chapping on my door.

fae aw of us

that’ve bin
gaithering here.

Coming doon
wi the burns, swimming
in the sea, the lochs, the local pool
milling in the quiet corners, in the loud, in the open air
aw wild,like.

wi haunds held
in closes, in forests

up the high street, by shore
by oor screens – alone.

Wait, will ye?

Let me tell ye
my stories

preserve them wi ye
like jam, like chutney, like aiples

like days so sweet wi
anely bring them oot
in company – amongst friends.

Stories so treasured, we store them
like china dugs in glass cabinets

haundling them wi care, afore passing them on.

This poem was commissioned by Publishing Scotland to mark the Year of Stories.

Interview: Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz

CELEBRATION | We mark the end of the Year of Stories by talking to the reigning Book of the Year winner at Scotland’s National Book Awards (for Duck Feet), Ely Percy, by revisiting their debut Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz and what has come since.

Most readers will know your name from Duck Feet, but could you tell us a little bit more about your debut novel Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz? What drew you to the story and what were the inspirations behind it?

I started writing Vicky Romeo Pluz Joolz in the spring of 2002 after I found I wasn’t getting anywhere with a lesbian take on Romeo and Juliet I’d been writing. There weren’t many stories about young queer folk, even less about young queer working-class folk in Scotland who were funny, so I wondered why I was writing just another one of those stories that has dead lesbians, or lesbians that were deranged. I thought, Nah, I want to write something that’s funny, something that me or my friends would pick up in a bookshop. I go to different LGBT events and gay bars, and I thought, what are the real stories, what are the things that I’m seeing…

Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz is a queer coming-of-age rom-com set in Glasgow in 2001, and told from the POV of Vicky Romeo, who is a working-class butch lesbian. I had never read anything written from that POV apart from a short story called ‘La Bruja’ by Jennifer Levin in Emma Donoghue’s Mammoth Book of Lesbian Short Stories. I loved this story, but it was also an American story set in the ’60s, so I wondered if I could take some inspiration from that and write a contemporary Scottish butch/fem rom-com. When I first wrote Vicky Romeo, it had a lot of different voices and points of view. Then I started going to Glasgow Uni to do an MPhil in September 2002, and my tutor was Liz Lochhead. Well it was Tom Leonard at first, but Tom was off so Liz took over.

I was really lucky because the book is about this character who wants to be an actor, and I had this amazing playwright telling me what would and wouldn’t work. So I’d written the first draft of the novel before Christmas, and Liz said she’d take the novel home with her and read it over the break. Then after Christmas she came back to me and said, like, ‘What is this rubbish? This isn’t the novel we talked about – there’s like thirty different voices!’ So she asked me which story I wanted to tell, and told me to go away and write the first 30 pages again from one POV, and to write the story I first wanted to, the coming-of-age rom-com. So of course I was like, ‘Oh my god, Liz Lochhead’s just told me that my stuff is awful…’

But was it good advice?

It was great advice! I went away and thought, right, who do I want to tell this story, and figured out I wanted to write a mirror story. I’d read Neil Griffith’s Kelly + Victor and I thought, right, I’m going to write Vicky one side and Joolz the other, so you’d have the butch and the fem. So I went away and wrote the first 30 pages and Liz was like, ‘Wow! This is what I’m talking about.’ I told her I was going to write it from two POVs and she said, ‘Hmmm…’ but by about the third draft and made it just the one POV and I told Liz she was right. She said, ‘Aye, I know I was right.’

“All of a sudden I win this huge prize, get an agent, get all this funding for a next novel, and it was like my whole entire life changed in one weekend.”

It sounds like you’ve always had that desire to write the community, the multiple voices, the different points of view, instead of just telling the single story. This is noticeable too in Duck Feet, which captures the wholeness of the teenage experience through that episodic structure. Did writing Duck Feet differ from writing Vicky Romeo?

When I first wrote VRPJ it was very different, there were all these different voices telling different stories that were all set in this one bar, so when I did narrow it down to one POV I had to go, right, I need some kind of outline. When it came to writing Duck Feet, I never set out to write a novel. I’d just finished uni, it was 2004, and I’d decided I didn’t want to write a novel anymore, I just wanted to write short stories. And there was a new writing competition looking for stuff on shoes. I was sitting in my parent’s living room and my dad comes in and I’m writing shoes, high heels, trainers, brogues, thinking if I’m going to get in there I need to write something that’s a little bit different, and he takes his shoes off and puts his feet in a basin of water. Now my dad’s got bad feet, and I just had this wee girl’s voice in my head, so I started with that, ‘my dad’s got bad feet’, and I just kept writing, completely stream-of-consciousness, and when I got to the end thought, Woah, that was good!

Next day I typed it up – it’s the quickest edit I’ve ever done – and then I thought, could I do another short story? After I was about 10 or 15 stories in I was like, okay, this is the same wee lassie, maybe these aren’t just short stories. I began to have questions about what was going to happen to certain people in the stories, what they’d do when they got to fourth year, I knew who was gay, who was gonna get pregnant, leave school, I didn’t necessarily know everything that was going to happen in between, but I could just see it. And at that point I went to people I’d gone to school with and friends and asked them, right, does somebody want to talk to me? Just to see if I was getting it right. And that was how that all came about.

It was a whole 16 years later when Monstrous Regiment came and asked me to novelise the stories. I’d had like 35 published across the 16 years, and I didn’t realise I’d have to start from the beginning again, because there were stories that didn’t work, things that had to go in and things that had to go out for it all to make sense. I had to write out timetables, try and get all the dates right.

You mentioned how VRPJ was set in Glasgow and Duck Feet of course is set mostly in Renfrew and rooted in your own memories of school. How important is it for you to show these localities and to be authentic to them in your writing, to tell the Scottish stories that are often unseen in books published?

Well a couple of things, I think for me firstly sense of place is really, really important, but that’s been partly born out of the fact that I had a brain injury when I was 14. I can’t get around on my own, and I have a visual learning impairment. So when I wrote VRPJ, I had to be sitting in a bar writing it – about 90% of that first draft was written sat in Sadie Frost’s. With Duck Feet, I didn’t set out to write a book set in Renfrew, but it quickly became obvious that that’s where it was and it couldn’t be anywhere else. My mum said it was like our life, but not. I’ve had lots of people ask who certain characters were, but there’s nobody real, it’s just our kind of people, our community. Again I seem to really enjoy writing about communities. For me authenticity is so important, sense of place important, voice massively important. I can sit on a bus listening to a conversation behind me, and when I get off that bus I can hear it continuing. I don’t know, where I can’t imagine pictures in my head I can imagine entire worlds coming out of conversations between Wee Jeannie and Maggie at the back of the bus.

