How Scottish Festivals Changed My Life and Informed My Fiction

Sorchia DuboisWhen you decide to put pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard—and write, you never know what will happen.  It’s like stepping out the door to take a little trip to the store and finding yourself miles and miles from your original destination because you took a different path and found adventures you did not expect. For me, the decision to set the story of Just Like Gravity in Scotland was life-altering.

To research the book, my first choice was to hop on a plane and go to Scotland. Unfortunately, I discovered they don’t just give those tickets away and though Scots are a friendly and hospitable bunch, they do expect you to pay for your room, your meals, and even for your drink—as barbaric as that may seem. I found an affordable option when I discovered the vast number of Scottish festivals held within driving distance of my little hut in the woods.

At the beginning of April, St. Charles, MO, hosts Missouri Tartan Days.  This free event was my first experience and I’ve never looked back.  From the displays of Scottish athletic prowess, to the vendor tents, to Clan Row , to the amazing food wagons, and most especially to the Pub Tent,  this event swept me off my feet.

Early April near the Missouri River can be crisp and this day was indeed bracing.  A fresh breeze off the river brought the sound of pipes and the smell of Highland beef as we walked from our parking place. Soon kilt-wearing, brogue-speaking, flask-hiding, jolly-for-this-early people of Scottish descent surrounded us. The occasional boom of cannon from the Scottish Civil War re-enactors punctuated the 3-day event and lent an air of adventure to the proceedings since you never knew when the lads would decide to send a volley across the river. I learned some very helpful Scottish curses as beer spilled after one of these unexpected explosions.

The vendor tents contained offerings of Celtic jewelry, tartans, whisky-related paraphernalia, and nearly anything you can tie to a Celtic celebration.  Our favorite food is dished out by Oz Highland Farm in Kansas.  I’m a closet vegetarian  and eating meat off of a wagon is risky at best, but the smell of this stuff pulled me by my nose to the row of food trucks.  Other vendors have glorious concoctions like bridies (a meat-filled pastry fried within an inch of its life) and confections of every description. After a summer of following the Highland Beef truck from event to event, I became addicted and must have the infusion of a rib sandwich early in April or risk a slow, wasting death.

Every event provides space for Clan Row, a place where clans can set up tents containing information about the specific clan and Scotland in general. Storytellers, weapons, books, pictures, and conversation are the highlights of this area.  One of the life-altering bits about the Just Like Gravity project is that I discovered how linked I am to Scotland through my ancestry. The closest connection and the one I’ve been able to trace to Scotland in 1755 is the Ross Clan.  I’m planning to host a clan tent of my own at the next Tartan Days.

Just Like GravityThe place I seem to spend most of my time is the Pub tent. Here, they sell beer by the pint at a reasonable price while a variety of performers play music—and it’s not your father’s Scottish music.  Groups like Mother Grove, Highland Reign , and Cleghorn play Celtic rock.  If you’re lucky, you’ll find an outstanding primitive group like Pictus who play the pipes and drums with a Pictish passion.  And, many groups are more traditional like Three Pints Gone—though if you have never heard the Moose song, you have not lived.

Since my first Tartan Days, the obsession has grown.  I go to at least three events every summer and would go to more but that pesky pay-for-your-stuff thing gets in the way.  I’ve been to the St. Louis Highland Games, The Kansas City Highland Games, The Chicago Highland Games, and Tartan Days several times.  This year, I would like to add Batesville, Arkansas;  MacPherson, Kansas; and maybe Tulsa, Oklahoma, to the list.

If you have even a smidgeon of Celtic blood in your veins, these events are going to make you happy.  I highly recommend  attending the next one you can find.  Along with the events themselves, I met so many wonderful and helpful people as I wrote Just Like Gravity. Attending Scottish events anchored the inevitable book-and-website research and gave it focus. But more than helping me make the book authentic, attending these events changed the course of my life. While I still intend to get myself to Scotland at the earliest opportunity, Scottish events like Tartan Days fill the time quite nicely.

About Sorchia Dubois

I write paranormal mysteries and romance, have an obsession with Scotland and all things Celtic, and am a confirmed Scotch drinker.  So you’ll find info on those things, too. If you like what you see, please consider subscribing to my blog so that you’ll get updates automatically whenever I post.

Like many writers, I have one of those pesky day jobs so I can’t sit at the computer and write 24/7 as I would like.

My own background is pretty standard, really—and not in a Dr. Evil kind of way.  I grew up in southern Missouri very far from civilization near a little river called the Jacks Fork.  In the 60s the National Park Service came along and kicked us out to make a national park out of the place.  There’s governments for you.

I’m an English teacher. Have been for over 25 years at every level from 7th grade through college.  I hold an M.A. in English from Missouri State University. Would have liked to get a PhD, but didn’t and now the thought of sitting in a classroom and writing academic essays gives me the all-overs. Been married for nearly forty years to the same fellow, a retired principal named Barry.  Our kids are grown and gone though they come back often for food and to do laundry.

You can contact me HERE and you can follow me as SorchiaDubois on Twitter.  On FaceBook, I’m SorchiaD.  If you are on Google +, I’m there as Sorchia Dubois, too.

Just Like Gravity is available on Amazon.

2 Comments

  • I live by St. Charles, MO, and never heard of the Tartan Days. But it sounds fun and amazing and the pub tent–how can you go wrong? I will have to get this event on my radar. Thanks! :) Best of luck with your book.

  • I never went while I lived there either!! I wish I would have, but we tended to stay away from the big crowds when our little boy was so tiny.

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