A Breath of FreshAyr

FreshAyr opened with a rollicking start last week aided and abetted by various members of Ayr Writers Club, Scottish Screenwriters and many friends and associates.coffee

There were readings and sketches, music and coffee and it all went down a treat. Even the sun shone to help it on its way.

Robert Singer, the powerhouse behind it all, is hoping to develop the area into a creative arts centre showcasing the work of local artists, musicians and writers.general view

Herborg Hansen, the project coordinator, commented that,

the event showed a lot of support from creatives and set an example of what can be achieved by collaborating in reviving Ayr’s culture and town centre.

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Some of the actors in a sketch

FreshAyr is still in its very early stages and is run as a voluntary organisation. But we are expanding and recruiting and before long we hope be a charity organisation that turns café profits into creative action. But we depend on the collaboration from the community and urge people to get in touch regarding future exhibitions, performances or even if people want to get involved in supporting the project going forward.

janiceThere was a lot of enthusiasm and interest shown by the Saturday shoppers in the town who ventured in to see what was afoot.

I did a couple of sessions for kids, one a deliberately noisy session with Miss Hullaballoo  who insisted that everyone, including parents, join in a singalong of Rock-a-Bye-Baby and Sing  Song of Sixpence as loudly as they could.me FreshAyr

For the grown-ups, among others, Jennifer read her award winning story, Magda, Carolyn read a monologue and I met Robert Burns in heaven in my piece. Martin Bone, Douglas Skelton and Gail McPartland read extracts from their recently published novels while other members read short stories and poems.

And we even sold quite a few books!20170805_123554

my booksFreshAyr’s Facebook page is here for further information on upcoming events.

 

FreshAyr on Saturday 5th August

Exciting things are happening in Ayr right now. Apart from the demolition of empty shops and offices to make way for a new development to enhance Ayr’s riverside, things are afoot in Newmarket Street.Write Around The Corner Outside(1)

Queen’s Court is being developed as a centre for the creative arts in Ayr. It will include a gallery, a meeting and performance room, a cafe and and a shop. And it all kicks off this Saturday!

Ayr Writers Club will be doing a series of readings and performances of their work throughout the afternoon and of course I’m involved.Write Around the Corner Programme Inside

There are four parts to it all. We start off at 1pm with children’s stories and activities, then at 2pm, it’s the turn of the fiction writers where all kinds of tales will be told, 4pm sees the non-fiction writers of memoir and biography taking the stage and at 5pm, fun will be had with live music, stand-up and comedy sketches.

We’ll also be selling our books so don’t miss it!

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The Eyes, Black or Otherwise, Have It

I’ve mentioned before the importance of letting other writers read what you’ve written, of having another pair of eyes peruse your work, and I can’t stress it enough.

I’ve been working on revising a novel I wrote a few years ago  which is set in Edinburgh, and which I really didn’t do much about after I finished it, before I moved on to something else instead. (Bad habit of mine!) Recently, I dug it out from my extensive ‘back catalogue’ and sent  it to a friend who happens to live outside of Scotland for her to read and comment on, and I’m very glad I did.

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Steps leading up to an Edinburgh Close

Firstly, factual things in the book that were clear to me as I’d visited Edinburgh often and know it well, didn’t make much sense to her, particularly where people live. Tenements, several storeys high, have a common entrance which leads up stairs to two or three apartments on each landing. These are common throughout the city (and in fact, much of Scotland) and are often beautiful buildings with a long history dating back in some cases in the Royal Mile to the seventeenth century. They are very desirable properties indeed and change hands for large sums. But all this I’ve now had to explain much more in my book, especially as I’m aiming at an American publisher.

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Even the back of Edinburgh Castle is built as a tenement!

And then there was the question of motivation for the male protagonist’s behaviour. That set me thinking. Why exactly did he waver in his feelings for my heroine? What had happened in his past to make him behave in such a way? I needed to know much more of his backstory to justify it. So I’m intent on sorting that problem out too.

