Tuesday, 11 December 2018

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Christmas Party. 11 Dec 2018.

Seventeen members turned up for games - food – quiz - food – quiz - food.

Hilary did a short review of the recent successful year; we did a Christmas card exchange, pulled crackers, donned paper hats and then started a the traditional pass the parcel.

The quizzes included a literary quiz, signature tunes from the shows and an intelligence test for dummies.

We each had a sticker on our forehead with the name of a character from fiction. We had to question our neighbour to discover our identity. Unfortunately, Little Bo Peep embarrassed herself by going out into the public precinct for a smoke break forgetting that she was still wearing her paper hat and name sticker.

However, a good time was had by all.

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The next meeting will be in the New Year on 8th January. We will have the adjudication from the Women’ short story competition.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

4 December 2018. Modernised versions of Christmas Carol or Song

This gave us the chance to create something new about Christmas; no mean feat.

Pete prophesised a virtual reality Christmas of the future. The three Kings being three of the current largest on-line retailers and Rudolph was banned for lack of political correctness.

John’s Twelve days of Christmas morphed into twelve days of Brexit and instead of presents, the advent appeared to bring mostly trials and tribulations.

Joan Fr. broke into song with a much commercialised version of Ding, Dong Merrily on High.

Lorna’s Three Kings became three wise children apparently aimlessly following a star through town only to come upon a nativity scene.

The popularity of Brexit remerged from Morag. To the tune of Good King Wenceslas, we all joined in to sing the story of good King Boris.

Hilary’s rendition of Hark the Herald Angles Sing was a rhyme which covered the pace and scurry of shopping around Christmas time.

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Pete read his entry and the adjudicator’s comments from the group’s recent poetry competition.  (The Smell of Stone)

Similarly, Joan Fr read her entry to the children fiction competition. (Mercat. A creature with the body of a cat and the tail of a fish. The mercat fell out of its comfort zone.)

Pete read from his memoirs about a relation who died in hospital apparently of natural causes. Several months later, her nurse was accused of murder.

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Next week:-  Mince pies at 1pm.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

27th November 2018. What’s on the shelves. - - - - - - Caron McPherson. Waterstones Bookstore.

Caron’s main work at Waterstones is in anticipating and recognising trends in which books are going to “fly off the shelves”.

There are few hard rules and last year’s best sellers are not necessarily going to repeat at Christmas this year.

Rather than presenting from a prepared script, Caron felt that a better approach would be to respond to the Erskine Writers Group’s questions.

As well as crime and romance fiction, books on cooking, biographies of the famous and local interest books, all continue to be popular.

There is declining demand for Westerns, whilst Sci Fi is ever more popular partly due to films and TV of that genre.

Books by known successful authors are usually a safe bet, but there are often books which “appear out of nowhere.” The subject matter of these and author may not be obvious winners, but the public decide to buy them. The Robin biography and The Darkest Dawn: the story of the Iolaire tragedy, were quoted as examples.

Young adults continue to enjoy David Walliams’ books, and variations of the ‘Broons’ are still popular.

In deciding which books to stock, Caron is guided initially by Head Office and by local managers, but also is able to provide input into which books can be successful stocked in local branches. For instance Edinburgh and Glasgow sales may not run parallel. Waterstones have to be agile in responding to short term phenomena, particularly at Christmas time.

We learnt that eBooks have stopped increasing their share of the book market and may be in slight decline. Audio books continue to be popular, partly because they taken over a lot of the previous demand for large print books.

Caron recommended that potential authors obtain advice from Indie Authors groups and should take a realistic attitude in the financial and commercial aspects of publishing. When an author’s book is published, he or she must be prepared to engage in the promotional aspects. They must push their publisher to do more and also push themselves to do more, for instance, in terms of public readings and advance information sheets. They must get involved in the active use of social media.

The Group appreciated Caron’s marathon effort in responding to a diverse stream of questions.

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Next week:- Bring modernised characters and setting of any Christmas Carol or Song.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Workshop 20 Nov 2018 – Billy Thompson.

Billy described that there could be overlap between the two genres; you would expect Science Fiction to involve a certain amount of science and technology.  However, the technology must be plausible.
Both are likely, but not necessarily, to be set in the future or distant past

As with other fiction, there needs to be characters, show not tell and use of the five senses.

