It’s amazing what you learn at read-arounds. Tennessee Williams, for instance, died by choking on a bottle top and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is, essentially, Pippi Long-stocking all growed up. Who knew? These and other unusual nuggets of information about writers, past and present, were allocated to each of us, by our hostess, Carolyn, before we read our work. What a varied and interesting selection we had!
Carrie started us off with a delightful children’s story, The House Inside the Mirror. Written in the first person and the present tense, it put us right there, with the child putting on his special cap, straightening the brim and stepping through into the mirror to meet his playmate. The surprise at the end is that the boy in the mirror is his own father as a child – a delightful touch. We enjoyed the repetition, but felt the writing style more suited to a younger age-group than 8 to 10 year olds.
Damaris gave us two nostalgic poems, comparing her life in Italy and in Scotland. In Comparison, Damaris finds things to delight her in both – the white balustrade and the apricot trees versus seagulls and pebbles and a grey rock face. Her second poem, Tapestry, is more poignant, showing her regret for times past. The threads of smoky blue, bitter green and six shades of brown, lack the vibrancy of ‘the garden to which there is no going back.’
Jeanette, after much heart-searching and drastic editing, has reduced her woman’s magazine story, Semi-skimmed, to the required 800 words. Having chopped over 500, this is no mean feat! Semi-skimmed, about a housewife and a milkman, has a neat twist ending, which I won’t reveal, as the story may possibly appear in Woman’s Weekly one day, and I don’t want to give the game away.
Jean gave us the second part of a children’s story about a piglet, who wants three rather incompetent little witches, to play with him. We wished we had heard the first part, to help put it into context, but Jean felt it would have been too long. She also had a short, rhymed poem, A Pond to Ponder, about a garden pond and its small, insect inhabitants. She finished with a lovely snippet, To Think or Not to Think. When you try to engage someone in conversation and throw out a request for their input, to be answered by, ‘Why don’t you Google it?’ makes Jean consider neck-wringing as an option! I can think of a few annoying people for whom neck-wringing might be a tempting idea!
Kirsty’s young adult novel, Moonshot, is into the rewrite stage. Another piece written in the present tense, this brings us directly into the experiences of a young girl living in a world which is totally alien to us. We found it gripping and immediate and noted the skilful way Kirsty gave us clues to the nature of this world with references to ‘The Mother Tree,’ more than one moon in the sky and the sense of a repressive regime. This is an excellent opening which had us all enthralled.
Linda began the second half of the evening with a rant. Why do so many people think that it is appropriate or funny, to make fatuous remarks about the fact that Linda is photographing local wildlife with – oh, would you believe it? a real camera! As many insist on displaying their own ignorance of wildlife, while attempting to put Linda right, she has hard work to remain civil. More neck-wringing called for here I think.
My contribution was another chapter from my children’s novel, The Rising of the Dragons. This was more action-packed than the previous one. Angharad and Aiden partially witness a fierce altercation in the woods, between, what they believe to be the grey dragon and Fleabag, a small, elderly dog, ironically accused of sheep killing. Aware of the advice to writers –‘whoever else you bump off, don’t kill the dog!’ I have Fleabag escape with only minor injuries. The last part of the chapter has Aiden saying that, as no-one would believe them, it will be up to them to get the dragons back underground, but he can’t think how. Sadly, neither can I. I appeal to fellow writers for suggestions!
Matthew should have been next, but he mysteriously disappeared during the break. No further sightings. (Perhaps the dragon got him.)
Nigel came next with the next chapter of his family intrigue novel, Will Power. His suspense is now ramped up at the reading of the will. We see the tension between the lawyer and the daughter, and we see him milking the moment as the lesser bequests – some of them slightly suspect, are read out. The chapter ends before the big reveal! Maybe in the next chapter Nigel?
Patricia rounded off the evening with the continuation of her story of Lisa, a Scandinavian girl who is missing after coming to Scotland and climbing Schiehallion, in search of fairy folk. Her mother Hannah is now searching for her, following information from cousin Bertha. She comes across as a forceful, bullying figure. Patricia said Bertha has no further part to play in the story. Many of us thought that was a shame, as she would be a good foil to the gentler character of Hannah. We look forward to the rest of the story.
Many thanks to Carolyn for her little-known nuggets of author information, and thanks to everyone, for their excellent contributions. Here’s to next time!