Scottish Association of Writers 2019

The Scottish Association of Writers were celebrating their 50th conference this year and they did it in some style with cake and balloons and a Bookiversity quiz and a play written and performed by a bunch of crime writers and yes, it was criminal!

And of course, there were competitions, speakers and workshops galore!

Here are some of my photos from the event;

dinner 2

The Gala Dinner

trophy winners

The Trophy Winners from Ayr Writers’ Club

play

‘Carry on Sleuthing’ with Caro Ramsay, Pat Young, Michael J. Malone and Douglas Skelton hamming it up.

sheila and me

Me and ma pal catching up on a year’s gossip.

Writer of Many Things

My tagline is A Writer of Many Things, and last week showed me exactly why I called myself that.

Winners 2017

Ayr Writers’Club Trophy Winners 2017

I gave a workshop on writing short stories to fellow members of Ayr Writers’ Club where I tried to get them to produce some of the various elements like character, voice, dialogue and conflict, that go to make up a short story. If nothing else, it provoked quite a bit of merriment as they attempted in pairs to have their characters meet as strangers in a public place, especially when they had to read out what they’d written to the assembled company. But hopefully there was a germ of a short story in some of them that they can work on and enter in one of the many competitions around.

I was just recovering the next morning when the competition entries from Largs Writers’ Group landed on my mat. I had spoken there about writing for children (see my blog) and set them to write me 1000 words of a children’s story, stating what age range they were aiming at. And what a lot of work some of them have put into their entry! There were drawings galore for the picture book entries and many even set out their text as they would in a picture book. Others had aimed at older children and boy, were they scary. There are some excellent stories among them although as I have only read them all through once, I can’t decide yet who the winners will be.

And a week or two ago, I heard that my novel, Festival Fireworks, had been taken up by Tirgearr, an Irish publisher selling mainly to the American market, and will be out in March. It’s a romance, not my usual genre, but then what is, and there will be editing and proofreading to keep me busy till then.

Meantime, I’ve started another romance novel, seeing as how I should strike while the iron’s hot (a cliché I know but I can’t think of what else to say!) and anyway, it’s NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. I won’t say how many words I’ve managed so far but at least it’s a start.

Book Week Scotland is at the end of the month and a group of us are up in Auchterarder in Perthshire for their Book Fair. I’ve been making sure I have plenty of books to take with me to sell and designing bookmarks to hand out.

So I’m definitely a writer of many things, which I thoroughly enjoy. After all, a change is as good as a holiday. (Not another cliché surely!)

 

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?

Excuses, Excuses….

I know it’s been too long since I wrote a blog piece but I’ve been busy getting ready for going on holiday, being on holiday and recovering from going on holiday. It’s all hard work you understand!

But I’m back and I’ve run out of excuses so I’m about to throw myself back into writing. I missed the first two nights of Ayr Writers’ Club new season (see above for my excuse) and I should be at Michael J Malone’s launch of his latest book, House of Spines, tonight but I’ve run out of steam. (More excuses.) However I’ll catch up with him and his new book later.

I’ve my book of articles on growing up in the West of Scotland after the Second World War to sort out. I’m stuck because there are apparently hidden text boxes in the manuscript and the powers that be at Lulu (the company I use to publish my books) don’t like it. And I don’t know where they are. I left it there when I went away, hoping, ludicrously, that it would have sorted itself out by the time I got back, but of course it hasn’t. So I will have to search all the forums to see if anyone else has had that problem and what they’ve done about it. I also posted a question on Lulu’s help-desk but the reply I got only took me back to the information site I’d already read my way through.

Part of the problem is that I work on Mac Pages and export to Word.

In the meantime, here’s the photo of me I’m going to use on the cover, once I get that far. You’ll see I haven’t changed much over the years. front of book

I bet there’s a few of you out there had a pair of Clark’s sandals like mine. A new pair every year in time for summer. And no comments about the knickers please! Remember everything was hand-made in those days so no doubt they were cut down from my granny’s old ones.

