RWG at the second Ripon Poetry Festival

Please join us at Thorpe Prebend House, High St Agnesgate at 3.30 p.m. on Sunday 14th October.

No booking required for this FREE event and everyone is welcome! We shall be showcasing the work of some of Ripon’s best poets.

Some of our members are also featured in the Festival Competition Anthology Launch, which will take place the previous evening from 7.30 p.m. in the Undercroft of Holy Trinity Church. £5/£3 entry.

Adjudication of the 2018 Short Story competition

At Sheila’s invitation, Susan introduced Delphine Ruston, a former English teaching colleague of hers. Delphine’s background includes an interest in photography, a therapeutic counselling qualification and the experience of taking groups to the Arvon Centre at Lumb Bank. Susan felt she was suitable for the adjudicator role because she is interested in words, people and ‘how things seem’.

Delphine began her adjudication by saying that the invitation had come within a few days of her recent retirement. It had proved to be an enjoyable task. Her own writing is focused at present on writing a memoir of her grandmother which she wants to publish as a handmade book. (This has now aroused her interest in bookbinding.) After that she wants to write creatively. In the course of her comments she referred to and read from Philip Pullman’s book ‘Daemon Voices’.

Turning to the competition entries Delphine said that they were very different but all enjoyable. She said that in judging them she had been looking for
• The quality of the idea – was it imaginative? Did it pique interest?
• A short story that lingered – did it have a poetic quality?
• Coherence and craft skills such as leanness and economy in the use of words?
• A voice that was credible and sustained
• A first sentence that plunged straight in the action
• The impact of the ending – was it perhaps satisfying or unnerving?

She went on to suggest some challenges in short story writing, including the following points
• Don’t make the meaning explicit – the story should relate events not interpret them
• ‘Less is more’
• In choosing the subject matter, don’t be frightened of the inconsequential. The subject matter does not have to be weighty.

Delphine then turned to her comments on the individual stories and her reaction to them. Having completed those comments she was invited to announce the result as follows:
• Second – Maggie with ‘Daddy Haircare’
• Joint First – Peter P with ‘“Venus Must Have Heard My Plea”’ and Sheila with ‘Beginnings and Endings’

Peter and Sheila shared the trophy.

After the break the three winning stories were read.

‘“Venus Must Have Heard My Plea”’ is a tale of the semi-retired Roman Gods and Goddesses taking over the Big House in a twenty-first century Yorkshire village as a retirement home and getting involved in the lives of the locals. The title is a quotation from a Sandy Shaw hit song.

‘Beginnings and Endings’ is the story of a woman out walking her dog who discovers a corpse on a railway cutting side. It is written in an experimental format with four segments which can be read in any order.

‘Daddy Haircare’ is a daughter’s tale of bonding with her widower father as he deals with her hair.

When these three stories had been read Sheila and Susan thanked Delphine for her adjudication and presented her with the usual token of the Group’s appreciation.

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

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.

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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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