Blog Tour – Scottish by Inclination

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I am very excited to be hosting Barbra Henderson, author of Scottish by Inclination for the final day of this blog tour! The book is published by Luath Press and available now. I have read some of Barbra’s children’s books in the past but this adult non-fiction is different. It takes on the form of a memoir while also looking at what living in Scotland means to EU immigrants. I am not usually one for non-fiction, however I read this book in two sittings! Barbara’s writing was so easy to read, it felt like sitting talking to a friend!

Synopsis from Luath Press:

‘Gradually I forgot I was a foreigner.’

Barbara Henderson has been Scottish by inclination for 30 years. She fell in love with Scotland and its people when she left Germany at the age of 19. Now a children’s author, storyteller and teacher in the Highlands, she gives us a lively glimpse of Scotland through the eyes of an EU immigrant – from her first ceilidh to Brexit and the choppy seas of citizenship.

Scottish by Inclination also celebrates the varied contributions of 30 remarkable Europeans – beer brewers, entrepreneurs, academics, artists and activists – who have chosen to call Scotland home.

‘All voices matter and deserve to belong.

Belonging is more than a privilege.

Belonging, I am now convinced, can be a choice.’

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Barbra’s thoughts on Finding Interviewees

Scottish by Inclination. Activists, academics, artists, radiologists and removal men. A chapter-by-chapter collection of interesting stories of EU nationals who have made their homes here and are helping to shape what Scotland is today.

So said my Twitter account to the XPO North Tweet pitch in January 2020. I had already pitched a handful of unpublished fiction manuscripts. This was my first and only attempt at adult non-fiction – no more than an idea really. And yet, this was the tweet that garnered attention. A publisher got in touch. Then another. Gosh, I’d better make a start and flesh out this idea a bit more, I thought to myself. Then the pandemic hit, and everything was up in the air again.

Thankfully, Luath Press were still interested to proceed with the project. ‘First of all, Barbara, I think you should apply for funding for this book,’ suggested Gavin MacDougall. ‘Secondly, I think you should not only make it a collection of people’s stories – that’s the sort of thing folks can already find in a Sunday newspaper. How about writing your own story, sort of as a framework?’

‘Memoir? Me? Absolutely not!’ I didn’t even hesitate. I walked away.

And yet, the more I let the thought stew, the more ideas surfaced. I sat down with my huge notebook and brainstormed topics and memories about my story with Scotland. Heartened by pages and pages of scrawls, I attempted a sample chapter and sent it to Luath Press. Like this?

Yes, like this, they answered.

I applied for funding and began to write in earnest. But now I had to find my interviewees, all thirty of them! I was determined to write about someone from every single EU27 member state. Social media was my starting point. I asked for suggestions, and Twitter contacts and Facebook friends provided me with many, particularly Professor David Worthington of UHI Centre for History and my fellow writer Jenny Robertson, both exceedingly well connected internationally. I began to approach the first interviewees.

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Some of the 30 interviewee’s!

Our family knew of a handful of people, and some simply sprang to mind because they were famous. Academics and artists were also relatively easy to find. However, I needed breadth. First, I turned to the Talent Scotland website where many internationals working in Scotland were profiled. I also began to search on LinkedIn for countries for which I had no contacts yet, for example: ‘Malta-born, Scotland’ – and it would invariable churn out a list of people I could then research.

Some came to my attention merely through hearsay. My husband mentioned a GP on the North Coast he knew fleetingly through work. ‘He’s quite a character’ he grinned – which was enough to make me determined to have Dr Andreas Herfurt on board. A quick internet search revealed that this man was not only a GP, but also a biker – and he built his own guitars. Memorable, individual, interesting. I gave the practice a call.

I struck absolute gold while (a little desperately) looking for someone from Luxembourg – there are so many Germans and Italians living in Scotland, but the smaller nations are harder to find. I unearthed an award-winning artist and film maker who also had German and Belgian nationality. Not only that: he was a wonderful interviewee with really interesting stories to tell – triple bingo!

I had a harder time with Estonia – my initial contact had fallen through, and I was beginning to cut it fine for time. By sheer fluke, I discovered the Estonian born artist and sculptor Benno Schotz and decided to feature him posthumously in the book – as Head of Sculpture at the prestigious Glasgow School of Art, he had made such a significant contribution to Scotland.

Which left Cyprus. Try as I might, I just could not find a Cypriot for my collection. I tweeted desperate pleas: Anyone know a Cyprus-born Scot? Please? Back to LinkedIn. ‘Cypriot-born, Scotland’ I typed. The one which caught my attention was a school librarian. Yes, that was surely a valuable contribution to make. I messaged him to ask. And wow, what a guy! Not only had he worked in university and school libraries in Scotland – no, he had coached a couple of our national teams in Volleyball. Yes, the NATIONAL teams for Scotland! I had truly landed on my feet, and he has been one of the most enthusiastic backers of the project.

There were setbacks – a Bulgarian writer I really admire declined to take part due to other writing commitments. Another wanted a fee for talking to me for 20 minutes and I simply didn’t have the budget – if I paid her, I’d absolutely have to pay the others too, I felt. But the setbacks were few and far between. My overwhelming sense as I emerge from writing Scottish by Inclination is one of gratefulness. These people trusted me with their stories.

I can only hope that I have done them justice.

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Barbara at Falcon Square in Inverness

Buy or read a sample of Scottish by Inclination here:

Check out the other blogs taking part!

Thank you so much to Barbara and Luath Press for letting me be part of this tour!