A couple of weeks ago marked my two year anniversary with WordPress. There has been much to celebrate along the way, including my new look website launched in November; a feature on discover.wordpress.com earlier in the year which generated 1,000 hits in a week; a couple of magazine features emerging from my blog; and, most importantly, my improved writing style. Now, thanks to Dan Mclaughlan at Stray Dog Strut, I have something else to celebrate – my first blogging award!
The Liebster Award dates from 2011 and aims to provide support within the WordPress community, particularly for new or less well known sites, as it is awarded by bloggers to their peers. Receiving the award isn’t the end of the story. Here are the rules that accompany the nomination, should the nominee choose to accept it:
I gladly accept Dan’s nomination and shall get started without further ado! By the way, if you haven’t previously visited Dan’s blog, Stray Dogs Strut, I recommend you check out his essays, poems, screenplays, short stories, reviews, drawings, animations, travel tips and grueling fundraising challenges.
Dan posed eleven insightful questions for me to answer. So, here goes…
On Blogging / Writing
Why did you start blogging/writing?
I had a bit of a meltdown when I moved to the Highlands in 2013. I felt that, at the age of 27, I’d achieved a major life goal and, bizarrely, instead of feeling happy about it, I kept wondering what direction to head in next, now that I was no longer working towards this ambition. After a few months of feeling sorry for myself, I gave myself a good talking to, set myself some new challenges, embraced the ‘Bucket List’ concept and tried to find the motivation to get out and about with my camera again. As I explained in one of my first posts, ‘Adventures – Large and Small’, the film ‘Julie and Julia’ gave me the final impetus I needed to start blogging. This movie tells the true story of two cooks-come-writers. The American icon Julia Child rose to fame after studying at the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris in the late 1940s. She initially struggled to get published but eventually her books became bestsellers and Julia herself became the States’ first ‘celebrity chef’. In the early 2000s, New Yorker Julie Powell, uninspired by her day job, decided to embrace her passion for food by cooking her way through Julia Child’s tome ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ in the space of a year, blogging about the experience along the way. Julie Powell started off with only one reader – her mother – but her blog eventually became an online hit, then a book and, finally, one of my favourite films. You just never know where an idea might end up.
“You just never know where an idea might end up.”
Where do you find inspiration?
I guess my tagline nearly says it all! However, it’s not just about memorable experiences in Scotland’s great outdoors. I’m also inspired by books and articles that I’ve read, quotes I’ve stumbled across and conversations I’ve had. Sometimes I’ll sit down at my desk in search of my muse. Other times inspiration strikes when I’m driving the car or lying in bed and I have to either pull over and speak into a dictaphone or put the light on and frantically scribble on a notepad. One of my main sources of frustration is not having more time to read as I’m sure my bookcase is bursting with untapped ideas.
Which of your posts are you most proud of?
There are a few. I was thrilled when ‘Seabirds and Lighthouses Galore’ was featured on discover.wordpress.com. Thanks to the exposure, it became my most popular post but it isn’t my best work. ‘The Weight of Time’ felt like a turning point when I stopped writing along the lines of “I went here, I saw such-and-such and here are my photographs” and I started to embrace themes, often with some welcome inspiration from the weekly photographic challenge. This has made me a better writer, culminating in such posts as ‘My Heart’s in the Highlands’, ‘North to the Future’ and ‘The A-Z of the Scottish Islands’. Producing the latter in the space of a week was a huge challenge but an immensely enjoyable one.
What one thing are you most excited about this year?
I make sure I always have things in my calendar to look forward to, whether it’s a coffee with a friend, a concert, a day trip or a holiday. 2016 has been a pretty exciting year so far, thanks to a couple of charity fundraising adventures, two trips to the Isle of May (post to follow on this shortly!) and an action-packed week spent in Beijing with my family. My partner Mark and I are going to Barra in August. I’m looking forward to exploring another Scottish island which I’ve wanted to visit for many years and doing lots of cycling, photography, boat trips and wildlife watching, all the while thinking about the end result on my blog when I return home at the end of the week.
“I can think of two truly euphoric moments in my life.”
What has been the happiest moment in your life so far?
I can think of two truly euphoric moments in my life. The first was when I found out that four years of hard work at university had paid off when I was told my degree result. Mark and I had just driven over the Bealach na Bà (a road on the Applecross peninsula in the north west Highlands which boasts the greatest ascent of any road in Britain, rising from sea level to 626m (2,054ft) and now part of the NC 500 route), when my mobile phone rang and I pulled over to answer a call from my parents who’d checked the results on my behalf. I squealed down the phone and sobbed with relief, celebrated over dinner in Gairloch and spent the next few days on cloud nine. Another defining moment was when it hit me that Mark and I were moving to the Black Isle, as described in ‘North to the Future’.
