Alumni in Focus
Patrick Baker, RGU Alumnus and published author, recently released his third book, The Unremembered Places - Exploring Scotland’s Wild Histories, which has been shortlisted for the Boardman Tasker Mountain Literature Award.
We spoke to him recently to find out more about his journey into writing since leaving RGU, his love of the Scottish outdoors and how it feels to be nominated for a literature award.
It’s been a little over 20 years since Patrick graduated from the PGDip in Publishing at RGU. Coming from a business background with a degree in Business and Economics, Patrick says the switch felt necessary to him, moving from the more analytical way of thinking to the more creative. Plus, it tapped into a career path that would genuinely interest him. His choice to come to RGU was an easy one; the university felt like a vibrant and innovative place with a genuine focus on the real-world application of study. Since many of his lecturers and tutors came from a publishing background, rather than an exclusively academic one, there was a practical context for everything he was taught.
Patrick worked for twelve years at a large academic publisher, having previously worked for an outdoor education charity, after leaving RGU. During that time, a love of the outdoors prompted him to write his first book - a hillwalking guidebook to hills in Scotland's central belt - and then to concentrate on writing a travelogue - The Cairngorms, A Secret History - of time spent exploring the physical and cultural landscapes of one of his favourite ranges.
Although Patrick doesn’t have direct book publishing experience, he agrees that his knowledge of the publishing industry gave him an insight into the creative principles and technical skills that underpin any publication process and gave him the preparedness to work to tight deadlines.
With a day job that involves creating content for a global asset management firm, we wanted to know if the transition to writing about the outdoors was a difficult one. He told us that, while the subject matter is entirely different, the two processes share several similarities: connecting with an audience or reader, making information accessible and understandable, and having something genuine to say.
Moving to Aberdeen to follow his course of study, meant that some of the more remote areas of Scotland became more readily accessible. Although he had not consciously set out to write about the outdoors, the process of writing has always just felt like a natural extension and expression of the time that he spent in Scotland’s wilderness areas.
Of course, finding the time to fully indulge in his own creative ideas is a challenge. Working full-time and father to three children means that Patrick has had to carve out time to write outwith his professional and personal commitments, leading to some early starts and late nights. Researching The Unremembered Places entailed journeying to some of Scotland’s most remote and wild places, so Patrick is pleased when his children can join him on his research trips.
Patrick says of the places he visited when researching for The Unremembered Places, that they were “astounding in their own ways. Whether it was visiting a remote navvies’ graveyard near Kinlochleven, the deserted slate-mining island of Belnahua in the Inner Hebrides, caves in the Arrochar Alps which were once used by the early climbers, or the desolate ruins of Clearance villages, each place I journeyed to felt incredibly impactful for the stories that existed there.”
Patrick is honoured to be shortlisted for the Boardman Tasker Award for mountain literature, which was established in 1983 to commemorate the lives of Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker, and awarded every year to authors of the best literary work concerned with the mountain environment. He is 1 of 5 authors shortlisted this year.
His inspirational advice to anyone thinking about a writing career is to always follow your passion. Write and produce the material that you are most interested in and that moves you in some way. Be prepared to get things wrong, experiment and try again.
Find Patrick on Twitter where he shares a record of his wilderness experiences:
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