This blog post focuses on a selection of contemporary women writers in Scotland and their contribution to Scottish literature, society and history.
Note: The links included in this blog are to the catalogue record for the books in the Library.
Leila Aboulela is an Aberdeen-based playwright and poet. Leila Aboulela was born in Cairo, grew up in Khartoum and moved in her mid-twenties to Scotland. Leila’s work has been long listed three times for the Orange Prize for Fiction and has been translated into fifteen languages. Leila was the first winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story “The Museum” which was included in her short story collection ‘Coloured Lights’. Leila attended the University of Khartoum, graduating in 1985 with a degree in Economics and was awarded an M.Sc. and an MPhil degree in statistics from the London School of Economics. Her plays ‘The Insider’, ‘The Mystic Life’ and others were broadcast on BBC Radio and her fiction included in publications such as Freeman’s, Granta and Harper’s Magazine.
1) The Translator (2005) a New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year:
2) The Kindness of Enemies (2015), Fiction Winner of the Scottish Book Awards:
3) Elsewhere, Home (2018) won the Saltire Fiction Book of the Year Award:
Syma Ahmed is a writer and the BAME Women’s Development Officer for The Glasgow Women’s Library. She works to promote lifelong learning, arts and creative opportunities for BAME women. Syma is keen to celebrate the success and achievements of BAME women in Glasgow through capturing and compiling their life stories and preserving them at the Glasgow Women’s Library. Her book ‘She Settles in the Shields: Untold Stories of Migrant Women in Pollokshield’ was developed in partnership with the Pollokshields Development Agency. The book aims to celebrate migrant women’s stories and was co-authored by Syma, Sue Morrison and Shamaaila Nooranne.
1) She Settles in the Shields (2011)
Ajay Close worked as a newspaper journalist, winning several awards, before becoming a full-time author and playwright. She is the author of six novels. Her first novel, ‘Official and Doubtful’, was longlisted for the Orange Prize. Her fourth, ‘A Petrol Scented Spring’, was longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. Her play, ‘The Keekin Gless’, was staged at Perth Theatre. The Sma Room Séance toured east Scotland and was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe.
1) A Petrol Scented Spring (2015):
2) What We Did In The Dark (2020):
3) The Daughter of Lady MacBeth (2017):
Selma Dabbagh is a Scottish born, British-Palestinian author. Selma has written and published numerous short stories with Granta, Wasafiri, Saqi, Telegram, International PEN and others. Several of her short stories have been nominated for awards and she has received critical praise by international panels of judges. She is a PEN and Pushcart Nominee. Her work has been broadcast by the BBC and her short stories have appeared in New Writing 15 and Qissat: Short Stories by Palestinian Women.
1) Out of It (2011) an acclaimed novel centred on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, was nominated as a Guardian Book of the Year in 2011 and 2012:
2) Beirut-Paris-Beirut (2005), twice finalist for the Fish Short Story Prize:
3) Her short story ‘Sleep It Off, Dr. Schott’ in Palestine + 100: Stories from a Century after the Nakba (2019):
Dr Jeanette Davidson served as the director of the African and African American Studies Program in the OU College of Arts and Sciences for 15 years, she now teaches as a professor in the program. Dr Davidson has published extensively in the areas of black studies and on race and competency social work practice and education. She is a member of the board of directors of the National Council for Black Studies. Dr Davidson was also selected as one of the nine women in “Inspiring Stories of Women Empowerment” in the publication Knowledge Review in 2018. She is the author and editor of ‘African American Studies’, a book which presents the diverse, expansive nature of African American Studies. Born in Scotland, her forthcoming book is titled ‘Black Lives in Scotland: Telling Our Stories’ (publication date to be announced).
1) African American Studies (2010):
Carol Ann Duffy is an award-winning Scottish poet and playwright. Carol was appointed Poet Laureate from May 2009 until 2019. She is the first woman, the first Scottish-born poet and the first known LGBTQ+ poet to hold the position. Carol is a professor of contemporary poetry and the creative director of the Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University. Carol’s work receives critical acclaim, and her first collections, ‘Standing Female Nude’ and ‘Selling Manhattan’ received instant commendation.
1) Mean Time (1993) winner of the 1993 Whitbread Awards, the 1993 Scottish Arts Council Awards, the 1993 Forward Prize:
2) The Other Country (1990) winner of the 1990 Scottish Arts Council Award:
3) The Bees, winner of the 2011 Costa Book Awards:
Jenni Fagan is a Scottish novelist and poet. She has written several books including fiction novel The Panopticon, screenplays and several books of poetry. Jenni’s work has been published in ten countries, in seven languages. A published poet and novelist, Jenni has won awards from Creative Scotland, Dewar Arts, Scottish Screen and Scottish Book Trust among others, and has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Jenni has a PHD from the University of Edinburgh, around the theme of structuralism. She was named Scottish writer of the year 2016 by The Glasgow Herald.
