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.

Book Week Scotland 2020 Poetry Safari

Are you ready for a poetry safari?

Find and enjoy new poetry from Lockerbie Writers as you walk the special 3km route around Eskrigg Nature Reserve, Lockerbie.

There are nine new poems from Lockerbie Writers on the theme of ‘Future’ along the route – and you can also pick up your FREE copy of Lockerbie Writers’ new publication, a companion booklet for the safari. (While stocks last.)

Visit in your own time – the poems will be on display throughout Book Week Scotland (16-22 November). No booking required.

Thank you to the Scottish Book Trust and Muirhall Energy for supporting this project and making it possible.

🙂

NOTES:

** Please read all guidance on the route and follow all current government guidance to help keep the reserve and the route COVID-safe for the whole community to enjoy. **

For more information on the event, search ‘Lockerbie Writers’ on Facebook or visit the event page: www.facebook.com/events/1114019055721636

For more information on accessibility, parking and any other questions about the reserve, you can visit: http://www.lockerbie-wildlife-trust.co.uk

For more information about Book Week Scotland, visit: www.scottishbooktrust.com/book-week-scotland

New Writing Week 2020 – Day 7

To mark National Writing Day 2020, all week (beginning 22nd June) we will be sharing a selection of new writing from members of Lockerbie Writers.

Our final stories come from Christina Openshaw and Kath J. Rennie.

This is our final day of new stories and poems on the theme of ‘lockdown’, produced by Lockerbie Writers.

This special week of blog posts came into being because we were unable to hold our usual in-person event to celebrate National Writing Day. While the blog can’t compare to an evening of readings from a Scottish author or a full day of writing workshops, we hope that our selection of lockdown-inspired stories and poems have brought you some enjoyment … and perhaps even inspired you!

One of our aims as a group is to inspire others to write, and it is always something which we focus on at our events and workshops – along with the joys of joining a writing group.

If you have been encouraged to start writing, please take a look around our blog, join our Facebook group, follow us on Twitter, or get in touch for more inspiration and advice.

Without further ado, it is time to introduce our final stories which come from Christina Openshaw and Kath J. Rennie. These stories could bother be described as thought-provoking and moving, but each approaches the theme of lockdown in an entirely different and highly individual way.

Read on and enjoy – and don’t forget to share!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Lockdown by Christina Openshaw

Lily sat watching television with husband Sam as she knitted away – then it happened. Her body fell sideways.

‘What’s the matter love?’ Sam asked, but got no response. Something was wrong – he picked up the phone in a panic and rang the doctor, who visited and sent for the ambulance – telling Sam, ‘I think she’s had a stroke.’

Sam, shaking, rang their eldest daughter, Meg and told her what had happened. ‘I’ll follow the ambulance in our car, could you meet me there?’

As Meg entered through the hospital doors, far ahead along the corridor was her dad – dashing breathlessly towards the room where Lily was. She could hear him saying to himself, ‘You can’t go yet – I have to go first.’

Sam sat with Meg, watching Lily throughout the night – in an emergency room, Lily wired up, sleeping.  From there she was transferred to the stroke ward, better to be looked after. Staff soon began realising that when Lily was asked a question she did not or could not reply; but they were used to this.

Sam and their two married daughters were shocked when informed of Lily’s condition; she had no use in her right arm or leg as yet. ‘We’ve never had to deal with anyone who’s had a stroke before, have we?’ They would have to wing it as best they were able, only time would tell. Over the next couple of weeks the family were overjoyed: she was more alert, taking notice – but still she never spoke.

On one of her daughter Meg’s visits, Lily started patting her face. ‘I don’t understand Mum, you don’t wear make- up.’ Lily persisted, urging Meg with her eyes to fathom out what she wanted to say.

Then it clicked. ‘Is it a mirror you’re wanting, Mum?’

Lily smiled, nodded, as she was handed a little compact. This she moved up and down both sides of her face, then, sighed with relief.

