Margaret Elphinstone Takes Us on a Journey

October 30 Meeting, 7:30 pm, Edinbane Hall

     “…you pick up your character and you follow them. He wanders through all these          worlds, and you need to know what he needs to know. So I got out my canoe on the            Ottawa  River and we went canoeing.”

As I began to research Margaret Elphinstone’s writing projects along with my own memories of her, a thought started to niggle at me about some authors: It’s not just the reading of a book. It’s the body heat it absorbs from my hands. The placing of  my index finger on a precious phrase. The book mark reluctantly fitted against the gutter, when the real world calls me away.

In my own nomadic state, Kindle has had to suffice. As I readied to order a virtual novel of Margaret’s, I saw the words from a couple of lit reviews: “…old-fashioned.” “…slow and beautiful.” “…emotional landslide.” I knew the download would have to wait until I could hold this novel in my hands. Some books are like that.

ElphinstoneHazelnut

“My unimposing find was a scrap of roasted hazelnut, which, when carbon-dated, extended the known history of Orkney back to around 6000 BC. To the time of my novel in fact; I took this as an excellent omen. (The Gathering Night)

Margaret will be visiting the Reading Room on October 30, with the theme, “Journeys into Writing,” and will also discuss the journey theme in her books. Both will be exciting in different ways. She is a documented master of creating characters’ internal journeys from the research that takes her on marvelous adventures. She has made discoveries on archeological digs, ringed a puffin, spent days alone on uninhabited islands, got marooned on Shivinish, made a coracle on Coll (and paddled), and felt the heat through her boots on the cooling lava of Eldfell on the Icelandic island of Heinmaey.

That’s not where it ends though. The author is a child of the 1960s, and she had a bellyful of fire for civil rights, the peace movement, the second wave of feminism, anti-nuclear demonstrations and scrutiny of the values, lifestyles and institutions of the day. “In those days, we thought we would change the world,” she says, to echo American radical feminist Marilyn French.

ElphinstoneSeaVoyabers

Elphinstone sat on the doorstep of Eirik the Red’s house. Very little had changed from what Gudrid had seen 1000 years ago. (Sea Voyageurs)

Margaret appears to have started out her life with a big bang of ideologies, which she claims are invisible from within. “The world does change, but nobody changes it…what we have perceived as the natural order of things cannot be wiped out by any effort of will.”

The era of her novel-writing seems to have popped up in the middle of her life, when she jumped off of the activist treadmill. She suggests writing her novels was an absorbing immersion but we could see it as a natural progression in her study of human nature and “where have we been, where are we going to?”

ElphinstoneSeaRoadElphinstone remarks that as a historical novelist, her characters are constructed by history–not only do they speak and act according to their context, but they can only think and feel within that context. Is this passion she has devoted to the history of our survival the missing link necessary to her developing formula for the future? She has commented that her own generation has been unable to accept a historical cause and effect. “Over issues of climate change or economic profligacy, we have not fully experienced how the world changes.”

Now novel-writing has been retired and she has hopped onto the treadmill again. We can catch her writing essays, making speeches and causing little rumbles within mountain caverns. Margaret Elphinstone is being heard again in those earlier hallways that still echo with a human condition that needs a strong voice. The intimate energy of Edinbane Hall will surely be agitating the little grey cells of anyone thirsty enough to show up.

The evening will begin at 7:30 p.m.. Admission is free for members, £5 for non-members. Our reasonable memberships are always available at the door. Refreshments will  be served and our Good Reads table will exhibit a variety of books, including our two Reading Room anthologies.

For information regarding this event or the Reading Room, we can be contacted at skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or on Facebook: Reading Room – Skye.

This event is sponsored in part by Scottish Book Trust Live Lit

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Scottish Quine Gerda Stevenson to Lead Writing Workshop at Monthly Meeting

Writing Workshop, Edinbane Hall, Tuesday, September 25, 7:30 p.m.

For a writing workshop, there is a rule worth tucking into your bag, along with notebook, pencil, eraser and water bottle:  “Consider the source.”

With Gerda Stevenson as your evening muse, your little smiley button which assures You are Great! can rest in peace. This is a woman who will inspire creativity. She assures participants of her intent:

“I always think that the purpose of a workshop is to stimulate the writers through various exercises, so that they go away with a bank of new raw material ready to be honed in their own time.”

