A little bit of admin, experience and expectation, a large smorgasbord of success: AWC Opening Night – 8 September 2021

September has arrived.

Summer is over (according to the Met Office), meaning kids are back at school, dusk comes that little bit earlier each day, and there are hints of the forbidden C-word appearing in the shops.

Hang on though, it’s not all bad!

There are sunny days where the nights are cool enough for a decent sleep, woodlands are full of juicy berries and crisp apples for crumbles, chutney, and cider, and Ayr Writers’ Club (AWC) is kicking off its new programme for the 2021 / 2022 season.

Hurrah!

As all my pals will concur, I’m not particularly fond of summer. In theory, lazy hazy days of parks, picnics and BBQs sounds great, but as a sun-sensitive former husky whose tan colour is beetroot-munching lobster, the reality is hibernation at home, hugging the electric fan for three months. September brings this individual out of her shaded cocoon, back to sunlight, fresh air, and, more importantly, writing. The heat-induced brain drains and energy slumps are replaced by cool morning refreshment, autumnal inspiration, and rekindled joy in notebook and pencils.

I joined AWC back in January 2020, and became a general member of the AWC committee earlier this summer. I wanted to do more to support the club; however, as a full-time analyst in my day job, I was a little wary on how much time and brain-space I could spare. As I explained (tongue in cheek) in the AWC opening session tonight, being a general member means being a general dogsbody, in the nicest possible way! You attend committee meetings, are part of the rota to do the committee minutes, and support other, more defined, committee roles as needed. I think it’s a really good way to get involved in the club and gain more understanding of the different roles within the committee without fear of the requirements being too time-heavy.

Speaking of the different roles, that was one of the objectives of our opening session; to have some of the committee members introduce themselves and explain what their roles entailed (hence why I was talking about being a dogsbody!). From Jeanette, (our club President), through Matt (Membership Secretary), Nigel (Treasurer) and Fiona (Competitions Secretary), all gave an insight to their duties on the committee. Special mention has to go to Carolyn, who was sharing her multiple Club Publicity hats across the evening, including requests for members to share their “Writing News” for our Club News page and Club Archives, and to join the Club Night Bloggers Panel. Reassuringly for me, none of these more defined roles seemed too time-onerous so maybe I’ll aim for promotion in the future, and you could take over my general role? It’s just a thought…?

Anyway, you’re probably already getting the opinion that I’m highly pro-AWC. Having written poetry on and off over a number of years, I decided I wanted to get more serious about my scribbles, so went on the hunt for a writing club. I’ll be honest, I went along to my first AWC session because it was local to where I stay, hoping I would get some inspiration and insight from other poets. I was not disappointed. The breadth and quality of writing genres at the club, with respect to both club speakers and members, meant reality far exceeded my expectations, as demonstrated during this opening night. Club members who had won writing competitions, or had a piece of their writing published, during the 20 / 21 AWC year were invited to share that item with their fellow club audience on Zoom, resulting in a smorgasbord of tales and histories.

The audience tonight was also not disappointed.

Short story wise, we moved from the important (hushed) news of afternoon cream teas on a Scottish Island to playing potentially violent chess with an unearthly, taloned creature, moving via a dark English wood that got even darker as a young girl went looking for her missing brother among the whispering trees. A brief foray into flash fiction had us considering a journey into space from the perspective of the robots on board the space flight. We were then entertained by longer stories involving a giant wheel of cheese (selfishly?) hidden from victims of an earthquake in rural Umbria, and a self-reflective, writer-based, retelling of the Genesis story.

AWC isn’t just about fictional prose though, as exhibited by those reading out pieces from real life. A childhood aim to become an “archeowhatjamacallit” was sadly not realised; however, their love of all things ancient history continued into adulthood, turning into an obsession with Tony Robinson and Channel 4’s programme (and an unusual inspiration for their daughter’s drawings!). A trip back to the Ayr seafront of 1898 had bathers maintaining their modesty through use of the “Bathing Machines”, small changing carriages that could be wheeled in and out of the water. Some individuals paid more for this privilege than was actually advertised – sadly Trading Standards were not around to assist at this point. The “Bathing Machines” were meant to be a certain distance apart at all times to maintain “the suitable distance between ladies and gentlemen”. How times change! I’m more worried about being next to the jellyfish than my male companion when we go for our cold sea dips at Ayr and surrounding beaches!

Getting back to the writing, as I shared earlier, I joined AWC hoping to improve my poetry a little. The celebration of successful writing this evening ended with a fellow member’s competition-winning satirical poem, brimming with recent political events and government figures. Listening to others sharing their poems has certainly developed my poetry writing and I too have had some minor success since joining the club – a couple of my poems were published in an online magazine for new writers, one of which I shared as part of this opening session. Thanks to AWC, I’ve also tried my hand at short stories, entered our club Flash Fiction and Drabble competitions, written a couple of club night blogs (including this one), and have ideas whirling round my head for a novel or two…

Moving forward, the club programme and competition list for 21 / 22 look pretty good as well, as promoted this evening by Nigel and Fiona respectively. Key writing genres will be revisited, a wealth of successful writers will be sharing their experiences, and the club is even venturing into pastures new, with a local singer-songwriter doing a session on writing lyrics. Both AWC and our umbrella group, the Scottish Association of Writers (SAW) have competition themes to whet your writer’s appetite, and there’s also the SAW Conference to look forward to (a hotbed of social networking, apparently… in the literary sense, of course)!

Jeanette finished off our opening session with a piece on what it is to be a writer. Something she said struck a chord with me; “If you write, you are a writer….it won’t go away”. I felt a little intimidated back when I joined, wondering if I had a place at a club so full of talented and successful writers. I soon realised that AWC is as much for the novice writer as the published novelist.

You see, I write; therefore, I am a writer. Welcome to our club.

Maggie Morton

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