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Tea break: Louisa MacDougall

In our regular feature, we join a local for a tea break, and find out how they spend their time - and their time off. This week we welcome author Louisa MacDougall to discuss the Outer Hebrides Wildlife Festival.

Tell us about yourself and your job?

I’m a journalist, a mum of three, and I’ve recently become a children’s author. My first three books are all out this summer.

How did you get where you are today?

I have been writing stories since I was at school and became passionate about children’s books when my own kids came along.  I’ve had hundreds of stories rejected by agents and publishers, but eventually, just over a year ago, a publisher (Little Door) liked my manuscript about a dragon who likes eating bicycles.  That became Rory and the Snack Dragons, which was published in May and is now in bookshops all over Scotland. It was followed by The Highland Cowgirl, a picture book for younger children. I still can’t quite get over the fact I can walk into Waterstones and find stories that I wrote on the shelves!

What’s next in your diary?

I’ve been working with artist Joceline Hildrey on The Great Auks Escape, a book inspired by the true story of one of Scotland’s last great auks. This rare seabird was captured off St Kilda in the early 1820s and was briefly kept on Scalpay, before being sent south to be exhibited in a museum – but it escaped! We’re launching the book as part of the Outer Hebrides Wildlife Festival. We’re proud that it has been an entirely island production. Joceline and I live on Harris, the publisher is Balallan-based Islands Book Trust, and design and printing has been done by Stornoway Media Services. I think Joceline’s pictures capture the spirit of the story and the islands brilliantly. Earlier the same week (Tues 25th at 1pm) I’m hosting a free walking and creative writing session at Talla na Mara – an informal chance to have a go at some writing or drawing inspired by our surroundings.

Will you be attending any other events at the festival?

I want to go to the Harris Whaling Station talk, hosted by the North Harris Ranger. He is so knowledgeable about local history and species and I want to learn more about a fascinating aspect of local history. We went to a Bumblebee Safari last year and the children loved getting hands on with creepy-crawlies, so we’ll try to go to that too.

Do you have a favourite Harris species?

It’s hard to pick. An orca encounter is at the top of my bucket list and I still get excited when I see an eagle, but my final answer is the gannets. I could watch them dive for hours. 

What do you love about your job?

Writing can be lonely, but being a children’s writer isn’t. I loved visiting Tarbert Library and Sir E Scott and Leverhulme schools earlier this term, and sharing my stories with children there. 

It’s tea break time, what are you up to?

I’m doing the step challenge this month with other local ladies (raising money for Save the Children’s Emergency Fund, supporting children in Gaza) so it will be a wee walk to get those steps up.

What about a drink and a snack?

A proper coffee, one click of sweetener please, and shortbread if I deserve a treat.


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