A cracking June evening and the No-Good Nine – the kids your parents warned you to stay away from *, were gathered around their laptops, tablets and phones, ready to make mischief on AWC’s Zoom Readaround.
Maggie M, our host for the evening, established we had eight readers (she was sitting this one out) then allocated each of us a ‘reading order’ number and a corresponding children’s book title incorporating said number. Ranging from beloved classics to quirky contemporary, these book titles introduce each reader.
Ready Player One (Ernest Cline) – Off the bookshelf first, Maggie B immediately lowered the tone of the evening with her laugh-out-loud short piece A Blast from the Past – introducing us to her farting doggies then to her other flatulent four-legged friend – Dolly the Horse. Employing great comic flair, she related the tale of a ‘windy’ ride on the Wiltshire Downs. The group felt this amusing anecdote could be submitted as a filler to a magazine. Or was just begging to be transformed into an illustrated children’s picture book.
Two Can Keep a Secret (Karen M McManus) – Never mind, Agatha Christie’s The Mystery of the Blue Train – Carolyn has written about the mystery of The Blue Office Chair. A damaged office chair was abandoned in Carolyn’s front garden. Was it lost? Stolen? Fly tipped? Carolyn turned detective and with her motto – renew, re-use and recycle, she ensured the chair had a happy Olio ending. An engaging piece of life-writing highlighting a topical issue and encouraging an eco-friendly lifestyle (check out the Olio app).
The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig (Eugene Trivizas) – My turn, sharing a short chapter from my family history mystery non-fiction book (that’s a bit of a mouthful). New Jersey – 1887 – the Chief of Police is battling to protect the crime scene of a gruesome murder from rubbernecking townsfolk. This extract instigated a debate on whether writing fact or faction – fictionalising real events and developing characters from real people – would work best. Food for thought.
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (Judy Blume) – Jeanette had no written work to share. Instead, she updated us on her latest plans to write a cosy crime novel. She has a new office chair (no…not Carolyn’s blue one!) and has been cogitating over pen names suitable for the cosy crime genre – Nettie Driver being under consideration. Her next goal, to motivate a daily writing habit and kickstart plot/character ideas, is to use 750 Words – Write every day. Great idea, Jeanette…. looking forward to hearing what Nettie did next.
Four readers down, we took a ten-minute refreshment break. Dogs fed, fresh tea brewed (or dram poured) and a quick Zoom gossip, then we were ready for the second half.
Five Children and It (E. Nesbit) – Damaris had two bird poems to share. Flowing beautifully and with wonderful imagery, Blackbirds explored the real reason behind the blackbird’s melodious song whilst Oyster Catchers captured their comical appearance and high-pitched calls. Damaris intends to submit these poems for publication.
Now We Are Six (A.A. Milne) – Jean, our ‘overseas’ member, also had two excellent poems. A Bird’s-eye View expressed the superior attitude of a bird, high on a perch looking down on us humans and pondering our life choices. Father – an impactful and thought-provoking poem, inspired by Jean’s personal experience, laying bare our expectations of a father’s relationship with his child. We felt this poem would resonate with many readers.
The Secret Seven (Enid Bylton) – A regular contributor to Walk Highlands website, Nigel’s always looking for a fresh angle to make his article stand out. In his latest piece – Beinn Trilleachan: a Lightbulb Moment Above Glen Etive – he reflects on his first visit to Glen Etive fifty years ago and makes comparisons with today’s altering landscape caused by the intrusive hydro schemes. Informative, descriptive and with his trademark humour, Nigel takes his readers on a journey along James Bond’s ‘Skyfall road’ to the midges and foggy morning views from Beinn Trilleachan. Makes you want to pack a rucksack, spray yourself with Smidge and get walking.
Eight Cousins (Louisa M Alcott) – Last off the bookshelf and keeping with the Scottish mountain theme, Patricia read her short story To Schiehallion. A Finnish tourist, a girl with a fixation on Finnish fairy tales, goes missing in the Perthshire hills. Will she ever be found? We enjoyed the tale’s dark theme, dealing with the ramifications of bullying and mental illness, and felt there is potential to expand to a longer story. We suggested Patricia could introduce an element of fantasy by making use of Schiehallion’s myths and caves. But I loved those mysterious Finnish fairies – Kendu (apologies if misspelt) sounded a right bad’un !
By the time we finished (thank you Maggie M for hosting), the No-Good Nine had proved their no-good credentials by exceeding the Readaround’s nine-thirty deadline – but only by ten minutes. Not too bad considering the number of items read and discussed. Constructive feedback from others is invaluable and, as always, the evening delivered plenty of good advice, positivity and most important of all, laughter. I mean, farting horses? Enough said !
*Children’s book and blub – written by John Bemelmans Marciano.