Tuesday, 20 February 2018

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Music to my ears. Part 1. 20 Feb 2018.

The first part of “Music to my ears” was for Wilma to randomly hand out the lyrics of two songs to each member. 
A 1000-1200 word story based on one of the sets of lyrics, to be created for 6th March.

Musically themed pieces were then read by several members. 
Diana used a school music class featuring ‘Peter and the Wolf’ as the subject of her poem. 
Pete remembered an old time Radio programme classic, ‘Sing Something Simple’. 
Kate recounted tales of her various dog’s favourite songs. Hilary explained a lifetime of musical endurance.

There were also readings on non-musical themes.

Elspeth read a story of ‘What happened to Jack. We have yet to learn whether it was a short story, where we are all left wondering and frustrated or whether it was the first chapter of a book.

Kathleen described the ancient and picturesque town of Hersbruck in Bavaria, which she has often visited to see family members.

Diana’s poetry described a young girls longing for high heels which was rewarded by ‘sensible shoes’.

Sandra invited us to the 22nd March launch of her fifteenth Lorimer book, ‘Only the dead can tell’.(6-30pm at Glasgow’s Waterstones)

This book includes a ‘bonus story’ which Sandra read to us. This explains what first attracted Lorimer into the world of policing and crime.

Billy (aka Liam) has returned to the Erskine Writers from a year of teaching English in South Korea.
He explained the contrasting prices of food, power and travel. The spoke of the extremes of weather, the street politics; also, among many other aspects of Korean life, their enthusiasm for cosmetic surgery.

These few lines are merely the headlines of a world away from western headlines.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Flour Power. 13 Feb 2018

Today's topic was "Flour Power"; a play on the nineteen sixties “Flower power” phenomenon. As usual we all explored it in different ways.

Diana went for a poem which spoke of the way children can both, enjoy, explore and learn through simple cooking; whilst Pete tried a slapstick flour-spilling romance.

Joan Fr told of a Malteser-thieving frustrated potato scone maker and Elizabeth relived the grandparents’ doubtful pleasure of clearing up after the toddlers unsupervised dough making disaster.

Kate warned of the power and stubbornness of flour mites when they come to visit. Hilary became poetic about the texture of dough and the tactile and emotional feelings experienced whilst mixing and manipulating it.


Kathleen departed from her usual role and gave us a murder mystery, Pete had a rant about boy road racers and Joan Fr read a story with an embedded poem as a tribute to a departed best friend.

Similarly, Diana had produced a poem dedicated to a friend who was loved by all around her.

Hilary told us of a lyrical but doomed romantic evening involving a Casanova young taxi driver and his much older eventual passenger. She enjoyed the banter, but just wanted to get home and slip her feet into something more comfortable.

It had been a full and interesting session up to this point; unfortunately, Pete committed the cardinal sin of reading a repeat piece. He had forgotten that we had already heard it only a few weeks previously. Appropriately, it was entitled "My Memory".

Pete was late getting home; he had also forgotten where he had parked his car.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Titles / Endings / Blurbs. Sandra McGruther. 6-Feb-2018.

Sandra leapt out of convalescence to speak to us about the ‘packaging’ needed once you have written your novel.

Whether your working title prevails or whether the title is chosen afterwards, it needs to reflect the substance of the story. The old idiom “Don’t choose a book from its cover” may work as a metaphor, but not as a literally truth; how else can you choose?

Sandra talked us through the choices and thought processes which went into choosing the titles for her Lorimer series of murder mysteries. The inspiration sometimes came from remembered lines of poetry or prose, sometimes there was input from an agent. Some titles were more apt or ‘worked better’ than others. The cover’s artwork coexists with the title to ‘sell’ the book.

We were each provided with three or four sentence ‘blurbs’ or synopses from three different novels. There was then a ten minute exercise for each of us to provide titles for all three. Creative juices came out to play. Results were interesting and often apt. If we had had ten days rather than ten minutes for the exercise, would the results have been better?
Sandra feels that the reader deserves a satisfactory ending after the main action has finished.

