Author Talk by Maggie Cobbett

Workhouse Orphan

Available from Amazon as a paperback or download and – of course – from the author herself, ‘Workhouse Orphan’ tells the story of a boy barely in his teens sent up from London to a Yorkshire mining village. Backbreaking work and broad northern speech are hard enough for young David to cope with, but the main thing on his mind is how to rescue the younger siblings he has been forced to leave behind in the workhouse.

This book has taken a couple of years to write, mainly because of the research involved. This has included days spent making notes and talking to experts in the Ripon Workhouse Museum, Beamish Museum and the National Coal Mining Museum for England.

The inspiration for ‘Workhouse Orphan’ lies in an aspect of Maggie’s family history about which she wishes she knew a great deal more. The fact that she does not is why this is a work of fiction rather than a biography.

A Blast from the Past 2018

Our adjudicator on this occasion was Chris Lloyd, Chief Feature Writer for ‘The Northern Echo’ and the ‘Darlington and Stockton Times’. Well used to reading and ‘marking’ other people’s writing, he stressed the importance of grammar, spelling, structure and style.

After giving a very detailed critique of each of the entries in turn, Chris announced the results as follows:

• 3rd – Malcolm Glasby with ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ – a family memoir, the title coming from the tune which played a part in the story
• 2nd – Peter Page with ‘History as Teacher’ – a look at how and why we should learn from history
• 1st – Janet Barclay with ‘The Rise and Fall of the West Gallery’ – an account of the galleries provided in churches for musicians accompanying services.

As Janet was not present, the second and third placed entries were read out before Chris was thanked by Susan (Competition Secretary) and given a token of our appreciation.

The photo above shows Janet being presented with the Mary Rawnsley trophy at the first possible opportunity after the adjudication.

Anna Greenwood at NiddFest

Anna Greenwood will be speaking at the NiddFest literary festival on 16th June about her Rural Voice collection of stories. For more information, see www.niddfest.com/programme-2018/authors-2018/

An evening with Georgia Duffy

Sheila introduced Georgia Duffy, published author and owner of the ‘Imagined Things’ bookshop in Harrogate and invited her to address the meeting. Georgia said she was a big reader as a child, but it wasn’t until she’d attempted several novels that she discovered the story she really wanted to write, which became her book ‘Futurespan’, published in 2016.

Its publication was a result of Georgia approaching a ‘hybrid’ company called ‘Britain’s Next Bestseller’. She successfully pitched her book to them, and it was promoted on their website. She then faced the challenge of raising more than 250 pre-orders before they would publish her book, which she did. Other forms of ‘crowdfunding’ were available to would-be authors, but she felt it was still quite an alien concept in the publishing world.

Although she’d considered doing a degree in English, she thought it might be more useful career-wise to pursue her scientific strengths, so she qualified as a radiologist. After six years she considered a career change to cater for her more creative interests, and the idea of running a bookshop came up. After a lot of research, and the help and support of her fiancé and family, she located suitable premises in the Westminster Arcade in Harrogate, decorated and stocked it, and then opened ‘Imagined Things’ in July 2017. (She named the shop after a Neil Gaiman quote about ‘the importance of imagined things’, because of her particular interest in fantasy fiction.)

Georgia talked candidly about the day-to-day business of running a bookshop – certainly not the dream job people sometimes thought it was. She mentioned the difficulties of compiling booklists, dealing with damaged goods and next-day ordering systems, as well as the need to keep abreast of what is being published while assessing what her customers might want to buy. Fortunately she has been able to rely on the support of other independent booksellers, and continues to work hard to establish her shop.

After the coffee break Georgia answered questions. A vote of thanks was proposed by Susan and members showed their appreciation in the usual way.

Artistic Licence competition 2018

Our adjudicator this time was Canon Lisle Ryder, to whom we were very grateful for taking on the task at relatively short notice. He admitted to having failed O level English Literature but had been inspired to write poetry after a Poetry Retreat at Rydal Hall. Lisle’s other interests include enjoyment of art and paintings.

After sketching in his background and its relevance to the adjudication Lisle moved on to the ten stories entered in the competition. He said that he had enjoyed reading them several times each, looking to be entertained, intrigued, moved and drawn to sympathise. Stressing the need to avoid the inclusion of unnecessary information in a very short story, he added that he found descriptive passages helpful to his imagination. In reading the stories for a second or third time Lisle was looking at:
• choice of title
• impact of the opening passage
• structure of the story and its development
• paragraphing and sentence structure
• spatial and time settings
• what stimulated his imagination – metaphors – symbolism
• the overall integrity of the piece
• the existence of a message or meaning for the reader
• whether or not the ending resolves or leaves issue for the reader to ponder

Lisle then gave his individual comments on the stories before announcing his choice of winners which was:
Third – Cathy Grimmer with ‘The Head’.
This was a story about an artist so inspired by her mother’s letter that she unwittingly sculpts her father’s face as she would have wished him to be.

First equal – Phil Cook with ‘Three Sides to Every Story’ and Anna Greenwood with ‘Loss of Privacy’

In Anna’s absence Lisle was photographed presenting the trophy to Phil, whose story was a tale of revenge told from three points of view. A woman slighted by a fellow member of an Am Dram group writes a scathing review for the local paper of its next production.

After the break Sheila invited Lisle to read from his published collection ‘Momentoes’:

President David McAndrew gave a vote of thanks for the adjudication and presented Lisle with a ‘Thank You’ envelope plus a copy of our group anthology ‘Pieces of Cake’.

Now available to purchase!

The long anticipated anthology of members’ work is now available to purchase for the modest sum of £6.50. Please apply to the Secretary for copies.

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Our friendly group meets once a fortnight in the Old Deanery on Minstergate, opposite Ripon Cathedral and is always open to new members from the Ripon area and beyond. Whether your interest is in poetry or prose, novels, short stories, plays, wacky humour, a more analytical style of writing, or just listening for the time being, you're very welcome.

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