40th Anniversary Dinner

The anniversary celebrations began in the Royal Oak last night with a meal for members and guests, at which we raised a glass to our much loved and missed founder member Daphne Peters.

As we were seated at one long table, the only solution was to take a photo from each end.

It was unfortunate that not everyone was able to attend, but we hope to make up for that at the pre-Christmas event on 6th December, when anniversary celebrations will continue. This will be at the SWCC. Watch this space!

Poetry workshop with Alison Carr

We were delighted to welcome Alison Carr and our old friend Andy Croft from Smokestack Books to our annual Poetry Evening. Andy has previously worked with Alison, a playwright and poet from the North-East, and assisted her in publishing her first volume of poetry, ‘Corner Shop Cowgirl’. In it she combined to great effect the language of the industrial North-East with the vocabulary of cowboy stories. Andy is supporting Alison on an Arts Council funded project which includes another series of workshops.

Alison is now working on ‘Black Bullets in the Sweet Jar’. a collection harking back to her childhood but with regret and loss being more prominent than nostalgia. Alison was involved in a serious accident around the age of ten and expressing herself through writing has been a vital component of her recovery. She refers to the process as ‘getting herself through the black mists’. Throughout the evening, Alison read out material already collected for her new book. Touches of this darkness in her work are balanced out with happier elements of childhood.

The Group was invited to attempt two writing exercises. The first involved choosing a sense, and then suggesting its effects without actually naming it. The second had to be based on an object from the natural world, the task set being to bring out another possible meaning in three or four lines.

Plenty of time for discussion and useful help with our own work also contributed to making the evening a success. Thank you very much, Alison and Andy.

Adjudication of the Article Competition

Tim Flanagan of the Stray Ferret, seen above presenting the Jack Moss rose bowl to Susan Perkins, did a very thorough job for us this year. Maggie Cobbett was in second place and Solvig Choi in third.

The theme of writing was widely interpreted by the different entrants with Tim’s comments précised as follows:

If It’s Not Written Down, It Never Happened: A well-constructed entry exploring the use of writing from both a professional and personal perspective. It draws on the writer’s experience of the perils attached to professional recordings when working in Children’s Social Services. It also gives their reflections on the recording of mundane events in family life and their belief that writing can be a powerful tool.

Some Writers and a Reader: This piece addresses why books get written and the way the reader reacts to them. A wide range of literature is considered in this well-researched and structured piece. Some of the books mentioned were read as a result of reviews in The Times or The Sunday Times, and Tim felt this writer would make a good book reviewer themselves.

Writing: What’s It For?: A beautifully-written piece supported by examples ranging from a Biblical text to a recipe for a Christmas pudding, all giving a different perspective on the purpose of writing. Tim decided that the skilful use of the supporting materials along with the blending in of personal anecdotes made this the winning entry.

Ideas Are Where You Find Them: Tim enjoyed this piece from a writer who admitted to being an unashamed eavesdropper, as from a journalist’s perspective a story often develops from something overheard. He enjoyed the concise and entertaining way in which the author described how they found and used their sources of inspiration.
He awarded it second place in the competition.

A Sprinkling of Latin: This piece explored the premise that the root of evil is greed, and takes the reader on an international journey that looks at bribery, freedom of the press and journalistic practices. It contains a mixture of references from the jailing of journalists to the tales of Chaucer and is well-constructed and thought-provoking. He awarded it third place in the competition.

Blood on the Typewriter: the reference to the typewriter took Tim back to his early days in journalism, and relates to an Ernest Hemingway quote about writing being easy. You just sit down at the typewriter and bleed. The piece is based on the author’s selection of eight books to take to a desert island and the function of writing in each of this broad-based collection.

Don’t Write Yourself Off!: a well-researched, informative and thought-provoking piece about writing being a living, breathing thing that is constantly expanding. It considers word selection and how a writer can retain the interest of their reader. Tim felt it was important to consider exactly who their reader was and agreed with the author how important it was that we all learnt from the writing of others.

Entries not read out during the evening will be given precedence at the meeting on 11th October, which will be for members’ manuscripts and a book sale.

5th Ripon Poetry Festival

We were well represented in this year’s anthology, with Sheila among the judges and poems by Solvig, Maggie, Ian, Carol, Christine and Denis included.

