The year 2015 – 2016 has been a very busy one for HW members, with many projects on the go at the same time.
We started the year continuing our collaborative project with local photographer Norma Evans, with Huntly Writers crafting poems to match her evocative landscape pictures. Norma achieved much deserved high marks with her final, one-off book entitled ‘Landscape – Capturing the Spirit of a Place’ and we agreed to look at the possibilities of producing a joint book, using the same content, at some time in the future.
Based on Kristin’s success last year, with the publication of her horror story entitled ‘Bad Mother’, we agreed to focus this year on writing short stories with a paranormal theme for our next anthology. We have been entertaining each other ever since with spine tingling
tales of technocrats who build the perfect lover; a shape-changing woman who’s alter ego is a big cat; very scary scarecrows that turn ugly; sea shells and gastropods with disgusting habits; and many, many more tales, both paranormal and supernatural, that have had us on the edge of our seats. The anthology will be called ‘Open With Care’ and is being published in conjunction with Duncan Lockerbie of Lumphanan Press.
At the end of September we successfully applied for a grant from the Clashindarroch Community Fund, which has provided the funds to publish three books: our paranormal anthology; the selected works of Margaret Grant, including poetry from her first 3 books together with previously unpublished material, which will also be published in conjunction with Lumphanan Press; and Ron Brander’s book ‘Over the Hills to Huntly’, which is being published in conjunction with Leopard Press.
In March we took the decision to create a new, vibrant HW website and take over the running of it ourselves. The plan is for this new website to be up and running by the end of June and we are all looking forward to it.
We had two successful fundraising events this year. The first was mid-August when we provided the refreshments and raffle for a summer ceilidh in Stewarts Hall, raising a grand total of £243, which was split 50/50 with Orb’s Bookshop. The second was a successful face painting day at Orbs Bookshop during the Huntly Hairst in September. Mid-September, Phil Cope entertained us with an excellent evening talk, hosted in the newly restored Episcopal Church in Huntly, about the ‘Holy Wells of Scotland’; followed the next evening with a writing workshop. For National Poetry Day on 8th October the theme was ‘light’ and we had a joint event with Sue Mercer at Huntly Library, with Huntly Writers either reading their own poems, or poems from Angus Dunn’s new book ‘High County’ as a tribute to this well-known writer who died recently.
Our venture running Orb’s Bookshop continues to build steadily and our little group of volunteers has grown. We have been reasonably successful financially and have an ongoing agreement with local artists, ‘Handmade in Huntly’, for the display and sale of their work. In addition the bookshop is very well supported by the local community and we have a growing band of followers on Facebook. Thanks go to all members and other volunteers that have been involved in this.
The membership roll this year has remained fairly steady and we are always happy to welcome new members. Whilst Lucy now lives in Ilminster in Somerset, she remains an active member and visits us occasionally. Charlie paid us a final visit in July before moving down to Suffolk permanently; but he continues to have success with his ‘Beyond Endless Tide’ trilogy and hopes to be involved in a ‘fringe’ event at the ‘Mermaid Festival’ in Folkestone this summer.
Sadly, three of our past members have passed away during the last year.
Just before our last AGM in 2015, we learnt of the death of honorary Huntly Writer, Brian Nisbet. Several memorial events were organised, including one very successful evening at Orb’s Bookshop on 24th June, which included poignant readings from his new book of poetry entitled ‘Now You Know’.
In October, one of our founder members Margaret Grant, who was also the Huntly Makar, died after a short illness. Margaret was very well known for her pithy and humorous Doric poems and will be sadly missed by many. The publication of her ‘Selected Works’ has now taken on another dimension and we are working closely with her family to ensure this is a fitting tribute to this well-loved, local writer.
Lastly, in November we learned that former HW member, Jenny Kageler died recently in South Africa. Annie remembers Jenny and her suitcase filled with photographs well and has volunteered to write an obituary for her.
Obituaries for all three will appear on our new website.
Members of Huntly Writers continue to have work published in a variety of publications and to take part in readings, competitions and arts events in the North-East. Over the year we have entertained each other with writings inspired by personal life stories and events; family histories; travel experiences and bucket loads of imagination. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- on-going instalments from Cara’s next ‘Sea Crow’ novel
- Leon’s bewitching tales of Murdo and Moira and their eclectic household with Bruce the dog, Jaffa the cat, the Man who digs and the Lady who does.
- Tom, one of our newer members, has come into his own this past year and regularly regales us with an intriguing mix of irresistible tales based on his experiences of the Scottish legal system.
- Linda has two Doric poems about to be published; one in Leopard Magazine and another in the forthcoming issue of Causeway magazine.
- Our treasurer Mary had a sonnet published in ‘Lonely: a collection of poetry and prose on loneliness and being alone’, compiled by Robin Barrett.
- In January, Susan entered a poem about Loch Strathbeg entitled ‘Fit’s fleein aboot far in October?’ to Sangschaw 2016, the Scots Language Society competition; and received a ‘Highly commended’ for it – the poem is soon to be published in Lallans 88
- Anne Forbes continues to have success with her book ‘Trials and Triumphs – the Gordons of Huntly in 16th century Scotland’ (published by Birlinn in 2012). The book was a best seller at Huntly Castle last year, making them £300. In addition, Historic Scotland has agreed to laminate her collection of pictures to make a new display folder for visitors to the castle
- Then in October, Kristin’s paranormal story ‘The Tattibogle” came runner up in The Ghost Story website supernatural fiction short story competition
- Well done to all, including many more excellent contributions from Maureen, Carol, Haworth, Ruth, Annie, Janice, Anne R., Linda, Mary and all others who have joined us.
Thanks go to all the Huntly Writers, who have made every meeting enjoyable, bringing to life characters and events in each of their own inimitable styles. We are all different and write in unique ways; and it is these differences that help to make our group the success that it is. With several projects in the pipeline and three new books soon to be published, 2016 promises to be another exhilarating year for Huntly Writers and long may it continue to do so.