Round Robin – May 2021

For our May discussion, Rhobin Courtright has asked: does writing change the author? Do you think your writing has changed you in any significant way?

Yes, I think writing has changed me and I think writing does change me.

Growing up in 1950s Scotland meant a girl was expected to CONFORM. Whether that was to a working class, lower-middle-class, middle-class, upper middle-class or upper class ethic, was irrelevant.

It became clear as time passed that I was a source of great pride and huge embarrassment. Not everyone was able to share my burning desire to know. Many, many women, and most men, thought any man knew better. Facts often went unacknowledged.

And, because children do want to be loved and accepted, I spent years trying to mould myself into this cultural ideal. The rot, however, set in early. I was incapable of not arguing a point and was one half of a very successful debating team through senior school. I knew I would make a hopeless class teacher which was the acme of accepted ambition for me. I nonetheless applied for teacher training when I finished at Uni but fortunately a job elsewhere came up. I hung into a relationship for months after it was truly over because the bloke was the best husband material my mum had seen and she didn’t speak to me for days after it ended. My dad had more of a sense of a larger world out there.

It was when I was writing Mariah’s Marriage that I became stuck. I’d written a chapter in which Mariah took one path when I knew she should really have taken the other. I’d had to alter some parts of the narrative to accommodate this decision and it was keeping me awake.

Scottish magazine writer and writing tutor, Sheila Lewis, spoke to EWC on one occasion and said how often she saw MSS in which the central character was being frogmarched through a story, hand pinned up their back because of the plot. This statement hit me hard when I was struggling with Mariah’s behaviour. Of course she wouldn’t do X because it went against everything in her character I’d been building up. Mariah would do Y.

Light-bulb moment. How many things had I re-written the narrative for in order to accommodate what society expected? So writing has helped me to find more interesting paths without guilt.

What writing doesn’t do, in my opinion, is turn you into your central character. I know so many crime writers who are simply the loveliest folk.

On another level writing changes me because when I’ve got a plot running and am getting the words down, I am energised, and the rest of life falls into place. I do clean the bathroom and cook a pudding.

Once a story-teller, always a story-teller. The Mulgray twins now in their eighties prove this with the publication of their new novel: Suspicious Activities in Plain View Helen and Morna write their books together.

Below is this month’s list of other authors posting on our Round Robin topic. I hope you’ll join them. Also, if you are writing – has it changed you?


Skye Taylor

Marci Baun

Diane Bator

Connie Vines

Dr. Bob Rich

Fiona McGier

Judith Copek

Helena Fairfax

Beverley Bateman

Rhobin L Courtright