It’s more like the oral storytelling tradition in a way, which lends itself to this idea of writing communities. What was the reaction of your local community to reading Duck Feet? I assume they’d never read anything like those stories in a published book before.

So many people were writing to me every day saying, ‘Oh my god, I went to Renfrew High/Linwood High/J High, that was exactly like my school.’ But I left school in 1996 and my sister left in 2000, and when I interviewed people it was mostly from my demographic, so I didn’t really know if it was going to reach anybody. I wasn’t sure. But I went to do a thing for the book in Stirling and it was mostly people who were like 30/40 years older than me who were there, and who said, ‘That’s just like how it was when I was in school.’ So really, nothing’s changed, and I stand by this, nothing’s changed apart from the politics and technology, everything else is the same. You’ve got your best pal, the boy everyone fancies, the class clown, the one everybody says smells, the one who’s always in trouble, the boy who’s misunderstood, who all the teachers hate but he’s actually really nice. All these stereotypes you think of, they’re actually real. When I was interviewing people, they all were all telling me the exact same stories.

At the point when I’d first started interviewing people, I’d given my sister some of these stories. One night we’d gone out to The Viscount, and it turned out that all her pals and their pals had read them, and I was horrified! But when I saw how excited they were, I thought okay, if I find these stories funny and my sister and her pals find them funny, maybe there’s other people who would too. But I never expected it to be as big as it was!

“There weren’t many stories about young queer folk, even less about young queer working-class folk in Scotland who were funny.”

That sudden rise from your debut to winning Book of the Year at Scotland’s National Book Awards with your follow up was a whirlwind. How do you reflect on all that?

There were a couple of other prizes that it’d been put forward for, but I was just really hoping I’d be longlisted for the Saltire, because for me the book is just about coming-of-age in Scotland and is a celebration of being Scottish and growing up in the West of Scotland. I remember when the shortlist was announced I got a message from Val McDermid saying, ‘Well done, love the book by the way, but keep in mind it’s unlikely you’re gonna win, but is it not just great being on the shortlist?’ And I was like, ‘Absolutely! I’m already a fucking winner!’ Because you don’t know who the judges are – how do they choose one winner? I don’t think I’d make a very good judge. How do you compare books that are so different?

[I was] absolutely delighted, obviously. But even from the point of Duck Feet coming out I had all these people asking if I wanted to come and do this or that, and I was quite shocked. Cos before I’d be desperately writing to people asking if I could come and speak at this or that, and I’d just get silence a lot of the time.

Do you find that’s the way it’s been for you, that in the last year since the Saltire you’ve found it easier to get your work and name out there?

Definitely the Saltire was a game changer for me. It’s funny because I’d actually received full funding from Creative Scotland and I’d found out the night before the Saltire, but I couldn’t tell people! And on Thursday before the Saltire I’d been contacted by an agent who’d said he really loved my work. I think for a few days it didn’t really sink in. I was like, here I am, nae money, and then all of a sudden I win this huge prize, get an agent, get all this funding for a next novel, and it was like my whole entire life changed in one weekend.

So what does the next year hold for you as a writer – any goals that you’d like to achieve?

I’m working on something new – it’ll not be 16 years this time, I hope! I thought it was going to be a crime novel set in the same world as Vicky Romeo, but the narrator keeps pulling me in different ways. The narrator is a transgender man who used to be the UK’s best known Elvis impersonator, and 6 years on he gets a job mentoring a drag king band. He doesn’t really like them, they’re rubbish, but he takes them on anyway. I would just like to write a satisfying story with Allen (the narrator) and the drag kings – I don’t know if it’s got a murder in it or not now – but just get to the end of it having written something that I really like. This is a story idea I had in 2003, and it’s been haunting me ever since! I would just like by this time next year to have written something that I like and to be able to put a lid on it.

As the reigning winner of the Scotland’s National Book Awards’ Book of the Year, are there any books or authors you’d like to recommend to our readers?

I automatically thought of Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy which is a high fantasy coming-of-age story. FitzChivalry Farseer is probably my favourite character in all of literature… although I do like The Fool. And I love that she created a nonbinary character in the 90s!

Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz
by Ely Percy is published by Knight Errant Press.

Book recommendations: Looking to the future

As the Year of Stories draws to a close, dive into our list of ten brilliant books that celebrate the future, created in partnership for Edinburgh City of Literature, for the Year of Stories.

Consider Phlebus by Iain M Banks
Published by Orbit

The first book in Iain M. Banks successful series of deep science fiction novels. Here, we are introduced to The Culture, a utopian, post-scarcity space society of humanoid aliens and artificial intelligences, as a war between The Culture and the Idrian Empire rages on. A beguiling mix of political satire and poetic invention, Consider Plebus is a space opera of stunning power and awesome imagination.

Seven Devils by Laura Lam & Elizabeth May
Published by Gollancz

We stay with space opera and the brilliant contemporary duo of Laura Lam and Elizabeth May. Here, they give us a feminist take on the genre, with a tale of seven resistance fighters working to free the galaxy from a ruthless empire. This is science fiction at its most fun, crackling with energy and sharp humour.

Gathering Evidence by Martin MacInnes
Published by Atlantic

Set in a future where a team are sent out to investigate the imminent extinction of the last troop of bonobo chimpanzees, while another scientist is brutally attacked, MacInnes uses these events as a starting point to investigate ecological catastrophe, technological dependence and social isolation. This is writing of ambition, intrigue and great sensitivity.

The Library of the Dead by T. L Huchu
Published by Tor

In a futuristic Edinburgh, Ropa is a young woman who uses both her Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to become a ghost stalker, carrying messages from the dead to the living. When she becomes involved in a missing person’s case, she feels duty bound to investigate. This is the pacy and entertaining first book of Huchu’s Edinburgh Nights series.

Edwin Morgan Twenties: Space and Spaces by Edwin Morgan
Published by Polygon

The range of Edwin Morgan’s poetry is breathtaking, and this collection of his science fiction and concrete poems is a deep tribute to his skill and playfulness. There’s the famous encounter between humans and aliens in ‘The First Men on Mercury’, early digital tongue-twisting in ‘The Computer’s First Christmas Card’ and the effects of teleportation in ‘In Sobieski’s Shield’ – on earth or in outer space Morgan explores what it is to be human.

