It started with a Scottish phrase

Really delighted to see three new scribblers last night: two novelists and a poet.

Which made us three poets, two novelists and a scriptwriter (or a playwright? Are scriptwriters for TV/radio? Playwright for theatre?)

John the poet rang me up 90 mins or so before the meeting. “I’m interested in your group” he said. After more conversation featuring when and where (“tonight?!?”) I remembered to ask “what sort of stuff do you write?” “I’m a poet,” he said. “Great,” I said. “Really?” he said. Which kinda sums up the British expectation of poetry. More on that later.

I arrived at Marlborough Conservative Club to find new guys Victoria and John tongue-in-cheek discussing whether one of them should go. Apparently they both work at the same school in another part of Wiltshire and it was total coincidence that they both came tonight. Thankfully they both stayed.

John the playwright kicked off with a scene inspired by a writing workshop the two of us (and absentee novelist Scottish Dave) attended a couple of weeks before, led by Soho Theatre’s lead script reader Sarah Dickenson, organised by Angie Street of Scriptwriters Doo Dah. To cut a long story short we were asked to share a phrase that summed up our childhood heritage. John had got a Scotttish phrase from Scottish Dave. Don’t ask me to repeat it, something about the wet weather. SD comes from Largs and it rains (according to him), every day. So John wrote a scene about it.

We all felt the script was pretty lyrical, quite poetic. To which John’s response was “I’m rubbish at poetry.” I’m going to refer you back to my earlier comment about the typical British attitude towards poetry.

Victoria read from her novel currently being reworked about a women who, on his death, realised her husband had been living a double life. Victoria had been in the infuriating position of having an agent take up the novel early on then who then couldn’t secure a publisher for it. Apparently it was too ‘general’ for a literary niche and too ‘literary’ for a ‘general’ niche. Or that the novel’s premise wouldn’t happen in real life (when it actually did). Whatever. All that matters to me is that after I’ve downloaded the sample to my iPad (or read a bit in the bookshop / library) is: do I care enough to read any more? And the answer I gave to Victoria is, yes, I really do want to hear more. Sod those publishers.

Jane came next. It wasn’t enough to climb the mountain to be published. Nope, she was aiming at that wide readership base (not) of the young adult male / older teenage boy. I liked her intro. Her protagonist was a mixed race boy who’d gone from public school to comp and ended up going back in time to WW2 with his arch bully nemesis. Please send me your manuscript – this has legs. The issues that she wanted to resolve were: how do I make him sound like an authentic teenager without the language becoming dated? I know he’s a teenage boy but do I really need to write about his thoughts on sex?

John dazzled us with his witty poetry. He’d find out about Riverbank Writers having been into the independent Whitehorse Bookshop to get them to stock his latest anthology, Leave the Engine Running. Very down to earth rhymes, which could never be accused of being arty-farty. Clever juxtapostion of language I guess some might say if they were trying to sound clever. Read it and enjoy.

Neil the poet brought out his nearly complete A4 pad of his latest poetry, probably his last week’s work. He is the most prolific writer I know, not that I know that many. But even if I did, I’d imagine he’d still be the most prolific. Like poetry’s Terry Prachett or something. Anyway, I’m bringing scales to weigh it next time. Neil selected a few which gave the new people some idea of his range which goes from utterly surreal to totally metaphoric to throughly humourous. I am a fan. And congrats to being included in a published anthology.

Then it was me. They were kind about my couple of poems. Bless you.

See you next time I hope, Tuesday 22 November, back room of the Conservative Club. Let us know what you’d like from a writer’s group who doesn’t take itself too seriously.

PS About that British attitude to poetry. Me and a couple of others are trying to release poetry from the middle class ghetto. See here for what I mean. It includes exciting news about Swindon. Yes, really.

4 responses to “It started with a Scottish phrase”

  1. Louisa,

    What a great evening it was. I have hibernated in the secure and orderly world of Marlborough College for so very long and forgot what it was like to simply play with language and be me. I liked everyone there so much and your blog entry is an excellent summary of the evening. Sorry not to have replied sooner, I have been so terribly busy and am about to take a short break as I am a little burnt out – it has been the most terrible half term and I am a little tender and fragile! A whole forgotten side of me has been stimulated again though and I feel slightly overwhelmed by it. Hope to see you again, Jane.

  2. So glad you enjoyed the evening.
    I thought half terms were supposed to be ‘yippee!’
    Be great to see you at the next meeting, Nov 22nd.

    1. No half terms for me, sadly, but on holiday for a few days from Sunday. Then it will be ‘yippee’.

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