Friday, 25 February 2011

Nik´s Last Stand

The 23 February was the designated day for Nik Morton to stand down after five years as Chair of the Torrevieja Writers´Circle.

Nik has recently taken on work with Solstice Publishing as Editor and that, together with his own writing, decided him to step down and hand over to another member, Ian Clarke.

The first half of the meeting followed the usual format with members reading their work and putting it up for constructive criticism.

First off was Gerry with part of a story set at the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War. Very atmospheric and worth working at but point of view issues needed attending to.

Stan told the salutary tale of a dog left in an American-type Cadillac -the pride and joy of the owner , who was devastated to find it ripped to shreds when the offending pooch was let out. An ouch feeling around the room!

Rita, our spiritualist member, read a short story set in 11th century Persia. Lots of interesting detail.

Alan Winter read  a piece about letters to newspapers and began with the Kingsley Amies´ quote: "If you can´t offend anybody, is there any point in writing?"  Any views on this?

Glyn continued reading from his novel where the PTSS soldier has just murdered a prostitute. His description of a man in meltdown was excellent.

John McGregor continued his tales of sales people and had a go at pharmacists.

Anne Grierson wrote on the day´s topic "A Long Night" and gave an accurate description, recognised by everyone, of a sleepless night.

Nik wound up with some useful pointers on words which, when used wrongly, have been  declared by editors to be irritating and best avoided. They were: sigh, glance, growl, blink, stare, hiss, look and could see.

Since coffee arrived at this point, the meeting moved into social mode and the cakes and biscuits brought along by members ( Maureen, Jane, Lisa, Nan - sorry if I´ve left anyone out) were fallen upon and eaten with gusto.

Ian, in his role as incoming Chair, thanked Nik for his sterling work during his five years as Chair, and as a token of members´appreciation  presented him with an Amazon Kindle eReader.

Chris and Mary K both read poems specially written  for the occasion (See Below) and then Nik made a speech of thanks, appreciation for our work as writers and encouragement for the future (also See Below). Quoting the Terminator, he threatened/promised "I´ll be back" and we hope he will!
23 members then went into the restaurant and had a very pleasant lunch.

                                                        Hasta La Vista Nik!

Nik´s speech.
After five years as Chairman, I ask myself, why do we come to the TWC meetings? Presumably, we all like to read – whether books or magazines. Most of us were brought up with a love of books – either imparted by our parents or our teachers. Even in this age of the e-book, books play an important part in our lives. As Cicero said, ‘A room without books is like a body without soul.’

The Canadian-Japanese Professor of English, Samuel Hayakawa said, ‘In a very real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read… It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish.’

They’re talking about books. But we aren’t a reading circle. We strive to write. As E L Doctorow said, ‘Planning to write is not writing. Outlining a book is not writing. Researching is not writing. Talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.’

So it’s the placing of your bum on a chair and writing. No pressure, there then.
Still, as we know – no pressure, no diamonds.

Many of you have written for years and received little or no pecuniary reward, but that doesn’t stop you, nor should it. Richard Bach, who wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull, says, quite rightly, ‘A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.’

So, if it isn’t for the financial reward, why do we write? Is it because we must? Katherine Mansfield said, ‘Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was, too. But better far to write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.’ Maybe we want to make sense of the world, or understand ourselves, our past. Indeed, the life of every person is like a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another.

I think I’ve used this quotation from O Henry before, but make no apology for using it again: "A good story is like a bitter pill, with the sugar coating inside of it."

Maybe that’s it: we just like telling stories! To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything. Of course, you don’t have to rely on imagination; you can reminisce about your past. You don’t have to write fiction. You can write memoirs and poems, rants and articles. It doesn’t matter, really, so long as you write. You write to be read, however. You write for an audience, even if that’s an audience of one or the circle members only. You don’t write for praise, though it’s always welcome. You write to affect others, to raise a laugh, stir an emotion, elicit a tear. You don’t write to slavishly copy your favourite authors. Each one of us is unique, and we see the world and humanity in different ways. The secret is that in our writing we invite the reader to see the world – our imagined world – as we see it.

In my five years of Chairmanship, I’ve been privileged to listen to a vast array of writing from the TWC members – poems that made me think or cry, stories that made me laugh and empathise, articles that made me see some aspect of life with a fresh eye. Many of you have already done it, but I would recommend that in your writing, make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.

Thank you for putting up with my terrible puns over the years. I’ll miss banging my gavel, and inevitably I’ll miss several gems that will be read out in future meetings, since I will no longer be a regular attendee. However, to use a final quotation, in the immortal words of the Terminator, ‘I’ll be back.’

The Poems "Woe!" by Chris and "Hasta Luego" by Mary K

        Woe! The Master Leaves! 

Five whole years! That´s quite a stint!
And now you´re off. (Is that a hint?)

We realise we´re not best sellers
But try quite hard as story tellers.

You´ve given us loads of good advice
And said the following more than twice:

* Start off with a thrilling hook
* Show, not tell should fill our book
* Take great care with point of view
* Repeated words we must eschew

You´ve led us on to levels higher
And with good grace you may retire

We´ll miss your firm and guiding hands
Your puns and jokeshave made us fans.

So off you go with your eReader
O Wondrous Chief, O Worthy Leader!

Armed to the teeth with your new Kindle
Your lust to read will never dwindle.

We wish you well with future schemes
And hope you´ll soon fulfill your dreams.

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks, all, for the send-off - and for the Kindle. Keep writing!