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Ayr Writers’ Feedback Night – 29th March 2023

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Following the change to British Summer time, it was pleasant to be arriving on a longer light night, putting smiles on members’ faces.

Carrie Watts was master of ceremonies, leading her very first Feedback session, and a great job she did of it, too.

Sadly, it was a very small band of brothers who gathered but, as usual on these occasions, reading, discussing and also listening to each other’s work, was not only pleasurable but informative.

Four members had brought along pieces, or samples of work to be put under the spotlight: one poem, one book review, part of a children’s story, and a chapter from a crime novel.

With Carrie’s egg timer ticking away, our two groups settled down to read. We had the luxury of plenty of space, so our groups were able to isolate, all the better to concentrate and discuss our responses, recording – as normal – what we liked about each contribution, and tips to make them better.

The completion of this process took us neatly up to tea-break, after which we commenced the feedback portion of the evening, and with few pieces to review, we also had time to hear each of them read aloud.

Group one kicked off critiquing the poem called ‘Manchester Arena’ which had been written by Stephen Cashmore. Chris gave us a reading of it, and with the exception of some disagreement about the first word of the poem, the feed back was unanimously positive, with comments about its ‘succinctness’ and ‘impact’: a triumph.

The second offering was Chapter 2 of a Crime Novel, written by Linda Brown which is set in two time frames:1976 and 2016, and centres on the meeting of two women who knew one another as teens, at which time they had experienced a sexual assault. This chapter deals with how the women come to terms with how to deal with this historic violation.

Group two considered it well paced, with the pleasant Princes Street Gardens’ setting nicely juxtaposed with the emotional and traumatic content of the women’s conversation. Also impressive was the unexpected and dramatic twist with which the chapter ended. The only advice was to look at making the dialogue more informal, and perhaps find a way of distinguishing between the characters, in terms of their speech patterns. All felt it was definitely a page turner.

The second piece under consideration by Group one was part of a children’s story, aimed at the 8-10 years age group. Called ‘The House Inside the Mirror’, and penned by Carrie Watts, its use of the ‘distorted mirror’ was a clever one, and the group also applauded the inclusion of the dog – always appealing to children. The group questioned some of the descriptions and phrases, and whether children of this age group would be able to understand their meanings. The originality of the idea was regarded as one which has great potential.

The final piece to be critiqued was a book review which had been submitted by Marion Husband. The book she had chosen was the novel ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ by Bonnie Garmus, the main character of which was a woman who, despite being highly educated in all things scientific, found herself side-lined and demeaned by the male dominated world of the 1950s. Not one to be cowed, she turned the chance of becoming a TV culinary celebrity into a chance to display her considerable scientific knowledge in an entertaining and original way.

Group two gave credit to the format required of a book review, and some excellent lines, as well as the recognition that the strong female protagonist would, in today’s world, definitely be regarded as an ‘influencer’.

In terms of improvement, the most important advice was to address punctuation issues which, on first reading, at times hindered clarity.

Carrie drew the night to a close by encouraging us to sum up what had been most valuable about the evening from a literary perspective. We were unanimous in agreeing that it was of great value to hear one’s work read by someone else, providing the writer with unexpected insights.

Thanks to Carrie for guiding us through an interesting evening.


Carolyn O’Hara

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