A Movable Feast of Writing

The session may have ended for the year for Ayr Writers’ Club but not for the writers. The long summer months stretch ahead with no weekly meetings to inspire, encourage and administer metaphorical kicks up the rear end to us – we need the sustained support of fellow writers to keep us going right to The End of whatever it is we’re writing.

To help us through the dry desert months of summer – another metaphor as Scottish summers are anything but dry deserts – we started the Summer Readarounds when we would meet every fortnight at a willing member’s home. Members would bring copies of their WIP (work in progress) to read aloud and be commented on by the others. Multiple copies are useful as a bit of proof-reading can be done at the same time!  To make it easy for someone to host a get-together, we stipulated that only tea, coffee and biscuits were required, to avoid someone feeling they had to embark upon a version of the Great British Bake-off, and that each member there would pay £2 to club funds.

The meetings have been going very successfully for several years now and there’s never a shortage of members willing to host or wishing to attend. We try to keep the numbers down to around a dozen and this allows everyone a chance to read and have their work critiqued. And also means that there are chairs for everyone!

There has been a recent, very welcome addition in the shape of cake, courtesy of Chris who is determined to undermine everyone’s diet plans. Still, it’s good for the brain they say.

chocolate-cake_1203-3502

image – freepick.com

The first of this summer’s Readaround meetings was last week and we had a marvellous selection of writing from members; flash fiction with twist endings, a short story that we recommended be even shorter, (and which the writer has already edited. Kudos Carolyn!)  a novel being turned into a screenplay, part of a memoir which is a prequel to an already published book, a thriller, an article on a suitcase filled with old books from the writer’s childhood (already destined for publication in the local newspaper), a poem and an ongoing saga of self-publishing.

Yes, that last one was me! And yes, hopefully it won’t be long now before I can announce the publication of A Drop of Rainbow Magic, stories and poems (with a difference) for children. Blatant advertising again.Rainbow 2 copy

It’s so useful receiving feedback from other writers on your work as they spot things that you don’t see – typos, repetition, characters doing or saying the opposite from what they said or did previously, sudden changes of location or viewpoint, authorial intervention (guilty!) and what words in a title should or shouldn’t have capital letters. Still working on that one, Gill.

Awards Night at Ayr Writers’ Club

On a beautiful warm May evening, not too uncommon here at this time of year, Ayr Writers’ Club members met for a meal, friendly chat and the presentation of Awards to those who had been successful in the ten competitions run by the club throughout the year.Winners 2017 It’s quite a hectic schedule producing work for them all, as well as for the Scottish Association of Writers competitions and any others that catch our collective eye. And of course, there’s all the work we do for publication in its variety of genres.

I only managed to enter three club competitions this year but was awarded a third in the humorous article (Naked Lobsters and Corrugated Bottoms) and first in the book review. My review was of Les Wood’s hilarious crime novel, Dark Side of the Moon, les woodabout a bunch of inept Glasgow gangsters trying to steal a large and valuable diamond. You can read the review here.

But I was surprised and delighted to be awarded the Dorrith Sim Published Writer of the Year (you can read about Dorrith in my previous blog). Dorrith was one of the first people I met when I joined the club and she was a tremendous help and inspiration as I learned the craft of writing. Winners 2017 AB 02

My publications for the year have included several nostalgia articles on growing up in Scotland, a short story in a woman’s magazine, several brief historical dramas for the Ayr Renaissance project and of course, my collection of short stories, Take a Leaf Out of My Book. Never miss an opportunity to self-publicise!

And so on to our summer break – but we can’t stand the long months till September until the club reopens, so we meet fortnightly in members’ homes for read-around sessions of our WIPs, works in progress. This usually entails an interesting tour of Ayrshire as our members come from all parts of what used to be one large county but is now three smaller ones.

So here’s to a productive summer!