Our September monthly meeting will offer readers and writers the privilege of meeting with this lady, who has generated an incredible amount of art in her life. She was a Scottish Borders child. Trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, she has displayed her acting talent in many stage and television productions. Her performance in the film, Blue Black Permanent (Greta), won her the BAFTA Scotland Best Film Actress Award and she may have been one of the more convincing characters in Braveheart

Gerda has commissioned and directed many programmes for BBC Radio Scotland, working with established Scottish dramatists such as Donald Campbell, Alan Spence, Janet Paisley and Anne Downie. We would know her voice from the long list of British radio stories she has read.

Her writing gifts seem to have no bounds. Along with her many radio adaptations, she is a visiting lecturer at the University of Glasgow, where her poetry collection, If This Were Real, and her stage play Federer Versus Murray are studied on the Contemporary Scottish Literature course. Her poetry and prose have appeared in the Scotsman, the Herald and New Writing Scotland. In 2014, Gerda was awarded a Creative Scotland Artist’s Bursary, to write her second collection, Quines, on neglected Scottish women. This outstanding 2018 collection (Luath Press) is kicking critics into attention.

In 2014, she was nominated as one of the Saltire Society’s OUTSTANDING WOMEN OF SCOTLAND. She has run many acting, writing and story-telling workshops in schools and drama colleges across Scotland. If anything can lure you to this workshop, The Thomas Muir Lecture 2018 video will show you what you don’t want to miss! 

Everyone is welcome to join the Reading Room on Tuesday, September 25, 7:30 p.m., at Edinbane Community Hall. There is no admission fee and no preparation is required. This evening is dedicated to enjoying Gerda’s inspirational presence and to relaxed enjoyment and appreciation of the art of writing. Committee member Debbie Roberts, will host the event.

Some of the Reading Room group will meet in the Edinbane Inn pub, for dinner and pre-event camaraderie. All are welcome to join in, at 6-ish.

On Wednesday, September 26, Gerda will be interviewed by Simon Clayton, on his Cuillin FM show, Simon Clayton’s Ever Changing Moods, airing between 10 am-12 noon.

For information regarding this event or the Reading Room, we can be contacted at skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or on Facebook: Reading Room – Skye.

The People’s Poet Harry Gallagher To Juice up Open Mic

Nurse Ratchet might have sent Harry Gallagher downstairs for irreversible treatment but his electrical poetry and delivery threaten only to send thrills down spines. He is The People’s Poet, who performs up and down the UK, sharing his rhyme and rhythm penned for anyone who toucheHarryGs his heart – and it must be big and tender, because he is champion of so many, with his words that cut, bruise and soothe.

Write in Tuesday, July 10, with a big scratchy star, to see Harry and hear a lot of super poetry by him and participants of our Open Mic, at the intimate Edinbane Community Hall, 7:30 p.m.

Harry is described by poet and Black Light Engine Room Press editor, p.a. morbid, as a “truly wonderful troubadour of the everyday”, for his latest collection, How it is – Snapshots From a Northern Town (Stairwell Books, 2018). 

HarryNorthern Lights

“Gulls idly chatter with herons on bones of conveyors, cranes, staithes lodged in silt, water topped up with ancient stevedore blood.” Ghost River

Stunningly beautiful one second, brutal the next.  He gets to the guts of what it means to be a modern human.”
Robert Francis, poet and host of Permission To Speak event, Stourbridge

In his poem, “Bevin Boy”, Harry illustrates why his work is considered a love letter to the people from the North East of England:

No bloody medal for you,
just backbreak and slack
that seeped through your lungs,
laying the eggs of the wheezes
that you always knew
would oneday sing you to sleep.

Harry Gallagher lives and writes on the North East coast. His work has been widelyHarry GChasing the Sunset published by, among others, The Stare’s Nest, Black Light Engine Room, Lucifer Press, Rebel Poetry, The Fat Damsel, Material, Alliterati, Dead Snakes, Write Minds and Clear Poetry.  He is co-founder of The Stanza, a monthly poetry night in Newcastle upon Tyne.

There will also be an opportunity for local writers to share their work in 5-minute slots during the Open Mic session. Please sign up with Francis Mitchell when you arrive or contact the Reading Room at skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk.

