Notes from a Nethergator – 6th September 2017

This week’s notes on our last meeting have been provided by Roddie.

Present: Tom, Craig, Abby, Ray, David F, Sue and Roddie.
Apologies: Aileen, Rosie, David C, Colin.

Agenda Items Agreed
1) Venue for Zoe`s classes and other NW meetings.
2) Format and content of Fifty Shades of Tay
4) Writing pieces submitted.

Craig chaired the meeting and Roddie recorded these minutes.

Business Meeting

1) There was concern voiced that it was still not clear where we would be holding Zoe`s writing classes in October and whether Zoe would be happy holding them in the university. Abby agreed to contact her to seek her position on this. It was hoped that if it was acceptable to her, we would attempt to extend the current room use. Roddie had circulated a list of classes that was being run in the uni on a non-profit basis and were apparently getting accommodation for free. This was said to be ones to replace the DUCAS classes. However the university was also planning to operate its own classes. Craig felt that the Uni might look upon as unfavourably as competition. A discussion ensued and it was generally agreed that there seemed to be little evidence of a conflict of interest between NW and other classes. It was suggested that perhaps Rosie could try to extend our room booking both for the NW meetings and Zoe`s classes. Other possibilities were discussed: Waterstones, The Butterfly cafe and The University of Abertay library study rooms.

Action: Abby to contact Zoe about uni room use.
Rosie to be contacted about extending the current booking for NW and/or for Zoe`s classes.
Tom to explore the feasibility of accessing and booking rooms in University of Abertay.

2) The last meeting decided that guidelines for Fifty Shades of Tay (FSOT) would be helpful. Roddie and David C (comment by email) felt that photos may enhance/complement the story. Abby made the point that what we were trying to create was a vision and story of a locale that may be undermined by an accompanying photo. Also, in discussion, the added complexity that photos would add to production of FSOT was underlined and the unanimous view was that in the interests of urgency, we should keep the production tasks as simple as possible so as to facilitate an earlier publication, ergo no photos, or concrete poems. Out with that, the line structure of each piece should be decided by the author. Abby reckoned that we had 23 pieces already. Roddie suggested a deadline soon for submissions to conclude that phase of the project. Craig suggested that we go for a deadline of October second. An email to members would be circulated to encourage them to get their 50-worders in. Members were encouraged to submit as many as they can so that there was more material to choose a short list from.
Submissions could be in Scots, English or Dundonian, as long as there was a connection to the local area and /or river. It was resolved that a group decision would be made about what went into the pamphlet.

Action: Craig to email the membership for submissions of 50–worders.


Roddie reminded all about the tragic death of Sarah Isaacs, a former Nethergate Writer. Craig notified the group about the imminent Sunday Times short story competition with a prize of £30 K. Get writing! Roddie noted the 404ink free competition submission date of 11/9/17 for poems and poetry.

Action: none required.

4) Submitted Pieces

There were nine pieces to read, of the 50 – word stories: three from Sue, one from Tom, one from Craig and two from Roddie. Roddie also had a 2500 word extract from his children`s novel “The Isle and the Amulet” to read. This was set in the 1980s.

The longer piece was read first. It was agreed that it had improved from the previously seen draft. The balance of the omniscient view was questioned and this provided useful suggestions for revision. The second big question was whether one of the characters needed to be Aspergic (Abby, Craig). Pros and cons were discussed. A need to prune some of the extraneous detail was noted and attention to detail as
regards to some words used needing to be terms used in the 1980s was raised. David F noted that the Viking Horrible Histories book did not appear till the 90s, Sue agreed that “swots” was a more timely insult than “nerds”. Roddie agreed that the criticism was valid and constructive.

We then moved to the fifty worders. First up was Sue with three. All were liked, but the show-stealer was “The Wintry Tay”, a sensitive evocation of viewing the river by the railway bridge in winter. The wintry theme continued with “Lost Souls” and “No Mercy”, both about the Tay Railway Bridge disaster. The view was split on which was best, but it was agreed that the former was more ethereal. There was a suggestion about combining the two, but views divided on that.

Tom came next with a black humour piece called “An Overheard Conversation.” This was liked by all apart from one phrase “lost his rag” in the piece that we felt could be improved.

David F read his “Tay Whales Lament” a humorous piece from the novel viewpoint of a whale who holidays in the Tay and reports on his holiday. Universally liked by the group, it was suggested to mention “TripAdvisor”in the title.