Memoirs of a Spacewoman by Naomi Mitchison
Published by Kennedy and Boyd

Naomi Mitchison [1897-1999] was a literary phenomenon. Tireless in her writing, and unafraid and often highly unconventional in her opinions, she left an extraordinary legacy. The success of this novel depends not only on the extraordinarily variety of life forms its heroine encounters and attempts to communicate with on different worlds: she is also a very credible human with a sensitive and dramatic emotional life. 

But n Ben A-Go-Go by Matthew Fitt
Published by Luath Press

But n’ Ben revitalises recognisable science-fiction tropes—futuristic settings, environmental catastrophe, militaristic state apparatus—and remixes them with the addition of the novel being written in invigorating and imaginative Scots. We follow Paulo Broon as he sets off to find out how his girlfriend was infected by a unique strain of the HIV virus. It’s a vibrant, gutsy novel that deserves its modern classic status.

Deep Wheel Orcadia by Harry Josephine Giles
Published by Picador

We stay with linguistic invention with Harry Josephine Giles’s Deep Wheel Orcadia, a magical first: a science-fiction verse-novel written in the Orkney dialect that comes with a parallel translation into playful and vivid English. We are introduced to Astrid and Darling, both searching for inspiration for living aboard a distant space station.

Ferryman by Claire McFall
Published by Floris

When Dylan wakes up after her train has crashed, she thinks she has survived unscathed. But she couldn’t be more mistaken: the bleak landscape around her isn’t Scotland, it’s a wasteland–a terrain somehow shaped by her own feelings and fears, a border to whatever awaits her in the afterlife. This is the first novel in an exciting trilogy (with Trespassers and Outcasts) that is a thought-provoking and truly original story of a love that refuses to be limited by death.

Plagued: The Miranda Chronicles by Gary Chudleigh and Tanya Roberts
Published by BHP Comics

The near future. Scotland has been left devastated by a plague that has swept the country. The scattered population struggle, and the blame for this pandemic falls squarely on ‘witches’ – seemingly ordinary people with extraordinary powers – who are hunted down and forced to stand trial by government sanctioned witch-hunters. This is the first in a graphic novel trilogy of fantastical adventure with lively, original illustrations.

Be part of the Year of Stories with #TalesOfScotland and #YS2022.

Publisher spotlight: Charco Press

Across 2022, the Year of Stories, we are spotlighting Publishing Scotland members, who will share their own story in their own words. Get to know Charco Press, the award-winning independent publisher specialising in contemporary Latin American literature in translation.

What’s your story?

Charco Press is an award-winning independent publisher of exceptional contemporary Latin American literature in translation. Launched in Edinburgh in 2017 by Carolina Orloff and Samuel McDowell, our goal is to shine a light on the rich array of fiction currently coming out of Latin America. We aim to bring the region’s most exciting contemporary writers to new readers in the English-speaking world, publishing books that are entertaining, engaging and thought provoking. Charco Press meticulously seeks out the perfect translators to bring their authors’ work to life for English readers, often championing new and emerging translators, as well as established names.

Charco Press has already achieved international recognition, with one book longlisted and two shortlisted for the International Booker Prize, and the publishing house being named Scotland Small Press of the Year 2019 and 2021 at the British Book Awards. Marking its fifth birthday in 2022, Charco Press has recently launched an English-first series, ‘Untranslated’, embracing texts by English-speaking authors linked to Latin American culture, as well as its first Spanish-language OriginalES editions.

Tell us about some of your key stories.

We have to start with one of our very first titles, which put us in the spotlight straight away. Die, My Love, by Argentine writer Ariana Harwicz, was longlisted for the then Man Booker International Prize in 2018, and so provided an immediate profile boost for Charco. Further success in this prize has followed since with The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara and then Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro being shortlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2020 and 2022 respectively.

Prize success aside, there are several other key titles that help set out Charco’s vision. Dead Girls by Selva Almada is a work of journalistic fiction investigating the separate femicides of three girls in rural Argentina, and the societal conditions that result in these crimes remaining unsolved to this day. Resistance by Brazilian author Julián Fuks asks what it means to belong, through an exploration of exile and adoption. A Musical Offering by Luis Sagasti (and translated by Scottish translator Fionn Petch) is a playful yet serious trip through selected events in history, and the role that music played.

In 2022 we published Never Did the Fire by Chilean author Diamela Eltit, and alongside this we published a diary kept by the translator, Daniel Hahn, titled Catching Fire. This diary lays bare the process Danny followed as he translated Eltit’s novel – the challenges, the frustrations and the successes – in a very entertaining and enlightening work. Both are standalone works, or they can be seen as companions. This illustrates Charco’s focus on both the importance of translation and the role of translators, and our goal to demystify the process and make the world of translated fiction more accessible.

What draws you to a story? What makes a good story?

We are drawn to stories about the human experience, perhaps that shine a light on areas such as social justice or inequality. Part of the excitement in publishing stories in translation is seeing readers recognise and react to these experiences, even though they are set in a different world, and were originally written in a different language. When readers identify with a character or a situation it acts to reinforce the understanding that we all share so many challenges and emotions, no matter where we are from. This is part of what Charco is about. Beyond the focus of the story itself, we are also drawn to the author – to their style, their structure, their ability to play with language. A story has to, above all, entertain. These two aspects go hand in hand in order to really shine – a good story needs good writing, and good writing needs a good story.

What stories should we look forward to or check out this year?

Where to start! Salt Crystals by Cristina Bendek is set on the Caribbean island of San Andreas and is a wonderful exploration of the juxtapositions that exist there: Colombian territory, but closer to Nicaragua; ruled separately at times by the French, the British and the Spanish; a key port of call for the slave trade. A jumble of cultures, languages and races that have resulted in this island still seeking to understand its own identity today. Homesick by Jennifer Croft is the first novel in our Untranslated series – where we are providing a space for English-original works by translators or English speaking Latin American authors. It is a beautiful tale of growing up, sisterhood and language. The Forgery by Ave Barrera is a mad caper across a city in Mexico, with some nefarious characters along the way. Most recently we published Dislocations by Syliva Molloy. This is a beautiful investigation into memory and identity, through a friendship interrupted by dementia. Molloy, a legend in Latin American literature, unfortunately passed away just one month before the book was published – her first in English.

2023 is shaping up to be incredible. We have eight titles coming, including new works from Claudia Piñeiro and Margarita García Robayo – two favourites of ours. We also have gothic short stories from Bolivia in Fresh Dirt From the Grave by Giovanna Rivero, contemplations on life from the top of the Himalayas in Two Sherpas by Sebastián Martínez Daniell, and brutality of life at an abattoir in the Brazilian interior in Of Cattle and Men by Ana Paula Maia. Much to look forward to!

