Has It Really Been a Year?

March is Scottish Association of Writers conference time  which I blogged about this time last year. And here I was again, arriving with my suitcase, greeting friends I hadn’t seen since then and eagerly scanning the programme to see what was on offer.

Last year I was an adjudicator with lots of things to do and a workshop to run, but this year I could relax and take things easy and enjoy attending all sorts of talks and workshops (and pick up some tips from other adjudicators!)

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Our Club Winners

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Party Time

Friday evening always starts for our members with a gathering in the biggest bedroom for a wee drink and catch up before dinner. Then the exciting bit – the results of the competitions, or at least some of them. It continues on Saturday morning when the clubs’ tallies of trophies is assessed. This year, the Perth club took the honours, while in the Poetry competition, the Angus club swept the board.

What with workshops, book sales, informal get-togethers and loads and loads of food, it’s a hectic and filled (and filling!) weekend.

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More Avid Listeners

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Avid Listeners

My best moment came when in the middle of a seminar, I heard my phone and quickly checked it to find that my second novel had just been accepted by Tirgearr Publishing.  Unable to shriek with joy, jump up and down or generally celebrate as I wanted to, I sat there with a silly grin on my face until I could leave and go skipping along the corridor to tell my writerly mates.

There’s a grand gala dinner when the trophies are presented and this year’s guest speaker was Simon Brett who entertained us royally with spoofs of Nordic Noir, Agatha Christie and sundry other characters from his rich repertoire.

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…and the speaker, Simon Brett

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The Gala Dinner…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday saw a new President and Vice-president voted in – Wendy Jones took over from Marc Sherland as president, and Gillian Duff became Vice-president in place of Jen Butler. They both have a hard act to follow but I’m sure they’ll be very successful.

As we say in this part of the world, ma heid’s nippin, filled with information, ideas, tips and contacts which I need to digest and act on.

But meantime, there’s a house move to organise and next year, I’ll be arriving at the conference from the other side of the country. Can’t wait!

 

 

 

Janus – looking both ways

The Roman God Janus is always depicted as looking both ways – back to the past and forwards into the future.

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So, looking back: 2017 was quite a year. I self-published two books, A Drop of Rainbow Magic for children and an illustrated memoir,A Scottish Childhood; Growing Up a Baby Boomer.

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On top of all that, I spoke and adjudicated competitions at a couple of events, ran several workshops on various aspects of writing, attended conferences and lunches organised by the Scottish Association of Writers and the Society of Authors in Scotland, did readings and sold books at book fairs, as well as writing a children’s book (rejected but still trying!) and revising a novel which was accepted by a publisher.

And in 2018? I’ve finished the first round of editing for the novel, Festival Fireworks, so it’s on to having the cover designed ready for its launch in the spring. I’m 22,000 words into another novel, thanks to the push of NaNoWriMo, and I want to get a move on with that this month.

Who knows what else I’ll get up to? It’s exciting looking forward but also there’s a bit of trepidation too. Anything can happen.

Janus was also the god of beginnings and endings, of gates and portals; in times of peace his gates were closed and only opened in times of war.

Let us hope that in 2018 his gates remain firmly closed to war and that he heralds new beginnings for us all.

A Happy New Year to all my friends and followers!

 

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Confined to a Garret? No Chance!

This week has been celebrated as Book Week Scotland when writers all over the country have left their garrets and travelled the length and breadth of the country talking about books and writing and more books and more writing.

My friend Michael J Malone has been touring the west coast talking about his new book, House of Spines. (Cracking great read! I recommend it.) He’s been to Rothesay, Dunoon, Millport, Tobermory and …er…Wishaw. Definitely not on the west coast, that one!

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The Pencil, Largs

For my part, I was in Largs, not as part of Book Week but to do some research for my next novel. It was a beautiful sunny clear day with the temperature just hovering above freezing as we walked along the shore to the Pencil monument commemorating the Battle of Largs in 1263, and then on to the Marina, filled with yachts of all shapes and sizes, mainly parked up until the spring. And there was a very welcome restaurant where we had coffee and Danishes and thawed out before we walked all the way back.