The characters may include some form of alien who requires to have a degree of intelligence.

The plot may often be triggered by a “what if” question and may include a moral message.

The setting may be on this earth but under extreme climate conditions or maybe on another planet.

Existing Sci Fi and Fantasy books and films should be examined for ideas and trends.

Brave New World, 1984, Animal Farm, Start Trek, Doctor Who and Doctor Frankenstein; were all mentioned.

Two ‘what ifs’ were suggested and discussed at length.
    What if people long dead could be restored to life?
    What if same sex marriage were to be declared compulsory?
Both had scientific, moral and political implications and scope for various plots, problems and outcomes.

The group thanked Billy for a thought provoking workshop.

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The results of Poetry Competition adjudicated by Magi Gibson were announced.   There had been eleven entries for the theme,  “Smell.

First place                     Lilac                              Kate Gordon
Second place                The Smell of Stone          Pete Marrison
Third place                    Hospital                          John Hughes
Highly commended 1     A Whiff of Envy                Kate Gordon
Highly commended 2     Survivor                           Sandra McGruther
Highly commended 3     The Smell of Christmas    Elspeth Munro

Both the placed and unplaced entries, where available, were read out together with Magi Gibson’s constructive comments.

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Next week:-  Talk - What's on the shelves - Caron McPherson - Waterstones.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Workshop – Women’s Short Stories - Betty McKay

Betty specialises in short stories and has had many accepted; especially for women’s magazines.

She explained that compared with when she started submitting short stories, the number of magazine titles has considerably reduced, but there is still a market.  There are different attitudes between the various publishers and there remains the need to adhere to their guidelines.

There are many different sources for ideas for instance new slants on Fairy Tales, Top 10 lists from search engines and from Photos.

Betty usually has a plot in mind before she begins a story even though the plot may change half way. She looks for believability both for the plot and the characters.

The dialogue can be used as a method of describing a character; people’s names and the style of speech can leave the reader with an impression of a person.

Ending are important and it is useful to have more than one to choose from. Do not necessary pick the first one that springs to mind. Magazines are not necessarily looking for happy endings, but like to feel that justice has prevailed.

Much of the workshop was taken up with a series of exercises to practice using the idea-generating techniques.

With the help of this workshop, we are all looking to create a 1000-2000 Woman’s short story. Deadline 27th November.

Many thanks to Betty for a busy and interesting workshop; packed with plenty of detail.

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There are two amendments to the Syllabus.
         Raymond Burke - Stand and Deliver 12 March 2019
         Ajay Close - Writing for Magazines  12 Feb 2019

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Next week.
       Adjudication and Readings from Poetry Competition
       Workshop – Sci Fi and Fantasy  - Billy Thompson.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Workshop – Prompts – Hilary Stevenson. 6 Nov 2018.

This workshop was about a method of sparking off getting fresh ideas.

Hilary lead us through three steps for idea creation.

First we took a single object, in this instance “star” and listed thoughts and associations provoked by the single word. The purpose was to let the mind stray from the single word. For instance the word star may trigger the concrete sidewalk in Hollywood where Actors’ stars are embedded. The word concrete might then take you further to invent a story of a collapsing concrete bridge due to multiple bodies being buried in the foundations.

We all worked to list  five different ideas or scenarios which the one word “star” could provoke.

Secondly, Hilary moved us on to looking at a photograph and creating five sentences which might form the basis of stories. Again the purpose was to let the mind take an idea and let it roam. - Lateral thinking.

The final twenty minutes exercise was for each of us to open a box of tiny items and weave a story around any or all of the objects in the box.

When all fourteen of us read out our stories (and one poem), there was an amazing and often amusing collection of diverse titles and subjects.

Although the exercises were hard work, they were also fun. The group thoroughly appreciated Hillary’s efforts to create and present such an imaginative workshop.

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In the short time available at the end, Jack and Sandra both read pieces about discoveries of human remains.

Joan Fr and John respectively gave us poems about the allure and problems of Cigarettes and Alcohol.

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Next week:-  Workshop – Woman’s Short Story – Betty McKay