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 – http://www.dundee2023.eu

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.

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 – http://www.scotsman.com/sport/football/pure-poetry-as-new-football-anthology-stirs-golden-memories-1-4469420

Copies of the book can be ordered here – https://www.nutmegmagazine.co.uk/product/mind-the-time/

Meet the Nethergate Writers – Roddie McKenzie

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

First up is Roddie McKenzie.

1. How long have you been a writer?

I have written poetry for eighteen years, fiction for thirteen years and non-fiction (technology and biological science) professionally for thirty eight years.

2. Have you had anything published?

Eighty one peer-reviewed scientific papers, six book chapters and five book reviews in bioscience; also seventeen letters in the press; eight short stories in books, nine on line and one in a magazine; ten poems on line, two in books, and twelve in magazines; and finally, one song in a magazine.

3. Do you have a writing routine?

Every day I try to spend at least an hour on writing projects, even if it is just revision or editing of previous pieces or polishing grammar skills.

4. Who is your literary hero or heroine (real or fictional) and why?

Iain Banks, for bringing prominence to post-modern Scottish literature; Hunter S Thompson, for the irrepressible, irrational and selfish character Raol Duke, his alter ego; Alan Warner, for the brave and courageously beautiful survivor, Morven Caller; Irvine Welsh for bucking the trend that said vernacular in prose was death to a writer; Herman Hesse for spiritual despair and beauty in “The Steppenwolf” and “Narziss and Goldmund”; PG Woodhouse for mad satirical delights and Raymond Chandler for micro-characterisation, rapid action and noir atmosphere.

Roddie (Far right, back row)
Roddie (Far right, back row)

5. Do you prefer working in a particular genre?

Interlinked short stories, prose poetry, rhyming songs/poems and rap.

6. Do you have any writing ambitions?

To publish collections of poetry, short stories, children`s novels and novels.

7. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Take note of constructive criticism, but believe in your ideas; read voraciously-including what established writers say about the craft; establish a writing routine; try to get your work in front of an audience and see how it flies; and write principally, because you enjoy it. If that doesn’t ring your bell – save yourself the agro… and give it up!

8. What are you reading at the moment?

Denis Johnson`s “Jesus` Son” and Liz Lochhead’s poetry, “Fugitive Colours”.

Wittering from the Webmaster – 5th April 2017

Our Chairman, David Carson, was off performing Grandfatherly duties in the heart of Europe this week, so it’s still me with the latest update.

7 members of the Nethergate Writers faithful made it along tonight, for this extra, hastily arranged meeting.

We began with a discussion of a variety of different writing contests that members had brought along details of. Fiona began, with information on the Friends of Broughty Ferry Library Poetry and Prose competition, which is open to local writers and is looking for 500 words of prose or 5-20 lines of poetry on the subject of ‘Time and The Seasons’.

Roddie mentioned the various contests being promoted on the Scottish Book Trust website, and also the recent call for submissions from Gutter Magazine of new Scottish writing.

Craig also raised the Scottish Book Trust’s ‘Nourish’ contest – 1000 words of a true story on the theme of ‘Nourish’, to be included in an e-book to be published for Book Week Scotland 2017.

Moving away from contests, Rosie also mentioned the upcoming Scottish Association of Writers club representative meeting in Perth on 22nd April. No one present was able to attend, but Rosie has more details if someone would like to be the Nethergate Writers’ representative.

We then moved on to discussing the writing that people had brought along.

We began with a piece from Abby, which was the beginning of a longer story and based on a recent real life experience. It was well received, but there was some discussion of possible confusion regarding the various viewpoints used. It lead on to some interesting discussion of the possible motivations of one of the main characters, and her real life counterpart!

Roddie had brought a long a selection of 50 word poems for consideration for our upcoming collection. One the subject of ‘The Nethergate Writers’ and another composed entirely of song titles went down particularly well.

Ray read us a small poem about Bobbkin Bunny, who met a rather unfortunate end, but still managed to raise a laugh.

Craig also had some 50 word stories that were enjoyed by all. One prompted a discussion of the possible side effect on sales of an uncomplimentary mention of Fife, though!

And we finished up with Tom reading the introduction to a short story – a dark entry into a story of a not quite so dark dream. This lead to an interesting discussion of people’s various experiences of dreams, night time conversations and sleepwalking.