Writing Our Reconnections

On 18 June 2021, Lockerbie Writers gathered to celebrate National Writing Day (see our June blog post) and to hone their creative writing skills. With this year’s aptly named theme of ‘reconnection’, the group was inspired to create new and exciting pieces of flash fiction.

Members went on to develop these pieces and below is a selection. For more information about the individual writers, pop over to our Meet The Members page.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as we had creating them. And please don’t forget to share!


When Love Reigns by Kath J Rennie

The office is again unusually quiet today without Tommy’s boisterous goings on; he’s heartbroken and certainly in no mood for any more platitudes of, ‘You’ll get over her,’ and ‘there’s plenty more fish in the sea, mate.’


I feel for him. I have done for the past year, but unlike the rest of the office staff, I’ve kept my distance from him, even though at times I’ve wanted to throw my arms around him; holding him until he releases the tears I know he’s holding onto.


I’ve stopped myself from doing this on many occasions. It was hard − it’s still so hard, especially when he glances my way, which he often does. Is he aware of the deep feelings I have for him? Perhaps, I think to myself, I will make certain this will be the day I tell him so.


My heart races as we take the lift together at the end of our working day. His musky aftershave permeates the small space we share − it’s intoxicating. It makes me want him. We exchange knowing looks. It seems to me he’s mindful that I too am recovering from a failed marriage.


He holds the door to the outside world open for me. It’s pouring with thunderous rain, of which I find welcoming − opportunistic.


‘Would you like to share my umbrella while we walk to the taxi rank together?’ I ask, tentatively.


He accepts, takes the umbrella from me, and holds it high above our heads. We stand in silence. His close proximity is unnerving, and so very inviting.


I feel him tremble as I stand on tip-toe and place my lips lightly on his. He responds passionately, and in that moment, I know we’ve reconnected with the ability to give and receive love.

Photo by Morgan Sessions on Unsplash

Nature’s Reconnection by Christina Openshaw

Spring two years ago − we were so pleased when we realised a pair of house martins had chosen our home to build their nest. This had never happened before in all the time we’d lived here.

They were both so busy as we watched them flying backwards and forwards from the river to the eaves above our lounge window − bringing with them the mud they needed. Within a number of days it was finished, all pale grey and bobbled.

Weeks later came squabbling; sparrows trying to oust the house martins from their nest. Then one day all was quiet. No house martins; they’d gone. Looking below the nest lay four chicks: three featherless and all dead, the other still alive. We took it in, made a nest using old tea towels and a bowl. Each day it fed hungrily from a small spoon and we were so glad to see it thrive. But one morning, it had passed away in the night. How we missed caring for such a tiny creature.

Last year the nest changed, the sides disappeared; probably pilfered by other birds, but who knows!

Earlier this spring we noticed some action above our window again; hooray, the house martins were back! Are they the same adults from two years ago, we wondered, and do they remember? Each day they began rebuilding, filling in the once depleted sides; these now a darker grey than the old pale centre.

This time I don’t think we’ll be needed – hearing the sounds of cheeping as we walk below. This time we see chicks peeping their heads out of the tiny hole, looking lively.

They’ll be leaving soon – we hope that we see them again next year.

Photo by Ash from Modern Afflatus on Unsplash

Sardines by Paula Nicolson

I catch her peering, with her almond shaped eyes, at my shopping basket of a pint of milk, a packet of biscuits and a Sunday roast microwave meal for one. It’s my own fault, because I’m dithering in the tinned fish aisle; internally wrestling with the idea of buying sardines.


And as she steps a little closer to me, the odour of smoked wood and oily fish seeps into my senses. Her voice, whining like a lonesome cat, asks, ‘Do you like sardines?’


‘Well … I don’t know, but I thought I’d give them a try. What could I have with them?’


‘A cat.’


‘A cat?’


‘Yes. You could share a tin of sardines with a cat.’


‘But I don’t own a cat and I meant what with … not who.’


‘Suit yourself. It was only a serving suggestion,’ she says as she whisks away from me, taking my breath with her. And as I watch her tiptoe up the aisle, her sleekit long black tail swishes from side to side behind her.

Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

About the author of this blog post: Paula Gilfillan lives near Lockerbie with her family and an overly chatty cat. She worked as a scientist for 22 years, but is now a school librarian. She’s a published poet, short story and a prize-winning flash fiction writer, but is partial to a slice of cake. She blogs as Decky Writing and writes under her maiden name of Paula Nicolson.

Lockerbie Writers: Reflections on the last six years (2015 – 2021)

By Kerrie McKinnel, Events Manager

This year, Lockerbie Writers is going through something of a shift of membership. As I prepare to take my own step back, it seems like the perfect opportunity to reflect on my time with the group.

First, let me ask you a question. Have you ever said these words?

“I’ve always wanted to write, but I’m not any good at it.”

I hear it all the time. Outside of Lockerbie Writers, I’m a self-employed writer – I run writing workshops for all ages and abilities, but my particular love is working with nervous beginners. I have lost count of the number of people who’ve told me how much they would love to write a story, or a poem, or the true-life story which has been bobbing around between generations of their family for years … but they don’t start, because they are afraid to fail.

Seven years ago, that was me. I’d recently become a mum, and despite the fact that I LOVED writing – and despite the fact that I’d been accepted onto the University of Glasgow’s prestigious MLitt Creative Writing degree – I had zero confidence in myself or my writing abilities. I was a wannabe. I had ideas, but I struggled to get them down onto paper.

