Greyfriars Bobby: Reimagining a legend!


The famous statue of Greyfriars Bobby that sits proudly at the top of Candlemaker Row, on that  sharp corner where it meets George IV bridge, is firmly embedded in my Edinburgh childhood.  I would beg my dad to retell me the story every time we passed him on car journeys through the centre of town. If visitors came to stay, my parents would include Bobby on tours of the city, alongside the Castle, the Scott Monument and Holyrood Palace. We would talk of Bobby sitting on his master’s grave, in Greyfriars Kirkyard, his loyalty and love making him a local legend.

Whether the story is true (or a tiny bit embellished as has also been suggested), the love for this wee dog endures. Everyone loves Bobby!  Now, folk from all over the world gather around Bobby’s statue for selfies, and rub his nose for ‘good luck’: a relatively new ritual which unfortunately leaves him with a polished nose. Poor Bobby!

When approaching Greyfriars Bobby as a picture book concept, I knew that his story had been told many times in beloved children’s books. But to be honest, I wanted to avoid the sadness of losing his master, so instead, I began to play around with ideas of his younger days – a tale untold! I remember pitching my idea to Sally Polson of Floris Books suggesting this energetic wee pup running around the old town of Edinburgh having adventures! Maybe getting into scrapes!  And then, perhaps of how he came to meet his future owner, John Gray in the first place: a prequel, if you will, to the familiar story.  

My imagined tale of a puppy’s adventure in this Victorian city would reveal that evolving loyalty we admire, first  to local street urchin, Sandy who longs to play with the school boys of nearby George Heriot’s school, to John Gray, night watchman: Bobby’s destiny. 

Illustrator Elena Bia has captured Old Town Edinburgh with such vibrancy and energy, so far removed from notions of a dull grey, Auld Reekie. Her illustrations make my heart sing for the Edinburgh I know and love. But my favourite is the spread of Candlemaker Row, with lines of washing hanging between the old buildings. There, sits puppy Bobby, a wee premonition of the statue that would be such a draw for dog lovers around the world, around 160 years later.

As a dog lover ( I have three!),  I knew I would enjoy writing Greyfriars Bobby, A Puppy’s Tale, I didn’t know how much that wee dog would get under my skin. Special? Loyal? Oh yes all of that. But he was, in my mind, a truly special soul: one in a million, that simply sought to love and be loved. Our loyalty never wavers either. We love you, Bobby.

The Quest for an Agent…..

I’ve swithered about posting about this. It’s a toughie. I just thought I would share with you my attempts to find myself an agent. I suppose for those of you who are also on this quest it might resonate, comfort, reassure, or even, perhaps in some way inspire(!!!??).

I’ve been writing now, in the sense of writing with an aim to be published, for around ten years. I was relatively late to the process, now in my mid forties, but after studying Drama as a mature student, I specialised in Theatre Criticism and learned the mechanics of writing. I was hooked.

From time to time over the last ten years, I’ve tried to find an agent. I have bought the Artists’ and Writers’ Yearbook. I’ve trawled through submission guidelines for agents all over the country.  I’ve been to a course in London run by the wonderful Juliet Mushens, so I’ve had pretty much every helping hand out there. No excuses! But I still can’t seem to find the magic formula.  Each submission process begins with such hope and excitement: I’ve been careful to tailor each one to the particular requirements of each agent.  And then I’ve inevitably read on various social media pages of those lucky enough to be  asked for a full MS, or signed by an agent, or even better to be in a situtation whereby the author has to choose between a number of offers from various agents. This, surely is the stuff of dreams.

In the interim, I’ve been incredibly lucky. Without an agent, I’ve had six books published by two really wonderful independent Scottish publishers. I’ve already got two books lined up for next year. I do feel very grateful for that.

However, I have always been led to believe, all the way along, that being represented by an agent was really the golden ticket, the gateway to the big international publishers and therefore a bigger income.  So once again, in June this year, I set out with my latest MS. Now, I know it’s not a complete disaster as a piece of writing. I know this because a relatively well known independent publisher took it right to the wire before deciding that ultimately it just wasn’t for them. And an agent who I know quite well has been very encouraging and has given me constructive criticism and feedback.  However, I decided that seeing as I wrote it three years ago and have been redrafting and tweaking it since then,  I really would give it a shot.  I spent two weeks carefully submitting. In the end, I counted 17 submissions to agents primarily in London.

So here we go. So far, six outright rejections. 11 to go. And let’s be honest, I may not hear back from them at all. It’s pretty tough: at best slightly demoralising, at worst completely confidence crushing!!  At times, I really feel it’s a process I can’t see myself repeating.

All you can do is try to be a better writer, a more exciting writer, a finger-on-the-pulse, original writer. But sometimes, it feels like grasping in the dark.

But, keeping my chin up, I shall press on. There’s nothing else for it! But for those of you starting out on this journey or like me, somewhere in the middle,  I know how tough it is.


Otterly Exciting!

I absolutely love otters – what could be cuter? Baby otters? Yes! How about twins?!!! Arrghhh now that is CUTE!!! So when I set about writing Animal Adventure Club number 2, I had the enviable task of watching countless You Tube clips of baby otters! I had to learn about how they play, the sounds they make, even how to bottle feed an abandoned cub. It was great fun! And now here it is! Out in August, The Baby Otter Rescue! With otter twins, Pitt and Dooey on the front cover.