Now the first Ripon Poetry Festival is coming to a close, it’s time to reflect on how well it went for Ripon Writers’ Group.
First, a big thank you to everyone who contributed to our ‘showcase’ event this afternoon, especially to those members who were free to come and read out all our pieces. The wide range and differing styles of our poetic efforts seemed to go down well with the audience, as there really was something for everyone to enjoy – and they appeared to do so.
Last night some of us saw Elizabeth Spearman and David McAndrew in their guise of judges in the festival poetry competition. What an amazing range of work for us to listen to. The evening was full of happy, smiling faces, so well done with your choices, Elizabeth and David!
Today we saw David again alongside Ian Gouge, who along with Andy Croft were reading from their latest publications. It felt to me that the audience were responsive to the depths and nuances in David’s and Ian’s work, and hopefully would purchase some in order to study and reflect on it later, as it deserved.
Last but definitely not least, Anna’s talk about how she had compiled her ‘Rural Voices’ stories from Nidderdale was a delightful hour of dialects, old photographs and Dales characters reminiscing. Anna quoted something to us during her talk- ‘stories connect us, they build bridges’. With her oral history compilation, she has undoubtedly provided us with a bridge that will take us back in time, so that ‘times past’ will not be ‘times forgotten’.
Thank you all for your efforts over this weekend. I feel very proud to be your Chair!
Five writers, five voices and five stories!
Amongst those taking part in this evening’s launch at the Ripon Spa Hotel were our very own Anna Greenwood and David McAndrew. Anna’s Engrained is a series of tales from different centuries, the common link being an ancient oak. David’s Men at Work was inspired by his recollections of a small engineering firm in 1950s Tyneside.
The five stories, described by Gill Edwards of the Little Ripon Bookshop as ‘A lively collection of fascinating characters and locations’, sprang from a creative writing class run by Andy Croft. All proceeds will go to the Ripon City of Sanctuary Group.
RWG can be proud of the fact that our very own Cathy Grimmer chaired the Swanwick committee this year and did a superlative job.
Maggie Cobbett went along too and helped new Swanwickers to find their feet. Almost a third of the delegates this year were first timers.
Next year sees the 70th anniversary of the Writers’ Summer School and demand for places is likely to be higher than ever. Cathy and Maggie would love to see more RWG members there. Please speak to either of them if you’d like more information and/or take a look at Maggie’s website.
Sheila introduced adjudicator Janet Gleeson, explaining that Janet had had a career in journalism, working mainly as a news journalist in the North East and Yorkshire.
Janet began by saying that, having read the entries, she was pleased to have accepted the invitation to adjudicate this competition. She then confirmed some details of her adult life as a news journalist. Turning to the competition entries she said that she had been looking for something that was an interesting read, that kept the interest going throughout and which held her attention from start to finish. She said that she liked to find passion in the writing. In her own writing she liked to include quotations and suggested that this was something that all writers should consider.
Following her general introduction Janet gave her comments on each of the individual entries.
Summing up she said that, in addition to the use of quotations, the following points were likely to help in making a good article:
• Using personal experiences
• Using research
• Getting all the material down quickly before thinking about polishing it.
Sheila then invited Janet to announce her choice of winners. These were:
• 3rd place – Phil Cook with ‘Lucerne’s Lonely Lion’, a piece about the statue of a lion in Lucerne which commemorates the involvement (with heavy loss of life) of a Swiss contingent in the fighting that accompanied the French Revolution
• 2nd place – Caroline Slator with ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’, a piece about Grayson Perry and his work
• 1st place – Maggie Cobbett with ‘In Praise of Notebooks’ – a piece about her personal passion for notebooks, now and in her schooldays. This came with a side order of reflection on how the attitude of coffee shop management towards writers who commandeer their tables has changed since her youth
There was time before the break for Janet to talk about the way the newspaper industry had changed during her lifetime. She compared her own good fortune – being offered four jobs on completion of her journalism course at Darlington College – with the pressures that face newcomers today.
We invited Steve Toase to lead our workshop this year, which took place at the newly refurbished St Wilfrid’s Community Centre. The morning was given over to flash fiction, one of Steve’s specialities, and he gave us plenty of inspiration for a series of writing exercises.
After a buffet lunch, Steve turned to the dark side and we enjoyed responding to different stimuli in order to produce edgier work. Steve was at pains to stress that dark tales don’t have to be set in conventionally sinister surroundings. A sunny pastoral scene can hold quite as much horror. Heads buzzing with ideas, we all felt that it had been a very worthwhile day.
Better late than never! Lindsay received her trophy (see below) from Sheila.
Unfortunately, Lindsay Trenholme wasn’t present this evening to receive the trophy for her winning story, Openings. Adjudicator Gary Booth is pictured here with Susan Perkins, who came second. Also in the photograph and in joint third place are Janet Barclay with Sunday Treat and Joe Peters with Into A New World.
In welcoming Gary, Sheila recalled the helpful and encouraging comments he had made the last time he adjudicated for us, particularly about the importance for a writer immediately to capture the interest of the reader.
On this occasion, Gary began by saying that currently his main private reading was of non-fiction, but in the past he had enjoyed many short stories and was glad to immerse himself in them again, even though nowadays they had become the Cinderella of fiction. He had had to ask himself: What is a short story? What makes a good one? Besides the more mechanical elements of punctuation and the structure of sentences and paragraphs, important features usually involved the inclusion of only a small number of characters; some dialogue; the setting; and the knowledge that something will happen, so that the story builds up to its ending. A “moment of change” was often regarded as vital.
However, it was perfectly possible for good stories to lack some of those features, provided the writer found the right mix for the particular subject matter and achieved the right tone for the story overall and made the reader want to read it. Success could be achieved by exploring and revealing human nature or illuminating something ordinary in a different way.
Gary then handed out a brief summary sheet of the 15 competition entries and went on to comment on each, having attached his personal observations to each individual story. He said that he had enjoyed all of the stories and found them to be of a uniformly high standard. Adjudication had thus been a difficult matter, but after several readings he found that the winning entry and the runner-up were clearly in his mind. He had more difficulty in choosing between two stories for third place, so declared them jointly successful.
Susan then read her story in which various sources allow the reader to piece together the poignant history of an elderly man as he settles into a care home.
Sheila expressed the Group’s warm thanks to Gary for an enjoyable and instructive adjudication.
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