Learn more about Charco Press at @CharcoPress and

Response: The Golden Treasury of Scottish Verse (Titilayo Farukuoye)

CELEBRATION / RESPONSES | As part of the Year of Scotland’s Stories, we are running a series of Responses, commissioning writers to respond to books from the publishing membership, engaging with work in different ways. For November, and to close the series, Edwin Morgan Poetry Award-winner Titilayo Farukuoye considers The Golden Treasury of Scottish Verse, on the past, present and future of Scottish poetry.


Confession: l have only been claiming the title poet for a season now. I maybe toyed with it, and definitely aspired to it before, but there is something about claiming an official label to one’s name that sometimes requires the force of Edwin Morgan, and a nod from an entire selection committee of well admired writers, to claw back layers upon layers of rejection, imposter syndrome, self-doubt and ‘don’t take yourself so seriously-s’, that encourage us to step into our truths.

And frankly, as a Black (dyslexic) poet of a different birth tongue, excelling in the literary world, in a foreign language, was not, shall we say, anticipated of me.

To think, that I would even put the word poet into my mouth just as I am getting ready to mention so many of our national icons featured in the collection – The Golden Treasury of Scottish Verse: Robert Burns, Peter Mackay, Liz Lochhead, Jackie Kay, Alastair Mackie, Veronica Forrest-Thomson, Vahni Capildeo, Edwin Morgan,… and many more – is truly something.

Looking at The Golden Treasury of Scottish Verse, I had to practice a little bit of self-care, and personal bolstering to remind myself to claim space in this literary landscape of Scottish poetics. (If not for my own sake, then for all of the writers marginalised and rendered invisible in a sector in which queer, BPOC, disabled, working class poets and poets with asylum and migration experience continue to face barriers in. I allowed myself to ask, What is Scottish poetry actuallyWhat is the legacy we inherit as Scottish poets todayAnd who can claim the craft for themselves?)

Editors Kathleen Jamie, Don Peterson and Peter Mackay invite answers to this in the collection. As I open the book anywhere – appreciative of their instruction – I cannot help myself but romanticise far away times, imagine wild stormy landscapes, green plains, a tempestuous sea,..

This initial image is a visitors’ illusion, a pretty smile Scotland holds up to the sky – a face that, tourists, from across the sea (Atlantic and otherwise) and folk we bump into on the Royal Mile, or, on the off chance of us nipping out early onto Princes Street, see, in this home of ours. It’s a part, at least, of the whole story.

Quickly, the collection transforms and shapes into something that poetry inevitably does. It becomes societal commentary, a history lesson, a reflection and negotiation of the poet’s realities…

In six o’clock news, Tom Leonard writes, ‘yooz doant no thi trooth’, and continues, ‘yirsellz cawz’ ‘yi canny talk right.’ ‘This is the six a clock nyooz. belt up’. Leonard’s poem is gorgeously attributed to the powerplay embodied by dominant language and the culture of the disenfranchisement Scotland experiences from mainstream cultural institutions in the UK. What does it mean for a people if the news is not reported in their tongue? What are the repercussions of intellectualising one regional language over another?

I quickly find my own linguistic limits in the collection, and soon also start thinking about gate keeping, and the power that lies with commanding Scots and Gaelic among other languages. They serve as markers of belonging and justify a ‘claim’ to Scotland and Scottishness. Stretching for my own voice to read out loud and discover meanings my eyes alone don’t grasp, as well as dictionaries and translations online, google searches, and friends, all come to my aid: I become painfully aware of my lack of (Scottishness) exposure to Scots and Gaelic.

I enjoy this challenge though (especially since I have never seriously claimed Scottish identity for myself) and can’t help but wonder if this could be an invitation to all of us to explore our own relationships with Scotland’s languages, and to indulge in them a little bit more. Excitingly, Du Fu (712–770) a prominent Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty is represented in the collection. I can’t wait to see poems in Urdu, Punjabi, Farsi, Twi, Yoruba, Arabic, Amharic, Polish, Cantonese and more in future collections commemorating Scottish Verse.

There is a lot that is striking in the collection, Ian Crichton Smith’s Clearances almost next to Marion Bernstein’s The Highland Laird’s Song are a good shock to a reader’s system. Bernstein’s lines all for me all for me echo in my head long after the fact of reading the poem, The dirty creatures now complain; Blaming me, Blaming me; leave one shivering, contrasting the pain, devastation and fury the poem Clearances offered insight to.

To me this speaks to the reckoning we still need to do as a nation. How do we negotiate our violent past? Is there a way to make good past evils? How can we move beyond narratives of victimhood and pity and actually learn from the past to change the systems and elevate communities, elevate peoples who have been mistreated and violated for generations?

Scotland’s legacy of colonialism and Empire also finds traces in the book, Jackie Kay’s In my Country answers the question Where are you from? with ‘Here’ I said. ‘Here. These parts’.

Scottish Ghanian visual artist, educator, and poet Maud Sulter’s (1960-2008) work is a crucial voice in Scotland that should be commemorated to acknowledge this history. Among some of her most influential works must be Blackwomen’s Creativity Project, through which Sulter sought to document artistic practices of Black women creatives in the 1980s, which led to the publication Passion: Discourses on Blackwomen’s Creativity.

Sulter writes in Passion (2002) ‘See me, I’m a heroic poet and I don’t care who knows it. And I chose my own kind and in doing so apparently consigned myself to a footnote in history.’

Even today, the beckoning to see violence and injustice addressed, still remains with those who endured and survived it. A way of sharing this responsibility can be to actively seek out and elevate the poets who are doing this work. Future Scottish Verse should ensure that we bring trailblazers like Sulter to the forefront. We urgently need to acknowledge the countless poets who are continuing her inspiring work.

A project this year led by independent arts collective Rhubaba brought together Black Scottish women and non-binary people creatives today, to commemorate Sulter’s work. Alongside documentary film maud., the zine PASSIONS (2022) was dedicated to Maud Sulter and serves to archive and spotlight Black women and non-binary creatives in the Scotland.

Jeda Pearl is an incredible voice in poetry and science fiction writing in Scotland today, in her poem Inheritance Reverb published in PASSIONS (2022), the Scottish-Jamaican poet writes, ‘yuh still lost in yuh maze of post-colonial consumption’ directly addressing Scotland’s colonial legacy. The poem continues ‘mi double-dar yuh give our lush little islands a mention’.

