50 Shades of Tay

50 Shades of Tay, the Nethergate Writers new publication, is now available.

This compact, pocket-sized collection contains fifty 50-word stories and poems, all relating to Dundee, the River Tay and the surrounding area.

Inside its 52 pages you’ll find a variety of voices, styles and subjects, from the last thoughts of the Tay Whale and memories of the Fifie to the tale of a sledging disaster on the Law and the delights of karaoke at the Club Bar.

Click below to order now, for only £5 per copy, with free postage and packing in the UK.


Festive Greetings

“This is quite the season indeed for friendly meetings. At Christmas every body invites their friends about them, and people think little of even the worst weather. I was snowed up at a friend’s house once for a week. Nothing could be pleasanter.” (Emma by Jane Austen.)

We would agree entirely with Jane, provided you have some good books to hand to see you through!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all the Nethergate Writers.

Wittering From The Webmaster – 5th December 2018

Here’s Craig’s rundown of the events at our last meeting of 2018.

Present – Abbie, Aileen, Colin, Craig, David C, David F, Ray, Richard, Sue and George

Apologies – Fiona, Roddie, Rosie

We started by welcoming along a new face to the group, George, who had come along to see what we do, and who we all hope will be able to join us more regularly in the new year.

Our first piece of writing for the evening was Craig’s submission for the Scottish Book Trust’s monthly ‘50 Word Fiction’ contest. The theme for December is ‘A Winter Feast’, and Craig’s piece, in the form of a festive menu with ‘unconventional’ additions to the dishes, was well received by all. David F said he had found it particularly amusing, and with just a few minor suggestions for tweaks, it was ready for submission to the competition.

Next up we heard Richard’s as-yet-untitled villanelle on the perils of following the herd, even when it can be seen that it is likely to do you more harm than good. We all liked it a lot, and the relevance of the subject matter to current political events was clear to see.

We then moved on to discussing group business.

First up was the signing event we had planned at Waterstones for the following evening. This turned out to be well attended by group members, and resulted in us selling the remaining stock of 50 Shades of Tay to Waterstones. (Copies are still available in-store, but are now in very short supply!)

We then started to look forward to our next project. David C gave a run down of the currently agreed ideas, which are that it will be short stories, of approximately 2500 to 3000 words, and that agreeing to some overarching theme would be desirable. We had hoped that this could be done in time for next year’s Book Week Scotland, but Abbie thought this might be too tight a timescale to allow for the additional editing, layout and design that would required for longer pieces, in comparison to the short pieces in 50 Shades of Tay. To perhaps assist with deciding on the theme, Craig agreed to contact Steve Finan from DC Thomson, who had attended one of our previous meetings, to discuss the possibility of a visit to the DC Thomson archives early in the new year. It was agreed, however, that once a theme had been decided upon, a period of three months for each of us to write the stories for inclusion seemed reasonable.

Craig also drew the group’s attention to the Dundee Rep’s ‘The Rep – Stripped’ call for new and work-in-progress scripts for possible presentation by the Rep Ensemble, and he forwarded round the details by e-mail after the meeting.

We also took a vote on the suggestion that each member should pay £20 for the room hire charge that we now incur from Dundee University, and it was unanimously agreed.

We ended with a small writing exercise, provided by Abbie, which produced some amusing results, involving fish, pianos and trips to the local A&E!

Our first meeting of 2019 is on Wednesday 30th January, in the Dalhousie Building, and we’d love to welcome along any interested new writers.

Rebel – A Free e-Book

Last week was Book Week Scotland and to mark the occasion the Scottish Book Trust published a collection of short stories called Rebel, and one of them was by a Nethergate Writer.

Roddie McKenzie, writing as Docboy, had his story ‘Beer, Loathing and Air Piracy’ chosen for inclusion from amongst the many submissions.

One hundred thousand copies have been distributed across Scotland through public libraries and bookshops, but if you haven’t managed to grab one yet, you can download the e-book or audiobook versions free from the Scottish Book Trust website here.

If you go for the audio option, you’ll even get to hear it read by Roddie himself!