In May 2015, I was one year into my degree – enjoying it, but still unsure whether I was ever going to be able to succeed at writing. In a bid to find suitable ways to fill my time and continue to advance my skills over the summer break, I attended a workshop at Lockerbie Library which fed into that year’s Scottish Book Trust writing competition. At that workshop, I met members of Lockerbie Writers who pointed me in the direction of their fortnightly meetings.

As I imagine there will be some fellow writers reading this, I feel like I should steer clear of the cliché (“And the rest is history!”), but it really does feel like that. When I joined, the group were enthusiastic and there was clear skill, but I could tell straight away that there was potential and hunger for more. I set up the group’s blog site, which would soon become a valuable resource for posting new writing and information about meetings and events – by 2020, it could attract up to 500 views in a month! Driven by a university deadline, and hugely helped by my tutors and by several Lockerbie Writers’ members who had industry experience, I went on to collate, co-edit and publish the group’s first-ever collection of writing, Lockerbie Writers’ Anthology.

The publication, along with well-attended book launches and local press coverage, helped to inspire and encourage group members – myself included. We were published writers! Our names were in print! With the support and encouragement of the group, I went on to run my first writing workshop for members of the public, and completed my postgraduate degree. I set up my own writing website and social media. I finally had the courage to call myself a writer.

In 2017 myself and other group members worked closely with Darren at Castle Loch Community Trust to establish an annual children’s writing competition, which has since attracted hundreds of entries and given out numerous prizes including the Lockerbie Writers’ trophy for the group’s favourite overall story. I was also lucky enough to be invited by Darren to run workshops there – my first experience of tutoring in the great outdoors!

In 2018, Lockerbie Writers invited me to take on the role of Events’ Manager; I was already doing the job anyway, but this new title felt like recognition of the work which I was now putting in. By this point myself and the group’s chairperson, Steph Newham, had established a second writing group in Lockerbie (A Novel Approach), and I was preparing to set myself up as a self-employed writer. In my new role for Lockerbie Writers, I began to run regular writing workshops, spoken word nights, and organised annual celebrations to coincide with National Writing Day in June each year: Sara Maitland author talk (2018); Mindful Writing Day with Margaret Elphinstone (2019); New Writing Week on the blog (2020); and a Reconnection Writing Workshop (2021).

One of my proudest achievements has been to obtain funding for the group, to help with events and publications. In 2019, in addition to DG Unlimited/D&G Council funding for our Mindful Writing Day, I was grateful to receive funding from the Scottish Book Trust to self-publish and launch Lockerbie Writers’ second collection of new writing, Behind Closed Doors. This was a mammoth effort as I took on the majority of the collation, editing and formatting for the book, but we were rewarded with impressive attendance at our launches during Book Week Scotland 2019.

At the beginning of last year’s lockdown, I felt lost: what does an events’ manager do during a pandemic?! However, like many others across the world, I found that my creativity was pushed and challenged. Here’s another well-worn phrase for you: when life gives you lemons …! I successfully applied for Book Week Scotland 2021 funding, and with the help of several local creatives and of course the rest of the Lockerbie Writers, I put on the group’s first-ever poetry safari, and even printed a companion book which was gifted to those who attended the walk in November 2021. What a fantastic moment at the end of a difficult year – to be able to bring new writing and joyful words to the local community in a safe and uplifting way.

The decision to leave Lockerbie Writers has been a difficult one, especially on the back of all of these wonderful memories, but I am proud to say that I am going out on a high. One of my final tasks as Lockerbie Writers’ Events Manager will be to organise and help to gift trophies to a local school, in an attempt to encourage creative writing amongst the pupils there for many years to come.

I leave behind a group of fantastic friends and skilled, hard-working creatives, and I am forever grateful for the support and encouragement which they’ve given me over the last six years – and especially their patience with my long and numerous emails at times! Since 2016, I have gone from a nervous student to a confident writer, and I think Lockerbie Writers group has grown alongside me.

And yes, I am brave enough to admit it:

“I’ve always wanted to write, and now I do, because I am good at it.”

I wish the ongoing members of Lockerbie Writers good luck as they go forwards into a creative future.

P.s. I will be continuing to run workshops etc through my business, http://www.kerriemckinnel.com. 😊 I hope to be able to work with Lockerbie Writers again in the future!

Reconnection: National Writing Day Workshop, 18th June 2021

It’s National Writing Day!

On and around 23rd June 2021, people and groups across the country will celebrate National Writing Day … and Lockerbie Writers were thrilled to be able to join in with their first in-person workshop of the year.

Read on to find out more!

Somerton House Hotel, Lockerbie

What is National Writing Day?

National Writing Day is “an annual celebration of the power of writing creatively, inspiring people of all ages and abilities to try writing for fun and self-expression” (National Writing Day website, http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/about-us/national-writing-day, last accessed 23rd June 2021).

Lockerbie Writers have previously run several popular events to coincide with this day. These include the Sara Maitland Author Talk (2018), a Mindful Writing Day featuring Margaret Elphinstone (2019), and a New Writing Week on the Lockerbie Writers’ blog which received almost 500 views (2020). Although COVID restrictions meant that it was impractical to put on a big event in 2021, everyone was excited to be able to meet as a small group for the first time in months.

The Workshop

The sun shone on the Somerton House Hotel, Lockerbie, when members of Lockerbie Writers and A Novel Approach writing groups gathered on Friday 18th June 2021.

