Writing Challenge – July/August 2019

Visiting relatives, sunny days in the garden, and trips to the beach … oh, and whipping out the notepad to scribble down a summery story! Here at Lockerbie Writers, we’ve had a busy old summer, and it seems as if you have too. Thank you for all of the entries to our super-duper two-month writing challenge.

As if the photo prompt wasn’t enough, this time we had a twist: every story had to contain the words APPLE, SEQUIN and LUCKY.

How did they do? Read on and find out …

‘Shockwaves’ by Deborah Redden

A simple picnic of pork pies and apple tart, nothing too perilous there. Nothing too fancy, too adventurous, too prissy or overly flash. I liked that, took pleasure in its simplicity, my surroundings of sand and sea. And, had I not taken liberties with the rum, which I’m certain was laced with a sleeping draught, things might have retained their lucidity. Instead, I was found at sea, bedraggled and forlorn. I wanted to return to the merpeople, apparently – the ones whose long fishy tails flashed like sequins in the sun. I know I should feel lucky to be alive, and I do! But, it’s difficult to be cheery when you’re shackled to a bed, and dear nurse Ratchett threatens a few hundred volts with every second sentence.

‘The Apple Tree’ by Konstantina Sozou-Kyrkou

Clinging to the hardy apple tree
You reaped that sequin dress,
Not caring what is next,
Feeling lucky.

You donned it,
Each sequin a shield
Refracting the heat,
Reflecting the sky,
Flouting the clouds.
You really felt lucky.

Lunging into the ocean,
The sequins scales against the cold,
Oars against the waves,
Each pebble on the sea bed
A hurdle or a stepping stone.
You still felt lucky.

You slipped and fell on all fours,
Then held onto that apple tree,
Stood up every time,
Two sea creatures
Reflected in the sequins now,
Swimming or flying,
Yet, so very lucky.

‘Sand Sticks’ by Kerrie McKinnel

They say sand sticks to everything,
and I suppose that’s true.
After beach trips, I’d find it on the floor,
in socks, in bags, in shoes.

During last year’s summer holiday
we bought no souvenirs.
It was enough – more than enough –
to keep grains of the beach so near.

But it’s been a year at least
since we stood on the sand,
building castles with the kids
while working on our tans.

And so, I think you’ll understand
why I was so confused
when yesterday I came across
some sand in your best shoes.

They say sand sticks to everything
and I admit that’s true –
but nothing else sticks quite as well
as another woman’s perfume.

(And I’ll issue my apology now, because I forgot about including the 3 extra words while I was writing in this poem, but then I really liked it and didn’t want to mess it up trying to add them in!)

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this summer’s special writing challenge! What a mixture, as ever. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them – and please do share.

Have you been inspired to have a go? Check out our new Monthly Writing Challenge now!

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Members’ Summer Outing, July 2019

Each summer, Lockerbie Writers gather for a members’ outing to somewhere local in search of inspiration. This year, members of sister group A Novel Approach were also invited – making this the biggest members’ outing to date!

This year, our outing took place on 30th July. The day began with a tour from local paranormal investigators, Mostly Ghostly.

Mostly Ghostly’s Kathleen, John and Mary were our guides as we explored the grounds around Lochmaben Castle.

And who better to show us around than these natural-born storytellers?

Several members of Lockerbie Writers had never been on a ghost tour before, so it was set to be an experience for everyone.

Thankfully, it wasn’t too terrifying an experience!

Nine members of Lockerbie Writers and A Novel Approach listened intently to tales of ghosts, murder, and vampires – and, we’re pretty sure, all nine members were still there at the end of the morning!

There was also plenty of opportunity to learn about the history of Lochmaben Castle and the surrounding area, with several members of our group expressing a keen interest in some of the local buildings and family sagas.

After the tour, the group headed to Lochfield Cottage on the other side of Castle Loch for a packed lunch and a spot of writing.

There were plenty of laughs around the table as we had a go at writing our own spooky stories – with some members taking it more seriously than others!

By the end of the day, eight members had produced a story inspired by Castle Loch and their Mostly Ghostly tour. Absent members and those who had left the outing early received a prompt by email/Facebook afterwards, giving them the opportunity to write a story too.

A huge thank you to Mostly Ghostly for providing such an informative and engaging tour, and taking the time to answer all of our many questions! We thoroughly enjoyed it and would highly recommend it to other groups. An additional thank you for the photographs (several of which are used in this blog post) which they have kindly given us permission to use.

