SUSI Briggs – who is due to become the next Scots Scriever in January – began dedicating herself to the language after one particular incident with a publisher.

“I had written a wean's story cried The Wee Sleepy Sheepy. The ainly Scots word in the manuscript wis the wird ‘wee’ .

“I sent it awa tae publishers and it kept getting rejected but they never telt me why.

“Then, yin publisher sent a rejection letter wi some feedback. They said: ‘We’ll publish your story if you omit the Scottish flavour’.

“The implication that the language I spoke was akin tae a dry noodle seasoning really angered me.

“Sae, I ripped up the letter an asked masel why are oor weans no seeing their Scots words written doon? Where are the original picture book stories in their leid?

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“That wis a turnin pynt fer me.”

Briggs began working full-time as a writer, musician and storyteller in 2011 after spending years working in a chemist and as a care worker.

But it was only when she received the aforementioned rejection letter that she fully immersed herself in Scots.

“I had tae teach masel tae be literate in my ain language, the language o my birth” she told The National.

“Up until then I had ainly ever written in English. Why? Because that wis the ainly language I wis formally taught tae read and write in.

“It neer occurred tae me tae write in ony other language- even though I spoke Scots and I'd grown up aroon Scots speakers my hale life.

“I immersed masel in Scots language by reading translations, poetry and listening tae traditional music. I yaised resources fae places like the Scots Language Centre. I had tae trust my ain creativity when nurturing my ain Scots literacy.”

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Since then Briggs has published numerous original children’s books in Scots. Her fourth children’s picture book Yum and her debut poetry collection – Blessin – will be coming out next year.

She said that “against all prejudice in the industry” Scots writers have managed to carve out a place for themselves and show that the language is both deserving and commercially appealing.

The Scots Scriever

The position of Scots Scriever was created back in 2015 as a joint initiative between the National Library and Creative Scotland.

It aims to allow the chosen writer to produce original work in Scots across any art form while simultaneously raising awareness and appreciation of the language throughout the country.

“The position lends a gravitas tae a language we hear spoken aroon us aw the time,” said Briggs.

“It gies it a status, takkin it awa fae the tea towels fer tourists an pittin it back intae the hauns o the people.

“It reminds us that Scots is a valid wey o communicating and creating."

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More recently, the position has been used to promote particular dialects of Scots.

In 2021, Amanda Miller was the Orcadian Scriever while over the past year Shane Strachan has promoted the Aberdeenshire dialect as Doric Scriever.

Now, it is Briggs’ turn to promote her native leid: Galloway Scots.

“I'm nae expert, I'm learning as much aboot Gallowa Scots as onybuddy else wha bides here. It's the Scots I've grown up wi in Dumfries.

“But like every dialect o Scots it has it's ain melody and distinct differences wi ither dialects o Scots language. There are traces o Ulster Scots and Gaelic, which was spoken in Galloway. I wis in my thirties when I discovered that and it blew my mind.”

Political punching bag

“Publishing wark and performing in Scots is no withoot it's challenges,” said Briggs. Proudly promoting her work and even articulating her support of Scottish independence in Scots has resulted in occasional bouts of online abuse.

“Aw things are political but that’s no my motivation fer scrievin in my leid,” she said.

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“I scrieve in it cos it's beautiful, it's speaks through my soul and my hert's centre.

“But unfortunately I’ve occasionally become a target fer online abuse fae fowk wha want tae yaise my leid as a political punching bag which is sad.”

Still, working with children taught Briggs about the value of her work – of empowering people who already speak Scots to cherish their native tongue.

“When I'm visiting schuils during author visits I let the weans ken that if they speak Scots and English then that means they are bilingual. They love that.

“It's a braw thing tae see a bairn wha mibbes isnae feeling awfy smart sit up a wee bit taller, smile and think tae thersels: I ken twa languages!

“It's common fer many Scots weans tae speak Scots but aince they see it written doon it looks alien tae them. That's cos aw they have eer been taught tae be literate in is English.

“It’s why Scots literacy is so important to me”

Briggs has big plans for her residency, from creating more Scots language audio resources with her Oor Wee Podcast alongside collaborator Alan McClure, to a collection of poetry inspired by the underrepresented voices surrounding the Scottish witch trials.

“I’ve been daen this fer years and have hit barriers when wanting tae complete projects or fulfil my visions. Due tae lack o funding or resources," she said. 

“Sae, this post will really allow me tae gan fer it. Tae create the things I want tae create, tae inspire Scots literacy and encourage folk tae engage wi their language.

“It’s like a dream come true”.

Susi Briggs's next children's book Yum published by Foggie Toddle is out in Spring 2024 whilst her debut poetry collection published by Drunk Muse Press is due in the summer.