Events Manager Kerrie McKinnel arriving at the Somerton House Hotel

Events Manager Kerrie McKinnel was especially excited to attend as it was the first in-person writing workshop which she had been able to plan, coordinate and deliver in over sixteen months – but it was also the last event which she would organise for Lockerbie Writers. After six years of membership and three years as Events Manager, she announced that she planned to leave Lockerbie Writers by the end of the summer.

The announcement continues a period of real change for the group, after the resignation of Chairperson Steph Newham last winter, and the step back by several other members, either due to health or work/personal reasons. This led to a discussion of future meetings and various related issues including book sales, before the group were joined by members of A Novel Approach group and moved on to the real reason for the day – the celebration of National Writing Day 2021!

Writing prompts were on the topical theme of ”Reconnection’.

Kerrie had designed two writing prompts, both inspired by this year’s theme of ‘Reconnection’. After so long apart, the theme choice seemed topical – especially as the writing started late due to everyone enjoying their chat and catch-up!

In the first exercise, participants did some free writing on themes related to lockdown, and then used their notes to create a poem or short piece of writing.

Perhaps predictably, there were a number of reflections on loneliness, home comforts, birdsong and other observations on nature, but the exercise also prompted some unexpected pieces including book recommendations, a poem which used repetition to sum up the lockdown experience, and a dark passage about a sexual predator.

The day was a good mixture of writing and discussion – and catching up too!

In the second exercise, participants were invited to sketch or make notes about a mysterious character, and then to imagine a conversation with them. Bonus points for anyone who was able to include the word ‘Reconnection’ in their resulting short story!

Friends working hard at their short stories and poems.

This exercise took the group all over the world. There was romance at a farming show, a character foraging in the forest, a war-torn country, and plenty of flirting – with mixed consequences!

Lockdown and COVID were clearly on the participants’ minds, with tales of train journeys, visiting family after months of separation, not recognising people with their masks on, and a whole series of awkward conversations in the supermarket, car park, office, and more.

Concentration!

The workshop ended with a two-course lunch, and a chance to chat and catch up.

Looking to the Future

After all of the stress and uncertainty of the last sixteen months, it was fantastic to be able to meet as a small group to celebrate National Writing Day with some enjoyable and relaxed writing prompts – and a few laughs too!

Lockerbie Writers has undergone immense change since the beginning of 2020, with the departure of several long-established group members, and the increasing emphasis on the online side of the group.

National Writing Day is about encouraging people of all ages and abilities to try writing, and this is exactly what Lockerbie Writers always strives to do. With an emerging new committee, more enquiries beginning to come in from potential new members, and hope of regular in-person meetings resuming soon, Lockerbie Writers is in a strong and positive position as it evolves and heads into the future.

New Writing Week, Spring 2021 – Day 5

Launch into spring with Lockerbie Writers! Join us on the blog all week (29th March – 2nd April 2021) and enjoy a selection of new writing from members of Lockerbie Writers. Our final contribution is two short poems from Kerrie McKinnel.

One year on from the beginning of lockdown, Lockerbie Writers group remain unable to meet in person, but many of the members have continued to swap writing and encouragement online.


Today’s poems come from Kerrie McKinnel, Lockerbie Writers’ Events Manager. Inspired by the phrase ‘dead daffodils’, Kerrie has attempted a limerick and a haiku.


Read on, enjoy … and don’t forget to share!

Muddy Bulbs by Kerrie McKinnel


Ceramic shards litter the stone,
muddy bulbs setting the tone.
I know I sound moany,
but really! If only
I’d left the garden pots alone!

Daffodils by Kerrie McKinnel


Cloud, lamb, breeze, sun rays,
I try and fail to enjoy.
Dead: daffodils; you.

Kerrie McKinnel is Lockerbie Writers’ Events Manager and a founding member of A Novel Approach group. Her writing has been featured in publications including Gutter, Southlight and From Glasgow to Saturn. She lives with her husband and two young children, who inspire much of her writing. Since completing her MLitt Creative Writing (University of Glasgow), Kerrie has run a number of successful writing workshops and events, and compiled and co-edited Lockerbie Writers’ first and second anthologies. Kerrie also runs writing workshops and events for all ages through her business, Kerrie McKinnel – Writer. For more information visit: http://www.kerriemckinnel.com

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading all of this week’s pieces of new writing from Lockerbie Writers! Please share, and take a look around our website for more information on the group’s meetings, writing and past publications.
Have you missed any of this week’s new writing? Click on the links below to view each of the last four days!
Day 1: Christina Openshaw
Day 2: Betsy Henderson
Day 3: Kath J. Rennie
Day 4: Paula Nicolson; Rita Dalgliesh

New Writing Week, Spring 2021 – Day 4

Launch into spring with Lockerbie Writers! Join us on the blog all week (29th March – 2nd April 2021) and enjoy a selection of new writing from members of Lockerbie Writers. Today is Day 4, and we’ve got not one but two fantastic poems to mark our penultimate day!

One year on from the beginning of lockdown, Lockerbie Writers group remain unable to meet in person, but many of the members have continued to swap writing and encouragement online.

Today, we have not one but two poems from members of the group. The first is inspired by the word ‘galoshes’ and comes from Paula, who has spearheaded the running of the online group over the last few months. The second, from Rita, uses the prompt words/phrases ‘parade’, ‘brood’, ‘dead daffodils’ and ‘galoshes’ – well done to Rita for using four out of the five given prompts! Not an easy task!