A huge thank you also goes to Castle Loch Community Trust and ranger Darren for allowing us to use Lochfield Cottage. As always, it provided us with a comfortable, well-equipped and welcoming venue.

What a fantastic day!

Members are reminded that stories/poems resulting from our summer outing should be edited/polished and then emailed to kerrie_mckinnel@hotmail.com or brought along to a meeting by the end of August for the opportunity to appear on the blog. Thanks in advance!

Writing Challenge – June 2019

June: light nights, sunshine (sometimes), and National Writing Day!

There was plenty to keep us avid writers entertained this month – not forgetting our Mindful Writing Day on 22nd June featuring our guest speaker/tutor Margaret Elphinstone. If you were lucky enough to join us, we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!

This month’s musical blog prompt sparked a few of your creative minds. As ever, there was a wonderful selection of pieces to choose from for inclusion on this month’s blog. Here are some of our favourites …

‘Funfair Rides’ by Laura Mason

They rolled into town and we all cheered at the bright coloured wagons.

They all set up camp along the riverside to ready for the night ahead.

We watched the men build enormous rides, from the big wheel to the speedway.

They offered us a ride for free. And we practically jumped with glee.

The funfair was here, and it was going to be some night.

Candy floss and fish in a bag, hook a duck, it was all just so mad.

But it brought people together, we were having fun.

And for that I wished the day would never be done.

‘M.I.A. (Missing in Action)’ by Deborah Redden

Suitcase, oh suitcase…
please, where are you?
I’ve looked in the cupboard,
Neath each bloomin’ shoe.

I’ve straightened my hair…
Touched up the auld lippy…
But can’t pack my bag,
Cause you’ve thrown a hissy!

I found Mr Passport…
He’s been very good.
He stayed in my Escort,
Where all passports should!

I’ve offloaded the dog,
Got rid of the kids.
I’ve cleaned out the bog,
But my heads still a-tizz.

My plane I won’t miss
For I couldn’t do that…
But god save you, suitcase..
If you show after that!

‘Samantha’ by Steph Newham

Samantha I think it’s time you told the negative committee that meets in your head, to sit down, shut up and let you get on with some positive thinking and meditation is a good route to take. As you probably realise meditation took a major role in my life once I decided to leave Jake, it’s not something we have really talked about because you never seemed interested in how I managed my life, somehow our meetings were usually full of our superficial existence, but to me that has only been surface. Meditation is what keeps me sane although not even that helped when I was ill. But now it’s vital as I grow older, we all need a place of peace and where better than in our own heads.

‘Sandy Beaches’ by Laura Mason

The fine grain slid effortlessly between my toes, covering them in the golden colour like really fine brown sugar. It sparkled the same, as the sun shone down, glittering with every wiggle of my toes. I pulled my knees to my chest and looked out to the ocean, watching as the sun slowly dropped from sight. But even as the night air cooled my skin, my feet were still toasty under the grains of shimmering sand.

Photo by Nikolaj Erema on Pexels.com

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this month’s blog! What a meditative and thoughtful selection of pieces this month, in spired by a simple piece of music.

Have you been inspired to have a go? Check out our new Monthly Writing Challenge now!

Mindful Writing Day, 22nd June 2019

Q: What do castles, mindfulness and bumblebees have in common?

A: They all featured in Lockerbie Writers’ Mindful Writing Day!

Read on to find out more …

Above, some of Lockerbie Writers’ members: Rita, Paula, Steph, Kerrie and Kath

After six months of planning, the big day was here – and the Lockerbie Writers were ready!

On Saturday 22nd June 2019, Lockerbie Writers hosted their biggest event to date: a mindful writing day at the Somerton House Hotel, Lockerbie. The group, which has now run a number of successful workshops and events, currently have ten members with a variety of writing interests and styles, while their sister group A Novel Approach consists of around seven people (with some attending both groups).

Keen to build on the successful of their 2018 National Writing Day author talk with Sara Maitland, this time the group had sought funding to put on a full-day event. Thanks to the generous support of DG Unlimited and Dumfries and Galloway Council, they were able to invite local author and writing tutor Margaret Elphinstone to attend and to provide her expertise.

Margaret began the day by inviting participants to mindfully explore the hotel’s garden. The day with busy with a fantastic attendance of twenty-seven people, but there was plenty of space outside for peaceful individual reflection in the summer sunshine.

