When I follow the thread backwards, I can’t quite find where it begins.
Last year, I somehow came across a book called Tiny Moons, a food memoir by an author called Nina Mingya Powles.
On her Instagram, Nina was offering to send signed copies out to people. It sounded like the kind of thing my friends would love for Christmas (the February before the first lockdown, the three of us spent a long weekend eating our way through London).
I also ordered a copy for myself. It arrived, the cover bright, the illustrations and words inside taking me elsewhere. I read Tiny Moons during the the long winter lockdown, in the middle of a Scottish January, and the small book warmed me. That was how I discovered its publisher, The Emma Press.
Months later, the nights were light again. It was almost summer. A newsletter came into my inbox. An open call for essay collections that would follow Tiny Moons.
I took my copy of Nina’s book from the windowsill and opened it again. The pages were starting to take on that faint smell of a loved volume. I thought about what I’d shared before — here, in a few magazines, and on Instagram. And then I began to write my first book proposal.
Now the seasons have shifted again. Today it is the autumn equinox and the shortlist has been published. Here is what The Emma Press said about my proposal, for an essay collection I’ve called Place Notes:
The next step? I have to submit the bulk of the manuscript by the end of November. The thought of it is terrifying actually — it is about three dissertations’ worth, a wall of writing to scale with my keyboard-weakened arms, all in front of me.
At the same time as the challenge ahead (and the shock of being shortlisted, which I still haven’t got over) I am happy, amazed, grateful. The last year and a half has been long and difficult. Things have changed, people have gone, and in many ways I feel like my life is still paused.
Something like this lifts and boosts. It is a reminder that, even when anxiety seems to be winning, it can’t erase everything.
Over the next few months, as we move into deep autumn, I will be writing the manuscript for Place Notes. Each essay in it will take a familiar feature of the Scottish landscape and refract it through nature writing, memories, local histories, mental health, love, loss and the Scots language.
Find out more about The Emma Press essay collection shortlist — the other proposals sound brilliant, I can’t believe my name is there too!
Meanwhile, you can also find my work in the latest issue of Hidden Scotland magazine. I had the pleasure of interviewing jeweller Róis Clark about her process and inspiration. I titled the article The Spirit of Scotland’s Seas.
Hearing about Róis and her story, her conviction to create for good, was inspiring. If you read it, I hope you think so too.