Time to get our hands dirty!

Our outing this year, organised as efficiently as ever by Susan, was to Littlethorpe Potteries. Owner Mark Curtis told us a great deal about the history, culture and tradition of the potteries before demonstrating the old working machinery used by several generations of his family. Then we all gathered round the wheel to watch him throw a large pot, talking us through all the different stages as he worked the clay.

His wife Ruth then took over to add to what Mark had already said about drying and firing, after which she settled us down round a large table to have a go at making coil pots. Finishing or ‘fettling’, as Ruth put it, is her main area of expertise and she showed us various ways of decorating our new creations. We were all encouraged to add our initials so that we can have them back after firing.

Yesterday’s rain made conditions in the clay pit too hazardous for close inspection, but some of us walked across the fields to take a look from a safe distance before thanking Mark and Ruth for a very enjoyable and informative afternoon.

It remains to be seen what stories, poems and articles will be written as a result of this memorable visit.

Much more information about Littlethorpe Potteries can be found at www.littlethorpepotteries.co.uk

An evening with Jackie Buxton

Writer and teacher Jackie began by warning us that she had problems with hearing loss. She said she had a copy writing background and that she liked the longer story format. Her two published books are the self-help ‘Tea and Chemo’ (2015) and the novel ‘Glass Houses’ (2016).

Jackie then went on to describe how she had kept a diary from the age of 13 until at 23 she abruptly stopped. During that time she sometimes found herself using the prose writing to keep her sane, particularly after some serious adverse events in her life. She said that she found two benefits from writing – writing as therapy and writing providing a focus in an increasingly multi-tasking world.

After reading languages at university, Jackie worked for a while in charity fundraising. On being made redundant she decided to take a year to write a novel (which she did) and do freelance copy writing. During that time she had her first child, followed in due course by another. The writing had to stop when one of her very young children suffered a stroke. Although the child recovered, her childhood was very intense so Jackie found that no writing other than copy writing was possible. Nevertheless she was desperate to write. The turning point came when she went on an Arvon course and wrote 10,000 words. She never returned to the first novel, having realised that she had outgrown it.

Jackie then went on to describe how she had got the inspiration for ‘Glass Houses’ from a couple of real-life events. As a result of repeated rejections of the resulting novel, despite targeting her submissions, she chose to do a six-week on-line self-editing course which was very intensive but very helpful. In 2014, halfway through the massive rewrite/edit of the original manuscript which then followed, she got cancer which made the rewriting painfully slow. During that time she ran a blog about cancer and the information she gathered, trying to make it positive. Seeing an opportunity to turn the blog into a book she wrote a precis of what that book might contain and sent it off. At the same time she was submitting the revised ‘Glass Houses’. The result was a phone call saying that a publisher wished to publish both. Further books are in the pipeline although at this stage their precise fate is still uncertain.

After the tea break Jackie answered questions. Among other things she said that she was somewhere between a plotter and a ‘pantser’ although she usually started with a particular final scene in mind. Research can alter the initial plot.

At the end of the talk Sheila and Susan expressed the Group’s thanks to Jackie for what was a very interesting and informative talk.

Elizabeth Spearman

We were saddened to learn about the passing of Elizabeth Spearman, a very long-standing member of the Group, and offered our condolences to her family.

Elizabeth’s funeral took place at Holy Trinity Church on Friday 3rd May 2019 at 11 a.m. with many of us in attendance. Memories of Elizabeth’s friendship and talent for writing, especially poetry, will live on in our hearts.

Six Objects in Search of a Story

The writing challenge for the 28th May meeting is to incorporate ALL SIX objects in the photograph above.

For clarification, the layout isn’t necessarily significant. Feel free to interpret the items as you wish, but for those who wish for more detail, they are as follows:

a garden fork
the word SORRY written on a piece of lined paper (A4 with holes for a ring binder)
a figurine of an alien (actually Captain Kif Croker from Futurama)
figurines of two children in Basque national dress
an A-Z of London
a pair of sun glasses


Adjudication of the Article Competition

Sheila introduced Graham Chalmers, a journalist working for JPI Media as Features Editor for the group of newspapers that includes the Ripon Gazette. She recalled that this was not the first time he had adjudicated for our Group.

Graham began by insisting that he was a journalist rather than a writer. He had come to the profession after reading politics and modern history at university. In his view one didn’t have to be a good writer to be a journalist. He then went on to talk about the process of writing, describing for example how he had developed his own style for music reviews after researching the styles already found in print.

Turning to the competition entries, Graham said that it had been hard to choose the top three – all ten entries were well-written and intelligent. He then proceeded to give his comments on the individual entries. Having done so he announced the winners as follows:
• 3rd – Peter Hicks with 11 Dawson Street
• 2nd – Claire Cox with Home is where You Hang your Hat
• 1st – Malcolm Glasby with No 5 – a House and Home Remembered

Graham then presented the trophy to Malcolm.

Graham had to leave immediately after the break to meet a deadline for his weekly column, but not before Sheila expressed the Group’s thanks and presented him with the usual token of appreciation.

Sheila then read Malcolm’s prizewinning entry, which took the form of a memoir of his childhood home and brought the story on to the present day. Claire then read her second place entry, an account of various houses in England and abroad where she had made her home. In the absence of Peter H, the final reader of the day was Phil with his competition entry What Makes a House a Home? – a reflection on that subject using examples from various stately homes he and his wife had visited.

Drystone Radio interview with our President

Here’s Maggie last night with David Driver of Drystone Radio, just before recording an interview for his Writers’ Bookshelf programme. They ranged over all kinds of topics – including some of her books, obviously – and David played a few of her favourite tracks as well. Altogether, it was a very relaxed and enjoyable experience.

Drystone Radio broadcasts on 103.5FM to South Craven and the Yorkshire Dales providing a local resource for information, events and great music. A podcast of Maggie’s interview will be available for three weeks from drystoneradio.com/ondemand.

David McAndrew 1931-2019

As well as being a fine poet and devoted family man, David passed on his love of English literature to generations of students.

David will be very much missed by all of us at RWG but especially perhaps by the members of the poetry group. It was fitting, therefore, that a poem he inspired should be read out during his Requiem Mass at St Wilfrid’s RC Church.


You wrote of fragments,
‘a gesture from fragments’,
but as I remember you,
you came complete,

The entire of you would be
at my disposal
as you listened, reflected,
brought in your thought,
tempered and trained over time

and I would leave

‘Sense and memory’
(you wrote of your wife Anne)
‘is shaped remarkably
into an accidental permanence’.

Most meetings are accidental,
not many achieve permanence
but, in your smile,
the profile of a crescent moon

illuminating transcendence,
arrived at permanence
in the minds of those of us
who became your friends.

Elizabeth Gibb

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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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