Then it was to Perthshire, and past the Ochil Hills just tinged with snow, to the Auchterarder Book Fair, part of their celebration of Book Week. We set up our stalls, or rather tables, in the hall with our books on display. I was surrounded by historical novels, crime, science fiction and fantasy, and did I detect an element of competition as we tried to attract customers to look at our books and hopefully buy one?books

I was one of the authors who gave a short talk about their writing life, starting with my five years with Postman Pat and moving on to the present day and A Scottish Childhood, and the future with my novel Festival Fireworks.24255073_1980255258879716_3265096166631918755_o

And all this gallivanting doesn’t stop there. Next weekend is the Society of Authors Christmas lunch in Edinburgh where there will be many friends to catch up with and have a jolly, merry afternoon.

Can’t not mention the success at the Imprint Writing Awards of members of Ayr Writers Club. Six members were shortlisted and the club scooped 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the poetry section, (one member winning two prizes) and 1st and 2nd in the short story.  It’s a sign of a very vibrant and talented club and one I’m pleased to belong to.

Shortlisted for Imprint 2017

Shortlisted for Imprint

 

Gathering in the Harvest

There’s a stillness, a quietness in the air this morning as if Nature is exhausted after yesterday’s storm when the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia swept in over the west coast, fortunately not doing much damage. The apple tree in the garden though, had a good shoogle as we say here, and apples have been strewn across the garden. However, a few are still clinging on to their branches like shipwrecked sailors clinging to the mast. And there’s enough for another apple dessert of one shape or another.apple tree

And I’ve reached a hiatus too in my writing life. I need to take stock of what I’ve done and where to go next. I’ve counted that there are three books that I’ve written out in publisher land waiting for decisions about their future to be made. Information about several interesting competitions is sitting on my desk and on my calendar are two speaking engagements in the next few weeks. Plus an article hopefully being read with enthusiasm across the Atlantic.

One competition is purely for writers from Ayrshire with the theme of Head in the Clouds, a state most writers know only too well. Previously this competition was keen on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, with one of our club members scooping the prize one year. His story even yet sticks in my mind, involving as it did, a dead hand emerging from a manure heap. Grisly!

The Scottish Association of Writers runs several competitions with the results announced at its conference in March. This year I was an adjudicator and wasn’t allowed to enter the competitions I wasn’t judging, but in 2018 I shall be just an ordinary attendee and free to enter as many as I like. It’s a good opportunity to try a genre I don’t normally write like poetry or drama and get a critique on your work as well as perhaps a prize. So I shall have a think about that.

One of my talks is to residents of a sheltered housing complex about what I have been writing since I last spoke to them 18 months ago. No lack of material there, just decisions to be made on what to miss out, skim over or concentrate on.

The other engagement is for a workshop on writing the short story at Ayr Writers’ Club. I have been reading and listening to a variety of short stories – no great hardship as I enjoy that – and two have stuck in my mind. The winner of the Scottish Arts Club competition is  Iain MacDonald with his story, The Gannet, an evocative piece of excellent writing.

The other one is the short story which won the BBC National Short Story Award, The Edge of the Shoal by Cynan Jones. I listened to it when it was broadcast on Radio 4 recently. I was out for a walk at the time and was so wrapped up in it, I just kept walking until it came to an end. In an interview for the New Yorker, Cynan Jones states that:

I’m not sure fiction should provide the reader with a thorough picture of a person. Reality doesn’t. We build our ideas of others through assumptions we make based on the small things they show.

Readers are imaginative, creative people in their own right. By revealing little details, implications, readers form a relationship with the character based on their own understanding, not my insistence.

Food for thought indeed. Meantime back to the apples and perhaps an apple tart tonight?