Renowned creative non-fiction writer Amanda Thomson describes that public awareness and willingness to engage in the issue is only temporary, in TWA Black WIMMIN, Revisited. (PASSIONS, 2022) she writes, ‘I can’t help but think that there’s a cyclical nature to the world and our position in it, we ebb and flow; we come into view and recede again (though we are always visible to those like us and those who choose to see us, or who seek us out).’

It is impossible not to mention Edinburgh Makar Hannah Lavery’s debut collection Blood Salt Spring.  In her poem The anti-racist working group, Lavery writes, ‘Wonder if they are starting to realise, that they don’t want to give anything away.’ ‘Hush Now (Shitty Brown) and Thirty laughing emojis, brilliantly testify to the reality of race on an everyday basis.’

Award-winning poet Roshni Gallagher is an important new voice in the scene. She describes her poem The Whitby as ‘a sonnet about reckoning with the colonial ties of a place that I love (…) The poem follows the journey first boats that transported indentured labourers from India to Guyana in the 1800s.’

To me poetry is a way to digest and articulate stories and struggles that affect communities. The Golden Treasury of Scottish Verse is a brilliant collection, that through its vastness touches on and verbalises so much of Scottish culture, history, and aspiration.

As a new poet, and as Black poet, I see my work as an opportunity to reconcile, give voice and contemplate issues that pertain our lives today, so that we might better communicate them, and might even come up with solutions, or how wonderful poet Andrés N. Ordorica would put it, to contemplate ‘what it means to be from ni de aquí, ni de allá (neither here, nor there)’.

For the occasion, I would like to offer you my most recent Scottish poem.

Glasgow, King Street.
By Titilayo Farukuoye

Their hair: clouds, flowers
in the sky.
dancing in knots
in braids, in weaves
in twists

Reflections of the sun
(brown, black, green, red, blond, purple)

Their bodies: slick, taking space
wide, laughing, chatting
round, stiff and flexible.

Fingers licking:

Caramelised plantain
Dripping chicken


Happy cheers and bouncin:
arms                      smiles
breasts                                 all of it.

All pigments, colouring fabrics
contrasting                         dancing with
each other.

Raging for attention.
‘Should I help you adjust your headscarf?’

The Year of Stories x Books from Scotland response strand was inspired by Fringe of Colour’s series, which you can read more of at piece also featured in the November/December Books from Scotland issue, A Cup o’ Kindness.

Publisher spotlight: Ailsapress

Across 2022, the Year of Stories, we are spotlighting Publishing Scotland members, who will share their own story in their own words. Get to know Ailsapress, the Isle of Islay-based publisher aiming to produce work that reflects indigenous island life, and offers a memento to visitors who come to the island.

What’s your story?

Ailsapress is probably one of the smallest of Publishing Scotland’s Members, yet I think the story we have to tell could encourage others who are not looking to make it “big-time”, but want to enable creativity in the form of writing and/or illustration in their local community. 

At the start, I myself was an author unsuccessfully looking for a publishing outlet for what turned out to be our first book, The Tail of Ailsa, by myself Catherine Wilson and artist Ruth McLean. We had worked on the book 17 years before it finally came out under our imprint “Ailsapress” – named after the cat who belonged to Ruth! The book, a combination of verse and image, showed Ailsa about her daily business, sleeping, eating, watching birds and her fascination with water.

It was 2007 when the book came out. Ruth often says, by waiting so long to publish, we were able to take advantage of the advances made in digital programming both of images and publishing formats. In any case, I was immediately thrust on a steep learning curve – so much to learn! I hadn’t even thought about distribution when we started. But we were lucky enough to show the book to Matthew Perren of Bookspeed and he liked the book well enough to take it on.

I knew from the start that I wanted Ailsapress to serve as a publishing outlet in the Isle of Islay where I had recently retired. Islay had been a family basking ground from my earliest years. I know the island well and I imagined lots of books we could publish, especially as we have a busy tourist trade which, with the increasing number of Whisky Distilleries, is fast becoming a year-round trade rather than just seasonal.

Tell us about some of your key stories.

Back then, such was my ignorance that I did not realise that to become a publishing member of Publishing Scotland, one needed to have at least two authors other than yourself. Of course it makes perfect sense but talk about putting the cart before the horse! Anyway whilst I was waiting for my first ‘other’ authors, Ruth and I set about creating a young children’s series based on the adventures of two Islay ponies, Bramble and Coultoon. Then in 2011, Mary McGregor, a local Ileach who had been born and raised on Islay, approached me with some of her writing. I was delighted. She is a natural story-teller and her stories are about the crofting farm of her early years. Her writing is very fresh and apt for both our local community and our tourist visitors. 

My second ‘other’ author was Stuart Graham who wrote an account of Islay at the time of World War 1. So many Ileachs lost their lives in this war, their names are inscribed on the War Memorials but the detail of their lives is otherwise easily forgotten. Stuart took his title from a poem by Wilfred Owen, These Men are Worth Your Tears (2015). In 2016 we published Martine Nouet’s À Table: Whisky from Glass to Plate. Martine came to Islay as a whisky and drink journalist, malt whisky being one of the principle industries. She fell in love with the island decided to make her home here. There are so many places that remain wild and solitary on the island, and wherever you go, there will be some encounter to surprise you, a golden eagle, a double rainbow, or the sound of singing seals. 

In 2017, the Tom Thomson Gallery of Owen Sound suggested that Ruth and I do a book about the Canadian artist Tom Thomson and his dog. They had been selling our Bramble and Coultoon books and rightly envisaged that Tom and his dog would make a good story for younger readers. This came out in 2018 with the title Eulalie’s Journey to Algonquin with Tom Thomson. Our last two books are Mary McGregor’s The Seasons with Cindy and Lucy – Old Farming Ways on Islay published 2022, and Emily Carr and Raven – In the Darkness of Her Dreams by myself and Ruth MacLean published 2021.

What draws you to a story? What makes a good story? 

Since becoming a publishing member of Publishing Scotland, I have often been approached by budding authors and illustrators or sometimes by someone who wants a re-print of their book. I always answer such queries but so far nothing has tempted me. Partly this is because I wish to remain a publisher offering books that accord with Islay. As I am now in my early eighties, I would love to pass Ailsapress on to a younger person who has the same interest at heart. But there’s a funny twist: Ailsapress has found an outlet in Canada!

What’s next in the Ailsapress story?

