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Postcards from Scotland

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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. Her latest book is Hiding in Plain Sight: Exploring Scotland's ill health. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 24/05/2012

When I finished working on the new edition of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence last year I felt a certain sadness that I had come to the end of my working relationship with Derek Rodger from Argyll Publishing who I found a joy to work with.  He had published The Tears that Made the Clyde and then proposed to republish my first book. So as I handed over the last rewritten chapters of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence I wondered if there might be another book that we could work on.

I was increasingly interested in materialist values but didn't think this a particularly likely topic for Argyll nor did  I envisage myself writing a substantial book on the topic. So this is why I started to think about a series of small books relevant to Scotland but also about the big issues of our time – hence the series we have announced today called Postcards from Scotland.

At the time of mulling over the rationale for the new series I was reading Iain McGilchrist's seminal work The Mastery and his Emissary: the Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World – a book which had a big impact on my thinking. It is difficult to do justice to McGilchrist's extremely erudite work but suffice to say that he argues that the instrumental, focussed left brain has come to dominate in western culture and is suppressing the work of the right brain which is more intuitive and concerned with the whole.

In a recent RSA animate lecture McGIlchrist summed up the differences between the two hemispheres as follows:

The world of the left hemisphere, dependent on denotative language and abstraction,  yields clarity and power to manipulate things which are known, fixed, static, isolated, decontextualised, explicit, general in nature but ultimately lifeless.

The right hemisphere, by contrast, yields a world of individual, changing, evolving, interconnected, implicit, incarnate living beings within the context of the lived world but in the nature of things never fully graspable – never perfectly known … .

According to McGilchrist, Einstein summed up some of the problems of the dominance of the left brain when he said: 'The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant, but has forgotten the gift.'

So when I started to think about this book series I knew I did not want a series of books written by isolated, abstracted thinkers sitting at their desk somewhere divorced from reality. I wanted a series which was more 'embodied' and connected to human experience. I also didn't want to have a precise template which would then dictate the shape of each volume. No I was keen to have a series that had some recognisable form but which also had space for individuality. After all few things in the natural world are consistent; diversity is the norm.

I also wanted to put collaboration and relationships at the heart of this series. This is why we are so keen on the idea of having at least two people contributing to each volume. Ideally this will be an older person with a young person who makes up for their lack of writing skills or expertise in the area with their energy and freshness of perspective

As there is very little money in publishing I was also aware that most of the contributors would have to participate knowing that they would get no financial recompense whatsoever for their involvement. The Centre is putting some money into the first six volumes and all authors' royalties will come to us to invest in future books.

Very early on I knew that one of the books I wanted to commission would recount some of the great work which is currently happening in Scottish communities – particularly environmental and social enterprise projects.  The problem was who could I commission to do this?  Who could I ask to go round Scotland visiting projects and then writing this up when (other than expenses) they would not get paid one penny?

This is when I realised that the answer lay close to home – my husband Alf Young to be precise.  Alf is often described as the best living Scottish journalist. He is particularly gifted at writing about what is going on in organisations and many readers used to love his weekly profiles of Scottish businesses. He is now semi-retired and so has some free time. However, I am still not sure if he would have accepted the commission if I hadn't then added another dimension to my request. Would he undertake this journey round some of Scotland's most inspirational community projects with our son Ewan? Ewan is passionate about sustainable development. He has a degree in the subject, lives a low carbon life in a cabin in the woods and works for the Ullapool Community Trust. This is Ewan's world. He could help choose the projects and would be a knowledgeable and helpful travelling companion and collaborator in the writing phase. As soon as this was agreed the title became obvious: A father and a son go on a journey – that sounds like 'the Road', except it is a hopeful journey hence the title 'The New Road'.

They are on their travels as I write this. How fortunate for them that they chose this week given the beautiful weather.

And what of the overall title for the series? I spent a week at Christmas with other folk brainstorming on possible options. Versions of 'new ideas for Scotland …' seemed dull and clunky. All of us involved in the series ultimately decided that Postcards from Scotland hit the spot as it suggests groundedness, people, relationships, stories – ideas that we are communicating from Scotland but which are worth communicating to people in other countries.  As the books will be fairly small (ok not postcards) we thought that this title also worked.  

Finally, all of those involved in the series want these books to be accessible and readable. We hope that anyone featured in one, or interested in that particular topic, will go on to buy and read the other titles. It is by joining up those involved in innovative thinking and activity in Scotland - and there are lots of them - that we shall start to see real social and cultural change.

We'll give out more information on the series, including volumes 3 to 6, in the next few weeks. Do email us your feedback or suggestions.


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