I was born on Islay. My family moved to the mainland when I was seven and I grew up in Castle Douglas in south west Scotland.
I worked for ten years with Oxfam in Lancashire, fundraising and campaigning on development issues. The next ten years were spent first in Pakistan, then Afghanistan, where I worked for a small health organisation primarily concerned with leprosy and mother and childcare. My experiences living in those countries inform much of my writing.
I returned to Castle Douglas when my son was five years old so he could have somewhere to put down his own roots.
I have always written. As a child I wrote adventure stories in my own books made from wallpaper off-cuts and as a teenager I wrote very bad love poetry. For most of my life I’ve kept a journal. While still working in Afghanistan I began submitting features to various publications including The Herald and The Guardian Weekly.
When I settled back in Scotland I began to realise there might be a possibility to earn my living as a writer. As a freelance journalist I published articles in national and local newspapers and magazines covering a variety of topics from Afghanistan to local history to disability issues. At the same time I decided it was time to complete my education, having had possibly the longest ‘gap year’ ever and studied for a degree in Liberal Arts: Health and Social Studies at the newly opened University of Glasgow Crichton Campus.
On a creative writing module at Glasgow University Crichton Campus, Tom Pow, ignoring my protests, made me write poetry and I am so glad he did. Since then I have had poems published in a number of literary magazines, broadsheets and anthologies.
In 2006 I graduated with an MLitt in Creative Writing from Glasgow University.
The novel on which I was working during my course was published in 2009. No More Mulberries is a story of love, loss and divided loyalties, set in Afghanistan.
I work part time as a reporter/feature writer for Dumfries and Galloway Life, which allows me some free time to focus on other writing projects.
I have only met Mary Smith online, and that was through fellow bloggers, Chris the Story Reading Ape, Sally Cronin with her Smorgasbord Blog Magazine, and Seumas Gallacher (Seumas has already been promoted as part of this A-RI series), but since meeting we have followed each other for a number of years and helped to promote our collective books. Mary Smith is a perfect example of the “international” author I wanted to promote through this series: She was born and now lives in Scotland, but has also lived in Pakistan and Afghanistan and has written books set in those countries. I’ve read both No More Mulberries and her collection of non-fiction stories about Afghan women, and found them to be well-written and fascinating, opening up a part of the world to me that had previously been unknown. Mary has also been one of several loyal followers of this author-reader series since I began posting to it on Dec. 1st, and has retweeted pretty well every authors’ promotions throughout the month and a half it’s been running. Mary personally has an extensive, and international, following, so I know she is managing to share all this information with so many more readers than I could ever reach, and for that I am extremely grateful!
More about Mary Smith’s writing …
I write non-fiction – both full length and features for a variety of publications – fiction and poetry.
I enjoy working in collaboration with artists from other art forms and have worked on projects with print maker and visual artist Silvana McLean and sculptor Matt Baker. I have also enjoyed working on a number of community-based oral history projects and exhibitions for Dumfries and Galloway Women’s Forum, Community Learning and Development, Poverty Alliance and the National Theatre of Scotland‘s inaugural ‘Home’ project.
My novel No More Mulberries, set in Afghanistan, was published in 2009 and is available in both paperback and eBook formats.
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women (Indigo Dreams Publishing) is a non-fiction account of my time in Afghanistan and provides a unique insight into the lives of Afghan women before and immediately after Taliban’s rise to power.
My poems have been published in a variety of literary magazines and anthologies and my first full length poetry collection, Thousands Pass Here Every Day was published in 2012 by Indigo Dreams Publishing.
No More Mulberries
No More Mulberries is set in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan where British-born Miriam finds her relationship with her Afghan husband, Dr Iqbal heading towards crisis.
From the opening chapters the reader is drawn into Miriam’s family life and her circle of friends, joining her in the clinic where she carries out her role of health worker for the women of the village. It is a life in which Miriam is clearly at home; after spending several years in Afghanistan she no longer feels conscious of the impact of what, to the reader, may seem a strange and difficult existence. However, the problems in her marriage – its silences and evasions – unsettle Miriam’s equilibrium.
When asked by her boss to attend, as translator, a teaching camp for Afghan paramedics and foreign doctors she goes despite Dr Iqbal’s opposition. While there, a friend from her past arrives, urging her to visit his village and the place where she worked some years earlier.
No More Mulberries is about commitment and divided loyalties. It is also a story of love, isolation, coping and learning to live with loss and grief, all of which are further exacerbated by cultural differences, and all set against the shadow of a country moving through the transition from earlier conflict to the new Taliban threat.
What Mary Smith is working on now: “On my blog MarySmith’sPlace I am doing a weekly post on the first trip I made to Afghanistan. It’s from a few years before the time I wrote about in the memoir. I have all my diaries from back then so thought I might as well use the material.
New projects – I have said 2020 is the year I’m going to use the material from the My Dad’s a Goldfish blog to write a memoir about Dad and dementia (but don’t hold me to that – I’ve said it every year for four years!).
For more information about Mary Smith, her writing, teaching, and where to purchase her books, please see her website.