 ‘Awe, Mum your face is fine,’ said Meg realising her mum’s face must feel funny, and that she was looking to see if it was.

Back at home weeks later everyone felt that there was nothing wrong with Lily’s brain, she just couldn’t get the words out. If asked to repeat something, she spoke perfectly clearly – when asked a question no answer came.

Sam was so upset that Lily never called him by name, but would repeat it if prompted. Her first independent word was ‘NO!’ The family were all there that day – they laughed as Sam, joking, said that, ‘Of course it would be.’

Lily did become proficient at hand signs, and the odd word or sentence that came automatically like, ‘Just a minute, just a minute.’ One of her favourite words was, ‘Frustrating.’ When people couldn’t understand, she used this often; where she’d got this from, nobody knew. They understood why she said it – she was locked in; trying to communicate, but sadly hardly succeeding.

The day of Lily’s grandson’s christening, the whole family gathered together in Emmanuel Church; she sat at the front in her wheelchair along with Sam. The organ began to play All Things Bright and Beautiful – everyone was singing, including Lily. She never faltered, knew all the words – words she’d always known. Everyone looked at her, smiled at each other – nudging, nodding.

She was with them – all together, not locked out for once.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The Dancing Carrier Bag’s Message of Hope by Kath J. Rennie

It came as a shock – the inability to visit loved ones; for them to visit me; to give each other much needed hugs, kisses and laughter.

All communication was to be by phone or social media; at heart, I knew it wouldn’t suffice, but it was necessary if we were to keep each other safe.

Those early days in my new home stretched out so slowly. The walls began to close in on me; walls with a decorative style not to my taste; stark white painted walls with imprints of previous tenants.

I told myself to put up with it until summertime, until a decorator may be allowed in to do the work, but the walls closed in more and no amount of framed pictures consoled.

 I was tempted many an hour to get the pasting table down, unroll the packaged beautiful rolls of gold glittery paper bought before lockdown.  Don’t be tempted to do it yourself! My inner voice warned. You know what you’re like for putting a foot through a strip of wallpaper as you fight to attach it to the wall; of how the paper folded back on itself, covering my hair in wallpaper paste, and then I realized, the dammed ceiling would have to be painted first!

Frustration began to set in. Together with the isolation I was feeling I was ready to scream, but instead (isn’t it strange how the mind works) I burst into laughter at past memories of how trying to be a top decorator had gone so terribly wrong.

‘What’s so funny?’ my son (also in lockdown with me) asked.

 I told him of the drastic mistakes I’d made.  

‘I’ll give it a go,’ he said in earnest. ‘It can’t be that hard to do?’

I tried not to laugh out loud, thanking him for his offer. I was not going to let him attempt wallpapering for the first time in his life with my expensive rolls of paper.

‘PAINT!’ I shouted out at the top of my voice, scaring our cat half to death. ‘We’ve litres of it; we’ll soon have this place looking brighter and cheery.’

Gazelle-like I made for the broom-cupboard; grabbed paint brushes and trays; I was a woman on a mission. Then realised, sadly, I wouldn’t be able to repeatedly climb a ladder to paint the living room-ceiling due to having a disability, and, I realised, neither would my son; also with a partial disability … BLAST! DAM! BLAST!

I sat a while and cursed our disabilities, I cursed the deadly virus. I turned the air blue with my swearing, and then tears fell slowly down my cheeks and I’d wished I’d never moved away from the countryside.

I’ve often thought of tears as being healing waters, and they were; they gave space to rethink a plan of action.

Dismantling a mop head from its pole and attaching it to a sponge roller, the ceiling was painted; a little at a time, over time, but that didn’t matter; the grubby yellow tinge became a lovely antique cream.

A month passed by. Three rooms seemed brighter, but they still spoke of solitude. The solitude felt crippling; it had me stand and gaze out through different windows of a yet still, unfamiliar home; especially my bedroom window mostly, which overlooks a football field where once all my sons had played footy; and the children’s play area, where once I’d pushed them on swings.

