Chattering From The Chair – 4th October 2017

Our chair, David Carson, is back with his round-up of our jam-packed last meeting.

1. Present:

10 regulars Ray, Abby, Craig, David F., Sue, Roddie, Colin, Rosie, Aileen, David C. And we welcomed two new faces – Scott and Linden.
Apologies from Richard.

Abby in the chair

2. Business:
– venue for Zoe’s classes – Abby will email her for details.
– David C. to email Scott’s and Linden’s email addresses to group.
– we will meet next Wednesday 11 October, and Rosie will find a room and inform.
– congratulations to Roddie on his latest successes. In the Broughty Ferry poetry competition he gained joint second and a highly commended; he has also had a poem accepted by Lallans; and in Open Mouse.

3. Discussion of writing:
This was almost entirely devoted to 50 Shades pieces. It consisted of review of new pieces submitted in
the past fortnight. Authors will make the appropriate revisions.

4. Preparation for next week‘s meeting:
– members who have not produced much for 50 Shades are invited to submit some by next week.
– members who have produced 5 or 5 plus pieces to self select favourites
– Abbey will bring together all of the 50 worders to facilitate selection and editing (55 at the latest count, so bravo Abby!).
– subsequently, all members to review for balance, breadth and any obvious omissions.

5. Agenda for 11/10 to include:
– starting to identify the definites for publication.
– identifying gaps and suggesting remedial action.
– working out next steps and agreeing meetings as necessary.

Finally, there was time for David C’s graveyard story part 3 to get a brief outing, but no time for discussion.

Wittering From The Webmaster – 20th Sept 2017

Craig, our webmaster, gives us an update on our last meeting.

Eight of our members braved the downpour to make it along to our last meeting, and we had a very productive evening.

Firstly, we discussed the upcoming re-start of Zoe’s classes. We had been contacted by e-mail a couple of days prior to the meeting, and David C had replied on behalf of the group, discussing possible venue options. We are now awaiting a further response from Zoe.

Roddie also mentioned a class being held at the University on ‘The Business of Writing“. He has signed up for the first term, and thought it may be of interest to other group members, too.

The rest of the evening was almost entirely taken up with discussion of our proposed ‘Fifty Shades of Tay‘ publication. Abby had helpfully provided collated copies of all the submissions we have so far, and this included a number of new pieces – one from Fiona, two each from Abby, Craig, Susan and David C, three from David F and a whopping six from Roddie! Most were well received, with only minor amendments suggested, but a couple are likely to undergo greater revisions ahead of our next meeting. Abby agreed to collect together any changes or new pieces. We also all agreed to read back through the submissions we’ve had and try to identify any topics that we think should be covered but haven’t been so far. We also discussed the word count criteria, and agreed that a manual count should be carried out for all pieces, and that hyphenated words, words containing apostrophes and acronyms and initialisms will all be considered as single words.

Having covered all the short pieces, we rounded off the meeting by looking at the next part of David C’s story ‘You Told Me‘, which has taken a twist that even David said he hadn’t anticipated when he’d started out. We all look forward to seeing the completed work soon.

It was another packed evening, enjoyed by all who came along.

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,

Tales from the Treasurer – meeting held on 12th July 2017

The group were 8-strong at our most recent meeting and we had lively initial discussion about a few matters of business:

  • the need to find a new venue for our meetings – it was agreed to try the alcove in Queens Hotel for next meeting (if it is available – Rosie to confirm!) The group listed many other possibilities so we have lots of options to try!
  • the NW had been invited to take part in Dundee’s efforts to become European City of Culture in 2022.  Submissions were being requested for creative projects which would reflect Dundee’s cultural status and strong links with Europe.  It was agreed that the group would draft a submission ahead of the deadline which was 31st July.  Group will discuss at next meeting.
  • the bookmarks were in production and should be ready by end July.
  • the Law Hill poetry competition has launched – more info available on the Friends of Dundee Law facebook page.

Colin then chaired the discussion of various pieces of writing shared by members of the group:

  • Richard had written a quirky short story about time travel with the idea that time travellers might be nostalgic for the future rather than the past – a fabulous concept.  The piece was well received and included Richard’s usual excellent dialogue and unique ideas.
  • Roddie shared a short story which had previously been circulated to the group – he had done some major editing and was keen to get a second opinion.  The story focussed on a group of hardy rock climbers, an inexperienced group of wanabee climbers, some dodgy rope work followed by calamity and some missing teeth!  Everyone agreed that Roddie had much improved the pacing of the story and the change to the narrative voice.  Heated discussion ensued about the alleged misogyny of one of the main characters – a very provoking discussion about writing characters whose behaviour, you and your audience may not necessarily like!  Good luck to Roddie in his competition entry with this piece.
  • Aileen had written a 50 word poem inspired by her summer 2016 experience of having an Oor Wullie statue moving ever closer to her front door.  The group agreed that it was well constructed and a fine example of what can be a very tricky format to write in.
  • Colin shared the beginnings of a piece which he had been commissioned (yes that’s right, commissioned!) to write.  It was very engaging and featured a character experiencing some sort of ‘groundhog five minutes’ rather then a groundhog day!  But there was lots more to it than that, and small clues to the very observant reader that perhaps things were not quite the same each time.  We look forward to reading more of this character.
  • David shared a continuation of his short story about a guy’s visit to a graveyard to the resting place of a long-lost love.  A poignant piece with great dialogue and which, as ever, left us wanting to hear the next instalment.  David explained that this might form part of a larger piece containing a series of interlinked stories and characters.

As always it was a most enjoyable meeting featuring a weird and wonderful variety of work!

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.