Local author makes national award shortlist

LOCAL writer Liz Strachan recently found herself shortlisted alongside best-selling author Bill Bryson for a national award.

A former Montrose Academy maths teacher, Mrs Strachan was in the running for the Society of Authors' Educational Writers' Award 2010, which was presented at a reception at the House of Commons last week, for her book A Slice of Pi.

It offers a fun guide to maths and features many anecdotes and stories about famous mathematicians drawn from her 36 years in the classroom, 22 of which were spent at the academy.

Although, as a member of Angus Writers' Circle, Mrs Strachan is no stranger to having her work published, she had no real intention of putting the book on the market and was only driven to put pen to paper to kill time during a rainy holiday in Majorca.

She said: "It was a year past March and it was raining and, as I do a bit of writing anyway, I thought I'd write something. I bought a jotter and started writing about John Napier, the mathematician who invented logarithms, and then I started writing about the other mathematicians I told the kids about in school.

"I also put in the little quirky calculations I showed the pupils. I always tried to make maths fun as it can be a very dry subject if you don't try to inject a little fun into it.

"It took me about three months to complete and when some of the writers' circle saw it they asked where I was going to publish it."

Mrs Strachan eventually found a publisher who was interested in producing the book and it was in bookshops in October last year. In February it will also go on sale in America.

Her nomination, by her editor Hugh Barker, came as a surprise and she was thrilled to find her name along with three other authors on the shortlist alongside Bill Bryson, who won the prize.

She said: "I was over the moon and overwhelmed to be shortlisted with him. Everyone was so nice to me when I was there and he was so nice to talk to."

Mrs Strachan began her writing career 20 years ago, after her grand-daughter was born prematurely. She saw an advert for the European Letter Writer of the Year competition and her letter to her new grand-daugther, "Welcome to the World", was placed first.

She said: "That started me thinking I could write, but I couldn't really. I joined the writers' circle and realised I had no idea how to write short stories and that things had to be presented to an editor in exactly the right way."

Since then she has sold more than 150 short stories and articles and won nine first prizes in competitions run by the Scottish Association of Writers.

Although Mrs Strachan said she has ideas for future work, she is unsure if and when they will be published.

She said: "I've an idea for another maths thing but I like writing short stories and children's stories. Whether they come to anything, I don't know."