It was at this window one spring evening, observing hues and the lushness of fir and ash trees swaying in the slight breeze that I was consumed with a feeling of dread and fear; all memories of days gone by dissipated as eeriness seemed to cloak the park.

Sadness was felt. Thoughts of … ‘How long will it be before children will again swing gleefully up into the air? Or slide bravely down the slide? Or rock boisterously on the toy horse and cow?

I felt myself comparing my feelings of being lockdown with how I’d felt after a major disaster in the town. The feelings were comparable. I knew I had to move rooms, but as I went to, an object caught my eye: a white plastic carrier-bag, caught up in the breeze, dancing its way along the road’s white marking. It twisted and twirled before leaping up into the air.

I was mesmerised. In my mind’s eye I was watching the leading female character Odette dance her part in Swan Lake. I watched it for what seemed an age, until the bag was carried off out of sight.

I’ll never forget that night; of how a discarded piece of plastic magically took me to a happier place; a place of strength; of hope.

Thank you to Christina and Kath for providing these final stories and rounding off our week of new writing.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this piece of new writing from Lockerbie Writers.
If you have enjoyed it, why not check out our books, Lockerbie Writers’ Anthology and Behind Closed Doors?

If you’ve missed our previous posts, you can read them here:

Lament of a Lockdown Lass by Deborah Redden (Day 1)

The New Normal by Betsy Henderson (Day 2)

The New Normal by Rita Dalgliesh/My Lockdown by Frank Walker (Day 3)

Lockdown by Steph Newham (Day 4)

Heat by Paula Nicolson (Day 5)

Blue by Kerrie McKinnel (Day 6)

New Writing Week 2020 – Day 6

To mark National Writing Day 2020, all week (beginning 22nd June) we will be sharing a selection of new writing from members of Lockerbie Writers.

Our penultimate story is by the group’s Events Manager, Kerrie McKinnel.

This is our sixth day of new stories and poems on the theme of ‘lockdown’, produced by Lockerbie Writers.

As today’s story comes from yours truly, it seems like an appropriate point at which to reflect on my own experiences of this process.

I will admit that I was apprehensive when I first suggested this week of blog posts – mainly because I had been rather late in thinking about it. In 2019, we had spent several months doing drafts, editing and peer review ahead of the publication of our second collection of writing. To ensure these posts would be ready in time for National Writing Day, I could only allow 3 weeks: 1 week to write, 1 week for everyone to read and review the work by the other group members, and a final week for each writer to reflect on the feedback which they’d received via the peer review and complete their final edits.

Thankfully, the group did not disappoint. It has been a busy month, but I am incredibly proud of the work which everyone has produced.

Today’s new writing is a short story which I wrote inspired loosely by the traditional tale of Red Riding Hood. I aimed to give the plot a modern-day twist by plunging poor old Granny into lockdown …

Several peer reviewers commented that they would have liked to read more – that Blue’s story was only just beginning when it ended. When editing, I toyed with the idea of writing more, but decided not to for this particular blog (word limit in mind!) … perhaps in the future I will come back to Blue’s tale.

Read on and enjoy – and don’t forget to share!

Photo by Nicolas Veithen on Pexels.com

Blue by Kerrie McKinnel

Once upon a time there was a girl called Blue. Now, please don’t ask me whether or not this was really her name. It sounds unlikely, doesn’t it? But that was her name, and that’s the end of it. Blue lived up to it too, in her turquoise t-shirt, lapis leggings and sapphire sneakers.

Blue’s days were taken up with college, helping on her parents’ llama farm, and daily jogs to Granny’s to do a few chores and have a chat over a cup of tea. Pretty standard. That was, until a terrible plague hit the land. Overnight, Blue’s classes were cancelled, and Granny was instructed to stay at home with immediate effect for her own protection.