The Webmaster’s Witterings – 3rd of October 2018

Craig has all the news from our most recent meeting

Nethergate Writers Meeting – 3rd October 2018
Present – Abby, Craig, Richard, Roddie, Sue
Apologies – Aileen, Colin, David C, David F, Rosie

1 – Steve Finan from DC Thomson Media Heritage
For the first half of the meeting we were visited by Steve Finan, who is in charge of the DC Thomson Media Heritage department. Steve has been a journalist with DC Thomson for his entire working life, and has written for a number of their publications, including The Courier and Sunday Post, and he is now involved with looking for ways to utilise the vast wealth of material in the DC Thomson archive. So far, this has included publishing two volumes of household hints and tips taken from the Sunday Post’s ‘Pass It On’ columns from the 1950s, as well as ‘Lifted Over The Turnstiles – Scotland’s Football Grounds In The Black and White Era’. Steve is, however, interested in finding out of there are ways that the archive can be used to help spark some creative writing, too, and had approached our group at the recent launch night for ‘”50 Shades of Tay”.

We had a most entertaining and productive discussion, with Steve telling us about a range of resources that stretch way beyond the obvious titles of DC Thomson’s newspapers, the People’s Friend and the company’s famous comics, to include lesser known works such as the ‘Woman’s Way’ magazine from the early part of the 20th century and Dixon Hawke, the detective who has appeared in more published appearances than any other fictional character.

We’d like to thank Steve for taking the time to visit us, and certainly hope that we may be able to work together in the future.

2 – 50 Shades Updates

Fiona has been into the Quirky Coo, and they have taken 10 copies on a ‘Sale or Return’ basis. Craig reported that, unfortunately, the McManus had decided not to take any copies.

Abby is going to contact Waterstones regarding the offer of a signing event in the run up to Christmas, and will send a copy of the press release to Steve.

David F had asked by e-mail about the prints we had produced of some of the pieces and which are now on display in the Waterstones cafe. We need to check with Rosie where David’s piece has ended up, as it was used on the table at the launch night rather than being one of those in permanent display in the cafe. If any other members want specific prints, we may be able to order these from Pulse North, and it would be best to collect orders together rather then doing it piecemeal.

Abby also floated the idea of postcards based on some of the 50 Shades pieces.

3 – Nethergate Writers meetings

We decided upon provisional dates of the 7th November and 3rd December as the dates for our next two Nethergate Writers meetings, but these may be subject to change. We also discussed the format of these meetings, and whether these will be different from the upcoming classes with Zoe. It was felt that perhaps too much of our meetings are currently taken up with business discussions, rather than looking at member’s writing, and it was agreed to try and restrict the amount of time devoted to non-writing discussion at future meetings.

4 – Writing

We had two pieces of writing to discuss.

The first was Roddie’s poem ‘Untarnishing The Star O’ Rabbie Burns’. Written in Scots, it is a response to an article in which former Makar, Liz Lochead, had compared Burns to movie producer and alleged rapist and sexual predator Harvey Weinstein, and makes the point that it is futile to judge historical figures by contemporary moral standards. The poem was well received, although it was felt that it could be improved by restricting the criticism to the idea, rather than also including criticism of the people holding those opinions.

The second piece was by Craig, and was the introduction to a short story ‘The Lucky Horseshoe Motel’. Craig had asked in particular for thoughts on how the main character came across, and while it was felt that his attitude and eye for detail was well described, the setting (the US deep south) and language used didn’t quite ring true. Abby did say that it made her want to hear more of the story though, which is always a positive thing.

The date and venue for our next meeting is still to be determined, although some of us will be attending Zoe’s classes, which start on Wednesday 24th October in Marwick’s cafe in Union Street.

Tedious Talks On Telemetry – National Poetry Day

It’s National Poetry Day today, so here’s something from one our group’s poets – Richard Gillies

Tedious Talks on Telemetry

Rehearsed smugness, wry smile,
I agree with the sentiment it’s all vile.
Let’s return a certain uncertainty, tripping on a wire,
All this mock gravitas, it’s patently dire.

Oh for a little deliberation, some shuffling of notes,
Or misattributed adages and vulgar anecdotes.
a pitcher of water, but no glass in tow,
a little more unpreparedness, a little less good to go.

But it’s not what you know, but how you deport,
Waving your arms, like a semaphore hill fort.
Pointing with laser power, with all its pointless charm,
Prophesying a chain reaction like a chain-smoking smoke alarm.

Stating the bleeding obvious with ill-advised élan,
Standing so imperious because of course you can.
Asking important questions that no one knows for why,
Stressing with yogic hands like some enlightened guy.

So why not turn off your smartphone and go for a walk,
And work off that pork pie and make the neighbours talk.
You will hear more sense from spoke clackers on a bike,
Than some bumptious blogger wearing an over-ear mike.

Richard Gillies – August 2018

Sue’s Views

Getting back on track after the excitement of our book launch, Sue provides us with the update this week.