I was also working on a synopsis for the book which I took along with me to the latest club read-around. Reading it aloud to an experienced audience was illuminating. Not only did I ‘hear’ what was wrong, the group were quick to pick up on points that weren’t clear as well. More for me to improve before I even think of sending it off.

I was sporting an extremely fetching black eye at that meeting, having tripped and banged my face on the pavement outside my home. I spent a night in the Accident and Emergency department to ensure I didn’t have a head injury before I was sent home to recover.

Food for thought again, this time very thankful that I live in a country where, when illness or accidents happen, we don’t have to worry about the cost of care, drugs, operations and tests. It is all provided by our wonderful, if much maligned NHS. Yes, it’s short-staffed and underfunded and sometimes in danger of collapse but as an idea, a concept, it is the best thing that this country, or any other, has ever put into practice.

So the eyes have it, whether black or my normal colour, and I’m very grateful too!

An ABC – Aviemore, Books, Cairngorm

And I can go on from there – Drookit*, Energised, Fort William, Glencoe….

We’ve been in the Highlands for a week and as well as admiring the scenery when the weather allowed, I’ve been browsing the books available in the Visitor Centres.

funicularWe travelled in the funicular railway to the top of Cairngorm on a day when the rain stopped and the sun came out. As it’s sub-Arctic on the top, it was pretty cold, but well wrapped up, it didn’t feel too bad. Pity the tourists who hadn’t expected such conditions and were feeling the chill as they gazed at the magnificent views cairngormacross the hills and lochs before disappearing into the warmth of the restaurant where the ceilidh band from Tain Academy was playing. Tain Academy

In the Visitor Centre, among the cashmere scarves and warm clothing, were beautifully illustrated books showing the Cairngorms at their best as well as children’s books with a Scottish flavour. Mairi Hedderwick‘s Katie Morag series was there as was Lynley Dodd‘s Hairy Mclary books.

The Potting Shed in Aviemore had other attractions – delicious cakes and red squirrels, both of which we thoroughly enjoyed.red squirrel

At Culloden, site of the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746 at the hands of the Government forces, John Prebble’s book Culloden was to the forefront as was Maggie Craig’s Damn’ Rebel Bitches, the women of the 45, and Bare-Arsed Banditti, about the men who fought there.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness had a well stocked book display of the usual titles but wouldn’t it be nice if all the visitor centres had a section purely for Scottish writers and promoted them as such? uruquhart castle

Glencoe was shrouded in mist, just the right atmosphere for Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books and associated merchandise while Harry Potter had a shelf although the Glenfinnan Viaduct where the Hogwarts Express steamed across on its way to Hogwarts is not that close.Glencoe

And I was delighted to see that Elizabeth McKay’s Wee Granny and the Ceilidh was prominent!

In one B&B we stayed in, another guest was heading to Sanday in the Orkney Islands.  I was able to tell her about Lin Anderson’s latest crime novel, None But The Dead, which is set on Sanday and she immediately downloaded it on to her kindle. Result!

Now if I could come up with a children’s story about the Loch Ness Monster, Bonnie Prince Charlie, a Highland Cow and haggis, I’m sure it would be a roaring success!

*drookit – good Scots word meaning absolutely soaked with the water dripping off you.

 

A Drop of Rainbow Magic

A Drop of Rainbow Magic is now available on Amazon!

 

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The book is a collection of stories and poems for children, with a difference – they are the illustrators and they draw the pictures, making it very much their own book. And to emphasise that aspect, the cover has been designed by a young friend, Maisie Craig.

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Read about the caterpillar who was forever grumbling or the teacher who made more noise than all the children combined; what about the gang of grannies and grandpas who created havoc in a supermarket or how the wee shy mouse eventually made friends? There are counting poems and poems about a smelly granny and the noises you hear when you’re lying in bed or sounds you can’t hear at all. There’s something for every child (and adult!) in the book.