Read on, enjoy … and don’t forget to share!

Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com

We Are by Paula Nicolson


in the wet street

in the wet wind

in the wet rain

in the wet puddles

in the wet wellies

in the wet

the wet

wet

Paula Nicolson (Lockerbie Writers’ PR Manager)
Paula lives near Lockerbie, Scotland, with her family and is a mum to a teenage daughter, two grown-up stepchildren, and an overly chatty cat. She enjoys laughing, eating cake, and writing with Lockerbie Writers; preferably all at the same time.
She worked as a scientist for 22 years in England, but now works as a librarian in a Scottish town where there’s more sheep than books (she made that fact up, but seriously, there’s lots of sheep here.)
Paula is a published poet, short story and a prize-winning flash fiction writer. She’s also a judge for BBC Radio 2’s 500 words and Castle Loch Trust’s children’s writing competitions. You can find her blogging at: http://www.facebook.com/deckywriting

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

An Historic Event by Rita Dalgliesh

As Lord and Lady Martindale return from abroad,
All residents of Mayhem find cause for merriment.
A parade they plan in earnest, first of its kind,
Celebrate a turning point, recovery of humankind.

A brood of youth research ancient heritage,
They’ll re-enact the pageant of an ancient past.
For all our hosts don’t look so hot, their provision and plot
are just what the residents of Mayhem got.

Their ideas permit the villagers to explore
Vast gardens; mausoleums with tombs
Revealing epidemics contracted by previous peers.
Lord and Lady Martindale look nearly as poorly.

The pageant planned for 2021, 23rd May.
For our hosts it may be too late, we say.
Ensure this historic year has its great occasion
Through all conforming to pandemic rule.

Lord and Lady Martindale were no fools;
Knew they had the new strain, are in great pain.
Our parades in jeopardy; all joys diminished.
Tis nasty weather, visions of another lockdown.

R.I.P.

We’ll march in our galoshes, gothic garb and all,
Up to the big house our hosts to recall.
Throughout the grounds dead daffodils abound.
Summer’s on its way, an era over; a lost display.


Rita Dalgliesh is a member of Lockerbie Writers, and has never missed a prompt. She enjoys stretching her imagination through her writing. Rita also loves reading, in particular historical war novels. She recently joined a book group in Annan, which has encouraged her to try a wide range of genres and given her an insight into a whole new world of authors.

Thank you to Paula and Rita for providing two very different and unique poems. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for our final piece! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this piece of new writing from Lockerbie Writers. If you’ve enjoyed it, please share, and take a look around our website for more information on the group’s meetings, writing and past publications.

New Writing Week, Spring 2021 – Day 3

Launch into spring with Lockerbie Writers! Join us on the blog all week (29th March – 2nd April 2021) and enjoy a selection of new writing from members of Lockerbie Writers. Our third piece of the week comes from Kath J. Rennie.

One year on from the beginning of lockdown, Lockerbie Writers group remain unable to meet in person, but many of the members have continued to swap writing and encouragement online.

Today’s piece – a short story – is inspired by the phrase ‘dead daffodils’. This prompt is proving to be the most popular of the five choices which I gave to the writers! It has been written by Lockerbie Writers’ member Kath J. Rennie.

Read on, enjoy … and don’t forget to share!

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

The Guilt Trip by Kath J. Rennie

Alice normally detests Sundays, except for the hour she spends on her knees praying for atonement. Today, she feels it will be achieved.


‘It’s time,’ she mutters, clambering from her bed, ‘time to lay the past to rest.’


Alice’s positive mood diminishes as it’s realised her nightwear, and bedding, are sweat-ridden. This has been the norm on Saturday eves. They’re discarded onto the bedroom carpet. They’ll lay there until her return from her son-in-law’s grave; a man loved by her herself and daughter Mia who can no longer bring herself to visit his grave, or forgive the woman she once loved.


Alice had told the police when questioned, ‘It was an accident, Officer.’


‘Sorry for your loss,’ they’d said.


Mia eventually found new love with the child she bore. A child kept away from its grandmother. Alice hopes she will get to spend time with the youngster one day − the day when Mia realises wrong choices have been made.


The trek from the cemetery gate to Thomas’s grave is walked briskly. Alice kneels and tenderly touches the wording on the gravestone; removes the rabbit-eaten daffodil stalks from their vase. No fresh flowers replace them.


‘I’ll not be returning again, Thomas. It’s time for you to forgive us! Mia never meant to push you hard as you stood at the top of the staircase. And Thomas, you have to understand why we lied to the police. And please understand why I can no longer visit. I want to stop feeling plagued by guilt.’


Alice’s burden is lightened as she walks slowly away from the man she still loves. The man who’d chosen Mia as he grabbed the stair bannister to stop his fall. The man who’d had his fingers uncoiled by herself; flamed with jealousy.

She walks home contentedly unaware of Thomas following her.

Kath, an award-winning poet, began to write poetry in her teens; it was only in her forties did she begin to submit them, with many published in various anthologies. Her latest poem, Keeping the Faith, received a full page spread in The Stove networking newspaper. She also took part in a poetry safari in Eskrigg Nature Reserve with The Relevance of Time. On joining Lockerbie Writers in 2015, she learned the art of writing short stories.


Thank you to Kath for providing this short story. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for the next piece! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this piece of new writing from Lockerbie Writers! If you’ve enjoyed it, please share, and take a look around our website for more information on the group’s meetings, writing and past publications.

