Minutes of the meeting at La Rosa Hotel on the above date.

Present: Adele, Barbara, Harry, Jenny, Karen, MichelePipIan (chair).

Apologies: Gill, John, Kaz, Lesley.

Topic: Members’ work-in-progress.


Matters Arising

Michele reported her positive experience with the Historical Fiction Critique Group on Facebook, who are helping her improve her novel.

Adele described taking part in an online seminar for poets: How to get published, run by the Rebecca Swift Foundation.

Members’ Readings

Harry — reported that the Swansea project on the applicability of lucid dreaming to short-story writing had now finished. This required the submission of a story by the participants both before and after their dream-recall training, which it was hoped would demonstrate some benefit from it. He read his “after” story: an improved version of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, which brought the eponymous “Lucy” to life and described her world in the first person: the world of 3.2 million years ago, when her hominin species Australopithecus afarensis walked the earth.
The story was received enthusiastically by the group. Ian was certain he detected an increase in colour and clarity in Harry’s use of imagery compared to his earlier work. Whole scenes spring into sharp focus from no more than half a sentence, in the starved vocabulary Harry deliberately uses to convey Lucy’s untutored perception of her life in the wilderness. Other members recommended Harry to submit the story to competitions, convinced it was a front runner.

Barbara — continued with her murder mystery. The scene is Market Pickwell, England in 1950. John, a detective chief inspector, and Maud, his girlfriend, discuss a recent crop of robberies in the area.

Adele — continued reading from her Covid diary from the week before Christmas 2021. Cases are rising rapidly of the new Omicron variant. The government have declared that a wait of 15 minutes after the jab is no longer necessary. There is an air of unreality to the whole exercise: is this an evidence-based finding, or simply a government edict to speed the processing of millions of people eligible for the jab?
Husband Neil’s workplace night-out finds the Duke of York shut, plus the Board Inn next door. They grudgingly repair to The Dolphin. Across the harbour, Abbey Wharf is seen to be heaving with people. There seems no consistency in the application of social distancing. In Scotland Nicola Sturgeon cancels Hogmanay, but relaxes all restrictions during Christmas Day.
The author admits to rebellious feelings of aversion to taking the lateral flow tests mandated by her public-facing job. This leads her to wonder how many people are simply scorning the requirement to protect the public.

Jenny — continued reading from her period novel in-progress based on the historical figure of Mary Eleanor Bowes, the heiress of a vast fortune from the Durham coalfields. The unscrupulous gold-digger Andrew Stoney has gained an entrée to Newcastle high society, and has met a prostitute Molly with similar aspirations. With Molly on his arm, dressed for the occasion, he is admitted without question to the Public Assembly Rooms, intending to pursue his courtship of the wealthy but somewhat plain Miss Hannah Newton. In a moment of inspiration he introduces Molly as his cousin. Molly then slips away on her quest to find herself a “protector”, which gives Andrew an unexpected pang of jealousy.
Hannah’s cousin seeks out Andrew and reveals that he is engaged to be married to Hannah. Andrew, anticipating trouble, is amazed to be presented with 50 guineas to go through with his suit. The cousins’ engagement is a reluctant one, forced on him by the Newtons’ determination to keep the money in the family.

Ian — read part of a youthful work he is thinking about expanding to book length: The Dark before the Dawn. An old lady living alone gets up in the night to check that the gas is turned off in her kitchen. She falls and breaks her hip. As she lies in the dark on the kitchen floor, waiting to be rescued in the morning by her home help, her thoughts, dreams and hallucinations are recounted.
First published in Cum Grano 24, the literary magazine of the Students’ Union, University of Keele, the story was reprinted in Volchin & Other Stories (2017) edited by Maxwell Clark, ISBN 978-1-898728-44-3.

Karen — read a heartbreaking chapter from her autobiography in-progress. The family have just celebrated a big event. But at 4 AM a phone call from the hospital alerts them to a terrible tragedy.

Michele — read a further instalment of her novel in-progress: The Undesirables, set in Southern Africa during the Boer War, 1898-1902. At Camp Irene, the new camp doctor is appraised of the terrible situation by the padre, who explains that the Army has simply dumped refugees and interned women and children in the camp without proper supplies or sanitation. Disease is running rampant, and deaths are high, mostly of children. The doctor thinks that he can bring disease under control simply by the provision of clean water, and steps are taken to supply this to camp inmates via standpipes.

The meeting closed at 1:05 PM.