Craig`s piece “Glebe Street” was next- a quintessentially Dundonian subject- “The Broons”. Liked by all, it must be an elemental piece for FSOT. The meaning of, and use of, the word “chichi” also raised great debate.

For the closing minutes, we had two of Roddies recent 50-worders in Dundonian: “Efter Jimmie Morrison`s visit to Speed Street” and “Efter Ray Davies sees an Invergowrie Sunset”. Revised versions were read at the meeting, different slightly to what had been circulated. Both were found to be amusing parodies of “Love Street” by the Doors and “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks. Pictures illuminated the versified venues. It was agreed that given the similar tack, only one (Sunset) would be used. This author was impressed by Abby`s ability to correctly count a disparity between the read out and the written” La-la” word count in “Speed St” (you had to be there).

We had another fun night out, featuring some good pieces, and great patter.

Tales From The Treasurer – 23rd August 2017

Our treasurer, Rosie Baillie, provides this week’s write up from our last meeting.

The group began by discussing current opportunities for writing competitions and further learning opportunities.  We heard about a new writing class available in Longforgan on Monday evenings, and reminded ourselves of The Law poetry competition, the Botanic Gardens writing project, New Writing Scotland submission deadline (end of September); and Scottish Book Trust’s ‘Next Chapter’ award for new writers over the age of 40 (deadline also end September).

Craig and Roddie confirmed that bids had been successfully submitted to the 2023 City of Culture process.

Members of the group were reminded to complete the writing questionnaire to enable Craig to add some more content to the website.

Then it was time to look at some writing!

First, we had a continuation of David C’s “You Told Me…” tale about a chance meeting in a graveyard of an ex-lover and the ex-lover’s son. The group had a lively discussion about how the work might go forward and talked through various narrator/viewpoint options.

Next was a return to Roddie’s mythical Icelandic saga. The group enjoyed this re-work of a short story they’d seen before and gave Roddie some excellent suggestions in relation to language and also the female character and viewpoint. As with the first time the descriptions of Iceland were wonderful and made us all want to visit there – although perhaps not in the context of the story itself – I won’t say any more – we wish Roddie luck with his competition entry with this story and you may see it in print sometime soon!

We then looked at a number of 50 word stories with potential for inclusion in our proposed “Fifty Shades of Tay” anthology.  Rosie had provided three options, one in relation to a child’s first day at school, the second was a play on words inspired by the Don Michele restaurant; and the third was inspired by her recent experience of the 25 mile kilt walk from St Andrews to Monifieth.  Rosie was grateful for the comments and suggestions and agreed to work on them some more.

The discussions also provoked conversation about what the criteria will be for the 50 shades pamphlet, both in terms of content and format. It was agreed to discuss this in more detail at our next meeting.

Craig and David C had also submitted a couple of 50 worders, Craig’s about the Dundonian obsession with weather watching; and David’s a Francophile take on McGonagall’s Silvery Tay. Both were very well received and definite includees for the anthology!

It was another enjoyable meeting with varied  and encouraging discussion as always.

Meet the Nethergate Writers – Richard Gillies

Welcome to second of an occasional series of Q&As, where we will get to know a little bit more about the people who make up the Nethergate Writers.

This time, it’s Richard Gillies.

1. How long have you been a writer?
I only started writing seriously in my late forties, but have written on an off all my life.

2. Have you had anything published?
I have not had anything published though little bits of this and that have appeared about the place.

3. Do you have a writing routine?
Not recently, but I find you are at your most creative in the morning and leave the afternoon for editing.

4. Who is your literary hero or heroine (real or fictional) and why?
Doctor Johnson once said to admit someone else’s greatness is to admit your own littleness, so I don’t have any heroes, though I admire wordsmiths like Rabbie Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, Samuel Beckett and others.

5. Do you prefer working in a particular genre?
I have had a go at most of them but find sticking to a particular genre restrictive.

6. Do you have any writing ambitions?
I would like to get a book published.

7. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

8. What are you reading at the moment?
I am reading five books at a time and making very little progress with any of them at the moment. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens; The Political Unconscious by Fredric Jameson; Selected Writings on Art and Literature of Charles Baudelaire translated by P.E. Charvet; Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; and  finally, Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism by Larry Siedentop.


