When Ed and I visited Scotland, we took a side trip from the incredible golf courses and journeyed to Wigtown in the far southwest corner of the country. Wigtown is Scotland’s National Book Town. Our adventures in Wigtown involved hours rummaging through used book stores in search of golf books for Ed, material for Katie’s English lit thesis and folktales for me. I did find a surprise – a Happy Hollisters book just like the ones I received when I was a member of the Book of the Month club as a child.
I always do my homework before I travel and look for any story ideas as I peruse through travel books. Just a mile down the road from Wigtown is the village where a Scottish folktale, the Brownie of Bladnoch, takes place. The Brownie of Bladnoch originated as a poem written by William Nicholdson in 1825 and is considered to be “the greatest piece of vernacular literature that Galloway has ever produced.” Too bad no one that I spoke to remembered the story unless they recently visited the Bladnoch distillery where a diorama featuring the grotesque brownie enlightens scotch drinkers. Too much scotch and they wouldn’t remember it for long!
So I hit the trail in search of material to help me in retelling this folktale. I scoured books in the St. Andrews library and learned that the hump-backed, toe-less brownie of Bladnoch may actually have suffered from leprosy which explains his unsightly looks. Not suitable information for kids but I found it interesting. I toured the Fife Folk Museum in Ceres. There I discovered that bannock or oat pancake is cooked on a girdle – not a griddle and that belted cows sleep in a byre. Scottish culture is filled with fairy folk including helpful little brownies and the Brownie Girl Scouts are named after them.
I think this is a great story for kids and that’s where the problem lies. I’m a writer of nonfiction and the concept of story arcs, character development and dialogue are foreign to me. But I’m not giving up. I’ve written and rewritten, had it critiqued and rewrote it again. So now it’s just the hunt of finding the right publisher. And my visit to the American Library Association conference may have uncovered the one. I’ll keep you posted.
A trip into Edinburgh meant a visit to museums including the Writer’s Museum. I also stumbled upon an interesting exhibit on children at work. Imagine being hired as a bird scarer! All the images, sounds, information, smells, and tastes (yes, I did drink scotch and tasted a morsel of haggis but couldn’t wrap my mind around eating something containing sheep’s pluck!) are tucked away for that future story, magazine article or book. That’s the fun of being a writer – I’m always looking for story!