1) The Panopticon (2012):
2) The Sunlight Pilgrims (2016):
3) Luckenbooth (2021):
Aminatta Forna is an award-winning Scottish-Sierra Leonean writer. Aminatta’s work has been translated into 22 languages and she is the recipient of a Windham Campbell Award from Yale University, has won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book Award 2011, a Hurston Wright Legacy Award, the Liberaturpreis in Germany and the Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize. Aminatta is the founder of The Rogbonko Village Project, a charity begun as an initiative to build a school in a village in Sierra Leone, and now focusing on maternal and infant mortality and combatting cholera outbreaks. Her essay collection, The Window Seat, will be published in May 2021, with LitHub listing it as one of the most anticipated books of 2021.
1) Ancestors Stones (2016) explores characters that delve into their past and explore feelings of grief, love and their own sense of place:
2) The Memory of Love (2010) won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for “Best Book”:
3) The Devil That Danced On The Water (2002) is a daughter’s memoir of her father, her family, her country and a continent, it explores what happened to her father following his arrest in Sierra Leone:
Bashabi Fraser is a poet, writer, translator and academic who was born in West Bengal, India and lives in Edinburgh. She is the co-founder and Director of the Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies and Chief Editor of the academic and creative e-journal, Gitanjali and Beyond. Bashabi’s awards include the 2015 Outstanding Woman of Scotland conferred by the Saltire Society; Kavi Salam from Poetry Paradigm and Voice of the Republic in India in 2019; the Word Masala Foundation Award for Excellence in Poetry in 2017, Women Empowered: Arts and Culture Award in 2010. Bashabi is also an Honorary Fellow at the Centre for South Asian Studies at the University of Edinburgh and a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Dundee.
1) Rabindranath Tagore (2019):
2) From the Ganga to the Tay: An Epic Poem (2009):
3) Letters to My Mother and Other Mothers (2015):
Janice Galloway was born in Saltcoats and is a writer of novels, short stories, prose-poetry, non-fiction and libretti. Her book, ‘The Trick Is To Keep Breathing’, was published by Polygon Press in 1990 and won the MIND/Allan Lane Book of the Year. Janice studied Music and English at the University of Glasgow. Janice was the Times Literary Supplement Research Fellow to the British Library in 1999. Her most recent publication is ‘Jelly Fish’ (2015). Janice has been a Research Fellow to the British Library and was recently Fellow in Residence at the University of Otago in New Zealand. Her radio work includes two series for BBC and programmes on music and musicians.
1) The trick is to keep breathing (1990):
2) Foreign parts (1994):
3) This is not about me (2008):
Gail Honeyman is a Scottish writer whose debut novel, ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’, won the 2017 Costa First Novel Award and was chosen as one of the Observer’s Debuts of the Year 2017. She studied French, literature and poetry both at the University of Glasgow and the University of Oxford. Gail’s second book, which is currently untitled, is due to be published later this year.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (2017):
Kirsten Innes is a Scottish journalist and author. Innes’s debut novel, ‘Fishnet’, was met with critical praise and has been longlisted for several awards. Kirsten has also written several short stories and plays and works on media and PR projects, working for four years as Assistant Editor at The List. She has also written for The Scotsman, The Independent and The Herald. In 2007 and 2011, Kirsten won the Allen Wright Award for Excellence in Arts Journalism. In 2007, 2008 and 2010, she was nominated for Feature Writer of the Year at the PPA Scottish Magazine Awards. Kirsten also performs at spoken words and poetry sessions.
1) Fishnet (2015):
2) Scabby Queen (2020):
Nadine Aisha Jassat is a poet, writer and creative practitioner known for combining the creative arts with social justice. Nadine’s work explores themes of heritage, voice, family, storytelling and resilience. She has worked extensively to address issues of gender and race inequality. Nadine has delivered workshops to over 2,300 young people in Edinburgh alone, and trained youth work staff on gender-based violence and young people across Scotland. She received a prestigious New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust. Nadine has chaired and read her work at events across the UK, these include her sold out solo shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Just Festival. She is also leading the Fresh Ink Competition at the National Library of Scotland, which is a new initiative to support and develop emerging literary talent.
