‘Real, Raw, Relevant:’ 82-year-old motivational speaker finds passion in poetry

By Jordan Houston

A Scottish-born freelance writer and motivational speaker, 82-year-old Alice Scott-Ferguson is a testament to that it is never too late to pursue your passions.

Her extensive resume boasts stints in a variety of fields, including working as a registered nurse in Scotland as well as in the realm of psychiatry. But it wasn’t until a few years ago, she took a leap of faith and explored her knack for poetry.

Now, the award-winning Phoenix writer is celebrating the release of her second published poetry book, “UNPAUSED Poems: Real, Raw, Relevant.”

The paperback, published in May 2021, is comprised of 76 poems and is available on Amazon for roughly $15.

“I think I am proud of the fact that at my age, I did start a serious new career,” Scott-Ferguson says. “I am proud of that – it’s not a word I use a lot. But honestly, I am so grateful I have the ability. I am pretty disciplined. It takes a discipline and I’m proud that I stuck with that discipline, and proud of my editor and publishing company.”

“I am 82 – so, I was in my mid-70s when I first started writing poetry and getting published,” she adds. “That should be an encouragement to everybody.”

“UNPAUSED” divides its poems into the following sections: Hurting and Hoping, Ruminations and Reflections, Nourishing Nature, Takes on Theology, Voices of Women, The Darker Side and The Lighter Side.

According to its Amazon synopsis, the book “invites the reader to ease out of the safety zones and trust the open spaces, find fresh insights in entrenched views, share in the wonder of epiphanies encountered in both the sacred and the secular, and take the high road full of promise.”

Scott-Ferguson describes it as an expression of turmoil, felt by both the author and the global community, at the time of writing.

“‘UNPAUSED’ was birthed out of a horrific interlude for all of us. There is a lot of lament in that one,” she says.

“I talk about my own struggles with depression, or an observation at (a) car dealer of a monk coming in, another one at the coffee shop and seeing a lady in red sequins and red long nails. (Those) kinds of observations. Literally, it can come from anywhere and anything.”

The writer notes her latest poetry book is a darker evolution from its predecessor, “Pausing in the Passing Places.”

Published in July 2018, “Pausing” features poems that “offer transparent reflections on life, loss, longing, and love.” It is more reflective and “calmer,” Scott-Ferguson says.

“The poems are reflective poems in ‘Pausing in the Passing Places.’ ‘UNPAUSED Poems’ – those are a little more intimate,” she says, describing the latter as an expression of “what was going on in the world” at the time.

“Pausing’s” title is inspired by the one-lane roads that weave through the poet’s native land in the Shetland Islands. The narrow paths, which require drivers to pull off to let oncoming traffic pass, invite the space to pause, reflect and assess, she claims.

Both poetry books are standalone works, however, Scott-Ferguson says.

“You can read one without the other,” she says. “There is a difference in tone because of the times I was writing them.”

Long before Scott-Ferguson found her footing as a burgeoning poet, she was immersed in the worlds of writing and religion.

The author, boasting a bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences, has contributed to both the secular and religious press.

She has written and taught Bible studies, and presented internationally at various venues-women’s seminars, writers workshops and conferences for both women and men.

Scott-Ferguson published her first book, “Little Women, Big God,” which tells the story of the women’s ministry she founded and directed in the United Kingdom.

Later, while living in Colorado, she authored “Mothers Can’t Be Everywhere, But God Is,” and co-authored “Reconcilable Differences.”

But it’s the difference in poetry writing’s approach that truly captivates Scott-Ferguson, she explains.

“Poems will come and I will jot down thoughts and form them, other times I go looking for a title for thoughts I have and they get broken up into different sections or reflections,” she explains.

“There is an editing process in poetry and I like it,” she says. “I write nonfiction, and when you write nonfiction, you have an endnote and footnote.”

Scott-Ferguson wrote and published her first poem, about the death of her father, in her early 60s.

She recalls traveling 5,000 miles back to Scotland to see him, but he had died just hours before her arrival.

“My father was an avid lover of poetry,” Scott-Ferguson says. “I grew up with poetry and grew up in a home with exciting poetry – and he had a phonographic memory.”

Her father loved literature and poetry, she says, and “readily recounted the magnificent in the mundane and the beauty in the broken things to me, throughout his life.”

That notion remains instilled in her and her writings, Scott-Ferguson says.

“I’m from the Celtic lands and I’m a melancholic at heart,” she says. “I see the pathos of life and I’m definitely one that sees the sacred and meaning in the most mundane.” “Writing is super, super hard work and it is lonely work, but hardly satisfying,” she says.

In continuation of her evolving writing career, Scott-Ferguson is now turning her attention toward complete a memoir.

“A memoir is taking a slice of your life,” she says, noting hers will be marked by her lifelong passion to empower women.

Scott-Ferguson attributes her justice-seeking tenacity to her grandmother, recalling a life-defining exchange during her childhood.

“For me, it has always been a champion of women and women’s rights and finding the inequities horrifying,” she shares. “My grandmother, she grew up in a Victorian era, and in this moment, she leaned down to me and said, ‘You can’t love anybody else unless you love yourself first.”

“That, as a child, went deep inside of me. So, my self-esteem was strong – not in a prideful way.”

Scott-Ferguson says she hopes to finish her memoir by the end of the year.

For more information about Alice Scott-Ferguson and her work, visit cladach.com/alice-scott-ferguson.