New Writing Week, Spring 2021 – Day 2

Launch into spring with Lockerbie Writers! Join us on the blog all week (29th March – 2nd April 2021) and enjoy a selection of new writing from members of Lockerbie Writers. Our second piece of the week comes from Betsy Henderson.


One year on from the beginning of lockdown, Lockerbie Writers group remain unable to meet in person, but many of the members have continued to swap writing and encouragement online.


Today’s piece – a short story – is inspired by the phrase ‘dead daffodils’, and has been written by Lockerbie Writers’ member Betsy Henderson.


Read on, enjoy … and don’t forget to share!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Someone who Cares by Betsy Henderson

Bella made straight for the cemetery as soon as she arrived back in Scotland. Her mother had died whilst she was stuck on the other side of the world and Bella couldn’t get back. This awful pandemic had meant the planes were all grounded. She had felt terrible; there was no one else and her poor mother had been buried without a single mourner. It was a totally unthinkable situation.

She phoned the undertaker who gave her the plot number of the grave. He told her the paramedic who had tried to save her mum wanted to explain what happened, so would meet her there, for which she was very grateful. Bella was still reeling with disbelief, her heart breaking with the permanence of losing her beloved mum.

A bunch of dead daffodils lay near the head of the grave. Well, they had once been daffodils, but the rabbits had a field day devouring most of the heads. She picked up what was left, not understanding who could have left them when her mum hadn’t known anyone. Bella had brought her mum to live with her only a few weeks before she had to go away on business. Her mum swore she would be fine for the short time Bella was away, but then catastrophe struck and she was knocked over and killed.

She stood looking at the grave, her heart breaking. ‘I’m sorry mum,’ she sobbed, ‘if I could have got back, I would have.’

A voice behind her spoke. ‘She knew you couldn’t help it. I was with her at the hospital when she passed away. She knew you loved her.’

Bella turned around; she hadn’t heard anyone approaching and almost jumped out of her skin. The paramedic stood behind her, concern written all over his face. ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t save her; she was too badly injured.’

‘Did you leave the daffodils?’ Bella asked. ‘Were you at her funeral?’

‘Yes, someone had to be there.’

Bella smiled at her companion, grateful there were still people who cared.

Betsy is retired.  She is married with two adult children and three grandchildren.  During the pandemic, she has spent most of her time taking her dog Becky for a walk and trying out different knitting patterns, as well as keeping her hand in with writing to on-line prompts.

Thank you to Betsy for providing this short story. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for the next piece! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this piece of new writing from Lockerbie Writers! If you’ve enjoyed it, please share, and take a look around our website for more information on the group’s meetings, writing and past publications.

New Writing Week, Spring 2021 – Day 1

Launch into spring with Lockerbie Writers! Join us on the blog all week (29th March – 2nd April 2021) and enjoy a selection of new writing from members of Lockerbie Writers.
Our first poem comes from Christina Openshaw.


One year on from the beginning of lockdown, Lockerbie Writers group remain unable to meet in person, but many of the members have continued to swap writing and encouragement online.


In recent months, this has evolved into an established online group. Organised by PR Manager Paula Nicolson, and entirely done by email, the group members exchange short pieces of writing in response to a regular prompt, and then share their thoughts and feedback. The aim – as with the in-person group – is to help each other to develop writing skills and confidence.


This month, Paula has kindly allowed me to set the prompt for the online group. I asked writers to produce up to 300 words inspired by at least one of the following: dead daffodil(s); parade; renaissance; brood; and, galoshes. An intriguing choice, I hope you’ll agree!


Read on, enjoy … and don’t forget to share!

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Dead Daffodils by Christina Openshaw

Leaving the house one morning,
When going through the door,
There on the step stood something
That wasn’t there before.

Looking up and down the lane,
No one could I see.
Who has left this present?
I assume that it’s for me?

A glass jar full of daffodils,
All tightly still in bud,
With a white bow wrapped around it.
Someone’s been so good.

It can only be one of two neighbours,
But which one comes to mind?
How should I approach them?
This mystery to unwind.

The daffodils on the window sill
Are opening up each day.
I’ve never seen my neighbours,
They haven’t passed this way.

Another week soon passes,
The daffs are in full bloom.
The weather’s bad, no one’s about,
I need to thank them soon.

Which one could I appeal to,
Without upsetting the other?
The trouble is the daffs have died,
So, should I really bother?

Christina lives with her husband outside Lockerbie. After retiring she joined a local writing group — which has now become Lockerbie Writers. Having had short stories and poems published in two anthologies, she now finds poetry coming to the fore.

Thank you to Christina for providing this poem and kicking off our week. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for the next piece!
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this piece of new writing from Lockerbie Writers! If you’ve enjoyed it, please share, and take a look around our website for more information on the group’s meetings, writing and past publications.

Christmas Writing Workshop – November 2020

At the end of an unusual year, nobody was holding their breath that Lockerbie Writers would be able to meet up before Christmas … but in fact, that was exactly what happened!

Keep reading to the end to sample a few of the pieces of writing which were produced on the day!

Following discussions with Dumfries and Galloway Council and the venue Somerton House Hotel to ensure that we were doing everything within the relevant government guidance (correct at the date of the workshop) and as COVID safe as possible, it was a delight on my part to be able to finish 2020 by planning a small writing workshop for group members.

Sadly I was unable to attend in the end (ah, the joys of such an unpredictable year), but Lockerbie Writers’ PR Manager Paula Nicolson has kindly put together a few words about the day.

