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Article Writing with Sheila Grant & Nigel Ward

You might think that club members’ recent successes with published articles, especially in Scottish Memories, would make a workshop on Article Writing and Research superfluous. However with Nigel’s long experience in editing (who else has been given a box of red pens as a leaving present?) and Sheila’s success with publishing articles and reviews, we were in good hands to learn more.
Nigel reminded us of the many types of article, all of which have at their core sharing knowledge and personal experience, finding a unique perspective and developing the story. Although not fiction, articles can have characters and plot.
Sheila suggested that we start down the article writing road with small fillers, using gravestones, memorials, family memorabilia, other articles and programmes as triggers and always, always writing the ideas down as YOU WILL NOT REMEMBER THEM!
Echoing the experience of Dane Love, she described how research on one topic invariably leads to others. While investigating a deserted Scottish glen she came across the story of a local schoolboy who eventually became Governor of Rio de Janeiro.
She also highlighted the benefits of competitions not only as starting points but also as valuable sources of helpful comments from the judges.
Nigel reminded us of the structure of an article with all the important information at the start, well away from the sub-editor’s pencil. Starting with the grabber and the nut graph (nutshell paragraph), in which the key background information, ideas and viewpoint are expressed, the body of the article follows in a number of forms – chronological, narrative, alternative points of view and, last of course, suspended interest. The conclusion should summarize the intent of the piece not its content and, where possible, link back neatly to the start.
Despite all that hard work, articles may still be rejected for many reasons. Apart from professional errors of layout, punctuation and guideline violation, rejection is usually due to unsuitability for the magazine for which it was submitted.
Then it was time for us have a stab at a brief memory article. Out came the memories: Glasgow dance halls, a visit to a grave that never filled in, childhood holidays in Rothesay, being trapped against a wall by a coal lorry, the double standards of polite speech for children, a smelly Afghan coat banished to the shed, fine looking moleskin breeches that chafed and squelched when wet and a trip to Rhodes that went wrong.
Enough material to keep Scottish Memories and other magazines in business for a while yet, I suspect.
James Rose

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