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Basking in reflected glory: SAW Success Night – 27 March 2019

It’s not often that you sit in a room surrounded by so many award winners, knowing that you are all part of the same group.

BAFTAs or Oscars, Emmys or Brits, Bookers, Costas, Carnegies or Greenaways?

No, none of the above. The night, minus red carpets and posh frocks was about Ayr Writers’ Club and the Scottish Association of Writers awards.

Ten of our number came away from the annual conference with a staggering eighteen commendations and prizes, five of them trophy-winning firsts.

One of the basic tenets of our club is the sharing of expertise, so on the Success Night we got to hear many of those award-winning entries and learned from their authors.

But where to start? With such an extensive and eclectic mix I can only hope to capture and reflect a flavour of each. But beware, this is still going to be a long read, for which I make no apology. It will be worth it – and I trust you too will be inspired.

  • There were wry smiles during Catherine Lang’s trophy-winning sketch Turning the Tables as members acted out the barbed and barely concealed animosity between two old friends who bumped into one another at a local café.
  • We felt the tension as bins exploded and a character was left “feeling my insides had been scraped out” in the first chapter of Kirsty Hammond’s YA novel Solar that claimed second place in its category
  • Maggie Bolton lured us into the gory violence of crime fiction in her third-placed review of A A Dhand’s Streets of Darkness that explores tensions in a mixed marriage.
  • Chris Palmer’s first place general article held us in rapt attention as he looked back at an intriguing incident in his professional life while reading his Letter to a man I never really met.
  • More willing thespians stepped forward to act an extract from Helena Sheridan’s drama Eva, involving one man’s obsessive relationship with his Electronic Voice Assistant and a real-life Eva with whom he had been involved. Helena brought home the trophy in this category.
  • The Last of the Blue Mohicans saw Linda Brown take the trophy for the Women’s Short Story and after hearing about this feisty mature punk, the tribulations of dog collars and the exhortation that every mum “must mortify her off-spring”, none of us were in any doubt why this beat off other competitors.
  • We listened with increasing intrigue to Jennifer West’s commended general short story The Letter as her protagonist grasped a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but left us wondering if this was a guy you could trust.
  • Another commendation went to Susan McVey’s novel Blood of the Lamb which shared the story of Mel and Seb. We met the homeless couple coughing in a doorway, wrestling with survival.

Sheila Grant’s cakes provided sustenance during the briefest of intervals before we were sat ready to soak up more of the success.

  • Catherine Lang’s highly commended review of Keith Houston’s The Book will no doubt prompt many of us to buy or borrow this fascinating historical exploration and description. Invention through necessity to its support of the pious to the popular, there’s not much you won’t know by the end we were told.
  • Another flurry of members trod the boards to enact Maggie Bolton’s highly commended sketch The Extraordinary Meeting of the Flower Arranging Committee. Secrets were revealed, scepticism abounded and the most demure character burst into her role as a stripper. (OK – not everything was acted or revealed)
  • Chris Palmer’s success extended to a highly commended piece of flash fiction Try Anything Once, revealing responses to lonely hearts adverts containing appropriate (or inappropriate) favourite books.
  • Through the cosmos of time and the Spring of New Beginning, Susan McVey introduced Draconian street fighters, life under the street lights and a menacing mood of fear and anxiety in her commended YA novel.
  • Not all the successful authors were with us so we can look forward to hearing Suzy Kelly’s glittering trio of entries in the future: a highly commended general novel, a second place in the gruelling Dragon’s Pen challenge, and her flash fiction that achieved first place. We also look forward to seeing soaring sales for the commended self-published book by Greta Yorke, illustrated by Maggie Bolton.
  • Finally, tortured emotions, a devastating letter and the inevitable twist formed the basis of Linda Brown’s third placed flash fiction Just Seventeen.

Rounds of applause, pats on the back and we could take a breath at last.

Now, it’s our turn to start preparing for SAW 2020 – we have a reputation to uphold.

Nigel Ward

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