Thank you to Paula, and also to the group’s chairperson Steph Newham for providing the photographs.

‘Christmas Writing Workshop’ by Paula Nicolson

The sound of pens scribbling and brains whirring could be heard at the Somerton House Hotel, Lockerbie, on 27th November 2020 at a Christmas creative writing workshop for Lockerbie Writers.

It was the first time the group had been able to meet since March, albeit socially distanced.

It started with a sensory piece describing ‘I know it’s time for Christmas because I …’, and then followed by the creation of an acrostic using ‘LET IT SNOW’. The final exercise was editing an opening paragraph to a gothic novel. Members enjoyed the chance to stretch their fingers and minds, create new work and also receive constructive feedback in person.

Some of the feedback received was:

‘Enjoyed meeting up again. Great doing some work and listening to others. Nice to stretch my imagination; I’ve missed that.’

‘Actually hearing the works of other members read out was very beneficial.’

‘A very enjoyable morning spent with Lockerbie Writers. Informative workshop which included some Christmas prompts.’

The workshop was then followed by a delicious three-course lunch (again socially distanced).

The group are grateful for funding from Muirhall Energy that helped this workshop to take place.

Thank you to Paula for providing an account of the day.

I’d like to finish with some of the writing which was produced at the workshop. Kath’s piece is an acrostic poem produced to the phrase ‘LET IT SNOW’, while Christina’s piece explores the sensory memories associated with Christmas. Thank you to both for contributing!

The Joy of Harmony by Kath J. Rennie

Love’s Holy Christmas spirit
Engages all in its grasp
Threading souls together,

Inviting is spirit’s enchanting ask,
To each, create a tapestry

Stitched with significance and care,
Notable moments of this time of year
Outwith ourselves at times, aware …
We are as one – in harmony.

I Know It’s Time for Christmas Because … by Christina Openshaw

I see … shops decorated in October.
I smell … perfumes in the air.
I feel … aggravation – it’s October!!
I taste … fresh mince pies.
I hear … Christmas music again and again and again.

Thank you to everyone who attended, and to everyone who helped to make this possible, including Lockerbie Writers’ Steph and Paula, the Somerton House Hotel (who were fantastic), Dumfries and Galloway Council, and funders Muirhall Energy.

I hope you had a very merry Christmas, and wish you all the best for the new year. Hopefully it won’t be too long until we are free to meet again as we used to – or, at the very least, to organise another of these special socially-distanced workshoped.

– Kerrie McKinnel, Events Manager

Book Week Scotland Poetry Safari – November 2020

Have you ever been on a poetry safari?

In November 2020, residents of Lockerbie and the surrounding communities had the opportunity to do just that!

If you missed the safari – or you visited and would like a chance to see it again – keep reading for photos as well as special insights into the poems …

Please Note: Photographs of individuals are copyright of the photographed individual. Photographs of the nature reserve and poems are copyright Kerrie McKinnel 2020. Words are copyright of Kerrie McKinnel 2020, except quotations and feedback which are copyright of the individual contributors. All rights reserved.

About the Project

To celebrate Book Week Scotland (BWS), Lockerbie Writers group teamed up with A Novel Approach writing group and local poet Eryl Gasper-Dick to produce nine new poems.

Welcome to Lockerbie Wildlife Trust Eskrigg Nature Reserve!

Book Week Scotland takes place every November, and is coordinated by the Scottish Book Trust. The aim is to encourage and promote reading and stories, with events taking place in communities across the country. In 2020, this week ran from Monday 16th to Sunday 22nd November inclusive.

For the second year in a row, Lockerbie Writers were successful in their application for support from the Scottish Book Trust, and were able to put on an event for Book Week Scotland. Due to the restrictions of 2020, Lockerbie Writers’ Events Manager Kerrie McKinnel opted to try the group’s very first poetry safari.

One of many first steps was to approach an illustrator. Rob Crosbie, a local illustrator, was chosen to produce a map (above) and bespoke illustrations to go along with each poem.

The Poetry Safari in Photographs

The poetry safari consisted of nine poems, which were displayed on a 3km one-way route around Eskrigg Nature Reserve, Lockerbie. Free to view and with no booking required, we can proudly say that we were one of the few projects during the year 2020 which were able to go ahead!

The first poem on the poetry safari route was ‘The Fourth Sister of Eskrigg’ by Paula Nicolson (pictured above). As Paula writes on her blog, the poem was “inspired by a row of trees at Eskrigg Nature Reserve nicknamed ‘The Four Sisters’ by visitors, and also by natural burials and their symbiotic relationship with trees that mark a grave.”

The poem is the first of several within the project to deal with death. When exploring the theme of “future”, some poets chose to examine the idea of a lost or altered future. In this poem, one life has been cut short but other lives go on, with wildlife continuing to grow and thrive around the person’s burial site. The illustration which accompanies the poem is of the row of four trees which used to stand at Eskrigg.

For more about the poem and to read it in full, click here.

Paula is Lockerbie Writers’ PR Manager, and a member of A Novel Approach. She blogs at: https://deckywritingsheepslife.blogspot.com.

The second poem on the safari trail was ‘All That I Have Lost’ by Kerrie McKinnel. Written in villanelle form, it uses a strict rhyming pattern and repeated lines to build the tension, until the reader realises the poem’s meaning in the final lines. The poem was written to mark Baby Loss Awareness Week, and explores the loss of an imagined future.

