Ormskirk Writers' & Literary Society - OWLS - was established in 1963 by Dora Doyle to promote local writers. Founder member Ron Bartholomew contributed to the Waverly Encyclopaedias and was widely published in Practical Mechanics Magazine. A successful playwright, he opened his house to us for weekly meetings and served us with tea and home made cakes for many years. As Otis lifts Chief Engineer he also designed the press button control boxes used in lifts to this day. ALT="Ormskirk Writers' & Literary Society">

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Owls minutes

Owls minutes

20th February 2011 First-Liner Manuscript Night:
‘What do you mean he’s not in his room?’
Present: Margaret, Ishbel, Neil, Tim, Judy, Keith, Tom, Bryan, Alex, Carol, Saime, Sarah
Apologies: Dave (happy birthday!!), Liz, Cec, Pat, Susan

Alex is having his play ‘Gherkin and Biscuit’ performed as part of the Write Now Liverpool festival on 20th April. This is part of the Ten Tall Tower Tales Challenge, at the Actors Studio, Seel Street. See www.writenowfestival.co.uk for more details. Well done, Alex!


Judy shared the next installment of her therapeutic fiction for young people, following on from last time, called ‘Hidden Life’. The series, hopefully of ten stories in total, aims to focus on and reflect challenging issues that young people might face – creating a scenario that can then be discussed as a class. In this one, fifteen-year-old Sam has run away from home. The story is told from the perspective of his brother, nine-year-old Joe, who is aware that his older brother has been treated badly by his stepfather. The story explores this dysfunctional family as the younger brother wonders what he should do next. Owls found the story moving, and hoped to hear some of the questions that might go along side the story. Thoughts went into length of the stories to be appropriate for the young, shared-reading audience. We look forward to seeing how the series develops.

Keith read the beginning of a work in progress, called ‘Rebuilding’. Chris, an eleven-year-old boy, has disappeared with a bag and some clothing. As the story unfolds, we learn that the boy has left due to the endless arguments happening in the family. His mum and dad say: “He’s gone and it’s all your fault. You never leave him alone.” And “It takes two to make an argument.” We see the complexity of this family dynamic, including touching moments; the couple cease their arguments to hold hands as comfort for one another as they decide what to do next. Keith is still working on the crafting the ending. Owls found it an engaging and it sparked an interesting discussion about the nuances of words we, as writers, choose to use, in this example – haversack / rucksack / bags / satchels. Definitely a story to be completed and shared at Owls again!
Tom had worked the first liner into a couple of brilliantly funny poems. The first was a swift review of the difficulties of working the first line into a poem that scanned and rhymed effectively.

The second was ‘Empty Rooms at mine and Mabel’s’ a sparkling witty poem about a errant best man on a groom’s wedding day; “missing in the line of duty in a bachelor’s ultimate hour.” It turns out that not only the best man, but the ring and the bride have also done a bunk to sea… “in a cabin financed by me.” Owls loved the twist at the end and were impressed by the humour gleaned from a challenging first line!

Bryan shared two stories; one sad and one humorous. Firstly, the sad one, ‘In the Well’ was a haunting tale of a close-knit Wiltshire village where a local, Lily, kept seeing a face appearing at her window. The speculation of a stranger staying at the village inn added to the tension. Then the face at the window is identified, and we hear the story of the baby lost in the well. Owls found the story intriguing, especially the historic details about the house. And enjoyed the understated well written style; “I was helping Mother move the table when it happened.”

Bryan’s second story, ‘Uncle Bill’ was a comedy about unwanted house guests and a missing painting affectionately named Uncle Bill, that, although not greatly loved, could be worth a bob or two if it really was as suspected an original Picasso. Owls loved the light tone and the great ending line.

Alex read ‘Not Again’, a clever story with an intriguing twist and an interesting two perspective structure, from two brothers. One has escaped from a hospital and the other is wondering where to find him. Worrying about what he might do. Owls enjoyed the fresh structure and the ambiguity woven through the plot right through until the ending. Very well handled.

Margaret shared ‘Bloody Madonna’, a harrowing tale about a pedophile ring. Liza has been dragged into picking children off the streets for sex trafficking. Liza finds a way to rescue the boy they have locked in the room upstairs but Dawson discovers the plan. And only one person will escape. An intriguing tale that sparked discussion about place and setting.
Neil created a poem from the first line called ‘Seasons of Sorrow,’ an evocative poem, with a gothic edge, that left Owls marveling. Neil expressed that he had aimed not to go too far from the line. “He is the living corpse on that cart drawn horse / whose remorse we did follow, /once our son’s heart became hollow.” An effective poem that left owls intrigued by its time and place. Definitely one that requires more than one read through.

Tim read a new piece of Sci –fi, cleverly using the first line. ‘Professor Verne’s Spaces’ saw a young student, Luke, attempting to get in contact with Professor Verne, who was in the middle of a very important conference, as an iron producing asteroid approaches. Owls thoroughly enjoyed this story, with lots of well written dialogue, and great descriptions; “manicured voice of the receptionist” and “amazing ability to project voice without shouting.” Great observational writing.

Carol read an extract from her new novel in progress. In this one, we see more from Jenna and the complexities of her relationship with her daughter Mandy. The passage drew out some parallels between Jenna and Mandy’s situation and the family of Lily, who have gone through a similar experience of a missing child, albeit on a longer time frame. Carol explained that her next completed novel is being processed, and she is working hard on this new title in the mean time. Carol’s reading led to a discussion on how to get on with big projects without distraction, and about prioritising our writing. And how distracting emails can be!

A wonderfully varied evening of readings. A smorgasbord of quality and different genres and themes, all produced from the same first line. Great stuff.

Next meeting will be on 7th March. The AGM.

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