Let’s Breakout the Babycham and Feedback! – 30 September 2020

Eleven AWC members logged in, from the comfort of their living rooms or studies, to our first socially distant feedback night – plus Carrie who Zoomed in from a sun-kissed tropical beach; palm trees wafting in the breeze, waves rolling onto golden sand behind her. Eleven jaws dropped in astonishment. But all was not what it seemed. Who knew you could choose a virtual background to add some va va voom to your Zoom? (Not me – must investigate for next time).

Keeping with the ocean theme, Carolyn launched our evening, offering her poem Solace of the Sea for critique. Inspired by both childhood seaside memories and the impact of a more recent beach walk, Carolyn’s piece impressed us with its rich imagery – Gulls scuff the blue – good use of alliteration and rhyming language – cluster of lustrous shells, and its soothing pace. One comment was that the piece was reminiscent of a calming meditation poem.

Nigel was also on top poetic form. His poem, Rung by Rung, drew on personal experience, charting a person’s journey on the housing ladder and began with a shabby bedsit – Squalid room of strangers’ stains. The poem flowed well and we enjoyed Nigel’s sharp observations on the different homes and the emotions they evoked – Kitchen table roots held us fast. The closing lines were poignant yet positive.

Maggie B, Carrie and new member, Matt, all had larger pieces of fiction to read and be critiqued. For this part of the evening, Ajay, our Zoom host, split us into three groups, with a reader allocated to each one. With a dash of techno-wizardry, he sent each group to its own ‘Breakout Room’. There we’d listen to our reader’s work, then, using the new feedback forms (which prompts us to consider points like title, first line, plot, pace, perspective, characters, setting etc.), provide detailed feedback.

My ‘Breakout Room’ companions were Jennifer, Joanna and Matt.

Matt read his short story, Alder, Beech, Hawthorn and Hazel.

So, what’s going on down in Ryton Woods?  Well … sorry … my lips are sealed and I’m not giving the game away. However, what I will say is, we enjoyed Matt’s dark tale and thought it was a well-written and polished piece. His first line hooked us, we liked the setting and his omniscient narrator told the story beautifully. The plot was a bit different and didn’t go where we thought it was going to go. The descriptions gave intrigue and atmosphere but didn’t overwhelm the story. Ditto the characters.  And we loved the ending.

At just over 500 words long, Matt only needs to lose a couple of words and he has a fine flash fiction ready for a competition or submission for publication. Well done!

Our three groups merged again. Just in time to stretch our legs, flick our kettles on, grab a tea, coffee, water or Babycham and take a few minutes away from our screens or have a group gab.

After our short break, Damaris took us back to the sea. Her poem The Littoral Zone set a stark tone from the first line – The sea is the torn-off edge of void.  The poem highlighted the ferocity of a cruel and unforgiving sea. We enjoyed Damaris’s good use of alliteration and clever adaption of 23rd Psalm to form a verse. Personally, I loved the imagery, rhythm and sound of – Cockles and cowries – fingers of coral and kelp.

Last, but by no means least, Joanna shared her thought-provoking prose poem The Rain Doesn’t Stop. The sky feels as I feel – the melancholic mood of this poem is hinted at from the first line.  The poet skilfully connects with the continuous cycle of rain to express personal emotion – When the weight of rain gets too heavy for the sky.  Joanna explained that writing this piece as a prose poem set in a paragraph, and not in the traditional lined form, enabled her to better use repetition of words/phrases for emphasis.  Good luck with your Master’s degree result, Joanna – I’m sure 2020 will end on a high for you!

Many thanks to our readers for sharing their excellent work. As always it was a pleasure to sit and listen.

Next Wednesday is Jennifer’s novel writing workshop and the word is, we’ll be breaking out into ‘Breakout Rooms’ then too.  I’ll be Zooming in from the Pyramids of Giza or the dark side of the moon – just can’t make my mind up yet!

Will you be there too?

Linda Brown

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