In fact, right now at the time of writing, I am in Canada. Ruth and I are in the middle of a reading tour, mostly for our Emily Carr book but we’ve presented the Tom Thomson book in a couple of places too. Our book on Emily Carr is for the young adult reader and older. It tells the life story of Emily Carr (1871-1945) from an unusual angle which blends fact with fiction. She comes into this life as a lost tree soul and this determines her search to become “a real artist” to use her own words. It also accords with her love of trees. The story is very topical for present-day Canada. As well as her close relationship with the trees, Emily had a true empathy with the First Nations people. We have found audiences sympathetic and enthusiastic. We were especially happy with the response of teenage pupils in two Ontario High Schools and have already sold a class set to one school. It would be great to have our book come into its own as an educational tool. I should also mention that since her first collage interpretations of Ailsa her cat, Ruth’s collage work has become increasingly subtle. She is now using beautiful fibre papers from Japan – a treat to behold – and on this tour we have also done collage workshops. 

Learn more about Ailsapress at

Publisher spotlight: Swan & Horn

Across 2022, the Year of Stories, we are spotlighting Publishing Scotland members who will share their own story in their own words. Get to know Swan & Horn, who focus on educating and publishing on health-related topics, with recent expansions into publishing for children.

What’s your story?

Behind a modest wooden door of an old weavers’ cottage in a sleepy Ayrshire town, Maria Carter can be found seven days a week beavering away at her publishing business. There’s no sign over the door, no carpark filled with staff cars, no payroll software on the computer. Swan & Horn is too small for all that. Small though it is, it’s perfectly formed. This international healthcare publishing business is run solely by Maria, with occasional support from a team of reliable Scottish freelancers. Husband Hugh provides endless cups of tea, makes trips to the post office to fulfil orders and organises couriers and gives priceless support at events. It used to be much more of a family business, involving their two daughters too before they launched off into their own careers.

Maria is an unusual publisher because she loves creating the books herself, from cover to cover – a lover of words, ideas and learning, who never wanted to lose touch with ‘content’. She only outsources proofreading and the odd bit of typesetting when she’s completely overwhelmed. Her route to publishing was also different, starting of as a medical scientist in the 1980s, with a masters in eye disease research, until Taylor and Francis offered her a job she couldn’t refuse, and set her off on a lifelong career in STM publishing. That was back in the days of hot metal, when authors were still wined and dined by lifelong Editors, who were their only contact through the publishing process. Maria decided to take her editorial and writing skills home in the early 1990s, to the best office in the world – in a high tower on the shore of Loch Long. Work flowed in to this first company, Shoreline BioMedical, from the major academic publishers and increasing numbers of academics, researchers and health professionals across the world. Over time, she was invited to write chapters for multicontributor books, and her clients asked for more production and design services. So when one highly satisfied client asked her to publish their coursebooks on patient safety (the NHS, in this case) she jumped in with both feet and Swan & Horn was born.

Tell us about some of your key stories.

Today you will find Maria commissioning just a couple of really useful books each year – her schedule doesn’t allow for more. She is also writing and co-writing several health-related books, and has long-term contracts with the World Health Organization and the Economist Health Intelligence Unit. Occasionally she takes on new client projects, but only if the topics are irresistible, such as Benjamin Black’s Belly Woman and Mair Crouch’s Law & Genetics (note that Maria did not design the cover of the latter). The last couple of years have been madder than ever as the covid pandemic brought in a deluge of extremely important work relating to vaccinations, and also required Maria to manage the set-up of a publishing wing for a clinical-training provider in Turkey.

She still harbours a romantic vision of the publisher/editor–author relationship, so she has always engaged totally with her authors, discussing initial content and ongoing strategies over meals; staying close by their sides through the whole process ­– because she is also the editor, indexer, typesetter, designer, blurb writer, illustrator, metadata originator, marketing strategist and more. Authors flourish with this rich collaboration, of course, and they love that just one person works with them and every word they write, knowing them and their content inside out. For her part, Maria finds nothing more satisfying than taking the nugget of an idea or the rough draft of a book, polishing it, wrapping it up, sorting out its future, sending it out into the world, and taking it to the readers who need the information. It perhaps isn’t the best business model, but that isn’t the company’s aim or ethos.

Swan & Horn’s authors also love the fact that Maria tore up the publishing rule book long ago, allowing room for complete flexibility and creativity, not just in editorial terms (“If it’s needed, we can do it”), but also in terms of inventive promotion – pop-up shops and educational events, presence at international medical conferences, designing courses, getting books onto university curricula and exploring documentary televisation; then there’s the poetry readings by Irvine Welsh, live surgical demonstrations, performing dogs (after learning to walk again), storytelling videos and woodland treasure hunts for children’s books.

What draws you to a story? What makes a good story? 

Swan & Horn champions voices that have to be heard, and attempts to fill niche needs and gaping holes: not least the need for medics to try acupuncture for lost (patient) causes; the need to prevent millions of child deaths from malnutrition each year; the need to address institutional racism and mental health in schools; the need to help victims of war; the need to improve child mental health (and teacher mental health) through appropriate schooling, lifestyle and parenting(!); the need to prevent chronic back pain from extended sitting; the need to prevent errors in doctoring and operating; the need to address bullying in all its forms; the need to fight against prejudice and stigmatism and improve inclusivity!

Maria also tries to keep things local, not just the freelancers and printers she uses, but also her authorship. Most of her authors are Scots – such a learned bunch, comprising international opinion leaders, globally acclaimed academics and clinicians, professors, surgeons, educationalists and psychologists; several with OBEs for their services to healthcare. The talented authors and illustrators of her new range of children’s wellbeing books are homegrown too, inspired by Scottish landscapes and the need for children to engage with nature and develop resilience.

What stories should we look forward to or check out this year?

Shortly coming out is a book by a Dundee-based professor on the global nightmare that is infant-feeding policy and the inappropriateness of current breastfeeding advice, both of which contribute to the ridiculously high infant-mortality rate (millions a year), wasting, stunting and cognitive problems. Also based in Dundee is one of the authors of their forthcoming humanitarian surgery book, to be distributed by the David Nott Foundation. The other author is David Nott himself, author of bestselling memoir War Doctor. This is not mainstream content, but a how-to manual in stain-resistant loose-leaf binder format for surgeons to use in the field (literally) in active, resource-poor war zones, to make life-saving decisions that are simply not taught in medical schools. Other publishers turned down it down; “If it’s needed, we can do it.” There is no firm deadline for completion because of the unpredictability of the authors’ lives, having to shoot off at short notice to deliver training to surgeons in the furthest flung corners of the world, and notably Ukraine in the past year where they have already upskilled nearly three-hundred surgeons.

