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.

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.

50 Shades Of Tay Launch Night – 23rd August 2018

Come along and join us at the official launch of our latest collection – 50 Shades of Tay – in Waterstones Dundee on Thursday 23rd of August.

We’ll be launching the book, reading some of the pieces and may even be available to sign copies, too!

The event starts at 6pm, and further details are available on the Waterstones Dundee Facebook page here –

Chattering From The Chair – Wednesday 11th July 2018

We had the first of our summer meetings last week, and our Chair, David Carson, has all the details for you all.

Note of the Meeting of 11 July 2018

Present – Sue, Abby, Ray, Aileen, Richard, David C.
Apologies – Rosie, David F., Roddie, Craig, Colin

1. Business.
(a) Fifty Shades:
– Waterstone’s require a form to be completed before they stock books. Abby has done this and will chase up
– Press release: this has been done, but will not be sent until Waterstone’s is settled.
– Tweeting campaign for more publicity has been discussed but no action as yet
– selling success by Fiona (Discovery Centre) and Richard (Cairn no Mhor)
– endorsement for Fifty to be sought, with two proposals

(b) A new Project.
We discussed what this might be, and arrived at tentative suggestions that will need to be explored by the group as a whole.
– more substantial in terms of length than Fifty
– short stories?
– thematic link, broadly interpreted
– not too prescriptive at this stage
– quality control by peer assessment and possibly tutor advice
We agreed that we needed to have the parameters set out within a deadline. We fixed this as 19th September (which is probably the last of our summer meetings). This means that it will be a standing item at each meeting, and that all members need to be involved.

2. Writing.

Two pieces:
(a) Sue’s ‘The Approach of New Year’ is the second chapter of her Tay Bridge story.
We all liked it and thought the descriptions were vivid and authentic. Also the characters, particularly Archibald and Tam are well portrayed.
We looked at the show/tell dimension, and Sue agreed that some of the backstory could be conveyed by dialogue or action. Much enjoyed by all, and looking forward to the next instalment.

(b) David’s ‘Battle of Wounded Knee’ is an attempt at creating memoir from experiences that aren’t personal. While the voice of the narrator was convincing, there was discussion about the tense used. Perhaps it would be improved by going for present tense throughout.

3. Accommodation

The University has ceased giving free lets to any organisation. So we need to find elsewhere. Richard will pursue the Fire Station possibility. Meanwhile, thanks to Aileen’s generosity, we will meet at her abode next time (25 July). If you will be attending, email Aileen and she will give you directions. We hope to have a good attendance!

David C. 14 July 2018

Tender Age

One of our members, Craig A. Mudie, was inspired by recent news stories to write this short piece for our last meeting.

Tender Age

I want my blanket back.

My Abuela made it for me. It is blue, which Abuela says is because my eyes are blue. Mama’s eyes are blue, too, but Abuela said I’m the first boy in our family to have them. She’s says they are a gift from the saints.

My blanket is warm and soft. Abuela says it is as soft as my hair. I have long, golden hair, just like Mama. Abuela says I’m the first boy in our family to have golden hair. She’s says it is a gift from the saints.

Abuela stitched a big letter J onto my blanket. It is for my name – Jesus. Mama picked my name. She says she chose it because I am a gift from God. I like my name, but some people here laugh at me when they hear it. They do not say it right. They call me gee-zus, and then they laugh. I do not like it when they laugh at me.

Mama and Papa have been gone a long time. I do not know how long, but I have been given food for lunch. It is not nice food, not like we eat at home. It comes in plastic pots, and smells too sweet. I miss the food that Mama makes for me. Abuela always makes us give thanks to God before we eat. They do not do that here, but I have said it quietly to myself, even though I do not like the food.

I do not know where I am. Mama and Papa woke me up during the night, and we got into the car and drove out of the town. I was still tired, and I fell asleep again. When I woke up, Mama was telling me to be a brave boy, and that she would be back soon. She was crying, and she was taken away by a big man with a gun. I do not like the man and his gun.

There are other children here, too, but I do not know who they are. Some of them are crying, like Mama was. My friends Julio and Sergio are not here. We were going to go to the park today to play baseball, but we did not go to the park. I wanted to bring my glove when Mama told me we were going out this morning, but she wouldn’t let me. I thought we might go to the park later, without going back home, so I wanted to have my glove with me. We haven’t gone to the park yet. Maybe we will go after I have dinner. I hope the food for dinner is better.

My shoes keep falling off my feet when I walk about. Mama took the laces out of them before the man with the gun took her away. I do not know why, as she always tells me to make sure they are tied up tight when we go out. We went to a big building with trampolines in it for Sergio’s birthday, and we had to take our shoes off there. Maybe I will get to play on a trampoline later?

I want my Mama and Papa. And I want my blanket back.