Caledonian pine trees in Scotland

I have been honoured with the Roger Deakin Award from the Society of Authors in support of my writing.

Writing a book – at least the types of books that I write – are rarely worked on with a view to earning money. Other motives hold more sway, and among those for me at least are my wish to share a passion for trees, and to help people connect with nature.

With my latest book, which is a guide to Scotland’s forests, the advance from the publishers goes only a small way towards covering expenses incurred in travel and subsistence during the extensive field work, investment in capital equipment (e.g. a new camera lens or outdoor gear), let alone my time spent research and writing. This is not a criticism of my own publishers Bloomsbury Wildlife, or indeed any other, it is simply the reality of the very tight margins for most non-fiction books.

Beyond the book deal there are few options for authors seeking additional financial support. Individuals are rarely eligible to apply to trusts and foundations. From time to time, national arts councils issue awards, but these can be very specific and quite limiting. In my own case for example, I was ineligible to apply to Creative Scotland because I live outside Scotland.

The Society of Authors

When I joined The Society of Authors (SOA), I paid little attention to the fact that it offered financial bursaries and awards to its members, because my motivation was to become part of a community of writers. Their existence resonated with me later when I read an article about them in one of the SOA’s quarterly member magazines. I barely dared to allow any hope to surface as I knew competition would be fierce, but nevertheless began the process of preparing an application.

During my research of what to include in the application, I discovered that part of the funds to support authors had come from the estate of the late great nature writer Roger Deakin. I had the great privilege of meeting Roger when I was a young researcher, and indeed had helped him prepare for his travels to Kyrgyzstan to hunt walnuts – Read More. So it seemed that perhaps serendipity might play a part, and buoyed by this thought, I submitted my application to the SOA.

It is hard to describe the feeling on receiving the news last week – aptly enough while I was on a remote mountainside in the Orkneys completing the book research – that I am the recipient of the 2021 Roger Deakin Award by The Society of Authors. I am honoured and humbled, and of course hugely grateful, for this award. The Roger Deakin Award means a great deal to me, well beyond the financial award itself.

fieldwork in the Orkney Isles
Fieldwork in the Orkney Isles

“The Roger Deakin Award means a great deal to me, well beyond the financial award itself.”

Gabriel Hemery

I am deeply indebted to The Society of Authors for its generous support. I urge all writers in my position to become a member, and if you ever need financial support you may be equally fortunate and be eligible to apply for an award.

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