Dundee 2023


Dundee is bidding to be named European Capital of Culture 2023 and the Nethergate Writers are proud to be supporting the bid. We have submitted a project idea as part of the general call for proposals to be included in the bid document, and are eagerly waiting a response to our suggestion.

You can find out more about the bid, and what you can do to become involved, at the Dundee 2023 website here –

Notes from a Nethergate Writer

Abby Lyons presents her notes from the most recent meeting of the Nethergate Writers.

Note of the Nethergate Writers Meeting on August 9th 2017

Present: Rosie, Craig, Ray, David C., Roddie, Abby
We began with a discussion of location. Rosie has secured Room 2S11 in the Dalhousie building for each of the NW meetings until October. It was agreed that we should continue to explore other options for when the class with Zoe begins.
We next discussed the two Nethergate Writers proposals being prepared in response to the call for ideas for the Dundee European City of Culture bid.
Proposal 1, written by Roddie aims to deliver 2 projects: one extends the premise of the Watermarks collaboration with Susan Mains, and would involve the creation of new stories and partner films, connecting Dundee to Europe; the second project would seek to complete the 50 Shades of Tay publication, and extend the concept to a competition with school children and a story-mapping exercise.
Proposal 2, drafted by Craig, aims to produce a collaborative anthology of works about living in a European port or river city. Some of the pieces would be written by the Nethergate Writers and other contributions would be sought from writers from one or more of Europe’s other port cities. Due to some uncertainty about the feasibility of the associated Learning Journeys, it was decided that these would be positioned as a possible activity that could be scaled, depending on how engagements with partner cities progressed.
The majority of those present were more comfortable with the scope of Proposal 2, feeling it to be more in keeping with the ambition and capacity of NW. It was agreed that Proposal 2 should be submitted by the NW, and Proposal 1 by Roddie and Susan Mains as a separate endeavour. It was further agreed that the 50 Shades of Tay concept should be retained by the NW, and that the related activity in Roddie’s proposal be re-named.
All present agreed that NW should aim to realise 50 Shades as soon as possible. Action for all – get writing in at least 1 shade!
In the meantime, Roddie is in print! He showed us a copy of the latest New Writing Scotland volume: She Said He Said I Said, in which resides Roddie’s short story, The Snows of Ben Nevis. All were suitably impressed, reverentially handling the book and congratulating Roddie. We noted that former Nethergate Writer, Sarah Isaac, also had a piece published.
Over the 2nd hour, we looked at some of our recent work. David C had written an article which connected our perceptions and interpretation of the weather, the blame game of weather prediction and the somber truth of global warming. As if by magic, Abby had produced a 50 Shades of Tay contribution entitled “For a Tour of Dundee You Could Do Worse Than The 22“. There was a lively discussion about the piece and some suggestions about how to improve it (some of which have already been implemented). Lastly we looked at 3 poems that Roddie was considering submitting to the online poetry publication, Open Mouse. As always, the imagery in each was superb. We quibbled with a word here and there but overall agreed that the poems were certainly good enough and Roddie should go for it.
And with that and a nod from the jannie, it was time to go.
Our next meeting is Aug 23rd, back in the Dalhousie, Rm 2S11, 7-9pm
Hope to see you there,

Chattering From The Chair – Wednesday 28th June 2017

Our Chair, David Carson, has the latest news from our most recent meeting.

Nethergate Writers Meeting of 28 June 2017

Eight writers assembled in the Dalhousie building – Roddie, Richard, Craig, Colin, David C., Ray, Aileen and Abbey.

Apologies were received from Rosie, Fiona, Sue B and David F.

First, some business.

– Bookmark. The decision was for the non-laminated version.

– Class project confirmed as based on the stimulus used for the “who wrote this” evening (“if anyone asks, we’re fine…”). Nethergators who are not members can take part.

– Venue. Aileen will visit the Empire state to confirm bookings for meetings after 12 July. (** See note below)

– DUCAS EGM. David reported back: range of courses, some old, some new, about 12-14 anticipated; role of DUCAS (considerable); contractual arrangements with tutors to be finalised; university providing accommodation free.

Then some writing.

Richard took the chair. We started with David’s You Told Me. It’s set in a graveyard, and is somewhat melancholy, as the narrator remembers emotional disappointments. Generally liked, with some suggestions for a few changes to clarify a couple of ambiguities.

