This Storyteller Writes About Adventurous, Inspiring Women

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At CircleAround, we love highlighting empowering women whose passions, strengths, and skills inspire young girls everywhere. That's why we were so drawn to Ailsa Ross, a 32-year old author from Scotland who has built her career around profiling bold, brave women.

Her first kids' book, The Girl Who Rode a Shark: And Other Stories of Daring Women, explores biographies of women and girls — astronauts, secret agents, pirate queens, and more — who have given “adventurous” a completely new meaning. Ross tells CircleAround that she first began researching adventurous women because she wanted to be more outgoing herself. But she soon realized these stories could help others, too.

I’m trying to love the mosquitoes by the creek as they make bonfires on my legs, my ankles, my shoulders. To me, that's fun.

 

“I remember interviewing Manon Ossevoort — a Dutch adventurer who spent years driving a tractor from her home in the Netherlands to the South Pole — over the phone while out walking on a -22° F day," recalls Ross, who grew up in the north of Scotland but now lives in the Canadian Rockies. "As she described the glittering cold of Antarctica, I felt my fingers go dangerously numb from the Canadian cold. It felt so weird and thrilling and good to be out in this frozen air, talking to this woman on the other side of an ocean about her time at the icy bottom of our planet. What a world! What a job.”

Ross studied law but pursued her passions to become an author and freelance writer. In addition to making illustrated children’s literature, she writes about nature, conservation, history, and female adventurers for publications around the world.

Writing from a 'Pretty House' in the Sub-Arctic

She says she is inspired by her environments. “I’ve done a few residencies, but easily the best was being the writer-in-residence at Berton House in the Yukon for the winter of last year,” she tells CircleAround. “Having a pretty house in the sub-Arctic to write from felt so peaceful. Pitching assignments that involved sledding through the mountains with huskies, I loved.”

Ross says the biggest challenge of freelance writing is finding the same courage her book subjects naturally possess. 

“You can’t be shy,” she tells CircleAround. "You have to put yourself out there, even when you don’t want to. Pitch a story to an editor and you’re going to have to get over your desire to hide: you might have to check-in and check-in and check-in again to see about that story’s status. You’re also going to have to chase up invoices. You’re also going to have to email strangers, call strangers, share your work with others. If you’re quiet, you probably won’t find these parts of the business so enjoyable."

Currently, Ross is focusing on a book proposal called The Familiar Unfamiliar: A Year Learning to Make a Small World Big. She describes it as a guide for “trying out weekly projects that might help me embrace what Nietzsche called Amor Fati, a love of fate.”

“This week, I’m trying to love the mosquitoes by the creek as they make bonfires on my legs, my ankles, my shoulders. To me, that's fun.”


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