1) Let Me Tell You This (2019):
2) Contributor to and narrator of It’s Not About the Burqa (2019):
3) Poetry contribution in Nasty Women by 404 Ink (2017):
Jackie Kay CBE FRSE is a Scottish poet, playwright, and novelist who was the Scots Makar, the National Poet Laureate of Scotland, from 2016-2021. Jackie’s critically acclaimed work includes ‘Other Lovers’ (1993), ‘Trumpet’ (1998) and ‘Red Dust Road’ (2011). Jackie studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and Stirling University where she read English. Her first novel, ‘Trumpet’, published in 1998, was awarded the Guardian Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Jackie won the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award in 2009 and 2011. She was appointed as chancellor of the University of Salford in 2015. Her poem ‘Extinction’, which was part of a series of 20 original poems by various authors on the theme of climate change, focuses on climate change and received international accolade.
2) Red Dust Road:
3) Adoption Papers:
A.L. Kennedy was born in Dundee. She has won a variety of UK and international book awards, including a Lannan Award, the Costa Prize, The Heinrich Heine Preis, the Somerset Maugham Award and the John Llewellyn Rees Prize. She has twice been included on the Granta Best of Young British Novelists list. She has written 9 novels, 6 short story collections, 3 books of non-fiction and 3 books for children. A.L. Kennedy has performed as a stand-up comedian at the Edinburgh Fringe and literary festivals. She taught creative writing at the University of St Andrews from 2003 to 2007 and she is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a member of the Akademie der Kunst.
1) The Blue Book (2011):
2) Everything You Need (1999):
3) So Glad I Am (1995):
Hannah Lavery is a writer, playwright and performer living in Edinburgh. Her works have been published in Gutter Magazine, The Scotsman Newspaper, 404 ink and more. In 2017, she published ‘Rocket Girls’, which explores the lives of a series of women and their fights to find and to use their voice, their power, and their freedom. Hannah was also chosen as a BBC Writers Room Scottish Voices 2020. She has been a featured poet at various spoken word nights and festivals including, Edinburgh International Book Festival. ‘When Women Speak I Hear’ (2019), was edited by Hannah and was part of the Building Equality Book Project with Edinburgh Women’s Aid and Shakti Women’s Aid in collaboration with The Scottish Poetry Library, with the poems aiming to raise awareness of domestic abuse and to stand as a testament to the strength and courage of women.
1) Rocket Girls (2017)
2) When Women Speak I Hear: An Anthology of Poems from Nine Brave Women (2019):
Kirsty Logan is a Scottish novelist, poet, performer, literary editor, writing mentor, book reviewer, and writer of short fiction. Kirsty lives in Glasgow. In 2013 the Association for Scottish Literary Studies selected Logan to be the recipient of Creative Scotland’s first Dr Gavin Wallace Fellowship, where she produced a collection of short fiction inspired by Scottish folklore. She wrote her undergraduate thesis on retold fairytales, and her work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Kirsty is a mentor at the Womentoring Project.
1) The Gloaming (2018):
2) The Gracekeepers (2015):
3) Things We Say in the Dark (2019):
Sally Magnusson is an Icelandic-Scottish broadcaster and writer. She is the presenter of Reporting Scotland for BBC Scotland as well as Tracing Your Roots on BBC Radio 4. Her first adult novel, ‘The Sealwoman’s Gift’, is set in Iceland in the seventeenth century. Sally is the founder of the music and dementia charity Playlist for Life. Sally studied English Language and Literature at the University of Edinburgh. She has received Honorary degrees from several institutions: in 2009 a Doctorate of Letters from Glasgow Caledonian University, in 2015 an honorary degree from the University of Stirling and from the Open University in 2016.
1) The Ninth Child (2020):
2) The Sealwomen’s Gift (2018):
3) Where Memories Go: Why Dementia Changes Everything (2014):
Val McDermid is a broadcaster and crime writer, best known for a series of novels featuring clinical psychologist Dr Tony Hill. Val comes from Kirkcaldy, Fife, and read English at St Hilda’s College, Oxford (where she is now an Honorary Fellow). In 2017, Val was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She was the first ever student from a state school in Scotland. Her novels have been translated into 40 languages, sold over 16 million copies worldwide.
1) Report For Murder (1987) – part of the Lindsay Gordon series:
2) The Mermaids Singing (1995) – Part of the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series and the 1995 Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger for Best Crime Novel of the Year:
3) The Distant Echo (2003) – part of the Inspector Karen Pirie series:
Denise Mina a Scottish crime writer and playwright. She has written the Garnethill trilogy and another three novels featuring the character Patricia “Paddy” Meehan, a Glasgow journalist. Denise is described as an author of Tartan Noir. She has now published 14 novels and also writes short stories, plays and graphic novels. In 2014 she was inducted into the Crime Writers’ Association Hall of Fame. Denise presents TV and radio programmes as well as regularly appearing in the media and has made a film about her own family. She regularly appears at literary festivals in the UK and abroad, leads masterclasses on writing and was a judge for the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction 2014.
