Tag Archives: Gaelic

Earth Music

I am happy and relieved to announce my weird and (I hope) humorous story, “Earth Music” is up on the Drabblecast website today, read by the amazing Mat Weller.

The story is part of a “trifecta” – three stories with a related theme. In this case the theme is: Change of heart. The other two stories are “Golden Age of the Paleozoic” by Ken Liu and “Weekend with the Owl God” by Frank Key. I’m pretty much thrilled beyond words to share a table of contents with those guys.

Drawing of bagpipes held in tentacled arms

Tentacles and Bagpipes (sounds like the name of a pub)

I’ve been waiting a long, long time for this story to appear. I submitted “Earth Music” to the Drabblecast two years ago, and they sent me a contract eighteen months ago.

Back in June of 2012 I was worried the story might be offensive to pipers, so at the 2012 Seattle fèis I spoke with Barry Shears, the bagpipes instructor at the fèis that year who is also an expert on the history of bagpipes. He promptly rattled off a joke that involved bagpipes and an amorous octopus. So I was reassured that not only do pipers have excellent (and tolerant) senses of humor, but there is some precedence for stories like this one.

In my submission I included a line of Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic) at the end.
The line was:
Cha d’rinneadh cròn air pìob sam bith ri sgrìobhadh na sgeulachd seo.
(“No bagpipes were harmed in the writing of this story.”)

I didn’t get an opportunity to edit this story since I wrote it two years ago. (Which is why according to my bio the Urban Green Man anthology is forthcoming.) In some ways the story is a snapshot of where I was as a writer back then. But “Earth Music” still appeals to my strange sense of humor.

So, yay. I’m quite pleased “Earth Music” has been produced by The Drabblecast. The podcast sounds fantastic. Worth the wait.

Happy writing,


Another thing that occupies my time besides raising two teenagers and writing is Slighe nan Gaidheal. I’m still recovering from the Seattle Fèis the week of June 9 to 15.

“Fèis” is a Scottish Gaelic word meaning festival. (Not to be confused with “feis” which means something rather different :-)

The event was sponsored by Slighe nan Gaidheal, a non-profit that creates ongoing language and music programs in the Pacific Northwest, and puts on the Fèis in alternating years at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend.

Fort Worden State Park Bunker

My twins looking out at the beach from the Fort Worden Bunker

The Seattle Fèis is amazing, and it could not happen without dozens of volunteers. I was the Registrar in 2010 and 2012, and it was a huge amount of work. I am so grateful to this year’s team of dedicated, hard-working volunteers.

Even though I wasn’t on the Fèis planning committee this year, I was involved because I’m Slighe’s (volunteer) treasurer. That’s kept me busy! (btw, unless you have an iPhone, Intuit GoPayment is a horrible pain in the ass, in my opinion.)

Volunteering is a wonderful way to support the things you love. How do you volunteer your time?

Gàidhlig side effect

photo taken on the Isle of Skye 18 July 2011

View on the Isle of Skye, taken on our July 2011 holiday

As mentioned on my “About” page, I’m a Gàidhlig learner. Sadly, I’m not very good at it, so far. The partner of one of my teachers suggested that I try writing in Gàidhlig. If only! I can barely write the simplest of sentences, so far.

The Seattle Fèis is coming up very quickly. Four whole days of Scottish language and culture with tradition bearers in the areas of language, song, pipes, harp, and fiddle, including native Gàidhlig speakers from Scotland and Cape Breton! I am SO looking forward to it.

What does learning Gàidhlig have to do with improving my writing (in English)?

An interesting side effect of learning (or in my case attempting to learn) Gàidhlig, is that it has made me look at the English language a little differently. Not only do I think about grammar in a more analytical way (verb, noun, adverb, adjective, preposition, dependent and independent clauses, dative case, and genitive case) but I am more aware of the way language influences the way I perceive the world.

In English the “basic” sentence structure is Subject – Verb – Object. To form a question, the order is changed to Verb – Subject – Object.

Gaelic languages (Irish, Welsh, Gàidhlig) are verb-centric. In most sentences the verb comes first, Verb – Subject – Object. Every verb has different forms that indicate tense, and whether it is positive or negative, statement or question. (Sentences using question words – who, what, how, how many, why, where – are handled a little differently). There is no word for “yes” or “no”, you answer a question with a negative or positive form of the verb used in the question.

For example, for this question:

A bheil thu sgìth? (Are you tired?)

The positive answer can be: “Tha” (yes) or “Tha mi sgìth” (I am tired).

The negative answer can be: “Chan eil” (no) or “Chan eil mi sgìth” (I am not tired).

Another example:

An do sgrìobh thu an-diugh? (Did you write today?)

Positive answer: “Sgrìobh” (yes) or “Sgriobh mi an-diugh” (I wrote today).

Negative answer: “Cha do sgrìobh” (didn’t write) or “Cha do sgrìobh mi an-diugh” (I didn’t write today).


As a writer, I wonder if thinking in English influences me to care more about who or what is doing something, rather than what they’re doing. Is that why I have to make a conscious effort to avoid lazy adverbs and come up with good verbs in my attempts at writing?

If I ever get to the point in my learning where I can think in Gaelic, maybe I’ll see the world a little differently. At the Seattle Fèis, I’m looking forward to asking the native Gàidhlig speakers how they think.