This Exisle Academy competition generated many entries, and not just from the U.K. but from around the globe.
Mist, whisky, heather, and wild weather populated many of our entries. So did relatives both ancient and current, and their memories and artefacts often brought our writer’s home. One writer’s mother had Scotland wound into her senses. For another, simply saying that she was from Scotland made her ‘glow with pride.’ For others, Scotland sits in their minds like a landscape picture defining both presence and distance - more of an idea than a country.
The sense of an elusive homeland pervaded many stories and being ‘called home’ was a popular theme. One entry had found Scotland to be a place just in a calendar, while another described Scotland as their home without an address. One wrote that she describes herself as English by birth and Scottish in heart. For many Scotland is a place for lovers, the place parents had eloped to.
Entries included stories of Scottish fighters and heroes in our writers' bloodlines, recounting the tragedies of their defeats at the hands of the English.
We read plenty about beer, football, and highland dancing (including a marvellous entry from Canada which had the writer dancing her fling in a Scottish pub, hugely impressing the locals). One writer produced an entire article using the phonetic version of a Scottish accent, and several other writers also used this technique, though sparingly.
Most of all, our entries found the diaspora of the Scottish people - brought about by Highland Clearances and other English abominations laid - the basis of what Scotland meant to them. Scotland, as one competition writer says, calls all her children home with its bittersweet memories of mist-adorned beauty, heather hills, and music.
Our pick for the winner was "Orphans of the Clyde" by Bill Morris, and our other two top picks were "What Scotland Means to Me" by Jane Va’afusuaga (nee Davitt) and "Belonging" by Gillian Breckell.
Gareth St John Thomas is CEO at Exisle Publishing and EK Books, and a Senior Mentor on the "Become a Successful Published Author" mentorship program.