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Donna Bond: Keelite of the Month September 2014
1995 BA English & French with subsidiary Energy Studies and Spanish 1996 PGCE French and German
What am I doing now?
At Keele I was Donna Bolton, my married name is Donna Bond and I write as Donna Scott. By day, I’m a mild-mannered trainer for a very large global provider of information technology products and services; by night, I am an evil editor, red-penning the works of the great and good of science fiction; by early morning, I am writing my own stories, squeezing in a few words here and there and keeping the juices of creativity flowing; by occasional late nights and sunny festival weekends, I am a performance poet and stand-up. I recently also became the Chair of the British Science Fiction Association.
Photo left: Donna at the 1995 Keele Graduation Ball
How did you get to where you are now?
My road has been varied and divergent. My first attempts at careers in teaching and pub management were short-lived as I was rubbish at them. I was exhausted, stressed and uninspired and didn’t write or do anything creative for years after leaving university. Then in 2003, I went to my first fantasy literature convention: Grissecon. This was a literary gathering organised by my favourite writer, Storm Constantine. It opened up a world of creative possibilities as I mingled with professional writers, artists and fans. I made many inspirational friendships there, including Jamie Spracklen – with whom I would go on to work with as part of the editorial team for Visionary Tongue magazine – and Storm herself, who was just setting up her own publishing company, Immanion Press.
I began getting more involved with my local arts scene in the Black Country, tried my hand at performing poetry, and getting some of my stories published. I also started going to more conventions. I met my husband at one! That led to me getting involved with the British Science Fiction Association, and I started out as the Awards Administrator for them.
When I moved to Northampton to be with my future husband, things really started taking off for me. I joined Northampton Science Fiction Writers Group, and had a go at my long-held ambition of doing stand-up. I have been editing books for the likes of Angry Robot and Games Workshop too, so I am firmly ensconced in the literary world. Being Chair of the BSFA means I not only oversee the BSFA Awards, but also two long-standing magazines, Vector and Focus, a great number of events that bring readers and creators together, and engage with the hundreds of our members and their interests. It’s brilliant fun, occasionally stressful, but hugely worthwhile.
Photo right: Donna's Wedding 2013
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
I’m very proud of being the first ever official Bard of Northampton – a title I held from 2009-2010. I won this title at an annual contest held at the beautiful Delapre Abbey at the Bardic Picnic. I also love that I can get to meet my heroes. That I have a kind quote from Alan Moore about one of my stories blows my mind! Also, being able to stand in front of hundreds of people and make them laugh is a nice feeling.
And your biggest mistake?
I count my blessings. Life can sometimes make you sad, but I have survived all my wrong turns and set-backs. I regret being shy and easily pushed around when I was young and not standing up for myself, but I’m where I want to be now, so it didn’t matter in the end.
What are your ambitions now?
I’m lucky to love everything I do, but I am keen for my creative and literary work to continue snowballing. My wish is to progress as an editor and writer, and for this work to take me to new places and new experiences.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?
It really depends on what kind of person you are. It’s easy enough to educate yourself regarding time management and organisational skills, but if you can only apply yourself to one aspect of ‘work’ over a lengthy period of time, then the creative industries might not be for you unless you are fortunate enough to get all you need from one ‘day job’. Freelancers need to be adaptable and adventurous. We are little understood by the corporate world who prize single-mindedness…. On the other hand, if your brain is constantly bouncing with disparate ideas, it’s wise to apply a little focus occasionally. Just don’t believe the naysayers who try to convince you that you can’t do this and that when you know very well what’s within your power. Oh – and exercise; get some sleep; eat good things. This is advice I should heed myself.
Photo above: Donna, stand-up comedian at Eastern Con
What made you choose Keele University?
I was intrigued by the Joint Honours courses. I don’t like being tied down to a single inescapable destiny and I knew I would be able to cope with both subjects. And why not learn a bit more Spanish as well? Mostly though, I fell in love with the campus: it seemed very green and peaceful. I visited with my parents and knew I’d feel very at home there.
What kind of a student were you?
On the whole I was pretty motivated, but I can remember my first module tutor being very annoyed when none of the group had even looked at Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida. That was painful. I wish I could say I had my socks permanently pulled up after that point, but I had my dull and dizzy moments afterwards too. However, I was lucky to find so much to study that really interested me, from William Blake and Gothic Horror to the French Surrealist movement. There’s a lesson there – it really helps if you enjoy what you do. I also joined the Sailing Club, Rock Soc and I was a founder member of KUBE FM, for which I wrote some of the soap Q-Block and co-hosted the film show. Sometimes that could be very scary, but I’m glad I was part of that.
Photo right: Graduation Day on Keele Hall lawn
How has Keele influenced your life?
My friends and I often used to talk about how apathy was the enemy – and occasionally the Hospitality card machines – but it just goes to show, we’re all now doing interesting things, and that’s because we were prepared to try something new and put in a bit of effort. Yes, it might be easier to do your 9-5 then just go down the pub or watch the telly every day, but there are always more marvellous things you could be doing.
What is your favourite memory of Keele?
I have so many! Clandestine twilit tramps to the woods, or the amphitheatre; my first formal ball, for which I dyed my hair bright pink; sitting cross-legged, gazing up in giggling admiration at Punt and Dennis as there were no chairs for their audience; spending hours with Daisy Chainsaw, asking them rubbish questions for our ‘fanzine’… but mostly, and always, dancing in a circle with my mates in the Hole in the Wall.
What is your impression of Keele now?
Well, it looks very swish on the website! The place changed so much just while I was there that I imagine it will never stand still for long. I am sad to hear that Keele isn’t offering modern languages as full courses anymore. I hope they bring them back.
Anything else you would like to add?
My latest writing and editorial project news can be found on my website donna-scott.co.uk. If you are a member of a student science fiction reading, writing or gaming group, or a general reading or writing group who would like to explore genre, get in touch with us at the BSFA and we can put you in touch with some fantastic resources - bsfa.co.uk.
Photo above: Donna at a Book signing