Opening the boxes: a revelation Readaround – 8 July 2020

Readaround Number Three was another enjoyable and productive evening. We are getting used to the new normal i.e., seeing our writing friends stacked up in little boxes on the screen, like items in an Amazon warehouse. Apart from the occasional sound or connection glitch, all went well. With Ajay in the engine room and Ken at the helm, we were soon under way.

Ann began with an extract from her crime novel in which she revealed more of the character and background of the two policemen in charge of the case. They are old friends, but not cast in the same mould. This is cleverly shown through their conversation about food and home life.

Jeanette gave us the latest version of her book review of Sally Rooney’s Mr Salary. We loved Jeanette’s quirky writing style and personal observations. Having witnessed the development of this book review over the past two Readarounds, all agreed it was almost there – just a bit of judicious cropping required to bring the word count down to 500 words. Nailed it Jeanette!

Joanne gave us an evocative poem, written in Scots, about romance at the fair and its inevitable end as the fair moves on. We enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of the fairground and the mother’s tough love, ‘suck it up’ reaction to the doomed romance!

Nigel, hampered by lock-down, has been unable to provide fodder for his usual, delightful travel articles. However, the garden provoked what he called ‘a thought piece.’ This proved to be an article, so beautifully written, that it reads like a poem. We go from feeling daunted by the never-ending tasks, to taking time to just sit and observe.

My offering was a revamped version of a children’s novel My Pet Haggis. This came third in the S.A.W. Children’s Novel Competition in 2016. The adjudicator, Cathy McPhail, recommended ditching the first two chapters, starting with some action and drip-feeding the lost information in as we go along. I wanted to know if my drip-feeding was:

  1. Enough to inform the reader
  2. Not too clunky.

Apparently, it was OK on both counts and the humour was appreciated.

Damaris gave us a tragically sad poem called Bless You. It was about her grandmother who, you might say, died of embarrassment. She was too embarrassed to reveal a urinary infection until it was too late. A very sad and moving poem, Damaris.

Joanna deserves praise on two counts. First, for being brave enough to read her work aloud for the first time, and also for the poem itself. Spare and carefully crafted, the poem A Voice in the Night, gave us a feeling of dread, but also perhaps, acceptance. Was it a nightmare? Ghost voices? Schizophrenia? I think Joanna was surprised at the variety of ideas provoked by the piece. Well done.

Ajay gave us the first draft of a book review of Once Upon a River, a tale of Victorian intrigue – not perhaps, what you might expect from the title. The review certainly fulfilled its function in making us want to read the book. Suggestions were made encouraging showing more of the characters and not giving away too much of the story. Perhaps we shall shear more of this.

Linda H (we had two Lindas this evening) read Ma Mither’s Mantlepiece, a delightfully wry description of items you would find there. The knick-knacks, out of date cards, the clock, gifts from grandchildren, rub shoulders with other, less desirable items. The Kirby grip with the ear-wax particularly sticks in my memory!

Linda B rounded off the evening with a further extract from her Victorian crime novel Opening Pandora’s Box. We move from last session’s nasty revelation in a hat-box on the train, to Kilmarnock Police Station. Here an impatient gentleman harangues the poor duty constable. We get excellent period glimpses of the two characters – from the constable’s mutton-chop whiskers and ‘cheeks, flaming like lucifers’ to the man’s cane, beating an irate tattoo on the bees-waxed floor. We want to hear more.

So, that was our bill of fare for the evening. I, for one, am looking forward to the next one.

Maggie Bolton

One comment

  1. Joanne Bailey

    Another fabulous evening, so much variety and not all in relation to writing . I would greatly appreciate some advice in relation to the ‘zooming’ . I am really struggling with reading my work out, as folks may have noticed. This is due partly to nerves but I also have poor eye sight so going from screen to paper is hard. Do any of you have any suggestions as to how I can overcome this? The 2nd issue that is, I know that with the first one it is just practice. Many thanks

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