Carolyn O’Hara kicked off the evening with a rousing and heartfelt introduction to her friend and fellow AWC member, Greta Yorke. She touched on Greta’s long association with AWC, her career as a primary school teacher, her love of language and her success as a writer of both fiction and poetry; including the many awards and prizes and her major break that came with the children’s book Witch Hitch. What shone through was Greta’s expertise, encouragement and generosity to her fellow writers.
Greta set the right tone by getting us in the mood quoting that “laugher is the best medicine”, certainly with the year we have all had it seems we could do with generous dollops of it. She then went on to quote Twain, Thackeray, Byron and Hugo, adding weight, if needed, to her claim. My favourite was Lord Byron’s throw away line, “always laugh when you can, its cheap medicine.” Subtly reminding us how fleeting these opportunities may be.
It could be argued that poetry is the most difficult of the literary arts, but in her relaxed and calm style Greta Yorke managed to navigate an enlightening journey covering the key elements for constructing limericks and humorous poems.
If like me you marvel at the exploits of poets, what a chance it was: to listen, to practice, to make mistakes, and then sit in awe as rhymes and limericks were magically conjured and spilled onto our Zoom screens. Each exercise built on the previous one and many of us had to work hard to keep up or just standstill!
Like all good teachers Greta, posed a seemingly innocuous question – what makes you laugh? This led to a flurry of activity: head scratching, scribbling of ideas and suggestions. Gentle nods of agreement followed as we each read out our notes and soon Zoom screens filled with smiles and sounds of laughter. Greta observed how each of us had found examples of different things that we found funny. This was a good way to begin the workshop, akin to gingerly entering a swimming pool via the steps to gradually get used to the warm water lapping gently against you.
Of course, we were being lulled into a false sense of security and soon like doe-eyed fawns were caught in the glare of bright lights with nowhere to hide from this poetry escapade! Our next exercise was upon us and we wrestled to tame and fit our words to form four or five short rhymes. Greta, guided us, offering her own choice of helpful words– Troon, sky, care, scam and live were suggested. Before we knew it the first half of the evening had flown by and we adjourned for a break and a natter.
Fiona, aka Fiz Atchison, eloquently announced the first of the competition results when we returned. She mentioned Donald Reid, the adjudicator for the non-fiction competition, had been so impressed that he had awarded five commendations in-addition to the four best entries he had selected. The winners were cheered: Linda Brown in 1st place, Carolyn O’Hara in 2nd place, Chris Palmer in 3rd place and Joanne Bailey in 4th place!
We weren’t finished yet! There were also three major awards to celebrate, left over from last year (September 2019 – May 2020). Fiona McFadzean did the honours on the night and had done the hard work behind the scenes to get it all sorted. The most points received throughout the last year by a novice, a club member and a published author respectively were Jeanette Driver, Damaris West and Gill Sherry.
No holding back now we were launched into the world of limericks. Greta warmed to her subject enthusiastically explaining the technicalities, the form and the structure and providing a couple of gems of her own.
Some showed a definite proclivity for this art form: Linda H, Linda B, Maggie M, Maggie B, Damaris, Nigel, Carolyn and Joanne to mention a few. From the get-go they raced away and seemed to deliver perfectly crafted limericks that had us all in stitches! Politics, pandemic, BoJo and Trump were never far away from our thoughts.
Greta rounded off a wonderful evening with some sage advice, encouraging us all to enter the club poetry competition and to utilize what we had learnt and applied during the evening. I guess we have all been following Sage advice this year, some more than others!
Carolyn gave a vote of thanks that we all heartily endorsed – clapping and cheering Greta from our little screens and the workshop came to end.