Participants took their time and tapped into each of their five senses, in order to see what ideas and memories might be summoned up.

Once back inside, Margaret then led the group through a writing exercise which built on these sensory experiences. Responses were incredibly varied – from idyllic afternoons in the garden through to complete short stories told from the points of view of bumblebees and pinecones!

Margaret, the author of nine novels and an experienced writing tutor, then entered into a lively and informative Q&A session with the audience.

After lunch, it was the turn of the Lockerbie Writers! PR Manager Paula Nicolson, an experienced copyeditor and writer of a mixture of genres including poetry and children’s stories, began by demonstrating a relaxing breathing technique, ideal for practising before you sit down to write. She then led participants through a mindful eating writing exercise, which proved to be very popular.

Next up was chairperson Steph Newham, an experienced tutor whose writing often focuses on women’s issues through history including childbearing and motherhood. Steph led an exercise which involved visualising a childhood place. Again, this was a fruitful prompt for many participants, with some travelling back in their mind to gardens, houses and rooms which they had not consciously thought about in many years.

Last up was Events Manager Kerrie McKinnel, a writer of character-driven, modern-day pieces, who also runs writing workshops for all ages through her business. Kerrie led the participants through another visualisation, this time imagining and then writing about a castle, before moving on to a short exercise on happiness and gratitude.

The day concluded with the opportunity for all participants to read out one piece of writing – they had the opportunity to choose from any of the short pieces which they had produced over the course of the day, and there was a wonderful mix of genres and ideas. Some had produced complete short stories or poems, while others had sketched out ideas which they now felt motivated to go on and continue in their own time.

There were congratulations in store for the happy winner of our free raffle, who walked away with a copy of the Lockerbie Writers’ anthology.

Finally, member of local writing groups were invited to speak about their offerings. In addition to Lockerbie Writers, there were representatives from Annan Writers, Moffat Writers, Moffat Crime Writers, and Carlisle Writers. One of the original aims of the day event was to provide opportunities for beginners and nervous writers to find out about the groups and networks within the area, and at the end of the day there were several people who left with plans to contact or attend one of the groups.

What a fantastic day! Here is a little selection of the anonymous feedback which we received:

“Thank you for organising a great day!”

“Thank you for allowing this opportunity! It was an excellent day full of inspiration!”

“Very well organised.”

“Very enlightening, allowing all of us to expand our joy of writing.”

“Interesting combination of mindfulness (relaxing) and creative writing.”

“This was a great opportunity for me. Thank you! Please host another event like this!”

“Well done ladies!”

And thank you too for your kind words!

Thank you to everyone who attended our mindful writing day. We had a great time and it is obvious from the feedback that the participants did too! Thanks once again to DG Unlimited and Dumfries and Galloway Council whose kind support made the event possible, thank you to the Somerton House Hotel for providing a friendly and bright venue to work in, and to everyone at the Lockerbie Writers group for their hard work over the last few months.

We are already looking forward to the next one!

Writing Challenge – May 2019

Did you know that May is National Share-a-Story month?

Not that we need an excuse to get writing!

You were certainly ready to share your stories this month, with lots of interesting pieces coming in response to the prompt. In 100 words, you had to write a story or poem in response to the photographs and this opening: “You are out for a walk when your foot catches on something. You pick it up – it is a rusted piece of metal, perhaps part of a hinge from an old gate …”

Here are some of our favourites!

‘Double Take’ by Deborah Redden

Legend has it that a handsome wizard fell in love with a mortal girl, and upon her rejection – for the cynical beauty did not believe in unconditional love, he took to the forest. Here, he buried a lock and key, which would trap the souls of scoffing unromantics, changing their lives forever. If only I’d had more faith in those stories, been less obstinate! If I hadn’t fought with my parents, ran to the forest and found the lock. Maybe then I wouldn’t be here, clinging to a tree – my sleek, black feathers being battered by pebbles from a slingshot, my life slipping away.

‘The Lock’ by Laura Mason

I looked at the lock in my hand, years of wear turned to rust. I ran a finger over its crumbling edges, as it flaked away to show the steel beneath. I held my hand out before my face. My once-smooth skin now wrinkled, and blemished. Just as the lock. Except I could not rub these away. Or start fresh. My past was gone, with no hope of return. Sighing I threw the lock into the field beyond.

‘Unhinged?’ by Kath J. Rennie

They’re coming for me. I run towards the bedroom’s sashed window. It is nailed down – no escape.