This afternoon saw us at Thorpe Prebend for our annual showcase, introduced by well known Ripon poet Paul Mills. Ian, Kate, Ros, Sheila and Maggie read a selection of their poems, both serious and humorous. Maggie also deputised for Carol and Pam for Peter, neither of whom was well enough to join us. In addition, audience members Caroline and Bill asked if they might read and we were happy to invite them to take a turn.

It has been a busy weekend, with some of us also attending other events in the packed festival programme, including the posthumous launch of David McAndrew’s ‘Collected Poems’. He and the late Elizabeth Spearman, both long term members of RWG, were two of the leading lights behind the First Ripon Poetry Festival and will always remain in our thoughts.

Change of venue for 7th June

There is a one-off change of venue for the Group’s next meeting which will be held at the Workhouse Museum, Allhallowgate at 7.30 pm on Tuesday 7th June. The theme for the evening will be ‘Fairy Tales’ or ‘Dreams’ and there will also be an opportunity for those attending to view the exhibition prepared by museum volunteer and Group member Solvig Choi.


Poetry Adjudication with Paul Mills

As a prelude to his adjudication, Paul spoke to us about his own wide-ranging writing, which includes two books on creative writing. He then went on to ask if writing poetry was different from other writing forms. Does it use a different part of the brain or is it so focused that it blots out other things? He said that writing poetry involves concentration, imagination and something which acts as a prompt. In addition he stressed the importance of reading other people’s work to sharpen one’s mind. A wide discussion of what makes a piece of writing a poem followed, touching on punctuation amongst other things.

When Paul turned to what he was looking for in a poem he emphasised that there were many different ways of writing one, but that the result should hold the reader’s attention – the reader should not feel that he is wasting his time. There are no hard and fast rules about form or subject or rhyme. However, the poem must mean something to the writer as well as to the reader.

Turning to the individual competition entries it was agreed to follow Paul’s suggestion that the writers should read their work before he gave his comments so that the comments meant something to the others present. The poems read were:
• Susan – ‘Going Downhill on a Bicycle’ – a poem supposed to have been written by a character from her recent novel
• Maggie – ‘The Last Amen’ – a lament for ‘the one who got away’
• Denis – ‘Dusk to Dawn’ – a poem inspired by a blind girl and looking at how senses can become sharpened
• Ros – ‘Living in Denial’ – a very personal poem about climate change
• Sheila – ‘The Enchantment of Birdsong’ – a poem inspired by hearing a song thrush while out walking
• Carol – ‘Not April but February Mr T S Eliot’ – a poem disputing the opening lines of Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland
• Peter – ‘The Naming of Books’ – a parody of ‘The Naming of Cats’ from ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’

The authors of the remaining three entries were not present so their entries were held over.

Paul then proceeded to announce his choice of winners as follows:
• 1st – Susan Perkins with ‘Going Downhill on a Bicycle’
• 2nd – Ros Swaney with ‘Living in Denial’
• 3rd – Lindsay Trenholme with ‘The Power of Words’

Susan was presented with the trophy.

Maggie thanked Paul for his adjudication and invited him to read a selection of his own poems. These included ‘General Swim’ (about Ripon Spa Baths) and ‘Saturday Bells’ (about wedding bells at Ripon Cathedral) from his published collection ‘Voting for Spires’, both of which had also been published in the ‘Ripon Gazette’. He also read poems from his collection ‘Nomad’ and from a smaller collection inspired by a film.

Christmas Event 2021

Our celebration was somewhat muted by ongoing health concerns, but those of us who did manage to get together had a very pleasant evening. Seasonal literary contributions ranged from lighthearted to deeply reflective.

The most important order of business was the awarding of the President’s Cup, won this year by Peter. As Joe was unable to be with us, Maggie did the honours.

The Chairman’s Challenge exercised our little grey cells.

Denis and Sheila were the very worthy winners.

Everyone contributed to the buffet and the evening was rounded off by selections from the Secret Santa table.

Ripon Writers’ Group would like to wish all members past, present and prospective a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Our friendly group meets once a fortnight at the St Wilfred's Community Centre on Trinity Lane 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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