Ninth up is Donna Scott.
What made you want to become a writer?
I can remember being very small and just wanting to be a reader, and I think becoming a writer felt like a natural extension of that.
At school in the
Country, my first teacher, Mrs Taylor, was brilliant at praise and
encouragement, so I learned to read very quickly. She was also a fantastic
storyteller, so she made story-time absolutely magical for us. The first story
I can remember writing was a piece of Elmer the Elephant fan-fiction, just for
her. I had loved the story we heard at story-time so much, I wanted to write my
own, and so the next day I was allowed to sit on my own at a table and write it
while the rest of the class were seated on the mat listening to that day’s
story. That’s also my first multi-tasking memory as well, as I couldn’t help
sneaking a listen at the other story while I was trying to concentrate on my
own. Story of my life! I am so busy these days with my editorial work –
on other people’s writing – that my own work tends to take a bit of a back
seat. If only I had the same energy I did when I was five, though – that Elmer
story ran to three whole pages!
I was very lucky to have some lovely teachers early on who encouraged my love of books. My big sister – who is twelve years older than me – finished school at sixteen and was done with her school texts, so off they went into a box in the garage, from where they were going to be thrown away. So, aged five and thinking myself a competent enough reader, I would sneak in there and try to get my “big book” fix.
intrigued me with its cracked-painting cover, but the words were much too hard
to follow. However I can remember picking up the collection of Robert Browning
poems and liking the “one about the dragon”. I think that must have been
“Childe Roland”… I’d probably skipped over the “obstreperous joy” bit. Wuthering Heights
When my mom found me sneaking in the garage to read those dusty old school-texts, I think she had a bit of a guilt trip: there weren’t very many books at home when I was little. So, my mom got me and my younger siblings library cards and we’d pay a trip to the library every Saturday. Books then became a shared joy, and my mom would also take the opportunity to indulge herself in a bit of Barbara Taylor Bradford or Catherine Cookson.
The first I realised that I could make a career of writing was when I was seven. Another teacher, Mrs Wakefield, put me and my older friend Joanne forward to go and meet a local writer, Susan Price, who was giving a talk at Himley Hall. I can remember being absolutely fascinated by her. She told four stories based on folk tales, and the one I remember most clearly is the one I have never found since: the story of a bride and groom who are tricked and must leave their own bodies to save each other. When they go back to their bodies, they must pour a little of their blood into their shoes, but they get mixed up and end up in the wrong bodies… but they find it does not matter. If anyone knows it, please let me know!
I got a lot of encouragement from all quarters, including my next door neighbours, one of whom was a programmer for Spectrum, and he gave me reams of old code printout bound into books to write my stories in.
Now, I hope to encourage the next generation… I like giving books as presents to my nephews and great-niece (yes, I’m too young), and last year I gave the first Young Bard of Northampton, Ruby, a bound book for writing her poems in. I was so pleased to see her on stage at this year’s Bardic Picnic with it!
What was your first success?
I probably shouldn’t talk further about juvenilia, but the space shuttle hologram I won when I was eight from a Channel 4 competition – for writing about holograms – gave me a huge boost. I even took it to university for my bedsit wall (“Look! I could write… once…”) – even though, by then, the shuttle had started resembling a luminous bogie. As had my standard of writing.
Ashamed as I am to admit it, I tried on all the cool fantasy careers as a youngster (music journalist; singer, radio presenter; cartoonist) and like many people do, got afraid to try my luck with anything I was not instantly successful at, so it was not until I found encouragement from Wolverhampton’s then Literature Officer, Simon Fletcher, that I bothered trying to be a better writer and get my stuff ‘out there’. He’s a wonderful poet who really made me think about the quality of what I was writing and persuaded me to try poetry again. And I’m very glad I did.
He also encouraged me to develop my prose and to submit one of the pieces I wrote for his City Voices event, “Gingerbread”, to a short story competition running at the Midlands Art Centre, judged by My Summer of Love author, Helen Cross.… and I won! My parents came to see me at the event for it and they were so proud.
Poetry-wise, my first big success was being named as the very first Bard of Northampton, which was amazing! I’d only done one slam before, at which I’d misunderstood all the form and rules and everything and got flustered and forgotten my words, but this was a bit different, with an emphasis on creativity, community and heart. The Bard must live within a day’s walk of Delapre Abbey, where the contest is held, and this is important because they must pledge to work with the local community. I will always have a special place in my heart for the folks behind the Bardic Chair, because they do so much to make poetry and spoken word accessible and fun for all. It’s a fantastic event in a beautiful place, too.
What do you think the group does for you?
First of all, I am inspired by them. It meant so much to be accepted into the group – I’d been a fan of Ian Watson’s stories since I was fourteen! And it’s been amazing to see how each individual member has benefited and improved their work as part of the process of critique – and gone on to publishing success. I can remember saying years ago to Ian Whates at a party (over my nth glass of wine…) that he was fast becoming one of my biggest inspirations because of how prolific a writer he was becoming. And since then, he has achieved even more success! It all goes to show, talent plus hard work, plus a desire to improve on your faults – plus actually doing the work and sending it off – that’s what gets results.
Secondly, as I have probably already demonstrated, I need both the brickbats and the bouquets. I need to know when my writing is sloppy. But I also need encouraging words, the “you can do eet”! A good writing group can give you that, because it’s made of friends who want the same in return.
What was your last piece of work?
My last published story was “Hands” in Daughters of Icarus by Pink Narcissus Press. I thank Ian Watson for encouraging me to get this submitted.
What's coming up from you?
I’m currently working on some short stories and two novels… yes, I’m all over the shop, but I get easily distracted. I should have some narration work in the offing shortly, and though my performing work has recently been reduced to fit in more editorial work, I do have the odd gig planned in. The only one I can definitely tell you about is a cabaret show at The Labour Club on November 28th, and look out for me being a bit harsh about some local musicians on Unseenn’s Bedge Review show in the next couple of weeks.
On the web: www.donna-scott.co.uk
I am also Chair of the British Science Fiction Association – www.bsfa.co.uk