Born and brought up in a small village in Thurgau Canton, Switzerland, I studied English and German literature and linguistics at the universities of Zurich and Aberdeen (exchange scholarship), then became a PhD student/research assistant at Zurich University.
My life changed dramatically when I got married to Ron Butlin in 1993: I gave up my job and, together with my first golden retriever, moved to Edinburgh, where I ditched my PhD on Graham Swift and started to write fiction. Although my mother tongue is Swiss German, I prefer to write in English.
I am the author of The Waiting (2012; UBS Cultural Foundation award), Fighting It (2009; shortlisted for Saltire Book of the Year, longlisted for the Edge Hill Prize for best collection), The Beauty Room (2002; longlisted for MIND Book of the Year) and Inside~Outside (1998; shortlisted for Saltire First Book of the Year).
My first poem, ‘(Un)certainties’, won 1st prize in the Mslexia/Poetry Book Society Women’s Poetry Competition 2019 and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2020. Another poem was shortlisted for the Mslexia Women’s Poetry Competition 2021.
My first published story, ‘Over, All Over and Beyond’, won 1st prize in the Edinburgh Review 10th Anniversary Short Story Competition in 1995. I am a Cadenza Magazine prizewinner and was shortlisted for Eyelands 9th International Short Story Contest (2019; Greece). One of my stories was the Guardian’s Radio Pick of the Day and another was selected for Best British Short Stories 2013.
My work has been widely published, also in translation, in literary magazines and anthologies in the UK, Europe, Australia and the USA, and has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4.
I have received Bursaries from the Scottish Arts Council / Creative Scotland, Pro Helvetia (Swiss Arts Council) and Thurgau Lottery Foundation.
I have collaborated with Ron on poetry translations for the Scottish Poetry Library, the Goethe-Institut and others. Publications include The Night Begins with a Question: XXV Austrian Poems 1978-2002 (Carcanet, 2007), Fife Lines: Poetry from Switzerland (2002), orte: Brücke nach Edinburgh (Switzerland, 1996), and German Poetry Posters.
I have given readings throughout the UK and abroad, and have worked variously as a writing competition judge (Scottish Association of Writers, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh Writers’ Club), literature specialist on Creative Scotland’s Artists’ Bursaries Panel, creative writing tutor (National Galleries of Scotland, Universities Scotland, Edinburgh City Art Centre, Museum of Childhood, Writers’ Museum and many others), Royal Literary Fund Fellow (Queen Margaret University), Royal Literary Fund Lector for Reading Round Scotland and critical reading tutor (Centre for Open Learning at Edinburgh University).
Memberships: Society of Authors, Autorinnen und Autoren der Schweiz, Scottish PEN (where she served on the Executive Committee and the Writers at Risk Committee for several years), Dove Tales, Poetry Association of Scotland (honorary), Swiss Club Edinburgh (honorary).