Performing at Prestwick: For One Night Only – Summer Readaround, 24 May 2017

An ambitious frog,  a self-absorbed teenager, an inventive writer, an athletic kid with a talent for mental arithmetic, a couple of spies and some sinister SS officers –  we met all these characters and more at our first summer readaround at Carolyn’s house in Prestwick.  These fortnightly meetings, held at a kindly member’s home, are a great way of keeping us procrastinating writers motivated and ensuring our busy fingers tap on our keyboards over the holiday period.

And what a wonderful variation of work was read around our host’s coffee table.

We had clever twist-in-the tale flash fictions from Kirsty and Greta. A moving poem, on the theme of love, which has been accepted for publication in the Word on the Street from Gill.  Susan treated us to a funny rhyming story suitable for an under sevens picture book (this is where the frog hopped in), while Martin shared the second chapter of his prequel to The One Sided Story. This transported us all back to being sat cross-legged on the school gym floor and counting frantically on our fingers!

Our group had a chance to show off our thespian skills when we took parts and read an intriguing scene from the screenplay of Code 998 adapted from Gail’s recently published novel of the same name. We had the beginning of a story, a work in progress with great potential, from Chris G and a complete short story with plenty of local references and fine examples of natural and flowing dialogue from Carolyn. My own piece was an article inspired by ‘treasure’ found in an attic and is aimed for the Ayr Advertiser newspaper.

We discussed our inability to spot errors in our own work. This topic was triggered by Ann, who’d brought along a few copies of her children’s book A Touch of Rainbow Magic, with the request that some volunteers would care to take the book home and proofread it. To prove a point my own work had several mistooks. For instance one small but necessary word (an ‘of’) was AWOL despite the fact I’d read the piece aloud at least three times.

Other advice and tips shared included:

  • possible markets or competitions to submit our work to
  • how to use an under 7’s picture book as a template to lay out a children’s story and check for size.
  • giving each character in our stories their own distinct voice which makes it easier for the reader to keep track of who’s who without the constant ‘he said/she said’
  • trimming unnecessary details from our stories and keeping the plot tight
  • looking out for clusters of duplicate words in our narrative
  • knowing when to capitalise in titles/chapter headings and place names – for example do we need a capital T for The or a capital A for And?
  • the dos and don’ts of poetry punctuation – it’s complicated – we don’t always need to use it.

All this fantastic feedback was well worth my £2 donation to AWC funds. The coffee, chocolate cake and good craic all added to a relaxed and enjoyable evening. Many thanks to Carolyn for her hospitality and to all who contributed.

Here’s to the next one.

Linda Brown

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