Nethergate Writers’ Meeting Wednesday 19th September 2018
Minutes by Sue, 24 September 2018

Present: David C, Craig, Rosie, Roddie, Richard, Sue

Apologies: Abby, Aileen, David F

1. Writing

The first piece of work was by David C called ‘Her Chance to Shine

David explained the idea came from nurses who murder patients in hospital. There are to be three parts to the story from different viewpoints, the first from Thomas, the father. We liked the descriptions but it was suggested that David could start with the action and the family then slip in the back story. The work produced interesting questions i.e. The reasons she has developed her views, why she is a sociopath and why she chose that family. It was also suggested that she communicate with the boy directly creating more suspense. We all enjoyed it and found it quite sinister and very much look forward to the next instalment.

The next piece was by Roddie called ‘Everyone wants to be Dougal Haston

This is a story he has previously written and it was agreed the language works better than before. There were differing opinions as to whether writing it in the second person added to the story or didn’t help the flow. It was also suggested that one of the female characters, Mindy was described in more detail than the males so Roddie agreed to put in more male descriptions. We all enjoyed the story and agreed it would be suitable to submit to ‘New Writing Scotland’ A discussion then followed about covering letters accompanying submitted work. Roddie made the point that they are not looking for personal histories and won’t take the time to read them. The most important point is that the work has not been published before. After they accept it more details can be given.

The final piece was by Richard which he has altered since first writing it and is called ‘Tedious Talks on Telemetry

This is about people on smart phones, gesticulating. It was agreed there was good rhyming and it was more effective being read aloud rather than reading it. An amusing question was asked about whether these people would eat pork pies and it was decided that quiche would be more appropriate! It was agreed the work was clever and amusing.

2. Business

Next was an update on the sales of 50 Shades of Tay. Verdant Works were not interested in stocking it nor sadly were VisitScotland. Craig has been to McManus Galleries where the contact had slight reservations about the title so we await the outcome. David C commented that the Birnam Arts Centre embraced the book and title!

Rosie followed this with an update on copies sold and money collected to date:

Fiona has sold 12 copies to the Discovery Point shop. Rosie will ask at the V & A and DCA is a possibility as selling outlets. Waterstones took 60 in total and they are offering us a Christmas signing to promote sales. The Birnam Arts Centre took 8.
194 have been sold and 7 through paypal. There are 100 left after free ones given out to shops so we have already made our money.

We were disappointed by the lack of press coverage and Rosie is going to email the Courier to update them.  It was suggested we offer buy one, get one free at the Christmas book launch at Waterstones but no decision on this was made.

3. Future venues

Room 2G03 at the Dalhousie building is booked again for two weeks time at a cost of £20 per night. For 2019 it was suggested that we work out how many meetings we will have and all members pay in advance. It was felt that £20 was a good deal but we should not be depleting our funds to pay for this in the future. This will require further discussion.

4. Zoe’s classes

We then discussed Zoe’s classes. We are sure she originally gave us a date in October but nobody could remember when. We all seemed satisfied by the last classes discussing a different topic each week for the first hour then reading and discussing our work during the second hour.

5. Next project

We talked about our next project, producing an anthology of short stories and whether we should work on this during Zoe’s classes.
‘The Nethergate Writers Photo Album’ has been discussed previously whereby we each bring a photo to Zoe’s class with the possibility of completing a short story by the end of the classes. Previous work could be used.
It was suggested we meet once a month during classes and it was suggested that Abby email Tom, Scott and Linden with regard to this.
We would set a date for monthly meetings at the university in between Zoe’s classes if that suits her. Craig will email Zoe about this.

Craig has been approached by Steve Finnan from D.C. Thomsons’s heritage department at the launch of 50 Shades of Tay. He would like to discuss creative ways we could work together. Craig will get in touch and find out if he would like to come along to our next meeting on Wednesday 3rd October. It was suggested that we bring some work along to that meeting.

The meeting concluded at 9pm with thanks to Craig for taking the chair.

The Mystery Of The Missing Minutes

In all the excitement of our book launch last month, it seems some of our regular reports slipped through the nets. So, for those of you following along at home, here’s Roddie’s report on our meeting from the 8th of August, 2018.

Nethergate Writers Meeting 8/8/18 at The Avery

Present: Craig, Roddie, David C, Rosie, Aileen.
Apologies: David F, Richard, Sue, Ray.

Meeting was chaired by Craig and minutes taken by Roddie.