Maria is proud of her harder-hitting books (both published and planned) for the difference they can make to the world. Her ambitions simply relate to saving lives, and making life better for people whose lives aren’t so obviously threatened. One of her ambitions is for one of her titles to win the BMA Book Awards, like some of the other books she has worked on over the years. Her only regret is that she didn’t begin publishing a decade earlier.

Learn more about Swan & Horn at

Book recommendations: Travel Scotland from your home

As we enter the cold winter months, we might prefer to stay close to home, but that doesn’t mean we can’t travel Scotland via other means. One for the armchair travellers…

Little Explorers: Skara Brae (Push, Pull & Slide) by Louise Forshaw
Published by Floris & Historic Environment Scotland

In this bright, colourful board book, perfect for toddlers, you will discover the secrets of the Stone Age and travel back in time to see what life was like for the villagers of Skara Brae on Orkney. Using the tags and flaps, you can catch a fish for dinner, cook over an open fire, travel through tunnels to visit friends, raise a standing stone at Stenness, and even uncover the village thousands of years later!

St Kilda
The Unreliable Death of Lady Grange by Sue Lawrence
Published by Saraband

Based on a true story, Sue Lawrence writes a fascinating historical novel that tells of the scandalous story of Lady Grange. In 1732, Lord Grange kidnapped his wife, faked her death and kept her prisoner on the island of St Kilda. Set against the backdrop of Jacobite intrigue, this is a pageturning tale as addictive as any adventure novel!

The Hebrides
Marram: Memories of Sea and Spider-silk by Leonie Charlton
Published by Sandstone Press

Seven years after her mother’s death, Leonie Charlton is still gripped by memories of their fraught relationship. And so she decides to travel across the Hebrides in the company of a friend and their Highland ponies in search of peace, beauty and closure. In this memorable mix of travelogue and memoir, we appreciate the wild nature of the Hebridean islands.

The Cairngorms National Park
The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd
Published by Canongate

This hugely influential masterpiece, celebrating the Cairngorm mountain range, encourages us to pay attention to the landscape—its rivers, rocks and wild creatures—rather than conquer the mountain. Its beautiful, meditative prose has made it a classic of its genre.

The Highlands
Whirligig by Andrew James Greig
Published by Fledgling Press

Time now to acquaint yourselves with a new fictional detective. DI James Corstophine is a man still grieving for a wife lost to cancer in charge of a close-knit team of passed-over police in their quiet Highland town. When the body of a farmer is found hanging from a tree, he must did deep for a challenge he doesn’t know he’s ready to tackle. Whirligig is a tartan noir like no other; an expose of the corruption pervading a small, sleepy Highland community and the consequences of hidden secrets ready to reveal themselves.

Where Sky and Summit Meet: Flight Over Perthshire by Ken Bruce
Published by Tippermuir

Did you know that Errol in Perthshire was one of the first places in the world to witness powered, piloted flight? Or that later, the north of the county played its part in the development of the first powered military aircraft? Where Sky and Summit Meet is the story of flight in Perthshire, from the rickety prototypes of the early aeronautical pioneers to the high-tech marvels of the present day. A must-read for anyone interested in either Scottish or military history.

The God of All Small Boys by Joseph Lamb
Published by Cranachan

In this wonderful book for children, we’re whisked back to Dundee in 1917. We meet James, whose dad is sent to fight in the war and he is sent to live with his relatives. At first, James feels lost and alone: his cousin hates him, the school bully is after him, and he is worried about his father’s safety. Gradually, he finds a new world of friendship, freedom, fun, and The God of All Small Boys, in a summer that will change his life forever…

The Fife Pilgrim Way by Ian Bradley
Published by Birlinn

If you’ve yet to discover this marvellous walking route, author Ian Bradley brings to life the fascinating communities and the characters along the way in whose footsteps many pilgrims have gone before. Setting off with Celtic saints from North Queensferry, through the West Fife coalfields, continuing on with Covenanters to the haunted city of St Andrews, this gripping narrative presents a journey through Scottish history, ancient and modern, with spiritual reflections along the way.

66: The House that Viewed the World by John D. O. Fulton
Published by Scotland Street Press

The builder of the White House, the hero of Aboukir Bay, a murderer who inspired Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a decadent society hostess, what do they all have in common? 66 Queen Street, a townhouse in Edinburgh’s New Town. Telling the story of people and events associated with the house for over 200 years, from lives empowered by the Scottish Enlightenment to at the heart of banking and culture, the diverse characters found in this part of Scotland’s capital city range from heroes to villains, and from people of conscience to subjects of tabloid scandal.

Tribes of Glasgow by Stephen Millar & Alan McCredie
Published by Luath Press

Stephan Millar and Alan McCredie took to the streets of Scotland s largest city to depict the multitude of groups, both old and modern, that make up its population. From cowboys to cosplayers, barras traders to bikers, and gunslingers to goths – these are the Tribes of Glasgow. Meeting with members of a remarkable variety of clubs and sub-cultures, this guide is modern social history and its best and brightest.

Dumfries & Galloway
Big Bill the Beltie Bull by Shalla Gray
Published by Curly Tale

A lovely picture book, with a gentle rhyming story, set in the beautiful countryside of Galloway, South-West Scotland, starring one of the area’s most iconic creatures – the Beltie Bull! Big Bill is BIG Beltie Bull and all he wants to do is EAT. But his farmer has other ideas. . .

Be part of the Year of Stories with #TalesOfScotland and #YS2022.

Charity spotlight: Scottish Book Trust

Across 2022, the Year of Stories, we are spotlighting Publishing Scotland members, who will share their own story in their own words. Get to know the Scottish Book Trust, who deliver a number of programmes across Scotland, including BookBug and their New Writers Awards, to inspire and empower readers and writers at all ages and stages.

What’s your story?

Scottish Book Trust has been bringing the benefits of reading and writing to everyone in Scotland since 1998. Every year, we deliver our world-class programmes and annual awards to well over two million people. From introducing books and storytelling to pre-school children to inspiring and empowering adult readers and writers, we believe it’s never too early – or too late – to begin a magical journey with words.

We deliver our programmes in every local authority area in Scotland and we work with partners ranging from small community groups to the Scottish Government. You’ll find us in schools and libraries and at community events. You’ll find us in towns and cities and in isolated, rural communities. And you’ll find us bringing books to life for children in care, families living in challenging circumstances and people in prison. In short, you’ll find us wherever we’re needed most.

