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Last, but certainly not least … – Summer Readaround 24 August 2022

Where had the summer gone?

The evenings were a little darker, kids had swapped swimsuits and ice lollies for school uniforms and textbooks once more, and Ayr Writers would shortly kick off their 2022/23 programme.

But wait…. There was still one more opportunity to catch up with fellow writers and get feedback on our latest pieces.

Linda B was the host for our final Readaround, heading up a small group of six writers in total. Having come up with an ingenious way to decide the running order, Linda chose to go with the order we appeared on the Zoom call, saving her cunning plan for an evening with greater numbers.

We will remain intrigued.

Anyway, back to our performers. First up was Damaris, with another reading from her memoir Life at Vaoltoponia. This chapter focused on her attempts to develop a thriving garden of flowers, fruit and vegetables at her Italian home. Some things grew more successfully than others – early attempts were thwarted by the extreme weather or thievery by local animals – but eventually Clive, her husband, was making pickles from the home grown veg that came his way, and Damaris found a way to indulge in her love of roses. The group felt that the writing was rich in description, but could benefit from expanding the more personal elements hinted at in the chapter, such as the interaction with her Italian neighbour, and the photos Damaris had taken to share more of the garden with her husband.

Second on screen was Nigel, with an article entitled Sail Mhor – Home of the Lonely Goatherd, covering his recent hill-walking trip in Wester Ross (not to be confused with Westeros, that’s an entirely different type of adventure!). Nigel’s use of language made us feel we were trekking up Sail Mhor alongside him, virtual guests in what was an entertaining mix of active climb, wild landscapes, and geography lesson. The isolated nature of Sail Mhor meant Nigel had the environment to himself, until he came across a herd of feral goats… Feedback was mainly positive, however, it was felt the piece ended a little abruptly – maybe those goats could help round things off more smoothly?

Matt followed with a 700-word short story, entitled Snatch. Mark, the main character in the piece, was travelling to the ends of the Earth on a research ship, having paid a large sum of money to take berth without note. Matt wondered if the title was relevant enough to the story, and was reassured that the title could easily relate to the treacherous, stormy conditions on board, or have a more sinister meaning as the tale unravelled.

My turn next, sharing a recent poem, Day’s End Catwalk, where the sunset became a colourful cabaret. This was another of my attempts at a non-rhyming poem, certainly not my comfort zone. I’m still unsure what changes a piece of poetic prose into a free-flowing poem, hence that was my aim feedback-wise tonight. My writer audience thought the poem was lovely, and that the theatrical theme worked as an analogy for the sunset; however, the structure would benefit from editing, removing the “joining” words to take away the prose elements, and also revisiting a couple of the phrases which no longer fitted. I was advised that the piece became more “poetic” towards the end, and to use that to guide editing the earlier stage.

Jean was our penultimate act, also sharing two short poems, the first of which was about The Garden. Initially the piece appears to be about the garden germinating from seed to plant, but soon the listener realises there is a deeper meaning of balance between humans and nature within it – our listening group particularly liked the phrase “not for men to name the day”. Jean’s second poem was about Young Friends, where only tangible, pleasant things were shared between two pals; being upset or crying were private activities. Comments about the poem lead to a short but interesting discussion on how creative writing, poetry and painting are useful tools in getting children to express themselves.

The evening drew to an end with Linda reading the second part of her women’s short story, The Trouble with Bonnie and Clive. Part one had finished with Clive’s fed-up wife, Lena, threatening to leave the marriage after playing second fiddle to Bonnie the motorcycle for too long. Happily, as usual with this genre, things came right in the end, Linda’s writing ensuring Clive’s method for getting back in his wife’s good books wasn’t too predictable or cliched.

And so, here endeth our summer read-arounds.

I’m sure the new programme will generate numerous pieces for the next feedback evening. In the meantime, we’ll wish Linda good luck as she tries to strip Bonnie down to 1200 words for submission to a particular ladies’ magazine.

Here’s hoping to see you in print soon, Linda!

Maggie Morton

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