Craig mentioned that the Meadowside Church in Marketgate could offer a room for three h for £18. Craig was going to look into this further. It was accepted that it would be unlikely that we could obtain a venue free of charge that offered privacy and quiet. Craig proposed tweeting a message asking if anyone knew of a venue – this was thought by all to be worth pursuing. David suggested a fund raising event, perhaps a sponsored hill walk or sponsored stories. Rosie noted that perhaps signing everyone who wanted to attend NW summer meetings, up for a fee that would cover the cost of room hire.

2. 50 Shades of Tay.

Everyone was pleased by the review received from Andrew Murray Scott and David C had circulated it to members. Books were being sold by Richard through Cairn o Mhor in Errol, David C was going to look into The Watermill at Aberfeldy and Roddie would look into a stall at Saturday markets in Dundee. Rosie mentioned that selling through the Tartan Cafe did not work out. There was concern that a definite date for the launch at Waterstones had not been agreed as there would be a lead time in contacting The Courier beforehand for publicity and also concern that if the launch was delayed till September, then the Courier may be full of articles on the V and A. Rosie would speak to Abby to see what progress had been made. Roddie raised the idea of a future project of having the authors read their pieces for an audio (MP3) recording. This was agreed to be worth revisiting later. Rosie felt that she could print off A3 posters for the launch. She also noted that internet banking was now operational for the NW account. To date ninety three books had been given out.

3. New project.

David had circulated a list of possible themes. Craig proposed the inspiration being members’ photo albums. Rosie thought all stories should have a photo. Roddie noted that a photo inspiring a story in the hard copy could be displayed on the web site, or a generic one could be sourced from creative commons to illustrate the story. Concerns were raised about whether members could produce enough material for a larger book of short stories of average length 2500 words (David C). Roddie suggested allowing longer stories, more than one story/poem from a given author, or making one purpose of Zoe’s classes to be the production of such material for the book.

The next meeting was agreed to be held on the 22nd of August, Rosie kindly offered to host it.


There were three items.

Craig read his short piece “I am Writing” which was an amusing and accurate portrayal of the process of the blocked writer. It was liked by all.

Roddie had circulated two pieces which will form part of his submission to the Scottish Book Trust New Chapter Awards in September. The first one was a five hundred word synopsis of the novel (Once We Were Heroes) and the longer piece was a self-contained short story that formed one of the chapters of the novel, made up from interlinked short stories.

It was agreed that the synopsis should follow the structure set out for writing synopses in an article on the SBT website. Repetitions needed removing and clarifications needed to be made.

The story “Easter in Purgatory” was read. It features the protagonist Danny’s futile romance and how in anger, he deals harshly with a troublesome customer. The descriptions of Danny’s hectic night in the busy bar were liked. Aileen and Rosie felt that the story would be improved by making Danny a little more empathic in the early stages. All very constructive advice.

50 Shades Of Tay – The Launch

On Thursday the 23rd of August, 2018, the Nethergate Writers launched our latest collection, 50 Shades of Tay, in Waterstones Dundee, and the evening was a great success. Over 50 friends, family, and curious members of the general public came along to hear readings from some of our members, as well as taking the chance to buy copies of the book, with a few even asking to get them signed.

We began with an introduction from Craig, who explained a little bit about how things have changed for the group over the past few years and gave some background about how we came up with the idea for 50 Shades of Tay. Then Abby was our first reader of the evening, reading her piece ‘For A Tour Of Dundee, You Could Do Worse Than The 22’ and pointing out that she’d taken full advantage of the fact that the titles didn’t count towards our fifty word limit!

Roddie was next, telling us he was working on his Dundonian despite being from Glasgow, and giving us an amusing example of it by reading his piece ‘Eh Fought the La… an the La Won’.

Fiona was our third reader, explaining how she had decided to focus upon Mary McGonagall, and the all-too-real effects that her husband’s concentration on his poetic endeavours had on their day to day existence for her piece ‘Food or Fiction’.

Aileen then told us how the traumatising effect of having one of the Oor Wullie Bucket Trail statues appear right outside her house overnight had inspired her to write ‘Oor Wullie’s Revenge’, so at least some good had come out of it, and her reading produced the biggest applause of the night.

Rosie had to follow that, and did so admirably, drawing on the same performing skills which she’s put to good use when singing at karaoke nights, and it was watching some of the regular performers which had lead to her writing the final piece of the evening ‘The Club Bar”.

All in all, it was a great evening, and we as writers all enjoyed the chance to present our work to a wider audience. If you weren’t able to make it along, however, don’t worry. Copies of 50 Shades of Tay can still be purchased in-store at Waterstones, or directly from our website here.