Entrance is free for participants and members; £3 for non-members/non-participants. Tea, coffee and treats are served. Everyone is welcome. There is some parking at the hall and more on the street. Some of us stop into the Edinbane Inn for dinner around 6 p.m. Please feel free to join us.

We can be contacted at skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or on Facebook: Reading Room – Skye.

A.C. Clarke Taking Poetry to the World

…and she is bringing her varied talents to the Reading Room this month, giving a talk illustrated by readings along the lines ‘From Saxons to Surrealism’, charting her development as a poet.

She is a poet but is also a judge of poetry. This means to me that she is someone who understands what it takes to create fine poesy and who also can take us as writers to another level from simply writing poetry, to recognizing what will be meaningful to others – is our writing universal?

As a translator, A.C.Clarke is interested in the discipline of language and in getting inside the skin of the translated poet. Her penchant for gaining the perspectives of others also is gratified by writing about marginalised and historical figures like the ‘wild girl of Champagne’, ‘Wild Peter’ and Helen Duncan (the last person in the UK to be tried for witchcraft). Her fifth collection of poems, A Troubling Woman (Oversteps Books, 2017), is centred on the life of the medieval visionary Margery Kempe and serves as a companion to her poem collection about the atheist priest Jean Meslier, Fr Meslier’s Confession. Both examine the various aspects of belief and doubt.

The poet has been involved for several years in ‘polishing’ poems and short stories by Romanian writers. Her poems have been translated into Romanian (most recently in the new Anthology of Scottish Poets, Diehard Press 2016) and into Albanian, Arabic, German and Italian. She has experience of working with refugee poets and is also a qualified Further Education teacher.

A.C. Clarke moved to Scotland in 2002, after retiring from teaching and university administration. At that time, she began taking her writing more seriously and since then, the world of poetry has been acknowledging her work. She has been regularly published and invited to appear at events in Scotland. Her work has been awarded, commended, long-listed and short-listed regularly since 2004. She was Makar for the Federation of Writers (Scotland) 2007-2008 and is an active member of Scottish PEN.

” …sulphur woven into a scarf of fog, incense cloying my brain in the church where once the marble altar steps rose up to meet my forehead, seamed it for life.”

Most recently, Owersettin, a pamphlet in English, Scots and Gaelic in collaboration with Maggie Rabatski and Sheila Templeton, was published by Tapsalteerie in 2016. She was one of four joint prizewinners in the 2017 Cinnamon Poetry Pamphlet Competition and her winning pamphlet, War Baby, was published by Cinnamon Press early in 2018.

She is currently working on a harebrained scheme to translate all of Paul Éluard’s poems (at least 1,000) before she dies! and on an ever-expanding series of poems about his first wife Gala (Dali) and the Surrealist circle.

Please join the Reading Room for our Tuesday, June 26 meeting at Edinbane Hall, at 7:30 p.m., and welcome A.C. Clarke for an evening of poetry and inspiration.

Admission for non-members is £5. Everyone is welcome. Refreshments will be served and our Good Reads table will be available for perusal and purchase of new and used gems.

For information on events and our reasonably-priced! memberships, please contact us via e-mail at skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or on Facebook: Reading Room – Skye.

 

 

 

Saturday Afternoon OPEN MIC!

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Please note Rody Gorman is unable to be here but all else is a go! Come and enjoy an afternoon of refined and/or wacky writing at Aros on the Isle of Skye.

OPenMicJune 2

Domestic Noir Crime Writer Helen Fitzgerald Coming to Reading Room

Helen Fitzgerald

“I am not as dark and scary as my books!”

Helen Fitzgerald can make you laugh. A naughty laugh; a deep-throated huh-huh; a sly grinning diaphragm-raising bark; and she can elicit varieties of smilies, gigglies and guffaws–all the better for the reader, who will have to endure the gristle of societal atrocities the author attacks in her stories.

It is her trademark black humour that twists the contemporary crime she writes about into palatable irony the reader can actually enjoy. Of her 2016 novel, Viral, Mark Billingham, author of the Tom Thorne novels, wrote, “A sobering fable of savagery in social media, it combines impressive storytelling with the courage to tackle the ugliness lurking beneath the shiny surface of the modern world.”