But why a book like this? If you add up all the visual impact of computers, xboxes, tablets, white boards in school, TV, cinema etc etc, it comes to a staggering amount of time that children are subjected to some kind of visual input. Their visual sense is  dominant over all the other senses, especially that of hearing, of listening.

pageThink back to your own childhood and the time you were given, free from that dominance. You listened to stories told by your family at bedtime, you listened to stories read by the teacher, you even listened, if you’re of that age, to stories on the radio rather than TV. You read books, sprawled on the floor, curled up on a chair, out in the garden or park but all that time, you were busy creating your own pictures in your head. ‘You ‘saw’ the pirates coming in to the attack, you ‘saw’ the princess dancing in a dress of your imagining, you felt their fear, their happiness, – in essence, you were there.

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Now it’s all done for you, for the child. They aren’t getting a chance to exercise their own imaginations, to make their own pictures. That skill has been taken from them and it’s missing from their lives. Their imaginations are being driven by what others have decided to produce, to draw, to animate.

My book is a way of developing the child’s own imagination. Each story has space where they can draw what they ‘see’ in their mind’s eye. So the pictures are uniquely theirs.

Many of the stories I wrote originally for the BBC children’s programmes on radio and are specially designed to be listened to and which have been updated and revised. As a bonus, these stories also encourage children’s listening skills, another area where today’s children are lacking, as all teachers and parents know only too well.

How to Use the Book

Read a story to the child or let them read it themselves if they are of an age to be a confident reader. Let them get to know the story by reading it several times. Talk about what happens in the story, what are the funny bits, which bits they liked best, which bits would make a good picture. But whatever you do, make sure it’s fun!

Then let them have free rein as to what they want to draw. They don’t have to stick to the picture frames for their drawings; they can draw in the margins or the top or the bottom. It’s their book, let the pictures be what they want. Over time, they may add bits or draw further pictures in the blank pages at the back or wherever they fancy. They’ll end up with a book that is uniquely theirs.

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(c) Maisie Craig

Killer Heels and Lunch to Die For

killer heels & lunch to die for 090617Is it off-putting listening to two lady crime writers read about a gruesome murder in Glasgow and digging up skeletal remains in Orkney while in the middle of a delicious lunch? Surprisingly no. In fact I immediately bought the books in question and had not a pang of indigestion either.

Alex Gray and Lin Anderson were the crime writers and they kept an audience of ladies who lunch (and one gentleman) enthralled over their starters and main course. It was an interesting experience but a great idea; have a starter, then listen to an entertaining speaker followed by the main course and another equally fascinating speaker.

Alex Grey read from her latest DS Lorimer book, Still Dark. Lorimer is traumatised by aalex gray scene he witnesses one Hogmanay and struggles to return to duty in order to solve his latest case. Glasgow is again the setting for this intriguing addition to the Scottish crime genre.

Lin Anderson‘s main character is forensic scientist Dr Rhona Mcleod, who travels to Orkney in Lin’s latest book, None But the Dead, to investigate the uncovering of human remains on the island of Sanday. As I’d visited Orkney recently I wanted immediately to read it and experience again in my mind those fierce winds which are a constant feature of Orkney life and which can make a forensic investigation more of a battle against the elements.Lin Anderson

But Lin and Alex have another claim to fame as well as being prolific and rightly celebrated writers of crime fiction; they were the founders, six years ago, of Bloody Scotland, a crime fest of magnificent proportions, celebrating the genre at its best. It is held in the historic town of Stirling and begins with a Gala Opening in the Great Hall of Stirling Castle, where many of Scotland’s kings and queens resided.bloody scotland

Over dessert and coffee, the audience could digest (along with the lunch) all the funny stories and information Alex and Lin had delighted us with in their talks. Their research skills are impeccable, both having studied for a Diploma in Forensic Science to enhance their knowledge of crime scene investigations. Both had been teachers at one point in their lives (Lin on Orkney) but had given up their careers to forge new ones as crime writers.

Killer Heels and Lunch to Die For was organised to raise funds for Hansel Village, a community for people with support needs. They are looking to expand their work with young adults and this lunch would go some way to achieving their aim.

lin and alex

Lin Anderson on the left and Alex Grey on the right.

Kirsty from Waterstones was in attendance to sell Alex and Lin’s books afterwards and she did a brisk trade. A thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an afternoon in aid of a good cause.

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.

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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.