Next up was Roddie’s Synopsis for his entry to the Scottish Book Trust Writing Fellowship – The Isle and the Amulet.

The Synopsis was subject to some rigorous editing by the group. We liked the setting, the plot and the characters, and hoped that the discussion will have helped Roddie to fine-tune his summary. The story, aimed at 9-12 year olds, is set in Scotland in different time frames and alludes to significant historical events.

Colin’s Elegy for Mixed Tapes got a very positive response. We thoroughly approved of the idea of writing a poem about this activity (making a personalised tape of favourite music, or indeed any music). We thought the content was, in fact, pitch perfect. A discussion ensued on the merits of different sound recording devices, a lot of which went over the head of this minute taker!

Finally, Richard presented his contribution. It has no title. It consists of the river Tay interviewing four other rivers – the Danube, the Amazon, the Nile and the Ganges. Richard highlights their respective characteristics, and watery imagery abounds or, more accurately, flows. Ingenious. This led to some comments about the theme for a potential ebook that had been mooted in previous meetings – Fifty Shades of Tay. We agreed not to lose sight of this idea.

(**) Aileen has visited the Empire State. The café is shortly going to be closing at 7pm, so we need to find another venue. Some emailing amongst members has begun.

Next meeting is 12 July 2017 in the Dalhousie building.

Chattering From The Chair – Wednesday 14th June 2017

After having missed the previous couple of meetings as a result of his international jet-setting lifestyle, David Carson returns with his take on the goings on at our last meeting.

Rosie collected a pound from each of the seven of us present (Ray, Fiona, Craig, Roddie, Aileen, David C. and herself).
Apologies were received from David F, Tom and Richard.
Ray took the Chair (as if it were second nature).

There was some business to discuss before considering the pieces that had been circulated.

– We’ve rejoined SAW for another year
– We will have publicity bookmarks printed and a number given to all members, if the price is ok.  David C. is investigating.
– During term time (ie when there are tutored classes) there won’t be any NW meetings.  But we’ll have a business meeting after one of the term-time classes.
– We’ll contact Zoe  with some queries about the possible writing project, and keep all members of NW and of the class in the loop.  David C. to do the emails.

Then it was time to look at the writing.  Three pieces were on the table.

Ray invited Roddie to read his work, entitled Dear Donnie, Dear  Donnie, Ye’re Jist as Daft as Raygun Ronnie.  Which he did, with a lot of expression and feeling.

A first reaction was to say how alive the rap becomes when read as intended.  Lines like-
“In the psychiatrists textbook ye’re the psychological cataclysm
That defines malignant capitalism”-
take on a more vibrant life when heard and not just read.

We commented on some specific lines and phrases (jail bride survivors, bag o’ hammers).  More generally, we agreed with Roddie that this approach to contemporary politics and people, couched in  a Scots vernacular, can be a very effective form of satire, and that Donald T. deserved all the ridicule aimed at him.

Ray then asked us to look at “Just Pretending,” David C.’s contribution.  This had been inspired by watching two of his grandchildren playing outdoors. Rosie’s question was very pertinent – did the pair quarrel when they were outside?  This led on to a fascinating discussion about whether children nowadays have swapped the outdoor for the indoor, the natural for the virtual.  Reference was made to the Oxford Junior Dictionary, and its deletions and additions, which support this contention.

The final piece of writing was Rosie’s revised synopsis for her entry to the SBT competition.  Her story is entitled “Hamish and the Jukebox Time Machine.” We knew that Rosie had devoted a lot of time and imagination to her story, so we were pleased to be able to go over this part thoroughly with her.  A number of suggestions were made which Rosie found helpful, including omitting a number of references to planet earth (!), and some clarification of the time travel implications. We all agreed this had been time well spent, and much in the spirit of NW support.

The next Meeting will be on 28th June in the Dalhousie building.

Mind The Time

One of our members, C B Donald, has contributed a poem to the Mind The Time anthology, which was launched last week at Hampden Park.

Mind the Time is a collection of poems which draw on the theme of triggering memories of the ‘good old days’ of football. All profits from the book will go to Football Memories Scotland, an organisation which works with people with dementia, with particular emphasis on the usage of memories of football matches, teams and players.

Further details of the launch can be found here –

Copies of the book can be ordered here –