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Non-fiction Workshop with Gill Sherry – 18th October 2023

Article Writing – Getting it Right

On Wednesday, I found myself back standing outside the Mercure where I fondly remember spending many a Wednesday as a younger writer. In the darkened street with splashes of orange from streetlights littering the road, I felt a thrill of excitement spark throughout my body. As rain began to lightly fall, the thrill rapidly fizzled out when I checked my watch and realised that I was about to be late. I climbed the stairs, settled into my seat and the evening began.

The club welcomed Gill Sherry, our speaker for the evening. Previous Club President, current club member and editor of the Ayrshire Magazine, Gill started the evening off by talking about her various, and very impressive achievements. Certain that I was in the company of someone who knew what they were talking about, I spent the first half of the evening frantically scribbling notes down in my brand-new notebook.

Gill spoke with ease and with confidence through the stages of writing a nonfiction article, telling us to ensure we used figurative language as well as factual information. One of the pieces of advice I found to be most interesting was to always keep pieces light and cheery. Avoid doom and gloom, and be particularly careful when writing about a place so as not to insult the locals!

After our tea break, Gill took centre stage again and asked us to get out pens and paper. She had a writing task for us to do. We were given ten minutes to write as much of a non-fiction article about Ayr town centre as we could.

Sneaking a glance around the room I was impressed at seeing pens scratching paper, and people deep in thought. After our ten minutes were up, Gill asked for volunteers to read out their pieces. We had –

  • A fascinating historical follow up to an article previously published in the Ayrshire Magazine, talking about aspects of Ayr town centre that many people wouldn’t immediately notice.
  • A couple of pieces with authors nostalgic for the Ayr of their youth, and for sunny days and endless hours of joy spreading out ahead of them.
  • A very interesting and imagery-filled piece about the racecourse, (which tied in with Gill’s earlier advice to always think outside of the box).
  • A piece that made my mouth water, talking about a walk to the author’s favourite shop, for a browse and a coffee and cake.

The standard of writing produced within a 10-minute period was an incredible achievement for all involved, so a huge well done to everyone involved. A couple of questions on research and local history led on to a lively discussion about all the history we are lucky to have within Ayr, and how many local people just pass by it. There were some interesting ideas bandied about as to how to draw attention to statues and elegant old buildings that are sprinkled across the beautiful town.

The evening closed with an announcement that our Scottish Article Competition opens next week, with a closing date of November 1st. The topic is open, as long as the content ties to Scotland.

Thank you so much to Gill for a really fascinating and informative night. Having never really had much interest in writing non-fiction, I am now feeling highly motivated, so now I am off to start my entry for the next competition.

Carrie Simpson

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