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Slates, shoppers and sinners – Summer Readaround, 9 August 2017

The penultimate summer readaround of 2017 gathered on Wednesday 9 August at Nigel’s in Symington. The air still held the warmth of summer, and things were looking good as no fewer than ten writers arrived at our host’s door. Even better, as I stepped inside, I noted that the kitchen table held a goodly spread of cakes!

But first, there was work to do, and the evening was kicked off by Martin, reading from his ongoing work recounting a traumatic time in his childhood. Martin’s writing stimulated much discussion, around both the topic and the technical aspects. On with the next bit, Martin!

Next up was Nigel, with There’s Nowt New, a piece that he had pulled together very quickly, his interest piqued by something he saw in a painting. The writing was rich with a sense of place (Doncaster), but also full of historical and cultural detail. I think we all learned things we hadn’t known before. Hopefully, Nigel will have done some more work on this piece, having been subject to as many questions as feedback!

Susan read the synopsis of her novel, Children of Ruin. It described a place and a time that belongs in the realms of science fiction, but with chilling inference to how we live now. Feedback encouraged Susan to start her synopsis with the characters and build in back-story afterwards. Susan is seeking publishing interest in her novel, so… Go Susan!

Linda followed with her piece A Clean Slate, again from a novel-length work, but this time historical, set in 1889 and following the fortunes of a maid who escapes her lowly life on a ship bound for America. Historical fiction always brings up questions about the authenticity of detail, and sure enough, a dictionary was found at tea break to check whether a character would have used a particular word. And she would have! But where will her fabrications take her?

Suzi provided total contrast with a bang-up-to-the-minute short story entitled Personal Shopper. This narrative was edgy and economical, wasting no time in getting to the very heart and soul of her character. We found this very engaging and full of dark humour. Suzi plans to submit this story for the forthcoming Imprint competition. Good luck, Suzi!

Anne read a section from her novel entitled A Proper Sinner. There’s a death scene here, and the writing brought this… well… alive! There was plenty of discussion of plot and how it was handled, along with pace and the way in which this was so cleverly used to hold the reader back.

Tea followed, and the cakes were as good as they looked, or better! Particularly the scones, which were home-baked and slathered with jam made with plums from Nigel’s garden. I might have had one or two, or….

But, on with the writing! Maggie brought the attention back with her short memoir piece written for a new collection by the LiterEight collective. Maggie’s piece recounted how one small incident involving a horse on a murky night somewhere in Lincoln somewhere in the mists of time changed the course of history for one family. This provoked much discussion, attesting to the success of the piece in finding a truth that is common to all – how lives can turn on a sixpence.

Greta followed with something completely different – a lovely poem entitled The Fall. Such peace descended as she read, as if time had stopped for a rest. And then she had to read it again! We all loved the way this piece captured the autumn fall of leaves, and the musicality of it, with excellent use of alliteration.

The evening drew to a close with work from Pat and then Chris. Pat, high on the forthcoming launch of her first novel, Till the Dust Settles, read from her next novel, for which she has a publishing contract. The subject is bullying in the workplace, and the action revolves around the scheming of some of the victims to bring the bully to rights. We could have listened to much more of this!

Finally came the turn of Chris, who had sat patiently all night. He read a short but fascinating and poetically written piece about his father’s time in Malaya in the 1950s. There was a lot of discussion about this one, with great interest in the story on which the piece was based but also in the originality of the writing style.

And then, it was time to gather our papers and wave our goodbyes, before embarking on the Krypton Factor-ish matter of getting all of our cars safely out of the driveway. Nigel orchestrated this with aplomb. Thank you, Nigel, and too for a wonderful evening of writing (and cake!).

The last summer readaround will be hosted by Irene and Richard this coming Wednesday, 23 August.

Alison Craig

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