‘I know it’s rough,’ said Granny when they video-called a few days later.

‘Rough?’ exclaimed Blue. ‘Understatement of the century! What will you do?’

‘I don’t know.’ Granny sighed. Her tablet slipped down her lap, giving Blue an excellent view up Granny’s nose. ‘G.D.S. said they’d help, but so far I haven’t even had any food.’

‘The Goblin Delivery Service? Oh Granny, you know better than to rely on them!’

‘Well I don’t have much choice, do I?’ scolded Granny, and then she sighed again. ‘I’m sorry Blue, I’m just a bit … well … fumbleglasted with the whole situation!’

Blue gasped. She’d never heard her granny swear before. She told Granny she’d sort something out.

‘Don’t go getting into trouble.’ Granny sniffed and cuddled down into her brown dressing gown.

‘Would I do that?’

‘Have those sores on your hands healed yet?’

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

‘Granny!’ Blue rubbed at her palms. ‘Honestly, litter picking is completely inhumane. I was in so much pain.’

‘I’m sure that girl from your college class was too.’

‘I keep telling you, if she didn’t want me to punch her then she shouldn’t have wound me up.’

‘And I keep telling you, you don’t go around punching people.’

After she’d finished on the video call, Blue went down to the kitchen and found an old picnic basket. Apples, bread, chocolate cookies … she piled it high and slipped in a bottle of wine out of the pantry.

‘Don’t you dare take the long way to Granny’s,’ shouted Mum. ‘I don’t need you coming face to face with that poor girl again.’

Blue jammed her headphones in and strode off into the wood. Why did Mum make such a fuss? Blue had no intentions of meeting that “poor girl” again. She didn’t want to end up back on community service, or worse. She was deep in thought, rubbing at her scabby hands, when someone tapped her shoulder.

‘Sorry, can I …’ she began as took out her headphones and turned around to find herself face to face with a wolf.

‘Good morning, my dear,’ he said. He looked as if he was trying to smile, but all it did was show off his perfectly white teeth. He laid his paw on her shoulder. ‘How lovely to …’

‘AAA!’ Blue screamed as she punched the wolf square in the jaw.

‘Ouch! You horrible girl! You’ve broken my jaw.’ A low growl erupted from his stomach as he lunged towards her.

‘Stranger danger! Stranger danger!’ yelled Blue as she punched him again, and then once more for good measure. She took off through the wood with the wolf following right behind her. Leaping over tree branches and loose stones, she sprinted as fast as her sapphire sneakers would take her, and she didn’t stop until she reached Granny’s house. She burst in, slammed the door behind her, and stood gasping for breath.

‘Blue? What’s wrong?’ cried Granny, and then she noticed Blue’s bleeding knuckles. ‘Oh, Blue. What did I say about getting into trouble?’


Kerrie McKinnel is Lockerbie Writers’ Events Manager and a founding member of A Novel Approach group. Since completing her MLitt Creative Writing (University of Glasgow), Kerrie has run a number of successful events and workshops for both groups, and compiled and co-edited their two books, Lockerbie Writers’ Anthology (2016) and Behind Closed Doors (2019). Kerrie is a self-employed writer and also runs creative writing workshops through her business, Kerrie McKinnel – Writer. Her writing has been featured in publications including Gutter, Southlight and From Glasgow to Saturn. For more information visit: www.kerriemckinnel.com.

Thank you for reading my short story!

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this piece of new writing from Lockerbie Writers.
If you have enjoyed it, why not check out our books, Lockerbie Writers’ Anthology and Behind Closed Doors?

Check back tomorrow for our next post!

If you’ve missed our previous posts, you can read them here:

Lament of a Lockdown Lass by Deborah Redden (Day 1)

The New Normal by Betsy Henderson (Day 2)

The New Normal by Rita Dalgliesh/My Lockdown by Frank Walker (Day 3)

Lockdown by Steph Newham (Day 4)

Heat by Paula Nicolson (Day 5)