Feedback Evening: all in the mind of the reviewer – 2 October 2019

Be there for 7.15 it said. Clarified as p.m. – just in case. I arrived just after seven – just to be safe. Signed my name afore welcoming smiles, then entered. I skirted through the groups of empty chairs huddled in their orderly quadrants before gingerly exchanging my precious offering for Linda’s lucky dip. I land group four. More welcome smiles and easy chat whilst slowly further creative musings are swapped for seats. More welcome smiles and chat as introductions are made amongst my three fellow G4S – Group Four Scrutineers. Then straight to business. Three pieces of writing to read, review as per supplied pro-forma and then orate our opinions to the roomful of people before each creator declared ownership.

We four in G4S thought we had just been lucky with our given selection. A fantastical adventure set in dystopia, a journey of polarity, drama and intrigue with a tantalising cliff-hanger – a piece of discarded novel the author proclaimed – we liked it. And then the humorous tale of a rowdy climate conference. Clever, topical and quite faultlessly crafted. Next up – a piece of flash fiction beautifully describing a celestial love story of Moon’s yearnings after what seems an impossible romantic liaison. Great stuff – but the pro-forma asks for improvements. And so we pick back through them. Perhaps the cliff-hanger could relate more to the ‘old language’. Perhaps reference could be given as to why so many elemental representatives wore tartan shirts. Perhaps higher powers thought nothing happened in the tragic love story – we felt it conveyed everything. And then there’s grammar – always the grammar that a bit of extra proof reading could smooth out.

Between all present members, fifteen pieces of literature were digested ranging from TV script to poetry, flash fiction to short stories, a Scottish Article to book chapters aimed at all ages and all across many themes before we mingled during refreshments. Constructive feedback was then aired by all the groups and flowed around the room in carefully sculpted order by Chris.

We heard of wonderfully enticing titles such as Andy Bing Makes My Heart Sing and evocative names such as the Smartfallows. Content didn’t seem to disappoint the readers either with alien abductions, time-warps, good fortune of stumbling into the right place at the right time resulting in a brush with fame and celebrity, to the account of tragic misfortune in being at the right place at a very disturbingly wrong time. The green egg of Ailsa Craig, a bus journey of definite escapism – but from what? The meaningful Rosebud for an elderly tour guide. And then there were the horses. Hobson losing his shoe only to find it at a wedding and be fixed by the bride-groom, oh the irony. And a poor young girl trying to impress her rich friend with stolen ponies.

Just as one author wrote of a significant pebble being left behind with such delicacy as to allow the reader space to explore and create meaning, we were all gently reminded of how important it is to brave showing our readers the story we hope to portray, minimising the risk of misinterpretation through structure, setting and flow; characterisation; use of all our characters’ senses; descriptive imagery; good titles and appropriate endings. And then of course the grammar. Don’t (just don’t!!) be using too many exclamation marks!!! (No-one said anything about hyphens and apparently italics are OK).

We didn’t quite get to a group hug or dance a hallelujah, but there was a lot of appreciation in the room – and very rightly so. So… let’s get those competition pieces edited and entered.

Joanne Bailey

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