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Wolfpack Writers: Traer Scott

cover of "Goodbye Salad Days"

Award-winning photographer and author Traer Scott graduated from NC State with a bachelor’s degree in communication. Specializing in animal photography and the human-animal bond, she has published 12 books including Shelter Dogs and Radiant: Farm Animals Up Close and Personal. Her work has also appeared in National Geographic, Time, Vogue and dozens of other national and international publications.

Her latest book, Goodbye Salad Days: Kevin Faces Adulthood, tells the story of Kevin, a regular hamster in a familiar quarter-life crisis. We caught up with Scott to learn more about her writing motivations, favorite animals and time on campus.

What motivated you to write Goodbye Salad Days: Kevin Faces Adulthood?

When my daughter had her first hamster, she had the idea to put him in her dollhouse and let him run around the rooms. The first time I came in to check on them I saw the hamster in one of the bedrooms, hovering over the doll family who were “asleep” in the bed. It was hilarious. I took a quick photo and threw it up on Instagram. People loved it, so I started doing more, and a few weeks later I got the idea for a book. The character and concept were honed through talks with my agent and editor.

I love building dioramas and became a fairly adept amateur miniaturist through the project. Goodbye Salad Days is very different from any of my other books, and it was by far one of the hardest to complete.

headshot of Traer Scott
Traer Scott

Where do you get ideas for your books?

My ideas come from everywhere, often the places I least expect … see above! I find that the more I actively seek inspiration, the less I find. When I just live my life, the ideas come organically.

I think all seasoned artists and writers have a search engine of sorts going constantly in their subconscious that processes every new experience, every new place and person and evaluates it for possible content. It’s exhausting, but I don’t know any other way to live.

How has your NC State degree impacted your career?

People assume that I have an art degree and although sometimes I wish I had gone the design school route, my degree in mass communication prepared me spectacularly (in many ways better than art school) for being a professional artist and writer. My undergraduate work focused on public speaking, creative writing and journalism — skills that I use every single day and that many art grads don’t have.

hamster watching fake tv while sitting on bed
Binge Watching: He spent all weekend binge-watching his favorite show and now it’s over. He feel empty

What was your favorite class at NC State?

I had many favorites, but I think my literature and philosophy classes were what really “educated” me in a profound way. I was so lucky to be able to study animal rights theory under Tom Regan. It shaped my life and work.

Do you have a favorite animal? Favorite to photograph?

Dogs. And more dogs. I am head over heels fanatical about dogs and have been my entire life, but I am truly enchanted with all animals. Every single species has something that makes them incredibly unique and fascinating.

My books try to convey the magic of animals that often get overlooked — whether it is shelter dogs or raptors or farm animals. I always hope to inspire awe and respect for the non-human animals we share our planet with.

hamster looking at popsicle stick statue
Burning Man: Kevin thinks that maybe a trip to the playa will spark some spiritual awakening through radical self-expression. Or he’ll just be dehydrated and surrounded by weirdos.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

I am obsessed with Dickens and pretty much all 19th century British literature, but the vast majority of what I read is historical fiction (not particularly surprising to anyone who knows me). However, I’m also really into contemporary fiction, and my favorite book at the moment is Lauren Groff’s weird and wonderful short story collection Florida. I aspire to write like her!

When do you read?

I read a lot of middle grade fiction to my daughter, but I read for myself at night when she is asleep. Sadly, I only get about an hour between her bedtime and mine. I have a dream of being able to spend a whole day curled up reading someday. Maybe when she starts going to sleepaway camp.

hamster reading newspaper
Retirement: Kevin has realized saving for retirement is something he’s supposed to be doing like, right now.

When do you write?

I wish I could say that I have a regimented writing practice, but parenthood and always having way too much on my plate perpetually disrupts my attempts. So at the moment, I write whenever I get fed up with not writing or when I have a deadline looming, but in the fall I am determined to have more dedicated work time.

What’s next for you?

I am working on two photo books right now, both about dogs and due out in 2022. I write a lot of creative nonfiction and will hopefully continue to publish essays. But I’m also writing my first middle grade fiction book, which is mostly set in Paris. I hope to have it wrapped up in early 2022!

This post was originally published in College of Humanities and Social Sciences.