1) The Less Dead (2020):
2) Conviction (2019):
3) Garnethill (1998):
Maggie O’Farrell is based in Edinburgh and is the author of The Sunday Times bestseller, ‘I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death (2017)’ Her work has won or been shortlisted for several Costa Awards. Maggie contributed the short story “How the Oak Tree Came to Life” to Why the Willow Weeps, which was a 2011 anthology sold to fund the work of the Woodland Trust. Five trees were planted for each copy of the anthology that was sold. Maggie has won the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Betty Trask award. Maggie worked as a journalist in Hong Kong and London.
1) Hamnet (2020):
2) After You’d Gone (2000):
3) I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Deadly Brushes With Death (2017):
Alycia Pirmohamed is a poet and writer based in the UK. Alycia is co-founder of the Scottish BAME Writer’s Network and received her PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where she studied poetry written by second-generation immigrants. Her poetry has been published widely and won several awards, including the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award (2020). In 2019, Alycia curated and edited ‘Ceremony’, an anthology of Scottish BAME Writing. Currently, Alycia is a postdoctoral Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Liverpool, where she is working with the Ledbury Poetry Critics programme.
1) Hinge (2020)
2) Ceremony, an anthology of Scottish BAME Writing (2019):
Helen Sedgwick is the author of ‘The Comet Seekers’ (2016), ‘The Growing Season’ (2017), and When The Dead Come Calling (2020). In 2018, ‘The Growing Season’ was shortlisted for the Saltire Society’s Fiction Book of the Year. Helen has a PHD in Physics from Edinburgh University and an MLitt in Creative Writing from Glasgow University. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writer’s Association.
1) The Girnin Gates: Changing ways of life in Drumchapel (2009):
2) The Growing Season (2017):
3) The Comet Seekers (2016):
Sara Sheridan is a Scottish writer who works in a variety of genres. Sara is the best-selling author of the ‘Mirabelle Bevan’ series. Sara has been named one of the Saltire Society’s 365 most influential Scottish women, past and present and is a mentor for the Scottish Book Trust. She writes as a journalist for The Guardian, Huffington Post and the BBC. Sara is also patron of registered Edinburgh charity Its Good 2 Give, which provides support for critically ill children and their families.
1) Brighton Belle (2012):
2) London Calling (2013):
3) Truth or Dare (1998):
https://search.nls.uk/permalink/f/sbbkgr/44NLS_ALMA21583158310004341, which can be read on our Henrietta Liston digital resource: https://digital.nls.uk/travels-of-henrietta-liston/long-reads/sheridan.html
Ali Smith was born in Inverness in 1962 and lives in Cambridge. Ali Smith’s books have won and been shortlisted for many awards. Ali worked as a lecturer in Scottish, American and English literature at the University of Strathclyde from 1990-1992. Her recent publications include ‘How To Be Both’ (2014), which was winner of the Goldsmiths and Baileys Prize and the Costa Book Award for Best Novel She is also the author of a collection of short stories titled ‘Public Library and Other Stories’ (2015), and the novels ‘Autumn’ (2016) and ‘Winter’ (2017), the first two novels in a “seasonal quartet”, with ‘Autumn’ being shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
1) Autumn (2016):
2) The Accidental (2005):
3) How to be Both (2014):
Leela Soma was born in Madras, India and now lives in Glasgow. Leela writes novels, poetry and short stories, several of which have been published in The Scotsman, The Grind and New Voices. Leela’s new book, ‘Murder at the Mela’ was published in October 2020 and is said to be a great addition to the genre of Tartan Noir:(Murder at the Mela: Tartan Noir’s Next Classic – Ringwood Publishing) Leela worked as a principal teacher of modern studies for thirty years. She is a member of the Federation of Writers, founding member of Bearsden Writers and she serves on the East Dunbartonshire Arts & Culture committee.
1) Twice Born (2008), won the Margaret Thomson Davis Trophy at Strathkelvin Writer’s Group for Best New Writer:
2) Bombay Baby (2011):
3) Tartan and Turmeric (2018):
Laura Waddell is a publisher and writer based in Glasgow and is known for essays such as ‘Working Class Girls and Working Class Art’ and ‘The Pleasure Button’. Laura has an (Hons) English Literature with MLitt in Modernities from the University of Glasgow with a focus on William Carlos Williams and she lectures in publishing at City University London. Laura works as UK Publishing Director Tramp Press, a columnist at The Scotsman and also as reviews editor for Gutter Magazine.
1) Working Class Girls and Working Class Art in the anthology Nasty Women by 404 Ink (2017):
Thanks for reading this list. Cover image by Jveleis on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)