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Pick’n’Mix at Troon – 5 June 2019

‘Pick a number. Any number,’ said Anne, our host, passing a bowl containing numbered slips of paper around the circle of writers.

 I pulled No. 9 in the ‘Troon Tombola’ which meant I should be 9th to read – however due to a couple of last-minute cancellations, we had more numbers than people.

But we’re not easily confused and Anne’s clever system sorted out the evening’s readaround running order.

No-one had No. 1.

So, first up was No. 2 – Greta with her children’s fantasy novel, In the Dark. Ben’s on a mission to find his lost siblings and meets unusual characters along the way – four quirky, talking scarecrows.  Greta’s plotline takes Ben on a journey of self-discovery and delivers an important message, concerning talking about feelings, to youngsters. The group admired her extract’s humour and visual imagery and suggested Greta could give each scarecrow a different trait to help readers differentiate between the four.

No. 3 was our host, Anne, reading a chapter from her contemporary crime novel. A schoolteacher has been murdered in her own home and the police investigation is under way. Anne set the perfect scene of the activity in a busy police incident room and introduced her detectives.  We appreciated her good use of forensic detail and recommended she edit unnecessary words.

No 4. was Carolyn. Her first item, based on true experience, was a poem – Chew Choo. Inconsiderate travellers noisly munch fast food onboard a stationary train. We liked the poem’s rhythm and descriptive verbs. It was suggested more “smelly” words could be included.

Carolyn also read her raw first draft of a monologue. Her aim was to bamboozle her audience about what was actually happening. ‘Have I been rumbled?’ her character asks herself.  The group enjoyed her monologist’s voice and advised Carolyn to delay the reveal of her character’s motivations until further into the piece.

Was he No.6? No, not The Prisoner (showing my age), but Eddie. Reading a chapter from his latest novel, he introduced us to Cindy. Fresh out of Journalism College, she’s trying to brass-neck her way into a job on “Secret Society” – an investigative journalism TV programme, and with journalist, Lizzie Spector temporarily out of action, Cindy could be in luck. The group enjoyed Eddie’s extract but was undecided on young Cindy’s personality – some of us loved her as a strong, feisty female character, while others found her a wee bit unlikeable and aggressive. However, we were agreed – Cindy’s trendy pink boots should be referred to as, Doc Martens or Docs and never “Doctor” Martens.

Time to boil the kettle and butter the scones! Anne’s husband Douglas had baked delicious scones and a melt-in-your-mouth Victoria sponge for our tea/coffee break. A wee treat for a wee blether! Thank you, Douglas.

Lucky 7 was Kirsty. She’s been editing and polishing Solar, her young adult fantasy novel. Chapter one (minus page two, which had mysteriously gone AWOL) opens with a classroom catching fire. Accident or arson? And is her young protagonist to blame?  We enjoyed the chapter’s fast pace – not one word was redundant. The group felt she’d successfully established teenager/parent conflict and developed a strong female character.

Jeanette was No. 8. She’d brought her poem Good Stuff.  Actually (being pedantic and checking with Mr. Google), Jeanette brought a rhyming couplet. She read it twice and it made us laugh … twice.  Dinnae worry, Jeanette, we’re sure you’ll be writing the “good stuff” soon.

No. 9 was me and the beginning of my short story Once Upon a Seventies Summer. Two women meet up after forty-three years to reminisce on a blissful summer holiday. But does one or both of them have an ulterior motive for the reunion? The group discussed the pros and cons of enlarging this story and I appreciated the constructive feedback.

No. 10? Theresa? Boris?  Naw – No. 10 was Nigel. He followed up his recent Munro climbing article with Post Script. At first, we thought we were tramping Highland heather again – but wily Nigel had deceived us. As he read further it became apparent, he’d written an observational article on the “urban geology” of Central London. Nigel had sat on the stone steps of the National Gallery, looking over to Trafalgar Square, and soaked up his surroundings. As always, we were impressed by his excellent descriptions and imaginative expressions.

The last Pick’n’Mixer of the night was Gail. She’d smashed her writer’s block and written the beginning of a fiction. Short story or novel? She’s not sure. But we were hooked by the tense scene she’d set – a dark night, a torrential downpour, an anxious driver in busy traffic…then disaster… a body on the road. The group saw potential for Gail to develop this piece.

Around 10 o’clock, the Readarounders headed off, to drive home in the (almost) dark night, having, thankfully, missed the torrential downpour and the busy traffic …. Phew.

Well done, to the contributors for ten diverse and entertaining readings. It was a pleasure to listen to everyone and offer feedback. Nice to see Martin come along and chip in with comments too. Finally, thanks again to Anne and Douglas for welcoming us into their home and providing teas and lovely home-baking.

Linda Brown

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