Squeezing big ideas into small sentences: non-fiction with Daniel Gray – 16 October 2019

After a wonderful session last week with the very literary and sporty (very!) Helen Palmer, who set the standard for the season with readings from unpublished novels and the topic “Mythobiography : breathing new life into old stories,” the Club welcomed Daniel Gray – author, copywriter, screenwriter, researcher, presenter, event chair, podcaster, video maker, writer-in-residence, workshop facilitator. Daniel’s subject was “Non-fiction topics”

Daniel promised an autobiographical walk through his history and literary passions. Whilst a northerner, he is domiciled in Scotland and has a passion for football to the extent of writing a number of books on the subject. This started off through fanzines and is now a professional along with many other subjects as a prolific writer. For him, writing is a lifestyle choice and obsession.

Daniel Gray entices with some of his titles

From football magazines to a Dictionary of Marxism he has very much been around the writers’ block – but doesn’t seemingly have that problem! Daniel, having personal links with organisations such as the National Library of Scotland, was able to comprehensively access research material and wrote a book para-titling Orwell (Homage to Catalonia) with Homage to Caledonia. Amongst others, the recollections of an old International Brigade man, Steve Fullarton try to explain why so many Scottish working men went to fight on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. He read a number of extracts to give a flavour of how they and their relatives perceived the events.

Another book, Stramash was a tour around a dozen football-toting-towns in Scotland. Apparently, the great football commentator Arthur Montford had read and liked it. Daniel read sizeable extracts from it regarding the town of Ayr, previous and present buildings and activities, the effect that the Glasgow Fair used to have on the town and humorous anecdotes including the visit of Oscar Wilde in 1883. Daniel, now an established “tourist writer”, is one who actually visits places he writes about, unlike many others!

In the discussion Daniel answered a series of questions. To give the reader a flavour they included his daily work routine (work ethic was pre-eminent in his family), use of technology such as podcasts, work in prisons and how long research could take before a project/book is complete, his need to alternate between fiction and non-fiction, the joy of self-editing, marketing books using podcasts.

Daniel Gray added value to Ayr Writers’ Club by “filling in the gaps” for us budding JK Rowling or William McIlvanney types. It was a most rewarding evening that hopefully will stimulate us all to write just a little bit more.

Eddie Phillips

One comment

  1. Ajay Joglekar

    A good detailed review Eddie

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