My screams are ignored as I am bound in a straitjacket; each pull on the ties has my ribs press against my lungs. I am silenced.

My husband looks on – his smirk, wide.

I glower at him as my wailing son clings to my skirt. His back is thrashed.

All thoughts of last night’s wrong doing diminish.

Revenge is sweet.

As sweet as the poisoned-laced sherry, he sips.

Thanks to all of the brilliant writers who have contributed to this month’s blog! What a fantastic and varied read.

Have you been inspired to have a go? Check out our new Monthly Writing Challenge now!

Writing Challenge – April 2019

This month, the prompt was this suitably spring-themed photograph of a vacuum cleaner!

Despite the fact that I find housework about as exciting as doing a tenth edit on a short story, you lot never fail to produce some fantastic pieces.

Read of for tales that will make you smile, think … and laugh!

‘They All Suck!’ by Laura Mason (*Contains explicit language!)

There Are Just So Many To Choose From,

And Quite Frankly I Don’t Give A Shit.

They All Suck The Same,

And Get Stuck On The Same Old Grit.

Be It Bagless, Bagged Or Compacted,

They All Suck The Same.

From Dyson, G-Tech To Henry,

It Makes No Difference To Me.

They Bring Out The ‘Feminine’ Colours,

To Entice I Am Sure.

But They Need To Get A Grip.

It’s A Fucking Hoover

Not A V8 Cruiser!

‘Modern Technology’ by Rita Dalgliesh

A new broom sweeps clean, was a cliche of the time.
Far better than bashing carpets on the washing line.

Then came the hoover; a great step forward.
Salesman’s patter; his advances flatter.

Labour saving sounded grand; buying one first-hand.
It’s a magic machine; hoover-head gets it clean.

On demonstration I’m dumbstruck; all that muck.
A sky blue carpet’s revealed. I’m mortified.

Here’s new technology; things becoming possible.
My carpet’s sucked hard by hoover head propelling.

I’m dancing with the Salesman now I’ve got time.
His patter worked as well as his machine.

‘Spring, my Dear’ by Rachel Kirkpatrick

Spring is here, it’s time to clear –
The cobwebs and clutter my dear
Dust and hoover. Listen, the birds are near.

Spring is here, it’s time to clear –
The garden & weeds my dear
Clear the paths, plant the seeds then have a beer.

Spring is here, it’s time to clear –
Your wardrobe out my dear
Out with old, and pull out new clothes to wear.

Spring is here, it’s time to clear –
Your mind, heart and soul my dear
Walk, do yoga and meditate with no fear.

Spring is here, it’s time to clear –
Your lungs my dear
Breath in the air out for a walk on the pier.

Spring is here my dear – Enjoy this time of year.

‘A Brown Penny Wish’ by Deborah Redden

Cara hoovers the carpet as if it were a lawn – up and down in perfect lines that decorate the living room with their military precision. No great surprise, you might say, given that today is the first of spring. But you see, the time of year makes no difference to Cara, be it Eastertide or the beginnings of Halloween, she’ll be slavishly scrubbing away, bleaching the worktops until they’re in danger of crumbling, and scrubbing at her skin until it’s red-raw, sore to the touch. She wants to stop, of course. But she can’t, the lines must be perfect. Every germ put to bed. Until then, there’ll be no sleep. No brake from the voices in her head that tell her she’s substandard; a gibbering wreck of damaged goods, as simple and worthless as a single brown penny.

‘The Constant Battle’ by Laura Mason

Oh Lord! It just never ends. The tumble weed of cat hair rolled past my feet, gliding effortlessly across the laminate flooring. The cats lounged and stretched, mewing at me. Like they had no idea of the constant hair collecting I had to contend with. I grabbed Henry. My trusty Henry. We have a love/hate relationship. He enjoys a good suck, but I just can’t be bothered. But today I would oblige and use him for what he was designed.

Thank you as ever to all the wonderful writers who have submitted a story or poem this month! It is always difficult to select the very best to feature here – but it’s a job which we love doing!

Have YOU been inspired to write? Check out our new monthly writing challenge!

New Venue for Morning Group

Today marked an exciting day for Lockerbie Writers as we made a move to a new venue.

As of today, the morning group will meet on alternate Tuesdays at the Townhead Hotel, Lockerbie.

Today also marked the first of our peer review sessions ahead of the completion of our second anthology – exciting times ahead for this enthusiastic group!

Lockerbie Writers, April 2019