Born in 1981, Robyn Scott was homeschooled in her early years by a mother who believed "children often learn best in unstructured situations, when they don't know they're learning. Especially if they're having fun." The Oxford educated mother also thought a syllabus stifled creativity and that she was just as capable of getting her children to university as anyone else. Evidently her theory proved right as Robyn's formal education did not begin until age fourteen after which she went on to earn a Gates Scholarship to Cambridge University. She received a M.Phil. in bioscience enterprise, focusing on the pricing of medicines in developing countries. She lives in London but works and travels frequently in Africa.
When it was suggested that she write a book of her childhood in Africa, the book that later became Twenty Chickens for a Saddle, she asked herself the same question her grandfather asked after publication. "Why would anyone care what we all got up to in a little town in Botswana?"
Fearing that no one could possibly be interested in the magical events she recalled as a child, she discarded her original beginning (her earliest memory of Botswana-- two fruit moths sipping grape-juice from her grandfather's lips) and instead wrote of black mamba snakes, the breaking of a crocodile's jaw and other mortal danger episodes, but found that she soon ran out of exciting adventures. It was then that her agent suggested she return to the magic of the moths and so began the delightful process of discovering how the quieter character-rich moments hovered discreetly in the shadows of grander memories.
Robyn Scott's website
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Tell us a little about your memoir.
Twenty Chickens for a Saddle is most simply, to my mind, the story of a family, falling in love with and haphazardly pursing its dreams in Botswana, the most captivating and unusual of African countries. The book is also a story about living on the very fringes of convention, and about growing up as someone never quite sure if these fringes were exactly where I wanted to be. Beyond this microcosm, it is an account of a country battling the scourge of AIDS, meeting it varyingly with infuriating inertia and awe-inspiring acts of courage and fortitude.
What inspired you to write it?
I was not so much inspired, as dared to write the book. Near the end of my degree, I decided to try some journalism, and a friend introduced me to Patti Waldmeir, an FT journalist, who kindly offered to put in a good word for me at the newspaper if I wrote a short article that demonstrated I could write decently. Write about being homeschooled in Botswana, she insisted, despite my protests that no one surely was going to be interested in that. I was given an internship, and thought no more of the article until Michael Holman, ex-Africa editor at the newspaper, read it and declared that here was a book...
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