Rupert Reports – 11th March 2020

One of our members, Rupert Williams, has the details from what looks to have been our final face-to-face group meeting for a wee while!


Present: Sandra, David Francis, Rupert, David Carson, Ian Stevenson, Fraser Maloney, Abigail, Rosie, Craig Mudie

Apologies: Richard, Dele, Susan, Sue Baxter, Gillian, Aileen.

Business

  • Group discussed the pending outing to meet the Pitlochry Festival Theatre director who drew inspiration from the past NW anthology ’50 Shades of Tay’ 
  • The notion of alternative formats for meetings was raised (e.g. literary criticism)
  • The next meeting will be partly devoted to discussion of the NW constitution.
  • Anthology update: Craig has received 18 pieces for inclusion. Ideas for the title of the anthology are sought. The editing team will now start the first round of editing in collaboration with writers.
  • To avoid submitted works being forgotten, the idea of reading the previous meeting’s minutes aloud was mooted. Members raised the point that those present tend to be given priority for readings but agreed members’ work should not be ‘lost’
  • In that spirit, the three pieces discussed were all submitted by members in absentia:

Readings

Night Shining – Roddie McKenzie

The poem prompted a lively discussion and the group agreed the imagery and subject matter were very appealing. The picture also added to the atmosphere of the piece. The group particularly enjoyed usage of the word noctilucent. There were differing opinions over the efficacy of where the writer had started new lines – in particular ‘sky’ sitting alone which, some felt, broke the poem’s rhythm. Several phrases were highlighted as being superfluous, in particular the phrase ‘It was not moving…’ On this, one member commented, ‘I want to be told what is, not what is not!’ 

The group largely agreed the presence of the first-person narration seemed at odds with the rich description, and the poem could work better without it. There was considerable debate over the need for the last verse. There was also comment on the repetition of shining/light and the degree to which this was intentional. These factors contributed to differing interpretations on the poem’s meaning.

Zachariah – Susan Storrier

The short story was enjoyed by the group, with several members relating it to their own experience of name choosing. Several instances of powerful description were picked out (‘It was time for a new sofa / a single phrase to his genetic narrative’). The description was so rich that it was felt, at times, it overshadowed the sadness of the piece.

There was considerable interest in the protagonist, Shona, who was difficult to empathise with due to her superficiality. The question was raised of whether someone would really feel disappointed with their child. The group felt Shona had low-esteem and was a sort of prisoner within herself. 

Queries were raised over the significance of the names used in the text, given the subject, in particular that of the title. It seemed unclear in places whether Shona was written about as a focalised character or from an omniscient narrator POV, which caused slight confusion (for the humble minute taker). 

Cribbage in Asgard – Roddie McKenzie

This story received much positive critique, in particular praise for characterisation. However, the group agreed the story seemed to have two parts: one about the narrator and one about Colin. While they were both highly enjoyable there was doubt about how successfully they joined together. There was some confusion, for instance, on the perspective of the respective characters (were they alive or dead?). The transition between the two felt clunky. The paragraph which begins ‘The boarding house…’ seemed, for members, to veer away from the interesting scenario built beforehand.

It was felt that inclusion of ‘Valhalla’ and ‘Asgard’ while interesting in themselves, didn’t gel with the tone of the piece. The group also felt a number of interesting themes emerged from the fantasy/memoir fusion – but perhaps that number was too high and the piece could be more focused. 

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