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">

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Minutes April 18th 2011

Owls Minutes
18th April 2011

Manuscript Evening

Present: Bryan, Cec, Sarah, Saime, Margaret, Graham, Ishbel, Tim, Judy, Shelma, Keith.

Apologies: Carol, Alex, Tom, Liz and Susan


Alex’s play ‘Biscuit and Gherkin’ is receiving a professional actor reading at the Write Now Festival for the Ten Tall Tower Tales this week. Owls extend our congratulations to him for this and a very big get well wish, too.

Competition update! Why not take a look at the Manchester Prize for fiction: www.manchesterwritingcompetition.co.uk for full details.

Subs are due to be paid.

Cec kicked the evening off to a great start with the next installment of ‘Squat 2’, renamed ‘The Runaways’. Last time we saw Charlie and Sheilagh escape from the grips of the ghostly derelict house and the priest hole. In this exciting installment they decide to return and befriend the theatrical ghost they met, who is now in need of rescue himself! They plan to travel to London. Cec explained how he wanted to create a series of cliff hangers but also include humour. We look forward to the next installment to see how British rail cope with selling tickets to apparitions! Thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Sarah read ‘The Leaver’s Gift’, a Flash / micro fiction of approx 400 words about a teacher struggling with the apathy of a difficult class in a challenging school, optimistically at first, but sliding gradually into despairing apathy herself, until a small gift she gave to a difficult class is returned in a beautiful way. Owls found it unfocussed, felt there was too much content and difficult to follow. But commented on the powerful style.

Margaret shared a story from her past portfolio ‘The Bejeweled Carpet’ We join our hero back in the Himalayan mountains with lots of exotic description, “saffron gowns rustling… a truly graceful Tibetan monk.” They make their way through the sacred grounds to the altar where the monks reveal behind a hidden panel a rolled up fine Persian carpet with beautifully illustrated cartouches. Owls found it very descriptive and atmospheric. Margaret explained how she wanted to write about the rich colours, feeling and taste of the people and place. Owls pointed out a couple of minor inaccuracies which if desired could be altered to make true, illustrating how helpful it is to read work to an audience with such a diverse range of knowledge and experience. Owls especially loved descriptions like “whispering of butterflies…” Look forward to hearing more!

Graham read ‘New Spain’ or ‘Mexico’, The passage was the first chapter of a longer work in progress; a Western. “Now only bones are left of this once proud nation.” We are led into the story by the first person narrator, brought up by his grandfather, John Ward. We also meet other major figures; like the Jesuit Priest who teaches the narrator to play chess. The story then begins to unfold as we learn more about John Ward and how he gained employment as a cowboy in a predominantly Mexican society, and the heroic act that won him friends and respect in the community. Owls found the prose reminded them of Ernest Hemingway and Cormick McCarthy. They were impressed by the authentic language use and thorough research. And Owls discussed the return of the western genre. Graham explained his research was based on his wide reading on the American civil war, the Spanish American war, and cowboy books and films.

Ishbel made a welcome return to her memoirs and read part of her life in Iran. This time, from 1951, after marrying and returning to Iran at the difficult time when Iranians were claiming back possession of their oil and kicking the English out. There was a worldwide boycotting of Iranian oil which caused difficulties and worry for Iranians. The memoir covered the challenges of bringing up a young family with Ishbel’s husband having to live far away where the company was based, awaiting housing, in one of the prefab bungalows from Sweden. Ishbel wrote about the worry of caring for a young child with whooping cough and the kindness of the pilot flying them back to Abadan at a much higher altitude than usual much to the alarm of other travelers on the plane, used to a much lower flight.

Tim read a piece partly related to ‘Professor Verne’s Spaces’, where the professor is at the conference from a few meetings ago. We meet Luke and George on a long space flight. Boredom has set in and they are finding things to occupy them, including poetry writing with little outside the windows to inspire them. “There’s nothing to write about in space. Except emptiness.” Owl members really enjoyed the bits of humour, picking out the physical image of George flying into the back wall of the spacecraft. They found the action less ponderous and more dialogue driven which they really enjoyed. And thought that Tim read brilliantly. Tim explained how the work was building towards a political novel, extrapolating to a modern McCarthyism, to show this can happen at any time.

Judy read three poems to us written about, and while she visited, the Algarve. The first ‘Paddling in the Algarve’ focused on the rhythms and beauty of the sea. “Before me the sun bleached sea / ..altogether harmonizing senses”. The second, was based on a moment Judy captured of a young boy on the beach that reminded her of her son, called ‘The Boy on the Beach’. “Rolled, lived and played the waves… / This is the holiday of my lifetime.” The third, called ‘A Special Memory’ was based on a little girl Judy saw that held memories for Judy of her own daughter as a little girl. “Little girl in pink on the Algarve / Heartfelt memories flood and wash me.” Owls loved the little pictures created by the poems. It was suggested some words might be extraneous and taken out to increase the impact of the pieces. It led to an interesting and useful discussion about poetry, like art, that never may feel finished entirely. And how poetry is subjective and personal, but also can benefit from others reading it. It was suggested that the poems would work beautifully compiled in a book with illustrations too.

Shelma read a haunting short story called ‘Bright Splash of Colour’. The narrator is attracted to something wedged into a crack in a bolder at a cliff base. A bouquet. Then they notice the writing all over the surrounding rocks. It’s confusing, “…rather like missing a step.” A stranger appears and slowly the story begins to emerge. Liam, the one for whom the flowers and the messages are written in memory of fell tragically to his death there. His brother Ryan, always the misbehaving mischevious one of the pair, climbed the cliff and got stuck. His brother went to help. The story came to a powerful and moving conclusion as we found out who the stranger with the narrator really is and how he comes to terms with what’s happened. Owls found the story very moving and powerfully written.

Bryan read his story that has been accepted and published in Lancashire Evening Post on a two page spread, called ‘Take Away Cats’. Paula is concerned after the disappearance of her very precious cat Venus. Other cats in the community have gone missing, too. Suspicions and rumours are pointing towards the local takeaways, Chinese and Indian, after some mistakenly identified skinned rabbits. Paula blames her daughter’s boyfriend for letting Venus escape but he redeems himself after finding the cat, along with the other lost cats from the village at the old biddy Pendleton’s place, who had misguidedly thought she was protecting the local cat population from certain death in the local takeaways. She only got discovered because of the en mass catfood purchases. Very much enjoyed by all and a fantastic way to end the evening.

Yet another diverse and exciting evening of readings. Great stuff everyone!

Next meeting is 2nd May. A manuscript evening.

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