Kerrie (pictured above) commented, “I have Eryl Gasper-Dick [who worked with the group to provide feedback and constructive critique] to thank for the structure of this poem. My first draft was emotional but jumbled. When she suggested the villanelle form, it completely reshaped the poem and made it much more powerful. Thank you Eryl!”

Kerrie is Lockerbie Writers’ Events Manager, and a founding member of A Novel Approach. You can find out more about her writing, upcoming workshops, and publications at: www.kerriemckinnel.com.

Lesley Bradley’s poem, ‘Mycelium Memoirs’, was the third poem on the route. Lesley is pictured above. The first verse of the poem is deceptively cheerful, with images of a dog running through a rich and beautiful forest. The illustration which accompanies this poem – a red bug on a mushroom – was inspired by the strong imagery of “ruby bugs” and “spongy mushrooms, spangled and slimed”.

The poem takes a dark turn in the second verse, which catapults the reader forwards to the year 2030. As part of Book Week Scotland, the group were provided with a number of prompts on the theme of “future”, which Eryl Gasper-Dick covered when she produced a bespoke video workshop for the group back in August. One of these prompts asked the writer to imagine themselves in the same location but years into the future – an idea which Lesley has used to produce this powerful poem.

Lesley is a member of A Novel Approach. For more about her writing and art, visit: https://a-quieter-world.com.

Fourth on the poetry safari route was Christina Openshaw’s poem, ‘My Home’. Written from the point of view of a squirrel, her piece was more playful in tone than many of the others on the route. Christina is pictured (above) with her poem. “Note the fir cone I’m holding,” she said. “Coals to Newcastle comes to mind.”

While the poem topic was happy, light and easily understood, Christina’s language – deliberately chosen to sound as if it was in the squirrel’s voice – tripped a few people up! Verse four reads: “When the two leggers / are walking below / alone they’re alright / but I don’t like their four”. While most readers seemed to enjoy this image, there were a couple who didn’t quite catch on to the fact that the “two leggers” were the humans, and “their four” referred to their dogs! What a clever play on words from this clever poet!

Christina is a member of Lockerbie Writers.

Fifth on the route, and halfway round the 3 km walk, was ‘Beyond the Butt’ by guest poet Eryl Gasper-Dick. Local writer, tutor and poet Eryl (pictured above) agreed to help with the project early on. As she is not a member of either Lockerbie Writers or A Novel Approach writing groups, she came on board in an impartial role.

Along with providing a bespoke video workshop on the Book Week Scotland theme “future” and the various writing prompts and guidelines involved in the project, Eryl also read and provided critique on two drafts of each poem, and happily offered additional feedback and support to any of the poets who felt they needed a little extra help along the way.

Eryl’s imaginative and highly-visual poem takes us to the highest heights, overlooking the forest. Its unusual structure on the page ties in beautifully with the images and unsteady feeling of being on a precipice.

More information about Eryl’s writing and work can be found at: https://curiousauthenticink.com.

Our sixth poem, ‘Come Walk with Me where the Wild Raspberries Grow’, was nestled in the heart of the forest trail. Poet Carol Price used the woodland setting to explore the theme of grief. “Stand still for a while and listen,” she writes in the highly-visual first verse. It feels as if every element of the surroundings are included in the descriptions, from the squirrels, hawthorn berries and sunshine, to the raspberries which feature in the poem’s title.

A change of tone comes in the second verse, which reveals that the speaker is making a promise to a departed relative – that they will share the woodland beauty with the grandchildren who have been left behind.

“I will show them your love in the seasonal shifts,” she writes in the poignant final lines.

Carol, a member of A Novel Approach, later expressed her gratitude for the project. The poem, which is dedicated to her brother Ian, had been brewing for some time; thanks to this project, she finally felt able to put pen to paper. She is pictured (above) next to her poem with a photograph of Ian.

The next poem on the poetry safari route, and poem number seven out of nine, was Rita Dalgliesh’s ‘Eskrigg Naturally’. Rita, who thoroughly enjoys writing poetry and has an ear for rhythm, produced an unusual piece which would not have felt out of place in a visitor’s guide to the reserve!

The piece, written as if it is providing instructions to a visitor, takes the reader along walkways and around all of the sights. “Browse at your own pace, enjoy the place,” she writes. The twist comes at the end when the poem turns towards the theme of “future”, asking that the reader bears in mind the consequences of their visit and does not leave a footprint on the reserve. This clever piece plays with rhyme and sounds, and is especially pleasing to read out loud.

Rita is a member of Lockerbie Writers.

Eighth on the route (and pictured above in her first attempt at a selfie!) is Kath J. Rennie with her poem, ‘The Relevance of Time’. This detailed poem takes the reader on a walk through the seasons of the nature reserve, including elements of the place’s history such as the curling pond, and a number of the animals and wildlife who live in the area. Incorporating beautiful images of nature alongside the activities and hobbies enjoyed by visitors to the reserve, this poem is a great walk through the changing seasons.

Kath’s poem is also, perhaps, one of the most heavily-edited pieces to feature on the route (I hope she does not mind me saying). During the process, all of the writers were provided with detailed feedback from Eryl. While most of the nine poems changed and shifted substantially along the way, Kath’s in particular stands out in my memory as one which was added to, then edited down, in quite a significant manner. Kath, I hope you are proud of the poem which you arrived at in the end; it is a testament to your hard-working spirit and determination to get it just right.

Kath is a member of Lockerbie Writers.