There was now another exercise (twenty minutes) to create an ending or last page appropriate for any (or all) of the three blurbs used in the titles exercise.

This was tricky! (modern word - ‘challenging’). From the blurb, we had to create in our minds, the bulk of the novel, (but not express it on paper) and then go on to write the final page.

Most of us struggled to write an ending for just one blurb. One member effortlessly created three.

It was hard labour both from Sandra and for club members, but an extremely interesting and thought provoking session.

Thank you, Sandra.


Friday, 2 February 2018

Daughter of Mull – Joan Fleming.

Joan’s third book in the Magic of Mull series is now available as an ebook.

In “Daughter of Mull”, Anna Ballantyne is devastated by her birth mother’s refusal to meet her and uses her job as a freelance researcher to fund her trip to the Scottish Island of Mull to find her.

She quickly falls for islander, Finn, but problems arise when flatmate, Roddie, arrives. Torn between the two men, she’s confused about pursuing a mother who doesn’t want to meet her. Anna has an important decision to make.


Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Questions and Answers.

This was an open forum Q&A session.

The first question was “Who wishes to volunteer for the ‘shortly to become vacant’ positions of President and Vice President of the Scottish Association of Writers SAW.

In spite of Jacklin explaining the roles and work involved, no one appeared to take up the challenge.


How far can you go in precisely describing a place? e.g. a town, village or community. 

The restrictions are much less than describing people. A town is unlikely to sue you for deformation especially if your observations are accurate. A change of name is an obvious option.


What type of literature is ‘trending’ and what are the current available outlets?

A consensus appeared to agree that children’s and young adult’s fiction has a healthy market as do audible books.

Many of the usual outlets are still available, but may keep varying their acceptance rules.

The key is to work the internet and be persistent in submitting material widely. Do not wait months for an acceptance or rejection before submitting elsewhere.

This led to a suggestion for next season’s syllabus of having a professional talk to us on the subject of “Buying Trends”.


The possibility of using the Erskine Writer’s blog as an easy outlet for member’s work was discussed.

It was agreed to do a trial run by creating a separate ‘Page’ for member’s short stories or poems. Myra volunteered to submit the first piece. A blog will announce when this is due to start.


Hilary noted a couple more suggestions for the next syllabus and encouraged further ideas.


Kathleen read the start of a piece from her memoirs describing the place she was born in the twenties and the preparation and hard work needed for the now comparatively easy household chore of “wash day”.

Elizabeth read out her 1200 word entry to the December 2017 Feature Competition. The subject was the history of the Glasgow Western Infirmary. Elizabeth also bravely entertained us with the adjudicator’s constructive comments.

It’s ‘nice’ to get feedback.

It can be discouraging to write a piece and get no feedback. Even if you submit a written item and have it accepted for publication, but receive no comments from either the editor or readers, it is less than ideal.

I recently sent off five hundred words of flash fiction for a proposed Anthology for the Age Concern Charity. https://hachejones.wixsite.com/through-the-ages  My subject was Dementia. I received the following kind reply from the lady editor.

“This is lovely - thank you. It strikes a very personal chord with me - not because of the dementia but because of a different disability, one that affects my everyday life so drastically.

I would like to ask - though you needn't answer if you would prefer not - is this purely fiction or is it a real-life situation for you? I ask only because I am accepting both fiction and non-fiction this time and your piece would fit easily into either of those two categories. If you would prefer not to say, I will leave it in fiction but if you have any strong feelings either way please do let me know. Either way - it is definitely included.

Thanks again and very best wishes”

“Oh how poignant. Many thanks for that - fiction it is then.”


It is discouraging to labour over a piece of poetry or prose, show it to a friend or relation and get the reaction “Nice”.

“Nice” is the worst. I’d rather they tell me “Dull and boring”, “I liked the title, loved the font, pity about the story.” or  “The best part was the end.” or maybe “I didn’t like it at all. It wasn’t my thing.”

Anything but ‘nice’.

I’m still waiting for a Morecambe and Wise style of critique for one of my literary masterpieces:- “You used all the right words, but not necessarily in the right order”.