Enjoying the Fruits: AWC Success Night – 28 April 2021

On this final club night of the session, we gathered to celebrate just some of the club successes.

Matt Richardson kicked off with his 2nd place BOOK REVIEW of Zadie Smith’s essay collection “Feel Free”. Conversational in style, with discussions on many significant themes, Smith also offers anecdotes and self-reflection. In Matt’s informative review, he concluded that the book was engaging and interesting, and for him prompted ‘introspection.’

The SCOTTISH ARTICLE COMPETITION, with the theme “Urban Beauty”, was won by Maggie Bolton. In “Street Images”, she focused on the life and work of artist Joan Eardley who began sketching street children in post-war Glasgow, depictions which evoked an iconic life, long vanished. Rural and coastal Aberdeenshire was another common inspiration for Eardley’s work which demonstrated a vivid use of colour and fluidity of line. Sadly, the artist died aged just 42 in 1963. Maggie’s illuminating piece has certainly piqued my interest in this artist’s work.

Joanne Bailey offered her NON-FICTION piece next, entitled “Loch Bagging” which charted her husband’s self-inflicted challenge to swim Scotland’s 103 big lochs. Accompanying him on many of these occasions, the piece describes the wild beauty of many locations, the difficulties posed by terrain and weather, and the delights of scenic beauty as well as meeting multi-national tourists on the ‘epic adventure’. The climax of the piece is the account of the culmination of the challenge – swimming Loch Ossian, Loch 103, not the glorious end they had hoped for but undoubtedly a heroic conclusion to such a courageous feat.

Success, other than in club competitions, was also being celebrated. Gill Sherry shared “The Power of the Past”, the article she had published in the AYRSHIRE MAGAZINE. She chose to write about the Gas House tucked away in the grounds of Culzean Castle. Used to generate power until the 1940s, the building, which was restored in 1992, is now a museum telling the story of the building as a home and a workstation. Unattractive but atmospheric, it is perhaps a place less popular for tourists but is fascinating and culturally significant. And might even have a ghostly presence. Definitely worth a visit.

Variety is the spice of life and we were certainly delighted by Thomas Malloch’s rendition of his winning POETRY entry, a pertinent parody of a Perry French piece. Entitled “Boris the Blond Bouffant Bear” the poem chronicled the ‘Bold Brexiteer’ around the time of the UK’s final exit from the EU. As Thomas pointed out, the content has dated quickly, so fast do Boris’s memorable moments mount up!

Carey McCabe was placed 2nd in the NOVEL COMPETITION, with her Young Adult Novel “Retreat to Writers’ Wood”. Chapter 1 introduces readers to intriguing characters: Lady Meredith who has other-worldly powers, and the bearded, grizzled Griz whose anxiety at the ‘rumbling’ of invaders builds tension. What is happening? We wanted more!

Joining us from the wilds of Arran was Chris Palmer whose piece “A Lifetime in Search of the Mot Juste”, came 2nd in the GENERAL SHORT STORY Competition. Sadly, less than reliable Wi-Fi interrupted Chris mid-flow but the engaging essence of the touching tale of a father’s life-long love of words, and the impact on his family, generated laughs, and lumps in the throat. The prominent place of poetry throughout his life is poignantly epitomised as the narrator seeks the perfect poem for his funeral – after all, words had been as important as food and drink to her father.

The second celebration for a PUBLICATION, took us to the world of children’s picture books. Marion Husband’s “Granny Came to Visit” (for ages 3-5) was recorded as part of an audio project by two UWS students, who had seen Marion’s piece in The Ayrshire Post. How delightful it was to hear the recording – and musical accompaniment – of the sweet story of a grandma who loves to knit hats for her grandchild. With repetition that children will love, the story touches on the reality of grandparents who begin to suffer from dementia. Such a clever and subtle way of dealing with a difficult subject.

Next up, we heard the opening of an entry for the CHILDREN’S FICTION competition, by Fiona Atchison, entitled “The Journey”. This 2nd placed entry is targeted at older children, and tells – in first person – of the terrifying journey of two siblings, Riccardo and Rosa, who must leave their parents in Honduras, and flee from hunger, poverty, and danger to a new life in the U.S. They must travel with an unknown – and unsympathetic – guide into a scary new world. This powerful opening chapter was chilling and enthralling.

FLASH FICTION time! Nigel Ward shared his 2nd placed entry – a short piece with a long title (making the most of the UNCOUNTED words!) “Rare Opportunity to Acquire and Restore Reputation of Celebrated Cottage” is such a clever use of conventional estate agent jargon to couch the worst, and most unattractive property, in terms to attract the unsuspecting prospective purchaser. We were NOT taken in! Perfect use of ambiguity.

“Odds On”, Grace Farquhar’s highly commended piece in the DRAMA competition, whisked us away to a Glasgow’ bookies, and its regulars – staff and punters. With help from Fiona, Peter and Carey, the scene burst into life: the characters, the jokes, and the trickery, all convincingly established with-in the everyday rules and regulations of the betting world. Topical and entertaining, we instantly ‘recognised’ these real characters!

To round off the evening, Damaris West presented a thoughtful and descriptive poem, which had been PUBLISHED online, in the SHOT GLASS JOURNAL which accepts pieces of up to 16 lines. “Persimmons” – or Kaki, as Italians would call them – are widely cultivated Oriental fruit. The creative visual imagery of the poem’s four stanzas had much to admire. For me, a line in the final stanza stood out for its beauty: “…suns dipping with a last golden flare…”

After the announcement of this year’s WOMEN’S SHORT STORY competition winners, our celebratory evening ended. What a treat it was to enjoy the fruits of some of our writing community’s efforts from this unusual year.

Keep writing, folks!

Carolyn O’Hara

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