Is there something you dream of doing but have yet to work up the courage?
Turning pro. As much as I enjoy my day job, I would love nothing more than to be my own boss and earn a living from photography. I’ve only found the courage relatively recently. I have a plan of action and now I need to put it into practice, but it won’t happen overnight. As the late great Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face… You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” I would hate to give into fear and not at least try to fulfill this long-held ambition.
“I would hate to give into fear.”
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and who would you take with you?
I’m quite easily pleased. I’d go to the Isle of Harris with my partner, Mark. The landscapes and culture of this stunningly beautiful island in the Outer Hebrides speak very deeply to us. The photographs below show us paddling in the sea at Luskentyre on the west coast of Harris in 2008. Happy memories.
What does ‘home’ mean to you?
Funnily enough, I was thinking about this concept last week and have been mulling over a possible post on it. I think ‘home’ can mean many things. I was in England last month and felt a real sense of homecoming as I crossed the border back into Scotland, even although I was still 250 miles from my house. ‘Home’ means the places I’ve lived – Perth, Edinburgh and the Black Isle – but also the places that I have a special connection with, such as Dornoch, Wester Ross, the Isle of Arran and the Isle of Harris. More than anything, it means my house and that of my parents, as well as the house I grew up in and the caravan my parents, brother and I toured Scotland in over the course of the 1990s. It also means the people that matter the most to me – my partner, parents, brother and grandparents. I felt at home in Beijing because I had my family with me. Home is where the heart is.
“Home means the places I’ve lived but also the places that I have a special connection with.”
What does the space where you do your blogging look / smell / sound / feel like?
I recently moved my study into a larger room in my house. I’ve sacrificed my view of the Cromarty Firth but have gained a view over the garden and neighbouring barley field. It feels professional without being sterile. I now have heaps of space in a bright, airy room and the lack of physical clutter (compared with my previous much smaller study) and the ability to move around has helped to free up my mind and boost my creativity. My sense of smell isn’t great but I can assure you it’s clean!
If you could tell a special person in your life how much they mean to you, what would you say?
Funnily enough, I’ve left answering the ‘people’ questions to last, which must say something about me in itself. I guess I would thank my parents for giving me the best possible start in life or thank my other half for sticking with me during the highs and lows of the last eleven years together.
When was the last time you helped someone?
I called my next door neighbour recently to tell her that her husband had left his car lights on. I didn’t want him to wake up to a flat battery!
11 Facts About Me
1. I want to live to be 100.
2. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 14. It’s now 16 years later and I’ve never looked back.
3. I’ve also been wearing contact lenses since I was 14. I’m as blind as a bat without them. I hate wearing glasses and am too scared to get laser eye surgery, so I will be poking myself in the eye on a daily basis for a long time to come.
4. As much as I enjoy the company of family and friends, I’m a bit of a lone wolf.
5. The best advice I’ve ever been given is “whatever is worth doing is worth doing well”. This has been my mantra since I was a child.
6. I was bullied at school (points 4 and 5 may have contributed to this!).
7. I’m madly in love with my gorgeous guinea pigs, Bubble and Squeak, pictured here.
8. I have an outrageous number of cuddly toys.
9. I didn’t venture abroad until I was 20 when I went to Amsterdam on a university field trip.
10. I suffer from a rare neurological condition called Mal de Debarquement Syndrome. I continue to feel motion days or weeks after a flight or a boat trip, although I have only been travel sick once in my life.
11. If I had one day left to live, I would take the Bella Jane boat to Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye then watch ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ (and eat a cheesecake).
My Nominations for the Liebster Award
It’s my pleasure to nominate the following bloggers whose work I always enjoy:
1. 12 Months in Warsaw
2. Fife Photos & Art
3. Northumbrian Light
4. Breath of Green Air
5. A Little Bit Out of Focus
6. Mairi Poems
7. Chai & Biscuits
8. Wandering Dawgs
9. Walking Woman
11. Tess Blogs
Here are my questions for my nominees:
1. What inspired you to start blogging?
2. Tell me about a topic that you would like to blog about which you haven’t previously posted on.
3. How do you go about writing a post?
4. What’s your favourite quote?
5. What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a blog?
6. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given in life?
7. What’s the most special place you’ve ever visited?
8. What does happiness mean to you?
9. What would you do if you had one day left to live?
10. Tell me three things that are on your Bucket List.
11. What’s the best adventure you’ve ever had?
Thanks for reading.