Last (and, of course, not least – apologies to all the writers out there for the cliché!) was ‘Trees’ by Steph Newham … and, while we are discussing poems which were worked and worked on, I hope that Steph (pictured above) won’t mind me saying that hers also fitted into this category. “I’m still not happy with it,” she told me shortly after she’d sent in the final version – but then, as writers, are we ever happy with our own pieces?

Written by someone who self-admittedly “doesn’t do poetry”, this is a thoughtful and sensory journey through the woods, with a clear and intriguing question at its root (sorry!). ‘Trees’ was the ninth and final poem on the safari route, and perfectly situated as you can see in the top of the two photos above. The poem explores the communication which takes place between tree roots, and asks what they might be saying to each other. “Their roots hold hands beneath our feet,” she writes. “Hear the whisper of the trees.”

Steph is Lockerbie Writers’ Chair Person, and a founding member of A Novel Approach. More about her writing, as well as life as a dyslexic writer, can be found at: https://newhamsuntangledwords.wordpress.com.

And that was that!

A Successful Week: Positivity and feedback

By the end of Book Week Scotland 2020, we had given away all 150 free copies of the companion booklet which contained all nine poems, along with a number of free bookmarks and stickers.

Although we were unable to count the number of visitors who visited and explored the route over the seven-day period, anecdotal evidence from members as well as from Eskrigg’s Reserve Manager suggested that the poetry safari was very popular. The Facebook event page and Lockerbie Writers’ page received a lot of interest, with a higher than normal number of comments, likes and shares on many of the safari posts, including a number of people saying that they were going to go or had already visited. Most of the members of Lockerbie Writers and A Novel Approach groups (seventeen in total) visited the nature reserve at least once during the week, and almost all of them reported that they had seen several other people/groups enjoying the poetry safari. Some members chatted (at a social distance!) to other walkers about the route – and the feedback all seemed to be positive. Others overhead people discussing the poems (again, always positively), or saw them stopping to enjoy the poetry.

One of the loveliest things which I witnessed during one of my walks around the poetry safari was a couple who were walking a dog; they had stopped a little way ahead of me to read one of the poems. I was taking photographs of each poem as I walked round, and so I decided to slow down on my approach to give them more time to finish reading and move on … but as I drew closer and closer, they were still reading! I ended up walking a little way further down the path before, several minutes later, they moved on and I was able to go back and photograph the poem. It was a magical moment to see total strangers taking such time and pleasure in one of the group’s poems – although their dog, who was seemingly having his walk interrupted on a number of occasions, perhaps wasn’t quite so happy!

The path to the poetry safari was not a straightforward one. To satisfy COVID-safe guidance, we had to take a number of precautions which (in previous years) we would never even have considered. Rather than holding a one-day event or stationing group members at the reserve to hand out booklets, the free items were left in a lidded box at a shelter on the reserve throughout the week for walkers and visitors to help themselves to, after sanitising their hands of course. A one-way system was established for the 3 km route, with direction signs going up along the paths as well as markings on the map. A number of additional posters were also displayed, including advice on social distancing, respecting other walkers, and so on.

Has it been worth it? I’ll let the feedback speak for itself in a moment – but first I want to say a final THANK YOU to everyone who was involved in the project – including (but not limited to!) all of the poets from Lockerbie Writers and A Novel Approach groups, local poet Eryl Gasper-Dick, illustrator Rob Crosbie, all at Eskrigg Nature Reserve especially Reserve Manager Jim Rae, local printers Linn Print, and the Annandale Herald newspaper for featuring us on the front cover! Thank you to the Scottish Book Trust and Muirhall Energy for supporting the project and making it possible.

And thank you to everyone who visited our Book Week Scotland Poetry Safari! We hope you enjoyed it and that you will read, enjoy and share the booklet and our poems.

If you have any feedback or photographs which you’d like to share with the group, please get in touch!

Feedback on the poetry safari:

“Absolutely beautiful – what a memorable experience to get to enjoy so many incredible poems in such a picturesque setting! Thank you to Kerrie and everyone who worked on it … please do it again!”

“The book safari was fabulous, the poems suited the area, just a great location. The books are well impressive. Well done, everyone.”

“A great experience to immerse myself and enjoy an hour of nature poetry in its proper outdoor context!”

“It was cold but gorgeous. As we were poem hunting we heard a woodpecker, at least one buzzard, and a very shouty jay. Thanks to Lockerbie Writers who organised it […] I highly recommend it.”

“So enjoyed the poetry safari. Such wonderful poems.”

“As most of my writing friends know, I don’t do poetry, but boy was I proud seeing my offering posted on the walk. Thanks to Kerrie McKinnel – Writer, Paula Nicolson, and Eryl Gasper-Dick for making Lockerbie Writers’ Book Week Scotland 2020 project such a resounding success.”

“We did enjoy our visit to Eskrigg … A grand week I’m sure was had by all due especially to your endeavours  and hard work.”

“This has been a lovely project to be involved in.”

“I spoke with a lady [who had] thoroughly enjoyed reading all the poems […] and was looking forward to reading the poems again once home.”

“A friend who walks a lot said [it was] absolutely amazing! […] Well done to [Kerrie] and other contributors for this idea.”

Photographs of individuals are copyright of the photographed individual. Photographs of the nature reserve and poems are copyright Kerrie McKinnel 2020. Words are copyright of Kerrie McKinnel 2020, except quotations and feedback which are copyright of the individual contributors. All rights reserved.