A Tasty Big Bowl of Literary Soup – Feedback Evening 20 October 2021

Our last Zoom Feedback Evening had a lot of ingredients … or should that be lots and lots of ingredients? You had to be there! (But all will be revealed.)

We had twelve writers sharing poetry, novels, short stories, flash fiction, memoir, book review, children’s fairy tale, plus a drabble and a dribble.

First out the bowl, Matt, read his 300-word story Something Borrowed – Something New. Matt cleverly updated childhood favourites ‘The Borrowers’, bringing them into the modern world of USB cables, fridge magnets, Lego and micro pig pets. A fun and imaginative piece with a hint of darkness.

Tony read Nuisance Call, a 50-word Dribble then a 100-word Drabble called Three Toots on a Trumpet – great title! Both pieces were succinct, as you would expect. Tony particularly enjoys the challenges of ‘Little-ature’ – keeping it brief and finding something original to write about. He made us laugh when he compared his fiction writing technique to making a pot of soup – just chuck everything in and see what you get. Thanks, Tony. Pinched this idea for my blog title!

John read from his fantasy novel’s first chapter (no title given). Set in an otherworldly realm populated by elves, dwarves, sorcerers and the undead, it was an intriguing and imaginative extract. Vorta the sweary dwarf with an aversion to sobriety stood out to me. Advice from the group was – begin the chapter with action and don’t introduce too many characters so soon. John has completed worldbuilding for this work-in-progress and I look forward to hearing more at future feedback evenings.

Time for a poem. Carolyn took us on a Train Journey. Influenced by her recent rail trip to Inverness, she deftly captured the scenery which ‘flashed fast past’ her window. A rhythmic poem, with great use of alliteration and wonderful imagery. We discussed the use of the word ‘train’ in the first verse and recommended she remove it but keep her simple title (which Carolyn had been unsure of).

Are you sitting comfortably?  Good. Maggie B’s children’s story The Three Woodland Animals and An Annoying Little Girl was her quirky take on the fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The narrator’s distinctive voice and attitude, with little asides like ‘Can’t be too fussed about personal hygiene’, when referring to Goldilocks climbing into the ‘hairy bears beds’, would appeal to young readers. As would the fact the annoying little girl gets her comeuppance at the end.

Some of us had already enjoyed Marion’s story African Blackwood at a summer Readaround evening. She’d made a few changes to her original draft but still kept the essence of mystery. Told from an unusual narrator’s viewpoint, it gives a lovely descriptive seaside snapshot of Goat Fell, joggers, swimming kids, fish suppers and boy racers along the promenade. It was suggested the ending could have more impact by taking out one unnecessary paragraph and adding poignancy through the action or comment of her final character.

From Ayr Promenade to Italy – Damaris transported us to rural Umbria. White and Black, a short story based on a real-life event which Damaris has embellished. Jealousy, paranoia and an all-consuming rage leads to a shocking ending for Nino, a suspected Lothario. We discussed whether, based on the weak evidence Nunziatia, his mistrustful wife and a new mother had, her actions were OTT – but as Damaris had hinted at post-partum psychosis it was felt the character could react in this way.

Keeping us in located in Italy, Rosina read a very informative extract from the completed manuscript of her book (no title given). Giving details of the location of the village, Valley Rontonda, where Rosina was born, its Roman history, the surrounding mountains and the city of Cassino (destroyed during WW2), we wondered if her book was a travelogue. But we discovered Rosina has written a memoir relating her and her family’s experiences in wartime Italy, including the horrors of hiding from German soldiers in a burrowed-out hole and the Battle of Monte Cassino. We recommended she begins her memoir with one of her fascinating and strong reminiscences to hook her readers.

Next stop, Coll. Our Hebridean member, Jean, had penned a poem inspired by the Makhar’s recent nature themed poetry project aimed for the COP26 summit. Evoking a strong sense of presence and belonging – we felt Jean could enter this in our Club’s Poetry competition (so I’ve kept the title under wraps).

I read a short prologue and extract from a crime novel work-in-progress and appreciated the positive feedback. Thank you, to eagle-eyed Carolyn and Matt who each spotted wee mistooks. Proof indeed a fresh pair of eyes reading your manuscript can pinpoint tense errors/typos you’ve read over a dozen times and never noticed!

Penultimate reader, Maggie M followed sharing her Club competition book review entry on The Two Lost Mountains by Matthew Reilly. Maggie’s lively review ticked all the boxes – critiquing the plot, setting, author’s style etc. Although we wondered if the references to other book titles in the series maybe muddied the waters? However, an impressive first attempt at this genre, Maggie.

Last, but not least, was Betty reading her poem L.B.D. (Little Black Dress, for those who may not know). With some lovely internal lines, the poem encapsulated the hope a woman who was once married, but is now single, has when she slips on her LBD. Referring to how often the woman wears her LBD, Betty’s last line ‘… a lot’ caused an animated debate. Some felt it jarred and the line ‘lots and lots’ was suggested, but others of us loved ‘…a lot’ – including the most important person – Betty!

It was approaching 10.30pm before our big bowl of literary soup was scraped clean. Satisfied and sleepy, we said our goodnights.

Looking forward to our next feedback night, an ‘in person’ evening scheduled for January at the Mercure Hotel. Fingers crossed we finish on time!

Heavens, my blog word count has now reached 1000 words. So, what’s that called? Not Dribble. Or Drabble. And hopefully not Drivel.

Linda Brown

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