Tell us about some of your key stories

Every year, a select group of unpublished writers are accepted on to our New Writers Award programme, which gives them a cash bursary as well as a year of mentorship and a chance to share their work with agents and publishers. We publish samples of their work in a collection called New Writing each year, with previous volumes including writing by Gail Honeyman, Graeme Macrae Burnet, Kirsty Logan, Nadine Aisha Jassat, Kirstin Innes and Helen Sedgwick.

As part of Book Week Scotland’s annual celebrations, we publish a book which gathers real-life stories from people across Scotland on that year’s theme. We received hundreds of entries this year through our Your Stories project, and 25 were selected to feature in the published book – but all the entries are available to read on our website.

This year’s book, Scotland’s Stories, as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories, will be available to collect for free from libraries and other community spaces across the country during Book Week Scotland (14–20 November), and ebook and audio formats are available online. The books also feature commissioned stories from published writers, and this year’s includes pieces by Angus Peter Campbell, Raman Mundair, Graeme Armstrong and Helen Fields.

What draws you to a story? What makes a good story?

We always want to hear stories from across Scotland, from people from all walks of life. We love exciting storytelling in all its formats, and work hard to make sure we amplify the voices of those who are often under-represented in publishing. The New Writers Award selection panels change each year, calling on the expertise of brilliant writers to help us find brilliant voices. The award also offers an access fund to help support awardees with additional barriers, for example covering childcare costs or buying assistive technology.

We apply a similar ethos to Your Stories and the Book Week Scotland book – we encourage people across Scotland to share their stories, from those who write regularly to those who haven’t written before. We believe every person has a story to tell and that telling that story is powerful. Every year we use a different theme to help people write about their lives, their way, and we share those stories far and wide.

What stories should we look forward to or check out this year?

Scotland’s Stories will be out and about across Scotland during Book Week Scotland on 14–20 November – you can find copies at libraries and other community spaces, and digital and audio versions are available on our website.

Volume 14 of New Writing will be released in January 2023, featuring writing from the 2022–23 cohort of New Writers Awardees, which will be available to read digitally on our website. New Writers Awardees from previous years have recently published books or have books coming up: the Booker-longlisted Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet, The Pharmacist by Rachelle Atalla, Ace Voices by Eris Young (December 2022), Now She is Witch by Kirsty Logan (January 2023) and Weak Teeth by Lynsey May (July 2023).

Learn more about the Scottish Book Trust at @ScottishBkTrust

Publisher spotlight: Arkbound

Across 2022, the Year of Stories, we are spotlighting Publishing Scotland members, who will share their own story in their own words. Get to know Arkbound, the literature and media social enterprise that publishes books whilst seeking to improve social inclusion, environmental awareness and diversity.

What’s your story?

Arkbound was founded with the support of the Princes’ Trust in 2015, and later was registered as a charity in 2017. Our focus from the beginning has been empowering people from the most disadvantaged and under-represented backgrounds to have their voices heard through writing. In particular, work that covers some important environmental or social theme. For us, it has always been about recognising the power of writing for  both writers’ own wellbeing and the wider readership, in terms of raising awareness of pressing issues and dispelling stereotypes or discrimination. 

Being a small charity and publisher has of course been fraught with challenges, somewhat reminiscent of the same obstacles that those we work with often face: lack of finance, limited resources, stretched capacity, and so on. But we have gone on to deliver a series of activities, supporting over 35 disadvantaged authors, and are also proud of our ongoing focus on the environment, with tree planting initiatives (2000 oak saplings planted so far since 2019) and publications that cover various aspects of climate change. In 2021 we became the UK’s only accredited organisation in the literature sector by the United Nations Environmental Programme; we’ve also received diverse support from a variety of bodies, including Big Issue, Creative Scotland, Resonance, and the Council of Europe. Through this support, we have managed to develop new initiatives, such as Crowdbound – a new crowdfunding platform for books and projects that has successfully funded over 5 campaigns since being launched in July this year. Our imprint, Palavro, also enables the distribution of books in Europe – which formerly was a challenge to us due to the import fees caused as a result of Brexit.

Tell us about some of your key stories. 

We have published a diverse range of titles that generally share the same theme of being by a disadvantaged or under-represented author, who is writing about an important social or environmental theme. These include fiction and non-fiction. Some books, such as David Onamade’s ‘Sorrow, Tears and Blood’, cover what it is like to experience street homelessness (David’s book was shortlisted for the Kavya Prize in Glasgow earlier this year). Other books explore the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities and how people can adapt using nature-based solutions, such as ‘Great Adaptations’ by Dr Morgan Phillips (recently to be translated in Japan). We are also proud of supporting groups who would otherwise face great challenges in accessing publishing: for example, Lauren Smith’s ‘Tick Tock: It’s Time to Listen’ showcases what it’s like for a teenager with autism in the education system, whilst our anthology of ‘Writing Within Walls’ was the result of a national writing competition for serving prisoners to convey what gave them hope. On another level, our fiction list has included titles like ‘Lullaby in the Desert’ by Mojgan Azar, who uses her own experience to tell the story of a woman journeying through the Middle East to find freedom.

What draws you to a story? What makes a good story? 

We love stories by those with lived experience of disadvantage or who have been under-represented in publishing. They can convey powerful and unique perspectives that would otherwise go unheard, and can play a crucial role in informing the wider public on issues that they might not have prior full understanding of, or been deliberately misinformed of by some press outlets. There is no greater power in literature than when a widespread perception is turned on its head, revealing an entirely new dimension to society and sometimes to reality itself. This can be done both through fiction and non-fiction, as shown by some of the greatest literary works across history – still read hundreds and even thousands of years after they’ve been written. Of course, finding such a title is always a publisher’s dream, and ultimately only time determines which ones these turn out to be.

What stories should we look forward to or check out this year? 

Our next title, ‘Prickelus Gets Caught’, is the heart-warming story of a hedgehog that reminds readers of the importance of tenacity and the kindness of humans who are willing to help. An illustrated children’s book, it combines the elements of a thrilling adventure, alongside puzzles, autumn crafts and tasty recipes – all written by an author experiencing a significant disability. In 2023, we also welcome ‘Beggar Bee Nameless’ – another fiction title that follows the work of a Deceased Affairs Officer who is investigating cases of the ‘Nameless’, people who have died but are unidentified. It is a battle against the odds – an interweaving tale of grief, hope and redemption – and we hope readers will love it!

Learn more about Arkbound at @arkbounduk and