I always like to try something a little bit different for Book Week Scotland and tonight I headed off to our local library, William Patrick Library in Kirkintilloch, for Sara Sheridan’s “Where are the Women event”
The library has put on a cracking display for the event and as part of Book Week Scotland. I even managed to pick up a couple of the Blether anthologies, produced by The Scottish Book Trust.
Sara was here to talk about the stories and the significance of notable women throughout history. In her book, “Where are the Women”, she gives us a reimagined Scotland where the lives of women are given equal status to that of men.
Sara spoke about her background to her writing, describing herself as a weird kid who was obsessed with stories as a child. She visited her library daily and said for the whole of her childhood she was essentially Matilda.
Her love of history came from her dad who fed her love of storytelling through the tales of ownership of the many historical artefacts he would bring home with him. She became fascinated by the past and indeed the part that women played in it.
When researching she was surprised to find very little information about women and their role in archives, many of the librarians and archivists from the past were men and as such didn’t tend to archive female artefacts, dismissing them as unimportant perhaps.
In 2016, Sara was asked to write a short story for the Bloody Scotland anthology, where again, she found in all the major historical sites across the country women’s stories and their achievements were missing. She was then offered the opportunity to tell those stories through a project spanning the whole of the country; she knew this was an opportunity she could not turn down and so “Where are the Women” was born.
Sara enthralled the audience with fascinating snippets of information detailing the bravery and strength of Scotland’s women, from Lady Maxwell who orchestrated the jail break of her husband from the Tower of London to talking about how we shove aside women’s stories and memories: Robert Louis Stevenson’s cousin was Dorothy Stevenson who wrote and sold more books that he did…a fact that very few people are aware of.
Her book details amazing stories of over 1000 Scottish women from the medieval ages until modern day history. These women were strong, rabble raisers, fighters. For her history became more than a series of dates but became more the interplay of relationships between the generations and how women influenced each other throughout each generation.
She spoke of the campaign to change the landscape of our towns and cities, to see monuments of women taking pride of place alongside the men; of celebrating our culture and our strengths, of ensuring our children and their children are brought up knowing the very important part that women have played across the years and continue to do so.
It was a thought provoking and inspiring evening. The next time you are walking through your nearest city or town, check out just how many women are looking back at you from their statues on our streets. You may be surprised!
Find out about the events in your area for Book Week Scotland by going to their website
Sara can be found on Twitter at @sarasheridan
Her website is here
Sara Sheridan is an Edinburgh-based novelist who writes cosy crime noir mysteries set in 1950s Brighton and historical novels based on the real-life stories of late Georgian and early Victorian explorers. She has also written for children – her picture book I’m Me has appeared on CBeebies three times – and occasionally takes on commercial non-fiction project including, in 2017, writing the companion guide to the ITV series, Victoria.
She takes a broad approach to research from the archive to the vintage shop. Sara is also an active campaigner and feminist. She is a twitter evangelist and a self-confessed swot (that’s a nerd if you’re from the US).
Sara believes writers need writers and has sat on a variety of committees in writing organisations as well as taking part in a plethora of writing exhibitions. She occasionally mentors fledgling writers for the Scottish Book Trust and appears regularly as an after-dinner speaker at corporate events.
In 2016, with her daughter, she founded the brand REEK. perfume with signature scent – Damn Rebel Bitches, which has been called ‘the first feminist fragrance.’ The company’s second scent WITCHES was a top pick of beauty editors at both Stylist and Elle Magazine.
Sara has been named one of the Saltire Society’s 365 most influential Scottish women, past and present. Sara is also patron of registered Edinburgh charity Its Good 2 Give, which provides support for critically ill children and their families.