Friday Reads: 44 Scotland Street, a Scottish Delight!

Friday Reads: 44 Scotland Street, a Scottish Delight!

posted in: Books, British, Entertainment | 2 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

I discovered the 44 Scotland Street series while listening to Confessions of A Serial Novelist by Alexander McCall Smith, an obscure audio offering in the OneClickdigital App. I downloaded it because I had read The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency some years earlier and was curious to hear what nuggets of wisdom such a successful author as McCall Smith might have to share.

The recording turned out to be a one hour lecture given in New York City in 2006 and featured more humor than substantive advice on how to succeed as a novelist. (Although, perhaps that is a good lesson in itself. Perhaps humor is the secret to success as a novelist?) The highlight of the lecture came at the end: an excerpt from the second 44 Scotland Street novel: Espresso Tales.

44 Scotland Street takes place in Edinburgh. Pictured above is <a href="http://www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/" target="_blank">Edinburgh Castle</a>, one of many Edinburgh landmarks mentioned in the series.
44 Scotland Street takes place in Edinburgh. Pictured above is Edinburgh Castle, one of many Edinburgh landmarks mentioned in the series.

The passage was about a six-year-old boy named Bertie whose mother forces him to learn Italian and play tenor saxophone. This was interesting. I immediately checked the app for the 44 Scotland Street audiobook and downloaded it. While the passage McCall Smith read focused on Bertie, the series features a much larger cast of characters, some of whom are listed here on his website.

The first book of the series focuses primarily on the residents of the building the book is named after. (While Scotland Street is a real street in Edinburgh, there is no number 44.) There is Pat, a young girl of 20 on her 2nd gap year, working as a receptionist at an art gallery. Pat’s flatmate is Bruce, a rugby shirt-wearing narcissist with a passion for hair gel who works as a surveyor (real estate appraiser in the US). Across the hall is Domenica: world-wise anthropologist, widow, advisor to Pat, and friend to Angus. Angus lives on a neighboring street: a 50-something portrait painter and companion to Cyril, a beer and coffee-drinking dog with a gold tooth.

There’s also Matthew, the somewhat dejected owner of the art gallery Pat works at, who often enjoys long coffee breaks at Big Lou’s. Before Big Lou purchased Big Lou’s, it had been a bookshop. After the purchase, Lou moved all the remaining book inventory to her residence. She reads them whenever she is not running her coffee bar, giving rise to thoughtful and occasionally spirited philosophical discussions over coffee with customers.


With all the characters and funny storylines, I am reminded of Julian Fellowes and Downton Abbey. The books are fun to binge on, another thing in common with Downton Abbey! I discovered the series in August, four months ago, and I am already on the fourth book of the series: The World According to Bertie.

I have plenty more to say about the books, their author, and the narrator of the audiobooks, Robert Ian Mackenzie, but I will save it for a later post. For now, I will leave you with this interview with Alexander McCall Smith that I discovered from The Guardian. In it, he discusses the 44 Scotland Street series in his usual light-hearted and modest style. Happy Friday!

Share this!
How to Discover Inspiration from the Dictionary

How to Discover Inspiration from the Dictionary

posted in: Indie Publishing, Our Work, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

Feeling bored with the writing you have been creating? You know you have brilliant ideas and can spin a good yarn, but maybe you just need a little boost of creativity, a little zesty zing. If so, today’s post will help reinvigorate your writing.

Step 1: Get a physical copy of a dictionary.

An online dictionary does not have that all important tangible quality. Large or small. Hardback or paperback. Writing is so wispy and ethereal. A physical copy of a dictionary with help bring some earthy weight to this airy craft.

Step 2: Thumb casually through the pages.

Flip, shuffle, and peruse, getting a feel for the weighty book. Relax the mind in a semi-meditative state, not worrying about where you are in the alphabet. Just relax.

How to Discover Inspiration in the Dictionary. It's like using a Ouija Board.

Step 3: Pick a word.

With dictionary in hand, hold with the intention of finding a good word for your story. Follow your intuition toward a page that feels right, then the section of the page that feels right. This can be a bit like using a ouija board. You can close your eyes, look away, or look right at the page as you land on a word.

Step 4: Deliberate.

Like it? Write it down and use it immediately or save it for later. Don’t like it? Look around the page for some other word. Still don’t see a good word? Start at Step 2 and begin again. How do I know if I like it or not? You feel connected to the word, excited and inspired. If you don’t feel these things then, start the process again.

We like to find at least 5 words in a dictionary session. Here’s an example of five fun words plucked from the dictionary using this technique:

1. Relish
2. Smudge
3. Iron Lung
4. Bucolic
5. Damask

Step 5: Enjoy the process!

Writers are among the most insecure people in the world. We can get so down ourselves before our stories ever even see the light of day. Writing should be fun and this process will help with that. Every writer grows as he or she writes more and more, developing a style that may sometimes feel redundant or repetitive as we try to express the story within us. Have patience with yourself. Writing is all about playing the long game. Remember what Gore Vidal said:

Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head. Shakespeare has perhaps 20 players. ... I have 10 or so, and thats a lot. As you get older, you become more skillful at casting them. - Gore Vidal

 

Please share this post!

How to Discover Inspiration in the Dictionary

Share this!