Fitzgerald has received flak and admiration for the book’s memorable first line and she states emphatically what makes it so powerful: “In just a few words, I’d nailed the inciting incident, the voice of the character and a problem hefty enough to drive the novel: Public shaming defines and destroys you…I am very proud of every line in

Helen F Viral

this book.  And I don’t apologise for the first one. I believe it’s the perfect way to start a story about social hypocrisy.”

The author’s writing is pacy, sharp, funny and disturbing: “…psychologically astute and well written at the level of the sentence….It is good to know that bestsellers don’t have to be stupid.” (Nicholas Lezard for The Guardian)

Australian-born Helen FitzGerald worked as a criminal justice social worker in Glasgow for over ten years, latterly with serious sex offenders in Barlinnie Prison. Her first novel, Dead Lovely, was written on maternity leave and published by Faber and Faber in June, 2008.

 

The best-selling author has written ten other adult and young adult thrillers, including My Last Confession (2009), The Donor (2011) and The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the UK’s top crimefiction award, Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.

Other projects Helen has produced are BBC Scotland television’s The Ancient Greeks and The Risk Races; feature film in development with Black Camel Films, The Devil’s Staircase; and a television series in development with BBC Scotland and Synchronicity Films, Dead Lovely.

We will welcome Helen Fitzgerald at our May 29 event, in Edinbane Community Hall, 7:30 p.m. Our events are open to the public. Admission is £5; members are free and our reasonable memberships are available at the door. Refreshments will be served. Please feel free to browse our Good Reads section, which includes the first two Reading Room anthologies – these are wonderful reading and include works from some local and Scottish writers you may know!

We welcome inquiries for memberships and information on our events. We can be contacted by e-mail at  skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or message us on Facebook at Reading Room – Skye.

 

 

Pain and Pleasure: AGM followed by Paul Rees!

Admittedly, our April 24 meeting is about our Annual General Meeting, which, being a legal requirement, we are bound to hold. Click here for more info: AGM 2018.  We hope our members will be content to endure it along with us if we add some spice an’ pop to entice. The Reading Room loves an excuse to draw in members who can’t always show up at events but who might find allurement in the fact that they can come and have a say in what we’ve done the past year and where we will go the next year. It is also an opportunity to see neighbours and literary friends for an evening of business and pleasure. This year’s AGM offers something for everyone.

For those who revel in accounting, business entities, economics, marketing and organization, the first half of the night is your cookie! It must represent pain to many, as it’s like pulling the tooth to get them here. A bonus might be that you can nominate yourself to be on the hard-working committee and condemn yourself to a year of creative brain-storming to bring more fabulous writers to Skye. 

If the AGM is painful for you, the pleasure will be yours as well as ours, because we are delighted that writer and journalist Paul Rees has agreed to join us for the evening and give us, as he puts it, “a broad summation of 30 years’ acquired knowledge (or otherwise) writing about music”. 

Rees served as Editor-in-Chief of the music magazines Q and Kerrang! for a total of thirteen years up to 2012. During this period, he interviewed everybody from Sir Paul McCartney, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and Iggy Pop to AC/DC, Noel Gallagher, Take That and Adele. His work has also been published in Sunday Times Culture, Sunday Times Magazine, the Telegraph, When Saturday Comes, Outdoor Fitness, Classic Rock, Lonely Planet and a host of other national and international magazines and periodicals. He also lectures in journalism and magazine craft at Lincoln University.

Paul Rees Three DegreesOur guest is also the author of five books. Among them are Robert Plant: A Life, the first major biography of the ex-Led Zeppelin singer, and The Three Degrees: The Men Who Changed British Football Forever, which was long-listed for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award in 2014. He has co-authored ace session guitarist Steve Lukather’s memoir, The Gospel According to Luke, which will be published June of this year and he is currently at work on his next book – the authorised biography of the Who’s legendary bassist John Entwistle.

Please join us and let us know what we are doing that turns you on and what you would like to see us do in the coming year and if/how you would like to be involved. Everyone is welcome. There is no admission fee.

The meeting will be held in Edinbane Community Hall, from 7:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served. There is some parking at the hall and plenty on the street.

For information on Reading Room events, our reasonable membership, or for suggestions, please contact us at  skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or message us on Facebook at Reading Room – Skye.